Raising Ringneck Pheasants from eggs or chicks can be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding endeavor or a heart-wrenching nightmare. Applying good animal husbandry skills and understanding pheasant behavior is critical to your success. Always remembering these basics will give you a good start towards success. Temperature, Nutrition, Environment. Each of these conditions will continually over lap at all stages of development, recognizing their relationship to one another will always produce good results with your ringneck pheasant eggs or ringneck chicks.
Brooding: The brooder area should be prepared enough in advance to have been disinfected, and allowed to dry. Straw litter or dry shaving works best, providing good footing and absorption. Paper is too slippery, resulting in deformed legs; small particles in wood shavings are eaten causing impaction and death. The brood area should be sized according to the number of chicks. Day old - 2 weeks .25sq.ft per chick, 3 weeks - 6weeks .75 sq. ft. per chick. Outdoor grow out pens with ground cover should be large enough to provide 15-20 sq. ft. per bird.
Heat: Heat lamps are the easiest to use. We recommend at least one 250-Watt infrared bulb for each 100 chicks you plan on starting. Make sure to get a bulb with a red end, as it won’t be so bright and will help control cannibalism. Hang the heat lamp from the ceiling, about 18 inches from the floor to the bottom of the lamp. The temperature at floor level should be 95-100 degrees. Gas brooders should be considerer for larger groups.
Use a ring or draft shield to confine the ringneck chicks for the first 5-7 days the pheasants are in the brooder. We use cardboard about 14-18 inches high, formed to make a ring or a circle. A circle with a diameter of 4 feet will be sufficient for 50 chicks (with the heat lamp in the center). This shield helps cut down on drafts, and eliminates the chicks desire to pile in corners. We recommend at least one 2 foot long feeder for each 50 chicks. Also 1 one-gallon waterer for each 75 chicks. Use a waterer with a narrow lip (1/2 inch or less) or fill the water trough with marbles so the chicks can’t fall in and drown.
From the time chicks arrive until they are six weeks old they should be fed a 28-30% protein medicated gamebird or turkey starter. The feed should be in crumble form. Never use a chicken feed at any stage of development.
Raising: When the pheasant chicks arrive, remove them from the box, dip their beaks in the water and put them under the heat lamp. Most losses occur because the chicks do not start to eat or drink. Never let your chicks run out of feed or water. The chicks should form a circle around the heat lamp. If the chicks bunch up directly under the heat lamp they are cold – lower the lamp, add more bulbs, or further draft-proof your brooder house. If the chicks spread out too far away from the brooder and pant, etc. they are too hot – Turn off one of the bulbs, raise the heat lamp and perhaps open a window during hot weather.
Inspect the chicks often during the first week – especially at night during the first few nights. It has been our experience that chicks often die from piling (from being too cold) even during hot weather.
After the ringneck chicks are two or three weeks old it is a good idea to allow the chicks to range outside during the daytime. Wait for a warm sunny day and open the brooder house door into the pen. The pen must be covered and enclosed with one-inch hole chicken wire to prevent the chicks from escaping. The pen should be large enough to allow 1-2 square feet per bird. Drive the chicks back into the house late each afternoon. Discontinue operating your heat lamp during the day once the chicks spend each day outside. Continue to turn the heat lamp on each night until they are 3-4 weeks old (depending upon how cold it is outside). After the birds are 4-5 weeks old they will need a bigger pen.
You should always be on the lookout for cannibalism. The first evidence you will see will be blood on the wing tips and tails of some of the smaller birds. Don’t expect it to just go away – instead it will just get worse. Add branches and alfalfa hay to the pen for the birds to peck at and play on – this will help. You may have to trim the top beaks on your birds to curtail the problem. A pair of fingernail clippers will do – trim far enough back so it bleeds just a little. This can be done as early as 2 weeks old and may have to be repeated.
After the birds are 6 weeks they can be fed a 20% protein grower feed.
This is only a brief outline to start you out raising pheasants. To obtain more information there are several books available for sale – they are:
1). “Raising Gamebirds” by Dan Scheid
2). “Game Bird Breeders Handbook” by Allen Woodard Pran Vohra & Vern Denton
3). “Game Bird Propagation” by John Mullin