Heart of America Game
Breeders' Association

Questions & Answers on Raising Erckel's Francolins

HOAGBA President John Smith and his wife, HOAGBA Secretary Terry Smith of Bucyrus, KS, shared their experiences with Erckel's Francolins in the April 1998 issue of the Heartland News.

1. How or why did you become interested in raising this particular species? How long have you been raising this species?
Back in the '50's when there were many kinds of Francolins available in the United States, John raised four or five types of Francolins including Erckel's. We started raising Erckel's about fifteen years ago after locating some birds from breeders in Texas and Wisconsin. Although they are not as colorful as some of the other galliformes, they are an interesting species to propagate because of their behavior.

2. In what size pen are the birds kept? Is it landscaped? If so, with what?
We have three breeder pairs of birds. Two pairs of birds are kept in pens that have both indoor and outdoor runs. Their pens are 20 feet long by 8 feet wide and are six feet in height. The outdoor portion of the pen remains of pasure grass. Logs are placed in the outdoor section of the pen. The third pair is housed in a slightly smaller outdoor pen.

3. What sort of shelter is provided for the birds? What special things do you do to protect them during the winter?
The birds in the pens having indoor and outdoor runs are not provided with any additional shelter. John puts up plastic on the north and east sides of the other pen. A piece of plywood and some straw is placed in the northeast corner of the pen so the birds can get in out of the cold. On cold days, he gives the birds whole corn to increase their body warmth.

4. What do you feed the birds during the non-breeding season?
During the non-breeding season, John uses a cement mixer to mix 20% fedd with milo. When available, the birds are given lettuce and chopped apples.

5. What do you feed the birds during the breeding season? When do you switch to this feeding program?
In early February, he switches to feed having a higher protein level. As a special treat and to get the birds in top breeding condition, he gives the birds sunflower seeds which are lightly coated with wheat germ oil and Vionate two or three times a week.

6. How do you prepare the pens for the breeding season? What is used for nesting material?
We rake the pens of feathers, straw and other debris that collected during the winter months. We do not put nest boxes in the Erckel's pens. The hens usually will scrape out a nest in the ground under the piece of plywood which has been placed in one corner of the pen or will lay in a nest hidden in some tall grass.

7. How often do you collect the eggs? How long are the eggs stored before they are incubated? How are they stored?
Eggs are collected daily. We usually do not hold eggs longer than two or three days once all the hens have started laying. Eggs are stored on egg trays which are inclined at about a 45 degree angle. If eggs are soiled, they are dipped in a Tek-trol solution which has been heated so that it is warmer than the egg itself.

8. On the average, how many eggs will a hen lay during the breeding season? Are the hens allowed to set?
Unless they are inbred, Erckel's hens are prolific and can lay three or four clutches a year totaling forty to sixty eggs. We've even had Erckel's lay in the winter time. After we've gotten tired of setting eggs and have raised all the chicks we want, if a hen wants to set, we let her. About five years ago in mid-October when the weather was pretty cold, I went into a pen to rescue a hen that was battered by the cock. As I entered the pen, I saw two small Erckel's chicks darting about. I put them in my jacket pocket and looked for the nest. When I found the nest, I discovered two more chicks and an egg that was pipped almost all around the shell. I brought the egg in the house and placed it in a box with a heating pad on a low setting. In less than an hour, the fifth chick hatched.

9. How are the eggs incubated? If an incubator is used, what kind do you use? At what temperature are the eggs set? What is the length of incubation? What special things do you do during incubation that helps you to have a more successful hatch?
Eggs are set in a GQF 1402 incubator with an electronic thermostat set at 99.5 degrees. Incubation takes 21 to 22 days. We find that the eggs will hatch best when 83 to 84 degrees wet bulb humidity is maintained. When the humidity is too high during incubation, the chicks have a difficult time pipping.

10. Describe how you brood the young? What are they fed? Do you use a "teacher" for those that are hard to get started eating? Do you add any vitamins or medication to the drinking water? How long are the young kept in brooders? What precautions do you take to protect chicks from hurting each other?
I start the chicks in brooder boxes that we have made using clear plastic storage boxes with a lid. One end of the lid has been removed and replaced with wire. Newspapers are placed in the bottom of the box. They are topped with either "Easy Liner" or rough paper toweling which is changed daily. Since the chicks are started in the house, a 40 watt light bulb provides additional warmth. The chicks have no trouble eating because I sprinkle Blair Super Start chick mash on the bottom of the brooder for the first day. Then their feed is placed in a small feeder. The chicks are medicated with LS-50 for 5 days. After being medicated for 5 days, I add GQF Vitamins Plus which contains live bateria to the drinking water for several days. About two times a week throughout their growth period, I add Chick Pak to their drinking water. To keep the chicks from getting wet, I use drown-proof bases. Erckel's chicks are non-aggressive and can be placed with Goldend and Lady Amherst chicks.

11. As the chicks grow, do you change the type of feed? If so, what do you feed and when do you switch to this feed?
Chicks are kept on Super Start until they are moved to outdoor pens. Then they are fed the maintenance feed fed to the rest of the birds. As a treat, I sometimes give them leaf lettuce from the garden and is cut into small pieces using kitchen scissors.

12. At what age do you move the chicks to larger brooders or indoor pens? Describe these brooders or pens?
When the chicks are about a week old, they are moved to the brooder house and to large brooders constructed of wood and hardware cloth lighted with a brooder bulb. From there, they go to a five-deck unheated battery and finally to larger floor pens inside the barn. If there is a change in the weather, they have source of heat they can get under.

13. How long are the birds kept there before being moved to outdoor pens? What special things do you do to protect the young once they are placed in outdoor pens?
When the birds are 10 to 12 weeks of age and are fully feathered out, they are moved to an outdoor pen where the vegetation has been allowed to grow. Each pen has a small shelter to protect them from the rain. If we are having a rainy summer, the birds may be older before they are moved to the outdoor pens. To protect the young Erckel's, we never put them into an outdoor pen housing other species. We also avoid crowding the young birds. During a rainy summer, the young birds should be watched for signs of coccidiosis which can be deadly if not treated in time.

14. Since the plumage of the male and the female are the same, how do you sex the young? How are the young of the various bloodlines and/or the males and females marked or banded?
The males will be larger with a more blocky shaped head. Males also develop two sharp spurs on each leg as they mature. To keep the different bloodlines seperate, we use different colored plastic ties. The tie is placed on the right leg of males and the left leg of females.

15. What is interesting, challenging, etc. about raising this particular species?
Unless you have an aggressive cock that wants to batter its mate, Erckel's aren't a challenge to raise. Unlike their Francolin cousin, the Black Francolin, they are very calm bird and do not hide when one enters the pen. I love to hear the males call and see them assume their upright strutting posture when they are trying to impress the females. Keep adult males in a secure pen. If they come in contact with other species, the Erckel's male can kill the other male.

Erckel's, photo by Dan Cowell

April 1998 The Heartland News