Videos FAQ's Troubleshooting Release Times Research


Please consult this guide if you are experiencing problems with your unit.

Where did you purchase your game bird chicks?
Starting out with quality chicks is key to a successful cycle. If your chicks look sick or are mismatched in age this can lead to a failed cycle.

Were your chicks mailed to you, and if so how long did it take to arrive after they shipped?
Shipping game birds can often lead to unnecessary stress. Whenever possible pick up your game bird chicks locally. If this is not possible try to locate the closest hatchery that will ship chicks to you. Best results occur when chicks can be overnighted. Shipped birds could be exposed to detrimental conditions such as air conditioning, direct sun or other stress associated with shipping. This type of stress can lead to mortality long after putting the birds in the Surrogator®.

How old were the chicks when purchased?
We recommend using day old birds where available. Transferring of older birds to the Surrogator® can cause problems if the previous feeding or watering system was different. Also, birds older than one week of age may not imprint to your property.

Brand/Quality of feed: was it ground, fresh, no mold, etc.?
Using improper, old, or non ground feed can lead to unhealthy birds and mortality. We cannot stress enough how important the condition and quality of feed is to success. When choosing a game bird starter feed make sure that it has a protein content of at least 27%. If unsure what kind of feed to use or if you are having problems locating feed we can provide you with a premium custom made Game Bird Starter by Birds of Brilliance specifically designed for use with the Surrogator®. It is also important to grind the first 10 pounds of feed in order to provide young game bird chicks with appropriate size feed. Failure to grind feed may result in starvation. Using old or moldy feed may cause your chicks to become sick .

Was ground feed put on paper plates when the chicks were placed in the unit?
Placing ground feed on paper plates throughout the unit is very important when first putting your game bird chicks in the Surrogator®. Chicks will typically find the feed on the plates first. This will help overall survival as we want chicks to start eating and drinking as soon as they are placed in the unit. Nor-mal practice is to put ground feed on four paper plates in each corner of the brooding end of the unit. Failure to put ground food on paper plates throughout the brooding end of the unit may result in starvation.

Was Chick-Aid™ used?
Chick-Aid™ is an important supplement and we recommend its use during every cycle in the Surrogator®. The use of Chick-Aid™ can significantly increase your success in the Surrogator®. Its benefits are best realized when placed in the unit on day one of each cycle.

Is the unit 100% in shade all day long?
The Surrogator® must be placed in 100% shade for the duration of the day. Failure to do so will result in mortality in the unit due to overheating. If natural cover in unavailable we can provide you with shade netting to place over your Surrogator®.

Is the unit flush against the ground (no gaps around edge), with no chance for drafts underneath?
It is important to place the unit flush on the ground with no gaps. Draft can be deadly for young chicks and lead to increased mortality in the unit. Also, raising your Surrogator® off the ground can unnecessarily expose your birds to predators.

Was the chick flooring used during the first week?
Some units require the use of a finer mesh chick flooring. On the units that require chick flooring ensure that here are no gaps which will allow the chicks to find a way under the mat and become trapped and perish. Failure to use chick flooring for the first week can result in mortality or injured chicks. Also, the chick flooring must be removed after the first week of use to allow for fecal matter to freely fall through the mesh flooring on the Surrogator®.

Was anything else placed in the unit (watermelon, other waterers, other seed, etc)?
Placing foreign objects in the Surrogator® can often lead to unintended consequences ultimately leading to chick mortality. Seeds of any kind should never be placed in the unit as they can ultimately result in mortality. Cut up watermelon and tomatoes are beneficial and provide the birds with additional nutrients and can be placed in the unit whenever the birds reach 2 weeks of age, but never before.

Weather conditions during cycle (avg. highs/lows, wet/dry, any extreme conditions (floods, record heat/cold, etc)?
Weather can play a big role in successful use of the Surrogator®. Using the Surrogator® when the nighttime temperatures are consistently 50 degrees or above and discontinuing use when they fall below 50 degrees will greatly increase your success. Record heat or cold can increase mortality in the unit as can extreme weather events such as severe storms, floods, etc.

Any sign of disturbance to the unit (predators, fire ants, etc.)?
If you encounter problems please check the unit for any signs of disturbance. One common concern is fire ants. To detour fire ants prepare the site one week in advance before placing and apply granular fire ant preventer to the site where the Surrogator® will sit. Once the unit is in place fire ant preventer can be applied around the perimeter of the unit at a distance of two feet.

What do I do about biting insects?
If biting insects become a problem you may cover the perforated metal in the unit with a finer mesh screening to keep the insect out.

