Raising pheasants is a challenge.
I began this year’s group on the 14th of June with 52 pheasants from McFarlane. Adjusting the heat in my brooder box proved to be more challenging that I expected and over the first two weeks, I lost about 16 chicks. Which is a much higher mortality rate than expected or typical. 3 of those chicks got stuck, but the others appears to be overheated. A bigger concern is having the chicks too cool, but in the cases of the chicks, I think their heat lamp was too close.
The real excitement began last Thursday when we released the pheasants into the 25 foot by 45 foot fly pen. This is a netted pen, 6 feet or so high on the perimeter with support poles in the center like a circus tent
It is surrounded at the bottom with 1 inch chicken wire and the wire is flared out at the bottom to slow down predators from crawling in. The birds, when released, immediately flew to the far side — they’ve never flown before. Within about two minutes, one bird fond a small gap at a corner post and freed himself. First he walked, then he ran, then he flew into the sunset.
The next day, either another bid escaped, or the first bird returned. My son and daughter, age 11, and I caught it and put it back in the pen.
Saturday, it became interesting….
I woke to find four birds on the outside and several dead on the inside. I captured 3 of the 4 and then I discovered 2 more outside. I captured 1 of the 2. The dead inside were near the side fencing and many had head trauma.
So this time, I put another 2 feet of 1/2 hardware cloth around the inside perimeter, and found some possible escape locations and closed them up.
Sunday was un eventful…Monday morning it was time to call in the good loking lady cops and the one liner delivering CSI team.
Every bird, with the exception of one, was dead. The carcasses were along the perimeter of the fence (inside) most with significant injuries to their heads.
Experienced pheasant raisers by know probably now the answer, but it took a call to the hatchery to learn the news. A predator is digging under the fencing, and probably it’s a mink.
After thinking about this for a few days, it also seems that maybe it is racoons, who kill in a similar manner. They may have been going over the chicken wire and under the netting.