Raising Your Own Pheasants
Chris Larsen from our sister site, foremosthunting.com, recently completed a podcast interview with Brian Check of MacFarlane Pheasants. MacFarlane Pheasants is the largest supplier of pheasants in North America and Brian manages their hatchery. The podcast focuses on the basic steps needed to successfully raise your own flock of pheasants. To listen to the entire conversation, press play below.
More people are becoming interested in raising pheasants for their own personal use. Brian Check of MacFarlane Pheasants says there are several reasons for raising pheasants. Rearing your own birds provides an on-hand supply of pheasants for hunting, dog training, or for bolstering the local population. “It’s very educational. It helps you understand the birds. It’s also a good learning experience for kids to show them the development of the animal.”
For most people, the first step in raising pheasants is buying chicks. MacFarlane Pheasants and many other farms deliver chicks across the country. According to Check, mail order is also very popular. “After a chick is born it lives on it’s yolk sack for the first five days. Those chicks can be sent through the mail because as long as they get there within five days they will survive. But obviously the sooner they get to the customer the better chance of success.”
A brooder room should be prepared and ready for the chicks upon their arrival. Check recommends one quarter square foot per bird in the brooder area. “If you have a 10’ by 10’ brooder area you could put up to a maximum of 400 chicks in that area.” The key to limiting mortality is keeping the chicks warm and introducing them to food and water right away. “The way they regulate their temperature while their young is moving into or out of a heat source. In the wild that is staying close to the mother. In the artificial system that would be your brooder source. You generally want your brooder about 98 degrees Fahrenheit directly underneath the brooder… The farthest region in your brooder area, the coldest spot you want, should be about 86 degrees. So within that range, the chick will move into and out of the heat source to wherever it feels comfortable.”
When it comes to equipment, Check says you can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Some people use a heat lamp, others use propane brooders specifically designed for poultry to provide heat. A simple gravity waterer is good enough for many, larger operations have water lines running throughout their barns. Check says if you have the space, there isn‘t a lot of investment. “For most people a jar of water, a flat or some kind of container to hold the food, and a heat source is all that is necessary.”
The first few weeks are the most important in the development of pheasants. According to Check, there will be some mortality during days five through seven. These are the birds that never learned to eat. “Once you get beyond that critical first week you shouldn’t have much mortality. The birds are going to be eating, drinking, and growing… At 21 days of age, the birds need more space… We go from about a quarter square foot per bird, to one square foot per bird… Also, you want to wean them off the heat source.”
At 21 days, Check recommends preparing the birds to start going outside. An outdoor run adjacent to your barn is recommended. The birds should have access to the inside of the barn and they should be brought inside at night and during rain storms. The process of weaning the birds off the heat source continues through days 22 to 42. “Generally, you are reducing the temperature one degree every other day. That will get them down to about 65 to 70 degrees by six weeks of age, when you can move them outside to a flight pen.”
Raising pheasants isn’t any more difficult than raising common farm birds like chickens and turkeys. But there are some issues to be aware of. “The issue most people have is their birds are too crowded. They’re trying to work with limited facilities and trying to maximize the number of birds. Pheasants are very aggressive and they have a pecking order. When you place them in a pen the strongest bird is going to establish territory around feeders and the best place in the pen. It will guard and try to keep weaker birds out… By giving them ample space, between 18 and 25 square feet per bird in your flight pens you will alleviate a lot of this.”
If you’re interested in raising pheasants for put & take hunting or dog training, it’s pretty straight forward. For those who want to plant birds in hopes of creating a naturally reproducing population or bolstering the current population, a little more attention to detail is required. You want to minimize contact with humans. But Check says the main thing to look at is genetics. “A lot of people think that a pheasant is a pheasant. But as is the same thing with any livestock, the growers will keep breeding stock for specific purposes. You have a premium line of birds and then general production birds. For release where you’re going to hunt immediately, a general pheasant will work. If you’re trying to bolster a population, you’re going to want to look at more premium lines, for example we have a bird called a Manchurian Cross… This bird has descended from eggs we collected in China. What we tried to do is reinstate wild bird genetics in that bird versus a game bird that has been raised in captivity for several generations.”
If you’re interested in ordering chicks or adult birds from MacFarlane Pheasants, see their website at pheasant.com.