Breeding pheasants from chicks to maturity

reading time: 6 Session minutes

Written by Pat Johnson The riders are popular today in the United States, but that wasn’t always the case. These game birds were first brought to North America from Asia in 1733, and it took about 100 years for them to start thriving here. The governors of New York and New Hampshire shot down old English pheasants in each of their states, but the birds weren’t strong enough to survive. The Chinese round pheasant, known for its colorful plumage and exquisite flavour, was released in the United States in Oregon in 1881, 1882, and 1884 by Owen Nickerson Denny of Oregon. Ring-necked pheasants thrived, and by the late 19th and early 20th centuries many of these birds had been brought in from English bird farms and released throughout the United States. For fun, food, and the chance to experience these beautiful birds!

If you are interested in breeding pheasants, you will need to obtain as much information as possible beforehand so that you are prepared to give them the best care at every stage. Here, you’ll find information on how to order pheasant chicks, prepare for delivery, and raise them to maturity, including the types of specialized indoor and outdoor sites required to raise healthy pheasants, as well as feed, water, and time requirements.

Preparing to raise pheasant chicks

Detailed preparation is important to keep chicks healthy through the fledging stage. Pay close attention to the following key areas. Brooders and flying pens should be planned before ordering chicks.


Before your chicks arrive, establish your brooding coop. It is essential that the building you use is airtight and free of rodents. You can design your own building specifically for new pheasant chicks or use part of an existing building. Pheasant chicks are delicate, and properly setting up your brooder coop will increase your chances of success. You will need a coop that will allow 3/4 square foot of space for each baby bird. You will also need a feeder about 2 feet long for every 50 chicks. A 1-gallon bowl of water is sufficient for 75 chicks, but your watering can must have a lip of 1/2 inch or less to prevent these little chicks from drowning. Some breeders put the balls in the waterers to protect the chicks from drowning accidents.


Clean and disinfect the area and all equipment placed in the room at least two weeks before the chicks arrive. Kiln-dried wood chips can be used on the floor, as they are highly absorbent, however Do not use sawdust. Sometimes the chicks eat the shavings and die. Use burlap or burlap paper in the pens during the first week. Brooder paper, which helps chicks to keep on their feet, is available at most feed stores. Burlap works too, but the paper or burlap should be removed after the first week.


Use heat lamps over new chicks for the first 4 to 5 weeks. You will need at least one 250-watt light bulb for every 100 chicks. The red tip LEDs are not very bright and help control cannibalism, which can be an issue with pheasants. Hang the lights from the ceiling, so that the bottom of the lamp is 18 inches above the floor.

When the chicks first arrive, use a drag shield to restrain them for the first 5 to 7 days of their time in the brooder. You can use cardboard about 18 inches high to form a circle about 4 feet in diameter to enclose about 50 chicks and to hold down drafts. The heat lamp should be in the center of the shield.


Order your feed so that it is available as soon as the chicks arrive. Feed them 26 to 30 percent starter feed treated with a coccidiostat, such as amprolium, until they are 6 weeks old. Feed should be in crumbly form. You can add Terramycin soluble powder (an antibiotic) to the water for the first week if he appears to be sick or dying. After 6 weeks, the growing chicks should be fed 20 percent protein farmer feed.

Arrange the chicks and start them in your coop

There are many options for ordering chicks, including from MacFarlane Pheasants Inc. , the largest pheasant farm in the United States, providing high quality pheasant chicks, as well as support for breeders of new and practicing pheasants. Chicks can be ordered online in advance, and if MacFarlane doesn’t have chicks available the week you’d like, you can go on standby. When you know when you’ll be ready for chicks, you can call MacFarlane Pheasants at 608-757-7881 to discuss pricing and delivery of the chicks.

Chick arrives

When the chicks arrive, you’ll want to take them directly to the prepared brooding coop. Dip their beaks in the water and place them under a heat lamp (where they should congregate). If you see chicks huddled together, they are probably very cold. You’ll want to lower the bulb a bit or make sure your brooder is drag-resistant. If the chicks are spread out too much, they are probably too warm and will need to turn up the heat lamp. Ensure that feed and water are always available, and check on the young chicks frequently throughout the day.

Chicks from 4 to 6 weeks

Your chicks are ready for an outside pen for part of the day! The pen should be covered with 1-inch chicken wire to prevent pheasants from escaping. At this point, the chicks need about 1 to 1 square foot per bird. On the first beautiful sunny day, you can open your brooder house and let the chicks out in your coop until late afternoon. Place them back in the nursery before sundown and keep the heat lamp on until they are 4 to 5 weeks old. Once it is warm enough to let the chickens outside each day, you can turn off the heat lamps.

Riders are 5 to 8 weeks old

When the birds are 5 to 6 weeks old, you should be ready to keep them in flying pens, or “breeding pens,” as they are often called, which are described below. Pheasants are usually transferred out full time at 6 to 8 weeks, so a flying pen should be part of the pre-planning for the arrival of the chicks.

Pheasants need about 25 square feet per bird in outdoor pens if they have voyeurs. Peepers are small devices that are placed on the beaks of pheasants within five weeks to block their forward view and prevent them from getting a direct line of sight to other birds. One of the questions people have about peeping riders is, “Does it hurt?” The best answer I’ve heard is that the pain of peeping is comparable to piercing your ear, but with the importance of a flu shot. Riders need to protect themselves. They tend to be cannibals and will pick on each other and pull the tail feathers of other birds. Injuries from this aggressive behavior can lead to the death of a pheasant, so peepers are advised!

Flying pen

The fly pen is a safe place to lay the riders until they have grown to maturity. They will still need to be fed and watered. They will also need a cap inside their fly pen. Weeds such as sheep’s quarters or ragweed sprout early in the spring and provide great cover early in the season. Corn can also be grown as a ground cover. Ground cover is important for several reasons. It provides shelter for birds from inclement weather, provides shade, gives birds something to grab, reduces eye contact between birds, and gives them places to escape from each other.

You’ll need to complete your flying pen before it’s time to start letting riders out full time. MacFarlane Pheasants offers a complete guide to building a flying pen, and you can download the guide for free. It provides detailed instructions for a large pen, but the manual will detail the materials needed, and you can adjust the quantities for whatever size pen you need.

time commitments

When the pheasant chicks are first delivered, it is essential to check on them frequently throughout the day to ensure that all the previously discussed factors are in order. When they reach 5 to 8 weeks and begin living in outdoor fly pens, they will need to be checked several times a day to make sure they are safe, that they have enough food and water, and that they are not injured or sick. Preparation, proper nutrition, and ongoing care are the keys to raising healthy, beautiful riders.

Photography credits: © MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc.

It is with great appreciation that I give information and photos to the owner of MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. , Bill MacFarlane and his staff.

Pat Johnson is a freelance writer who blogs for MacFarlane Pheasants Inc. , the largest listed company in North America. This allowed her to learn from expert pheasant breeders and cover a wide variety of game bird topics, including how to raise pheasants, safety practices, barn maintenance, and pheasant recipes.

Originally posted on the Community Chickens website and has been regularly checked for accuracy.

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