Before attempting to raise grouse domestically, it's important to check what types of grouse you can raise without a permit in your state. For example, in Michigan, the ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse both require a permit for those birds to be raised domestically. A simple Internet search will help you determine what your state requires.
Hatching Grouse Eggs
Purchase a portable incubator at a farming supply store, making sure it's large enough to hold a dozen eggs without any eggs touching each other. There are two types of incubators, still air and forced air, with automatic egg turners and without. Whichever type you choose, you must allow the incubator 24 hours to warm to 99.7 degrees before inserting eggs, and always place the eggs pointed end down with the rounded end raised. Incubators have a compartment inside for water. A wet bulb thermometer tells you how warm the water is and subsequently, how humid the air inside the incubator is. The humidity level should stay around 82 to 86 degrees until the 21st day of incubation. Turn the eggs just a little twice daily until the 22nd day and then leave them alone. If your incubator has an automatic turner it turns the eggs for you so you can leave the incubator closed, maintaining the temperature. From day 22 until hatching on day 25, the humidity should be 90 to 94 degrees.
Preparing the First Meals
Make sure your chicks have plenty of proteins. In the wild, grouse chicks eat insects and small animals. If the chicks have access to live insects, even better. Grouse chicks are precocial, meaning they're capable of independent living immediately after hatching. If available, the chicks will begin to nibble grasses and other vegetation. The chicks soon begin to change their diet from strictly meat.
Preparing the Grouse Shelter
Keep one male for every two or three females. The males are territorial in adulthood, so they should be separated by 16 weeks, with each male grouse getting his own pen, completely enclosed, as grouse are capable of flight five days after hatching. Since grouse are about the same size as chickens they need around the same amount of space. Build the fenced in areas at least 12 feet long by 4 feet wide to give each bird enough room. Make sure the tops of the pens are at least 10 feet high so that startled birds can fly straight up without injuring themselves. Provide a second pen of the same size for the hens because in the wild the female leaves the male after mating. Prepare wooden floor boxes filled with leaves and straw so the hens can hollow out comfy nests. A simple wooden crate, around 16 inches square, turned upside-down and with one side knocked out will do.
Feeding Adult Grouse
Make sure your grouse have access to fruit as the adult birds prefer eating fruits and seeds, as well as leaf buds and acorns. Adult grouse like grapes, cherries, berries and apples, among other fruits and eat these items almost exclusively, except when the hens are getting ready to lay eggs and need more meat protein in their diet, such as insects. Commercial food with high protein content is a good idea at this time, although the grouse hens probably will hunt insects. Grouse also will eat cracked corn and large seeds such as sunflower seeds; wild grouse sometimes visit bird feeders for that reason. Wild game bird feed is acceptable as well but should always be supplemented by some aspects of the birds' natural diet.
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources – Wildlife – Species Covered page 1
- Okstate.edu: Incubation Period and Incubator Operation for Eggs of Domestic Birds
- Ruffed Grouse Society: Grouse Facts – Biology and Habitat
- Nature North: Ruffed Grouse – Biology of the Ruffed Grouse
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Wildlife and Heritage Service – Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
- Msucares.com: Poultry: Reproduction and Incubation – Important Incubation Factors
- WildLivingArts/iStock/Getty Images