Raising Pheasants for Profit

Raising Pheasants for Profit

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Poultry math is not restricted to chickens. Once you mastered layers, you may find yourself raising pheasants for profit, researching ratites, or different types of pigeons to diversify your farm. While pheasants are a wild bird and have many different characteristics than our domestic poultry, many of their husbandry requirements will seem familiar to you. We reached out to Chris Theisen, Chief Operating Officer of MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc to learn more.

“Their behavior is unique and would offer a change of pace if someone was looking to do something a bit different,” Theisen explains. “People raise pheasants for a multiple of reasons, some of which include for meat, hunting, or simply to release into the wild. I have even heard of them being raised for a pet.  Given this diversity, they are a popular bird to raise which can serve a multitude of purposes.”

An excellent flight bird, the Manchurian/Ringneck Cross is similar in size and weight to Chinese Ringnecks. Photo provided by MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc.

MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc has been in the game bird business since 1929. They have grown to be the largest pheasant producers in North America. In 2018 they produced 1.8 million day-old pheasant chicks.

Aerial view of MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. Photo provided by MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc.

A great way to start your profitable pheasant business is by purchasing chicks.

“They will need to stay inside until they are about six to seven weeks of age,” Theisen says. “You will need 0.6 square feet of floor space for every pheasant chick. Heat, water, and ventilation in the building are a must.”

On their website, they have an expansive list of resources, which include incubation and brooding tips, a flight pen construction manual, and pheasant recipes.

“When the birds go outside, they will need to go into a pen that is covered by a 2” net. They need 28 square feet for every bird — assuming you put an anti-pick device (perfect peeper) on the birds at five weeks of age.” 

Theisen says quality feed is important. He remembers the adage, “garbage in, garbage out.”

“To produce a quality bird with beautiful feathers, good feed is a must. Don’t skimp on this step by simply feeding whole grains.”

Raising pheasants for profit will require you to know what your input costs are. Theisen says, “Too often people don’t understand how much cost actually goes into each bird. Without knowing what you’re putting in, you can’t know if you are making a profit.”

This melanistic mutant is a pure breed. These large, beautiful pheasants feature an iridescent, greenish-black plumage. A favorite variety for release, they display a remarkable ability to survive and reproduce in the wild. Photo provided by MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc.

“Don’t take shortcuts. Pheasants can be finicky. Small changes or shortcuts can cause big problems. Follow the plan. Don’t crowd the birds. Give them plenty of feeder space.”

Pheasant Chick Rearing Tips
1-2 weeks prior to chick arrive Clean and sanitize brooder, brooder barns and outdoor enclosures. Provide heat source and large kiln-dried wood chips as bedding. To avoid consumption, chopped straw is okay for older chicks. Avoid cannibalism by providing adequate space and ample feed and waterers.  
Day 1 – Chicks arrive Dip chick’s beaks in the water and place them under the heat lamp. Provide feed ad-lib. Do not allow feed or water to run out. 28% game bird pre-starter with a coccidiostat.
Week 1 Check on them regularly to ensure they are warm enough.
Week 2 On warm sunny days open the brooder to an outdoor predator-proof run. The pen should allow one to two square feet per bird.
Week 3 During the day when the birds are out, the heat lamp can be shut off. Provide heat during the night until they are three to four weeks old. 26% game bird starter with a coccidiostat.
Week 4-5 Pheasant chicks will need a larger pen at this age. MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc provide their birds with 25 square feet per bird in their covered pens at this age. If cannibalism starts add branches and alfalfa hay to the run for the birds to be occupied with.
Week 6 Continue to use amprolium until the birds are mature.
Week 7 A mixture of low (bird level) and taller plants is ideal for the pen.
Week 8-20   20% game bird grower
Week 20+   14% game bird maintenance

Pheasant Habitat

Pheasants require medium-high grasslands. Undisturbed legumes and grasses are ideal for nesting and brood rearing. Wetlands offer windbreaks of dense cover to protect the birds from heavy snow and cold winds and are also excellent pheasant habitat. Fields of grain and weeds left unharvested to give the pheasants a consistent food source year-round is another good choice.

If your goal is to set up a sustainable population on a new property, there are two strategies to consider. You can choose between a fall release or spring release. While most people choose a fall release option, both have pros and cons.

A fall release is popular with hunt clubs and individuals who have raised chicks in the spring and don’t want to carry them over the winter. You would release an equal number of hens and roosters. This strategy allows the birds to get acclimated to the land and establish their territory as the winter comes in. The con is that the birds must survive not only the winter on their own but also predators and hunters.

Pheasant chicks. Photo provided by MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc.

A spring release is when mature hens and roosters are released in late February or early March. More hens are released, than roosters, with the plan to have them breed within 30-40 days. This allows the first wild generation to be mature by fall. A con would be the expenses you ensured keeping them feed and enclosed during the winter.

“Pheasants can get tame like any other animal,” Theisen says. “To prevent this, limit your time with them. And on the flip side, you could spend a lot of time and train them to come when you call them.”

In addition to pheasants, MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc also sells partridges.

“Partridge are different than pheasants. Partridge are a smaller bird with different body chemistry. As such, we feed them differently (higher energy, higher protein). They are not as aggressive as pheasants and they do not require as much space in the pens.” 

“Raising pheasants can be a challenge at times. It is certainly a constant learning process at the very least. However, raising a healthy, well-feathered pheasant to maturity is extremely rewarding. If you are looking to try something different, give pheasants a try.”

In the next issue, we’ll dive into the world of exotic pheasants.

Originally published in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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