posted on July 26, 2004 00:00
'Phantastic' pheasants: Family turns small idea into a lifestyle
Published Friday, July 2, 2004 11:16:20 PM Central Time
By Matthew Butler
of the Times
ALBANY -- Three years ago the Briggs family of rural Albany had plans of having a pheasant and deer farm.
The Briggs family has raised more than 400 pheasants and sell some of the birds to others for hunting practice and food. Tyler Briggs, 13, left, and his brother Lucas, 8, feed a pheasant at their family's pheasant farm in Albany.
Times photo: Brenda Steurer
Then, because chronic wasting disease struck the deer herd in Wisconsin, the deer farm was not allowed. But the family kept the pheasant farm and have gotten a bit more than they bargained for in the process.
When Jerry and Tonya Briggs' son Tyler turned 10, they felt he was old enough to begin pheasant hunting. They got the idea to get a few pheasants for hunting practice. What started out as just 200 pheasants has now doubled to 400, giving the family a full-time job at home.
Every day, each member of the Briggs family, including 8-year-old Logan, gets in on the action of raising pheasants. It's a time-consuming and expensive venture, they said.
The real work started a couple of months ago when there were 350 eggs waiting to be hatched. Each day, twice a day, Jerry, Tonya or Tyler would turn the eggs every 12 hours while Logan would chip in by watering and feeding the already-hatched birds morning and night.
Feeding is one of the more expensive procedures in the pheasant-raising process. Jerry said feed costs about $50 a bag and the Briggs pheasants go through two bags of feed each week.
Also pricey is the electricity bill. "It has doubled since we began raising pheasants," Jerry said of the utility bill.
Though the Briggs family said they are "still in the hole" from all the expenses involved with raising pheasants, they have found a way to recoup some of the cost by selling some of the birds.
Some of Jerry's hunting buddies purchase the birds for $15 each and use them either for practice for hunting dogs or for food. Pheasant sales have been successful enough for the Briggs family that they've had to stop offering them for the time being to allow supply to catch up.
The family has also found a way to make the mundane job of caring for the birds into something entertaining. Lucas, for example, said he enjoys trying to catch the pheasants in order to put blinders on them, which are necessary to prevent the birds from pecking one another to death.
"I like whenever we try to catch them and put blinders on them," Lucas said of chasing the birds around the 22- by 72-foot pens.
And he's become somewhat of an expert at tracking them down, at least compared to Tyler.
"He's older so it's harder for him to bend," Lucas said of his brother.
Those who attempt to catch a pheasant have to be careful of potential injuries. No one in the family has suffered any serious injuries, but they have gotten a few nicks and scratches from the feisty feathered ones.
"When you get slapped in the face with a wing in January, it stings a bit," Jerry said.
Another pheasant-rearing challenge presented itself recently. One evening, someone forgot to close the door of the pen and 40 pheasants escaped. The Briggs family was eventually able to catch 39 of them by chasing after them with butterfly nets. The lone bird that got away still comes back now and again to pay a visit. He still has his blinders on, which amazes the Briggs family since the blinders prevent the bird from seeing straight on.
"It's amazing it has survived," Jerry said.
For the time being, the Briggs family will tend to 80 new hatchlings which came into the world last week. They don't plan to sell any more pheasants until October, when hunting season gets into full swing. At that time, it's likely buyers will again flock to the Briggs residence to purchase birds for hunting practice.
Matthew Butler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org