Raising Exotic Pheasant Species
These types of pheasants are a good homestead investment.
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I reached out to Jake Grzenda of White House on the Hill to learn about his two-year journey of purchasing a breeding pair of Golden pheasants.
“They are much wilder and more skittish than our flock of chicken and ducks. If we didn’t have them completely housed, they would fly away. They’re tough to catch and check in on, but they are so beautiful to watch and take care of.”
He adds that they are simple to care for. Add fresh food and water daily, moving their portable coop onto fresh grass frequently, and they are good to go.
“But for a more intimate relationship … we haven’t been able to gain their trust like our other birds.”
And that’s due to the fact that these are wild species of birds. They are not domesticated breeds like chickens and ducks, which occurred over thousands of years and tens of thousands of generations of people breeding the fattest, friendliest, or featheriest birds. But these beautiful species of pheasants, which can be sold for several hundred dollars for a breeding pair, are a good investment if you have the habitat to raise them.
“To make money with them, we sell their eggs and hatchlings each year. Be sure to check with your state conservation department for the legality in raising and selling them; in our state, we need a breeder’s license to sell them and a hobby license to raise them.”
Now, in Grzenda’s second year of raising Golden pheasants, he has four laying hens and gets about a dozen eggs per week during breeding season (March through June). With more hens, he sees a bigger opportunity for breeding and profit.
To learn more about raising pheasants for profit, I contacted Alex Levitskiy owner of Blue Creek Aviaries located in the Finger Lake region of Central New York. His goals are to propagate ornamental species, share his passion for aviculture with others, and aid others in establishing their own collections. He is finishing up his first year at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. In addition to owning gorgeous birds, he is a skilled photographer. Here are some of the gorgeous birds he raises or has raised in the past.
Types of Pheasants
Cabot’s Tragopan (Tragopan caboti) Vulnerable
Tragopans are a genus of pheasants that live in forests and nest high in trees. While raising them, provide elevated nest boxes with large aviaries with plants and logs to provide hiding areas. Tragopans chicks are very precocial — even more so than chickens. Levitskiy says to be careful in brooding them as they will easily fly out. He has found that females incubate their eggs very well. The adult males will put on beautiful breeding displays highlighting their facial skin and two horns. Tragopans are monogamous and should be kept in pairs to prevent fighting.
Edward’s Pheasant (Lophura edwardsi) Critically Endangered
Rediscovered in Vietnam in 1996, after being thought to be extinct in the wild, this species suffers from hunting and habitat destruction. Contact the World Pheasant Association if you are interested or have these birds in your collection. With a limited gene pool, they are trying to prevent inbreeding and produce healthy birds that can be released into the wild.
Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) Least Concern
Unlike Edward’s pheasant, the golden pheasant is one of the most popular species in backyard aviaries. These beautiful birds should be kept in large aviaries to promote courtship displays and healthy feathers. Since they are in the same genus as Lady Amherst’s pheasants, they can hybridize. Many breeders, including Levitskiy, urge you to keep them separate to promote the species.
Grey Peacock-Pheasant (Polyplectron bicalcaratum) Least Concern
I think this is the most beautiful type of pheasant on the whole list. This and the Palawan peacock-pheasant are tropical birds that should be protected from the cold. If you can add them to your hobby farm, they lay year-round. Peacock-pheasants should be kept in pairs, and being smaller, they do not need extra-large enclosures. Levitskiy says they are not a beginner’s pheasant due to their picky eating habits. In the wild, they are insectivores, and under human care, benefit from eating mealworms.
Lady Amherst’s Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) Least Concern
Alright, this species is magnificent too, and they are not difficult to procure. The trick here is finding pure birds since they hybridize with the Golden pheasants. Levitskiy says that they require the same care as golden pheasants and that while they do not produce as many eggs, the chicks are easy to raise, flying around and exploring within days of hatching.
Palawan Peacock-Pheasants (Polyplectron napoleonis) Vulnerable
Like the grey peacock-pheasant, this species will also only lay a clutch of two eggs and incubate them for 18-19 days. Since these tiny chicks sometimes have difficulty finding food and eating when raised in a brooder, Levitskiy recommends a teacher chick. This would entail using a slightly older chick or a chick from another species to show them around. Once the young chick is eating, the teacher chick may be removed.
Originally published in the February/March 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.