Pheasants can be one of the most challenging and frustrating birds to raise. They are very temperamental as chicks, and as they age, they begin to pick on each other, often killing one another. This can be very discouraging for anyone trying to raise them, however if done right, raising pheasants can be a very fun and fulfilling experience.
To begin raising pheasants, one can purchase birds at any age, from eggs to adults, but the two most common methods are by buying eggs or chicks.
If eggs are used, one must have an incubator to hatch the eggs with. The incubator should be set to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with about 60-70% humidity (this will vary depending on your location and climate). Eggs should be allowed to incubate for 4 weeks, with hatching occurring between 23-26 days. The eggs should turned by hand or an automatic turner at least twice a day, until 21 days, when they should be moved to a hatcher (either a separate container or the same incubator without the turning device). The temperature here should be between 97.8 and 99.5 degrees. If all goes well, chicks should hatch on about the 24th day of incubation. The chicks should be left in the incubator until they are dry and fluffy, when they can be moved to a brooder. (Follow instructions below).
If you decide to buy chicks, they should be moved into a brooder as soon as you get them home. Dip their beaks into the water when you move them to the brooder, so that they know where the water source is in their brooder. While a round “draft shield” pen is ideal, any container without corners will be sufficient. Either a propane/gas heater or heat lamp should be used to heat the pen, but a light source needs to be present. The temperature should be 95 degrees for the first week (adjust as needed). Chicks will begin to fly slightly after the first week, when chicks should be moved to a larger indoor pen, where they are able to move around to escape the heat and each other. Heaters should be raised slightly so that the temperature is between 85 and 90 degrees, and the chicks should be allowed at least 3/4 square feet per chick. The temperature should be lowered 5 degrees per week each week until the chicks are 6 weeks old and fully feathered.
Once the pheasants are 6-7 weeks old and fully feathered, they no longer require heat, but do need more space. They can be moved to a covered outdoor “flight pen” or an indoor coop. Regardless of where they are, they should be allowed around 20 square feet per bird until they are mature. You might want to also look into putting “peepers” on the pheasants, which will help them not pick on each other, and will allow you to keep more birds in a smaller area. There are several varieties of peepers. We prefer the Pinless Peepers because they do not require any puncturing of the membrane inside the nostrils of the pheasants, and because they can be applied at any age. Even though your pheasants will not mature until 16 and 18 weeks of age, your work is pretty much done once your birds are peeped and in their flight pens.
Now that your pheasants are mature and in their outdoor pens, they are ready for you to use them for what you had intended. Some people release their birds for hunting or propagation, some use them for dog training or trials, and some keep them around for fun or breeding. Regardless of what you intend to use them for, our pheasants here at Shady Acres Gamebird Farm will make you happy.
Releasing Pheasants for Hunting
If you intend to release your pheasants for hunting, there are a few simple things you can do to ensure your success. The most important thing is to release your birds as close to the time of your hunt as possible, so that you know they will still be there when you begin your hunt. Once you are done hunting for the day, if you have not bagged all of the birds you released, you can use a catch back box to get them back. This is a box made of wood and wire with a cone-shaped opening so that birds can get in but not out. While you cannot be sure that you will get them all back, this is the best way to try and retrieve them.
Releasing Pheasants for Propagation
This is probably the most controversial topic of pheasantry. Hunters, Breeders, and Wildlife Officials are constantly arguing over whether this is a successful method of establishing or boosting a wild population of pheasants. If you plan on releasing pheasants for this reason, do not be discouraged by what you may read or hear, because the success of your release of birds depends on the amount of work you put into making the release of your birds a success.
The most important part of establishing a wild population is habitat. If your land already has seed plants, tall grasses, low shrubs, and other nesting material, along with a nearby water source, then you are in luck, and releasing pheasants may be all you need to do. If the land you plan on releasing pheasants in does not have this habitat, then you may need to do some work planting seed plants including corn, milo, and soybeans, along with cover plants that include weeds, tall grasses, and anything for pheasants to hide in. This seems like a rather daunting task, but the truth is that pheasants are wild animals, and will survive using what they have.
There are 3 main methods of releasing pheasants for propagation.
The first is releasing fully grown birds in the middle or towards the end of summer. This gives the birds enough time to adjust to their new home before winter, and can be successful if predators are few and far between. However, if predators are present (mainly coyotes, foxes, owls, and hawks), this method does not usually work, because pen raised adult birds are not used to something trying to eat them, so they are easy prey.
The second is releasing adult birds in March and April. This is the best way to try and help the wild breeding population, as it provides more breeding stock, and can create a large number of “wild” young pheasants. This seems to be either hit or miss, because if the released birds can breed and build nests in time, then many broods could potentially be hatched out, but if there are a lot of predators in the area, and the released birds cannot adjust in time, then this method is the same as the first, with the pheasants becoming easy meals for predators.
The third and most widely accepted method is releasing 6-7 week old started birds in mid summer. At this age, the pheasants are just as agile and elusive as adult birds, but are still learning, so they can adjust to predatory threats much easier than older birds. If enough birds are released, this should be your best bet of releasing pheasants to establish a wild population.
While all of these methods of release can be successful if done right, they cannot be done right if too small a number of pheasants are released. With even one predator in the area, 30 released birds can easily be picked off in one month, which is approximately the time it will take for pheasants to fully adjust. One must assume that there are at least two predators in the area (a mating pair), so 60 birds could even be taken. Because of this, we recommend releasing at least 75-100 birds if you plan on making a dent. Although this seems like a lot, it will be much less of a waste than releasing 30 at a time just to have them all eaten by predators.
Pheasant breeding is not much different than breeding any other kind of bird, except that the male:female ratio is much different. Although many will lead you to believe that pheasants breed in pairs, this is not true in captivity. One rooster can easily breed a harem of 8-12 hens. A ratio of any less hens will lead to fighting roosters and over-bred hens.
Hens will lay their eggs anywhere they feel like it, but they prefer to do so in a place they feel comfortable. We use a combination of half-barrels, straw bales, and Christmas trees. While hens will lay eggs no matter what, a happy hen is going to lay more eggs than an unhappy one, so it is good to provide your pheasants with what they prefer.
Pheasants may set on their eggs if you let them. If you prefer natural incubation to artificial incubation, then you can let this happen, however we do not let our hens set on their eggs because it can often lead to a lot of chick deaths, along with the spreading of diseases.
If you set your eggs in an incubator, see the top of the page for tips on how to do this successfully.