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Game Farming in the UK

The hatchery

Game shooting is a thriving activity in the UK, now worth over £2 billion each year. 83% of shoots rely on hand reared game released into the countryside to supplement wild stocks. This is not new. For over 100 years, pheasants, partridge and some duck have been reared on game farms to re-stock shoots.

In Britain today there are around 300 game farms, mostly rearing pheasants and partridges. Some retain a breeding flock to produce their own eggs. Others buy eggs or day-old chicks and rear them on.

The game farming year starts in February when laying birds are penned for mating and egg production. Eggs are collected daily from April onwards and are hatched in electronic incubators. The chicks are then reared on in purpose-built shelters, where they are provided with food, water, grit and all their other needs.

As they grow, the chicks (now known as 'poults') are given access to outdoor runs where they can get used to the natural environment and 'harden off'.

In about August, when the birds are some eight to ten weeks of age, they are sold to shoots, where gamekeepers will take over their care, releasing them carefully into the countryside.

Shooting starts a couple of months later and is a significant rural activity throughout the winter. The shot birds enter the human food chain but not all the birds released will be shot. The remainder live free in the wild, where some will breed naturally the following spring and contribute to the wild stock.