A Year With Pheasants

July

During July many of our young pheasant poults are going outside for the first time. It can be tricky finding space for lots of young birds but as the adults have mostly finished laying they can be moved to different pens to help accomodate the youngsters.

Our young birds will have been without their heat lamp indoors for a short while before their introduction to outdoor life. It is still vital however that the poults, who will not yet be very hardy, can go into an aviary with a good shed so they can be shut in if the weather is bad. The feathers take a few weeks to become waterproofed so the birds will soon perish if they are allowed to become soaked.

Another consideration, for the youngsters, is the amount of greenery in the aviary. If there is too much it can be difficult to keep an eye on them so although it is nice for the birds to be able to eat some grass and have a little amount of cover it is also necessary that they should be easily seen in case of problems.

All going well, in a good summer, most of the chicks will be outside by the time they are a couple of months old. This is of course weather dependant and we have sometimes had to keep them indoors longer. Normally when they go out they will still be eating "early grower" pheasant pellets which they will stay on for a few weeks before changing them to "grower" pellets.

Around this time of year many of the plants in the aviaries need trimming back as they will start growing through the top netting. Not only is this likely to damage the netting eventually but it does make it difficult to see any holes appearing. Another danger, and something we have had happen in the past, is that the pheasants will roost on the shrubs close to the roof netting and become prey to overhead predators during the night. If there are high plants in the aviary check to make sure the birds are not able to roost right on the top. If they are hidden among the branches they will be much safer.

Enough doom and gloom though. We wouldn't be without the plants as they are so much better for the pheasants than bare pens or only artificial adornments and in July hopefully we have a good crop of currants, cherries and barberries as well as rasberries and strawberries if the slugs and wild birds don't get them first.

Indoors things are quietening down dramatically as there is very little left to incubate. Machines are being switched off, cleaned and packed away until next year. Although this always seems a little sad it also brings relief as we have such a huge amount of work to do with the eggs and the chicks when they are very small.

I tend to summarise my incubation notes now so that at a glance I can see what changes I intend to make the following year as, although it feels like I will remember exactly what went wrong or right, when the next year comes around I always have to check up on my notes and it does help tremendously to write down exactly what is happening, when it happens.

By the end of July we are gearing up to sell our earliest hatched birds of the year. We'll be making sure we have boxes ready and checking our order book for the customers frst on our waiting lists for the birds almost age to leave. This is just a warm up for the busy months ahead with visitors collecting birds and many more pheasants leaving by courier. July is a great month though and when the weather is good we are extremely happy to have a job where so much of our time is spent outside wandering around in the sunshine.

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