Feeding of Casualty Game Birds (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty & Convalescent Feeding which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Alectoris rufa - Red-legged partridge, Chrysolophus pictus - Golden pheasant, Coturnix coturnix - Common quail, Lagopus lagopus - Willow ptarmigan, Lagopus mutus - Rock ptarmigan, Perdix perdix - Grey partridge, Phasianus colchicus - Common pheasant, Tetrao tetrix - Black grouse, Tetrao urogallus - Western capercaillie.

These species are from the families Phasianidae.

Fluids (water):

  • Offer a rehydration (electrolyte) solution such as Lectade (Pfizer Limited) to drink on admission.
  • Water should be freely available at all times unless the casualty is unconscious or severely debilitated and unable to hold its head up.
  • Both water and a rehydration (electrolyte) solution, in separate containers, should be made available initially.
  • (V.w5, V.w26)
  • Gavage with rehydration (electrolyte) solution may be required on admission. (B156.15.w15, D24)

Convalescent Diet:

General Bird Information:

  • Casualties are often anorexic when presented and have an immediate requirement for energy.(B156.15.w15)
  • Liquid diets should be administered by crop tube (gavage) in anorectic birds.(V.w26)
  • Proprietary products such as Critical Care Formula (Vetark Animal Health) have been specifically designed as a short term product for anorectic and sick birds.(V.w26)
  • High-energy diets e.g. Complan (HJ Heinz Co. Ltd.) or baby foods, mixed as directed on the packet are useful short term. (B156.15.w15)
  • Give up to 2% of body weight per feed:
    • Assume 1ml of made-up feed equals 1g, therefore maximum 2ml of feed per 100g of bird.
    • (B156.15.w15)
  • See: Gavage / Tubing of Birds

Short term Maintenance Diet:

Food Presentation:

  • Food should be provided in a shallow non-tip bowl and should be freely available at all times.
  • Scattering food across the floor of the cage may encourage pecking.

Suggested short term maintenance diets include:

  • Insectivorous bird food, mealworms, mixed grain/wheat.(D24)
  • Wheat, other seeds, game-bird pellets.(B151)
  • Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus - Common pheasant): 
    • Grain (wheat, maize, barley, oats) or "dove and pheasant mix" mixed 50:50 with gamebird pellets, add green food e.g. spinach, spring cabbage, green lettuce, diced carrot, diced apple, dandelion leaves, clover, chickweed, chives, wild berries such as bilberries, rowan). (B197.12.w12, V.w5)
    • Commercial pheasant, turkey or domestic fowl pellets, plus fresh green plants.(B13.45.w22)
  • Quail (Coturnix coturnix - Common quail):
    • Four parts mixed millet canary seed, four parts chick starter crumbs, three parts wheat, three parts split/kibbled maize, one part crushed oats, with added fresh green food such as cress, spinach leaves or green lettuce and a vitamin-mineral supplement such as SA37 (Intervet UK Ltd). (B197.12.w12)
  • Partridge (Perdix perdix - Grey partridge)
    • Four parts mixed millet canary seed, four parts chick starter crumbs, three parts wheat, three parts split/kibbled maize, one part crushed oats, with added fresh green food such as cress, spinach leaves or green lettuce, live food such as mealworms, waxworms crickets or locusts, or an insectivorous food mix, and a vitamin-mineral supplement such as SA37(Intervet UK Ltd). (B197.12.w12)
    • Wheat, other seeds, game-bird pellets, occasionally supplemented with insects such as mealworms.(B151)
  • Grouse, capercaillie, ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus - Willow ptarmigan, Lagopus mutus - Rock ptarmigan, Phasianus colchicus - Common pheasant, Tetrao tetrix - Black grouse, Tetrao urogallus - Western capercaillie):
    • Willow and birch branches (i.e. leaves and catkins), raspberry plants (leaves and berries), grass, berries, spinach, green lettuce, cucumber, apple, spinach, with small quantities of grain such as oats or commercial gamebird pellets. (B197.12.w12)
    • Natural foods should be fed if possible. Leaves, grass and berries, with very limited amounts of pellets and grain. (B13.45.w22)
    • N.B. Commercial diets, particularly turkey pellets, may contain drugs such as coccidiostats or anti-flagellates which may be harmful to these species. 
  • Grit should always be made available when grain is fed.

