The Chinese Ringneck Pheasant
The Chinese Ringneck Pheasant, also known as The Common Pheasant and The
True Pheasant, is probably the most familiar variety of pheasants. They are
one of 34 subspecies of pheasant that distinguish themselves from the others
due to the white ring of feathers around the neck of the male birds. These
beautiful birds originated in China and were brought to America in the late
The male of the species has a brightly colored red face and wattles, two
short "horns" of feathers at the back of the crown, and a very long, barred
tail. Full grown males are about 35 inches long. The female of the species
has buff colored feathers, mottled with brown and black. Full grown females
are about 25 inches long.
The birds thrive best in the open country where they nest under the cover
of grassy fields, high banked creek beds, overgrown railroad tracks or corn
fields. Their food supply, which is derived mostly of scratch grains and
small insects, is easily obtained in these areas as well.
It takes about a year for an adult to acquire it's full plummage and to
begin breeding. The males are polygamus breeders. Females lay between 40 to
90 eggs a year, with an average clutch size of 8 to 15 eggs. They begin
laying during the first part of March and the eggs require 24 days for
bring to mind the hearty cackle of a flushed rooster in the fall, but
pheasants may also be raised in a domestic environment. In fact, because the
pheasant spends the greater part of its life on the ground, it readily
adapts to life in confinement.
The ringneck pheasant is not native to
this continent. It was first introduced from China to the Willamette Valley
of Oregon in 1881. Since that time nearly all states have attempted to
Pheasants are seasonal breeders. The
roosters begin strutting and breeding displays when the days become longer,
usually toward the end of March. Roosters will also fight one another to
establish dominance. When raising them in confinement, it is a good idea to
have no more than one rooster per eight hens, with ten hens per rooster
optimum. Hens will begin laying eggs about the middle of April and continue
into June. A single hen should provide about 15 fertile eggs if eggs are
collected daily and the hens are not allowed to begin incubation of a nest.
Pheasant hens are quite capable of
incubating, brooding and raising young pheasants. However, for commercial
production it is generally advisable to either buy day-old pheasant chicks
or hatch them in an incubator. Allowing the hens to hatch the eggs in
confinement generally results in excessive losses of eggs, chicks and hens.
Another advantage of incubators is avoiding the risk of transmitting
contagious diseases. It is highly recommended to get directions on incubator
operation from the incubator's manufacturer. The simplest machines provide
constant heat for eggs, while such things as turning, ventilating and
maintaining humidity must be done manually. More expensive and complicated
incubators regulate these processes automatically.
Pheasant eggs should be collected daily.
Incubation should begin before eggs are 11 days old, since fertility begins
to drop as eggs get older. Eggs that are stored should be turned twice a day
to avoid hatching weak chicks. Eggs should not be stored in places over 50
degrees Fahrenheit. The eggs should have a soft sheen; if the eggs are
spotted, dull and dirty, they are probably not worth trying to hatch. If
space in the incubator is limited, it is possible to test (candle) the eggs.
A test lamp is easy to construct; simply make a hole in a tin can large
enough to stand a pheasant egg in it. Place the can over a small light bulb.
If the eggs are clear (without small blood clots), they are not fertile.
Humidity in the incubator should be between 45 and 50 percent and the
temperature should be 99.5 F. Ringneck pheasants will begin hatching after 23
to 24 days.
Once all the pheasant chicks have hatched,
they should be kept in the incubator until they are completely dry. The more
expensive incubators have a nursery section which enables the chicks to dry
completely in a controlled environment for 12 to 24 hours after hatching.
The chicks should not be fed during this period because they are absorbing
the remainder of the yolk sac. Providing food to the chicks before the yolk
sac is digested may cause intestinal upsets.
The maximum temperature at ground level
under the brooder for day-old chicks should be no more than 105 F. The type
of brooder to use depends on the number of chicks. For 50 chicks or less, a
250-watt infrared heat lamp is appropriate. If more than 50 chicks are in
the brooder, more than one heat lamp will be needed. Large gas or
electrically operated brooders with a thermostatic control are generally
used for more than 300 chicks.
Pheasant diseases are most easily spread
through dirty feeding and watering equipment. Cleaning the feeders and water
fountains with scalding water once a day is recommended. The feeders should
be thoroughly dry before filling again. Small stones should be placed in the
fountains to prevent the chicks from falling in the water.
A chick guard should be placed around the
brooding area for the first 3 to 4 days. A chick guard is rolled cardboard,
24 to 30 inches high, which is used to keep the birds near food, water and
the brooder. After the first week, begin reducing the temperature of the
brooder until supplemental heat is no longer needed by the end of the fourth
week. After the first week chicks can be let outdoors on warm, sunny
afternoons. If the facilities don't allow access to the outdoors on sunny
days, putting green branches and weeds in their pen will curtail
cannibalism. Provided the weather is not unusually cold, the birds can begin
to be placed in outdoor pens called flyways at 5 to 6 weeks of age. The
birds will do better if the flyways are well grown with grass, weeds or
Feeding adults and chicks
After one day of age, chicks should be
allowed access to game bird chick starter. The feed must be a game bird
starter, since domestic chicken starters are unsatisfactory for young
pheasants. The starter pellets can be scattered on paper plates until the
chicks are started on feed. Green paper plates may be helpful in getting the
chicks to eat, for they are attracted to the green color.