Is the heater turning on and off properly?
Our propane heater is designed much like your home heating system. It is thermostatically controlled and will remain on until the desired temperature is reached. Because the heating unit is thermostatically controlled the flame remains constant no mat-ter how high you have the thermostat set. The burner flame on the heater should cycle on and off as you turn the dial from 1 to 8.

Has a thermometer been placed in the unit to check temperatures?
If you are experiencing problems with mortality, a thermometer can be placed in the unit hanging off the heater bar at varying intervals. This information could prove useful in determining problems occurring with your Surrogator®. If possible, provide this information when contacting us with concerns.

Were the heating directions followed (week 1 – setting 5, week 2 – setting 3, etc.)?
Following the heating instructions exactly is necessary for a successful cycle. As the heater works on a thermostat it will only kick on when needed. Even in extremely hot climates it is still necessary to use the heater as instructed. For weeks four and five you may remove the heater only if the nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees. Otherwise keep the heater in place on setting 1. Note: The heater settings are the same whether the unit is operated as far north as Canada, or as far south as Texas.

Was the water system purged?
Not purging the watering system can lead to an air bubble stop-ping water flow to the five nipple watering bar. This could lead to total loss of a cycle due to dehydration. Always purge the water system before use and between each cycle.

Was vinegar added to the water to prevent algae build up?
It is very important to add vinegar to the water barrel in order to retard the growth of algae. Algae can be harmful to your birds and cause blockage to the watering system ultimately leading to dehydration of your game bird chicks.

When tapping on the nipples, does a drop of water come out?
After setting up and purging the watering system it is important to tap each waterer nipple to make sure a drop of water comes out. If you do not get drops of water when tapping the waterer nipples, repeat the purging process. If you continue to have problems, please contact us so that we may assist you further.

Was the brooding end (end with feed) placed with the feed bin facing to the west (or the most common prevailing wind in your area)?
It is important to place the unit with the brooding end facing into the most common prevailing winds in your area. Failure to do so may result in increased mortality in the unit from pilot light failure and chicks becoming chilled due to increased draft.

Was the divider used for the first week (or the first couple days if week old chicks)?
It is necessary to use the center divider for the first week (or the first couple of days if week old chicks) that the game bird chicks are in the Surrogator® This provides the chicks with the protection that they need while keeping them close to food and water and maintained at the appropriate temperature.

Was the unit properly cleaned after the last cycle?
As a precaution against disease it is important to clean your unit between each cycle. We recommend that you pressure wash your unit in-between cycles and disinfect your unit with a bleach or anti bacterial solution at least once a year.

Was the heater orifices for the pilot and burner (areas where the flame comes out) blown out with an air hose after the previous cycle?
It is imperative that you blow out the heater orifices between each cycle with canned or compressed air. Failure to do so may lead to heater failure and total loss of birds in the Surrogator®.

It’s hot outside. Do I still need to use the heater?
Young chicks need to be maintained at a temperature near 100 degrees, 24 hours a day, so the heater is always need. No matter how hot it is outside it is imperative that you use the heater and maintain the heater at the proper settings per the instructions. The heating needs of young chicks are substantial and failure to use the heater as out-lined will result in mortality in the unit. As the heating system is thermostatically controlled it will only kick on as needed.

Can I mix birds of different sizes or species?
Mixing birds of different sizes or species can be disastrous! When mixing birds of different species the larger and more aggressive species will outcompete and cannibalize the weaker smaller species leading to mortality in the unit. The same effect can occur when mixing birds of the same species that are not the same age (i.e. birds place in the Surrogator® should be hatched on the same day).

Should I hold my game birds if a significant weather event is anticipated?
Although game birds raised in the Surrogator® are exposed to the elements after week one aiding in making them weather hardy a sudden exposure to inclement weather can lead to mortality post release. If such an event is anticipated is beneficial to keep the birds a few extra days.

Are predators a problem?
The unit has been designed to keep your game bird chicks safe from predators. However the units will not withstand attacks from bears or feral hogs. In areas where bears and feral hogs are found it is highly encouraged to use some sort of fencing.

My game birds are eating the ceramic disk.
As your game birds get older they will have a tendency to peck on the ceramic disk. To prolong the life of your ceramic disk please remove it from the unit after week three as long as your nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees.

My heater won’t light.
Please refer to page 7 and carefully follow all lighting instructions. If your heater still won’t light please check and make sure that the propane tank is full, hooked up properly, and turned on. Also note that it is imperative that you blow out your heater orifice between cycles in order to keep it in good working condition. Failure to do so may cause heater failure. If you have not blown out your heater please do so now. If you are still having trouble lighting your heater please contact us.