Basic Poultry Care in Temporary Shelters
(Turkeys, Pheasants, Peafowl, Quail, Guinea Fowl, etc.)
DIET: Young birds need a constant supply of formulated turkey or exotic gamebird starter.
Adults should eat a formulated turkey or exotic gamebird maintenance crumble or pellet, but can be temporarily fed a grain and corn mix called scratch; mix new food with old to gradually change diet. Adult male turkeys may eat up to 10 pounds of food daily.
Pheasants do best on turkey diets. Quail should have seed along with crumbles.
Do not give medicated feed as additives are toxic to some species.
Give 2 to 3 gallons water per day for each 10 adult birds of the larger species.
Use feeders and waterers similar to what they are used to; shallow dishes for chicks.
HOUSING: Minimum temperature 60 degrees, maximum 85 degrees F.
Some species don’t tolerate wide temperature fluctuations, provide shade or shelter.
Chicks need a heat lamp over part of brooder so they can move to either the warm or cool side; 90 degrees first week, drop 5 degrees per week. Do not exceed 95 degrees.
May become aggressive when panicked, starved, or overcrowded. Use multiple food and water dishes, low lighting, and quiet environment. Remove sick or injured birds.
An opaque barrier can be placed at the back of the cage to provide visual security.
Use pine shavings, straw, sawdust, rice hulls, peanut shells, ground corn cob or pulverized paper 3 to 6 inches deep for large birds, 2 inches deep for quail.
Move dishes around to help prevent wet areas. Remove and replace wet litter.
Provide elevated perches for roosting, size depending on size of bird.
Do not mix species in one cage because of aggression and disease transmission.
RESTRAINT: Beware of sharp spurs on males, and keep beak away from your eyes.
Restrain the legs with one hand and support the abdomen on your forearm, with the other arm wrapped over the body to restrain the wings, and the hand holding the neck.
Larger birds can give powerful strikes with the wings, so a sheet can be wrapped around the body to restrain them. Don’t compress the chest or allow bird to overheat.
Cover the head with a sock or towel if needed to calm the bird and avoid bites.
Use nets or long hooked sticks to capture birds. To capture loose birds, several people can wave plastic bags to steer them into a confined area.
Trim feathers on one or both wings to prevent escape if necessary.
COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS: Cleanliness and nutrition prevent most outbreaks.
Diarrhea: Coccidia, Salmonella, improper diet, viruses.
Respiratory: Newcastle, Mycoplasma, Aspergillosis, Chlamydia, other bacteria.
Bumblefoot from housing on hard surfaces.
OTHER: Vaccinations are rarely used in small flocks, and are usually packaged in vials with thousands of doses for use in large commercial flocks.
Compiled by Julie Burge, DVM, Burge Bird Services, August 2010
1. Butcher, GD, 2006, Management of Galliformes, in Harrison G and Lightfoot T, eds, Clinical Avian Medicine, Spix Publishing, Palm Beach, FL, p. 861-877.
2. Fiskett, R, 2009, Unusual Pet Care Volume 3, Zoological Education Network, Lake Worth, FL, p. 149-153.
3. Flinchum, G, 2009, Poultry and Waterfowl, in Johnson-Delaney, C, ed, Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook, Zoological Education Network, Lake Worth, FL, p. 1-11.
4. Schales, C and Schales, K, 1994, Galliiformes, in Ritchie, G, Harrison, G, and Harrison, L, eds, Avian Medicine: Principles and Application, Wingers Publishing, Lake Worth, FL, p. 1218-1236.