After the chicks are one week old they can
be started on game bird grower. Depending on the formulation of the feed,
game bird grower may be satisfactory feed until the birds reach maturity at
16 weeks. The chicks will require ½ to 1 pound of starter, which is a
one-week supply, and about 10 pounds of grower, a 15-week supply, to reach
mature size. Mature size for hens and roosters is 4.75 and 5.5 pounds,
respectively. Grit should be sprinkled on the feed every four days, until
the chicks are placed in the flyways.
An adult pheasant will require about 5.5
pounds of feed per month to maintain condition. Beginning about three weeks
before egg laying begins, the hens should be fed a higher quality laying
ration. Laying rations typically used for domestic pheasants may be
substituted for hen pheasants at this stage. This ration should be fed
throughout the laying season.
Buildings, facilities and equipment
Pheasant chicks need to be housed in some
type of building until 5 to 6 weeks of age. The chicks can be kept in
buildings which allow 4 to 5 square feet per chick. Chicken brooder houses
or coops will work well for young pheasants.
Adult pheasants in confinement generally
may be kept in flyways year around. Having access to a building to provide
shelter during the worst of winter storms is recommended. Pheasants are
relatively hardy game birds and can withstand cold temperatures if well fed
and protected from the wind.
The flyways are where the birds will spend
the majority of the year. They should be 6 to 7 feet high and 15 to 20 feet
wide with nylon netting over the top. Chicken wire with 1-inch spacing is
satisfactory for the sidewalls. The bottom of the chicken wire should be
buried 6 inches to 1 foot underground to prevent it from being pushed out
and to discourage predators from burrowing under the wire. If chicks younger
than 10 days old are allowed in the flyways, a solid border should be placed
along the bottom 10 inches of the fence, as these chicks can squeeze through
the 1-inch chicken wire.
Flyways should provide some shade. Shade
is provided by laying burlap or evergreen branches on the nylon roof
netting. If burlp is used, it should be secured to the flyway roof so it
does not flap, as this may frighten the chicks into corners where they may
smother. The flyways should also provide an adequate amount of cover to
allow the birds "hiding" places. There can not be too much cover in the
flyways as long as feeding and watering of the birds is possible. The hiding
places are useful for several reasons. If the birds have enough cover to
hide or get away from other birds, there will be less cannibalism. Also, the
birds will panic less and injuries will be reduced. Furthermore, if the
pheasants are being kept for breeding purposes, the addition of straw bales
will provide suitable nesting areas from which eggs can be collected.
An incubator is needed only if a breeding
flock of pheasants is to be maintained. Other equipment needed for pheasants
includes brooders, feeders, water fountains and fencing materials.
Rats may be a problem in pheasant brooding
areas, in building walls and under floors. While rats will not prey on
mature birds, they will kill young chicks and eat eggs. In addition to
carrying diseases, rats may attract other predators such as mink, weasels
and foxes. Rats are best controlled by keeping trash and rubbish cleaned up
and not allowing the rats access to pheasant feed storage areas. There are
several commercial poisons for controlling rat populations on the farm.
Larger predatory mammals are generally
only a problem if they can get access to the flyways. If raccoons, mink or
foxes are a problem in the area, leg-hold traps may aid in control. Owls can
be a problem for domestic pheasant production. Producers report owls flying
over the flyways and panicking pheasants into injuring themselves, or owls
may snatch pheasants by the head if they stick their heads through the wire
in an attempt to escape. With well-constructed flyways and adequate clean-up
of waste feed and trash, most predatory losses can be prevented.
Coccidiosis is the most common disease of
domestic pheasants. It generally causes a bloody tinge to the birds'
droppings, and death results if the disease is not treated promptly.
Coccidiosis can be kept in control by any of the sulfa family of drugs. A
veterinarian should be contacted to determine the best method of treatment
and dosage. Other diseases which can infect pheasants include fowl typhoid,
erysipelas, fowl cholera, avian tuberculosis, navel ill, botulism and
Because pheasants are wild game birds, it
is necessary to obtain a propagation permit from the Game and Fish
Department to raise them in some States. The permit must be updated
Domestically raised pheasants are
generally marketed in three forms: as day-old chicks, as processed meat and
as live mature birds. The markets can be further segmented within each of
these divisions. For instance, chicks and live mature birds can be sold on a
straight-run basis or sexed. The meat could be breast only or the entire
bird. There is potential for marketing pheasant feathers as ornamental
decorations. As with any niche market item, marketing plays a major role in
its success or failure, and the greatest marketing efforts must be made
before production begins.
The most concerning element of pheasant
production is not whether pheasants can be effectively managed in
confinement, but whether a market can be found for them which will offer a
sufficient return. To help in the marketing investigation phase, it is
necessary to know what the likely costs of producing the pheasants will be.
This section of the circular presents a pheasant enterprise budget and the
production coefficients related to the budget (Tables 1 and 2).
The size of the hen flock is 1,200. A hen
flock of this size, plus 120 cocks, could be satisfactorily maintained in
four 150-by-50-foot flyways. Straw bales are placed in the flyway during the
spring of the year to allow the hens a place to nest. Each hen will lay
about 15 fertile eggs if the eggs are collected daily. The entire pheasant
flock is assumed to be replaced each year. Using a mechanical incubator, 80
percent of the eggs should result in a live day-old chick. For the purposes
of this analysis, it is assumed that the majority of the chicks will be sold
as day-old chicks. The remainder of the chicks are used as replacements for
the original flock, are processed and sold frozen, or are sold as live
mature birds to sportsman's clubs and hunting preserves.