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Raising Old English game fowl

Read up on the tricks of raising these traditional fowl the right way

Radio interview source: Phil Clauer, Extension poultry specialist, Penn State University

Listen to the radio story here

Old school poultry

We've raised some interesting breeds of poultry over the years. It's fun to compare all the different traits and personalities. Game fowl have a long, interesting history. Many breeds go back thousands of years and although ancient, some of the breed strains are still pure.

Penn State Extension Poultry Specialist Phil Clauer says game fowl are popular with poultry fanciers, who raise the birds for show purposes. Old English game fowl are very popular because of their plumage.

"In the game industry there are probably more color varieties than any other breed that we have," Clauer says. "They come in the standard solid color of the blacks and the whites all the way up to what we call B-B Reds -- or Black-Breasted Red -- one of the more common color patterns. And then you've got Silver Duckwings, and a whole array of different colors. I could go through a laundry list of them."

Old English game fowl are very muscular. The females resemble the males, but are a little smaller and don't have quite the color or lavish tail feathers. If you plan on showing them, the combs should be 'dubbed' or cut for best appearance. The hens are good layers and produce cream-colored eggs.

Birds with attitude

These birds are noisy and aggressive by nature, and don't like to share. But, this makes them an excellent choice for free ranging. In their coop, build visual barriers between the perches so they don't hurt themselves trying to get at one another.

"You don't want to raise them in large groups, and even females in this breed can be quite feisty with each other sometimes," Clauer says. "You need to get them in established pens or do individual matings, and some people even raise the birds separately if they have a very aggressive line. However, if you handle these birds just like any other domestic birds, they can become much more docile and much more friendly."

Game fowl are not recommended pets for young children and older kids have to be taught how to hold the birds right.

You'll spend about $4 a piece for game fowl chicks. Start off with a half-dozen or so to see how everyone gets along.

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