For many who show an interest in keeping pheasants it has been the colours of the Golden Pheasant which has first attracted them to the idea. The fact that they are a little different from the usual aviary birds can also draw some attention. At Allandoo we now have twenty different species or subspecies. We would love to increase this but unfortunately we are never going to have enough time to breed all the birds we would like. So how do we, or you, choose which birds to keep? With so many wonderful and fascinating species this is a tricky business. Below are a few things which are worth thinking about before buying birds. We have only mentioned species which we keep ourselves as they are the ones we have most experience of. To find out more about each species please click on their name on the "Our Birds" page.
The Tragopans are striking looking birds but can sometimes stay under cover during the best part of a warm summer day. They do enjoy the shade so if you like to be out in the sunshine admiring your birds it might be better to choose birds which will also want to make the most of the summer sunshine. The Firebacks are tropical birds and although they can be shy when they are chicks as they mature they do have more of a tendency to show off and will spend a lot of time outside doing just that especially as the weather warms up. If you are working most of the day and will be around more in the evening the Tragopans are more likely to be out of their shelter and will be quite happy for you to visit them then. Of course there are many of the pheasants which could be chosen for their looks. The Golden and Lady Amherst's Pheasants are probably the best known and are a popular choice. The Himalayan Monal is certainly an amazing sight particularly with the sun shining on the magnificently irredescent plumage of the cock. If you like a bird with more delicate features then the Peacock Pheasants or the Copper pheasants may be more what you are looking for and of course the True Silver Pheasant cock is a magnificent bird with beautiful markings who is not as likely as some to shy away when he has the opportunity to show off what he's made of.
The biggest personalities are without doubt the Eared Pheasants. They are always eager to be noticed. They are certainly playful as they will jump up to try and see you or to retrieve a treat. They may well make a mess with their food and water and I'm sure they try and have a conversation with me when I go and see them.
This can depend partly on how the birds are reared but some species do seem to have a friendlier, more gentle approach and yet become brave enough to be hand fed without a huge amount of time having to be spent with them. In my opinion the Tragopans are an excellent example of a friendly species. Once they have settled in and got used to their owner they will come forward without hesitation to see if there are any treats to be had. They will wait quietly by their gate for you to make your appearance. If you happen to be carrying anything with you which looks interesting they will look inquisitively at it and might give it a delicate peck. It is not unlike our own to hop out their pen to see us and straight back in again after us to see what we're up to in their aviary.
Most pheasants which are easily available are also easy to look after but they are not all as simple to breed. If you are hoping to have many chicks the Lady Amherst's, Goldens and Silvers are usually the easiest pheasants to breed and can lay a good many eggs in the breeding season. Some birds such as the Peacock Pheasants, Monals and Tragopans will be unlikely to exceed a dozen eggs. Some species can be quite choosy when it comes to their partner and incompatibility can be a problem. This is not unusual with the Monals or Tragopans and we have also experienced this with our Eared Pheasants. We had one hen laying only infertile eggs. Once she had laid around 10 infertile eggs we decided to move her partner to another hen who had laid all fertile eggs. When we swapped the two cock birds round both hens immediately started to lay only fertile eggs. In the following years these birds have continued to give us fertile eggs without any problems. Some birds can take a while to reach maturity with the Firebacks usually being three years old before breeding. Usually however when they do start laying they can have over 20 eggs in a season if the eggs are removed from the nest. Some species are notorious for their aggression towards their mates, the Coppers and Firebacks are probably amongst the worst offenders especially as they tend to only do well in pairs so the one hen gets all the stress, with others such as the Reeves, who also has a bit of a reputation for his territorial misbehaviour, at least there is the opportunity to keep a few hens together so that each one can get a break from his attentions. With these birds it is best to have extra pens available so the birds can be kept separate if necessary.
Of all our birds, the noisiest are the Eared Pheasants and Monals. If you have close neighbours, who are easily upset, it would be best to stay clear of these birds. They do not make a noise for much of the time however and do not call every morning but they are louder than our other birds. The quieter species are usually the Mikados and Swinhoes and possibly the Lady Amherst's and Silvers. Most pheasants are not particularly noisy but there are exceptions and although most Goldens, for instance, may be quiet we do hear from the occasional person who has been unlucky enough to have a more vocal cock bird who is displeasing the neighbours. On the whole they are mainly fairly quiet birds however and we tend to be woken in the morning by the local house sparrows, who enjoy a pheasant pellet breakfast, more often than by our own birds
The Vieillot's and Bornean Crested Firebacks and the Peacock Pheasants are not hardy. They will need some source of heat during the winter. If living in a particularly cold region of the UK the Siamese Fireback Pheasants should also have some extra heat during the worst weather. We no longer keep the Crested Firebacks as although they are stunning birds we felt it unfair to continue with them as they did not like the cold, wet winters (and even summers) we have in Southwest Scotland.
Pheasants really do need an aviary. They will not do well in a chicken coop. The Eared Pheasants and Monals, especially, enjoy lots of space. The Peacock Pheasants and Golden Pheasants will manage fine in an aviary around 150 square feet. The other species should have a larger area. Please check you have ample room for the birds you wish to keep.
Some pheasant species are costly due to the fact that they are rare, difficult to breed successfully or lay only a few eggs in a year. The cost of building an aviary is also fairly expensive. However pheasants are much cheaper than other birds or animals that are as unusual as them and the cost of looking after your birds and feeding them is very little once the aviary is built, especially if you choose the hardy species, who won't need heated shelter for the winter.
Most of the time I like to wear my jeans and wellies when feeding our birds and I will not forget the first time our birds saw me wearing a skirt. I had been away for a good part of the day at a meeting and decided to check our birds when I returned, still wearing my suit. I thought there was something terribly wrong when all the pheasants seemed terrified, they were demented creatures making a racket and flying about in a crazed manner. It took me a few minutes to realise they just didn't recognise me. Once I was changed into my usual "bird clothes" they were all perfectly relaxed. Unfortunately pheasants do not seem to be overly endowed with brain cells and this should be taken into consideration at all times. They are fine with situations which stay the same but if something unusual occurs they are prone to over react. We are all creatures of habit I suppose and pheasants are no different.
If none of what I have said is putting you off keeping pheasants I am sure you will find birds you will love. We have great pleasure watching all of our pheasants and every one is different. I have tried to give an idea of what at least a few species are like but this is not set in stone as they are all individuals with their own special personalities.