(B13.45.w22, B151, B197.12.w12, D24)

In an emergency:

  • Any grain (wheat, budgie seed etc.), bits of wholemeal bread for pheasants.
    • With green food such as grass, berries, chopped apple, for grouse etc.
    • With any live food available for partridge.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Fresh drinking water should always be available in a container of an appropriate size and type for the species concerned.
  • Fluid replacement therapy other than oral fluids may be required for casualties which are extremely dehydrated on admission or are unable to take in and absorb oral fluids.
    • Fluid therapy should continue until the animal is no longer dehydrated, even if it is self feeding.
  • Feeding of convalescents should take into account their requirement for additional nutrients for healing as well as maintenance requirements.
  • Grit should always be made available when grain is fed.
  • The required fluid intake for maintenance should be considered when designing convalescent diets.
  • Energy requirements for maintenance and healing should be calculated and used to determine the quantity of food required for both convalescence and short-term maintenance diets.
  • Convalescent diets should be easily absorbed/digested.
  • Care should be taken not to under or over supplement with vitamins/minerals.
  • Diets intended for feeding from a syringe or by stomach tube (gavage) must be of a sufficiently fluid consistency to pass through the syringe nozzle or down the tube without it becoming blocked.
  • The natural diet should be considered when deciding on suitable ingredients, including consideration of taste/smell.
  • Fresh food must be provided daily.
  • Regular cleaning of food and drinking water containers (e.g. daily) is important to reduce the risk of disease.
  • Food and water containers should be sited to minimise the risk of contamination with droppings/faeces/urine. 
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Grouse ( Tetrao tetrix - Black grouse,) capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus - Western capercaillie), ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus - Willow ptarmigan, Lagopus mutus - Rock ptarmigan) : diet must be high in crude fibre. (B13.45.w22, B197.12.w12)
  • Commercial poultry diets containing coccidiostats may disturb the gut flora of some species and may be toxic. (B197.12.w12)
  • Water bowls should not be left in the accommodation of a casualty which is unconscious or is severely debilitated and unable to hold its head up.
  • Dehydrated and malnourished individuals sometimes drink rehydration fluids but refuse plain water initially; others will drink water but not rehydration fluids. Both should be made available.
  • No diet, however well balanced nutritionally, is useful if the animal does not eat it, for example because it is not recognised as food.
  • Ingestion of food should be monitored, not assumed. This may include weighing food before presentation and weighing waste food after removal, and periodic weighing of the animal.
  • Monitoring of weight/body condition is particularly important for group housed/group fed animals, within which some individuals may take more food and others not get the food they require.
  • Diets suggested on this page are intended for short term use for wildlife casualties; they are not necessarily suitable for long-term use or in individuals which are breeding.
  • Diets suggested on this page are not necessarily suitable for feeding chicks; information on appropriate diets for very young individuals are described in the page on hand-rearing.
  • If naturally-available food items are gathered for feeding to casualties it is important to be aware of the possibility of contamination with chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Oral rehydration (electrolyte) solutions are widely available from veterinary suppliers and chemists. 
  • A basic oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution may be made by dissolving one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of salt in one litre of water. (B203)
  • Lectade, Pfizer Limited: from veterinary suppliers and agricultural feed suppliers.
  • Seed mixes, proprietary insectivorous foods such as Prosecto (John E. Haith) and grit are available from petshops, agricultural feed merchants, and from specialist suppliers such as John E. Haith, Park Street, Cleethorps, Lincs, DN35 7NF, UK
  • SA37(Intervet UK Ltd., Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4  0FP)
  • Complan (H J Heinz Co Ltd): from supermarkets etc.
  • Critical Care Formula (Vetark Animal Health, PO Box 60, Winchester, SO23 9XN)
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • No particular expertise is required.
Cost/ Availability
  • Feeding should not be expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Under the Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 it is an offence not to provide animals (including captive wild animals) with necessary food and water. (J35.147.w1, B156.21.w21, B223, P19.2.w1)
  • Care should be taken not to let an individual become accustomed to a single food item as this may result in difficulties in feeding the animal if the food item becomes unavailable, and in preparing it for release.
  • Every effort should be made to provide appropriate natural, locally available foods to animals which have been maintained in captivity for prolonged periods before they are released, in order to re-accustom them to a natural diet and reduce the chance of digestive problems following release. (P24.233.w11).
  • The release of animals which, by virtue of an inadequate or inappropriate diet whilst in captivity, are not fit to survive when released may be considered an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act, 1960.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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