We have hundreds of chicks now with more hatching every day. The hens are beginning to slow down a bit, with their laying though, so the incubators are not under just as much pressure. We always seem to be chasing our tails during June as no sooner have we finished feeding chicks and washing their dishes than it's time to see to our adults in the aviaries. Once we have fed, watered and checked them we are back to cleaning, if not chick boxes - it's sheds, if not sheds - it's chick pens, if not chick pens - it's incubators and hatchers. I could go on and on but then I won't have time to get back to my chicks to feed and water them.
We have books and notes about everything. I keep records of eggs incubating and their weight loss. I write down problems with hatching. I also have to make a note of which of plastic rings I use on each species of chick and which breeding pair of birds they came from. The chicks are in the house for three days or so until we know they are eating and drinking fine and they are all looking strong. Then they go into a building next door where we have lots of heat lamps ready for them. The chicks are all in wooden boxes at this stage although cardboard ones would do fine as long as they don't get damp. Alan has note of which chicks are in which boxes but to complicate things we do sometimes have to move birds, if they are not getting along well together. If a chick gets picked on its health will deteriorate in no time at all, at this early stage, so we watch them like hawks.
When the chicks are slightly bigger and starting to look too crowded in their boxes (normally somewhere between two and three weeks old or a bit longer for the delicate Peacock Pheasants) they are moved to another larger building where they have "proper" 6' X 4' pens. Of course our notes then need adjustment again as not only are these birds in new pens but their space in the dairy (sorry, but it seemed too much effort to rename this - it really was our dairy when we had cows to milk) will be immediately taken by more chicks from the house. The better notes we keep the easier it tends to be if problems arise. Birds such as the Peacock Pheasants do tend to get moved down with far younger birds due to being so small and not hardy, even when mature. Other chicks such as the Eared Pheasants are the opposite as they grow very quickly and need to go outside as soon as possible. Doing this helps to stop their toes becoming crooked. They are extremely hardy, tough, birds, and do very well like this. It is easy, with so many movements, to lose track of what age different birds are and if there are any we need to keep a particularly close eye on so it is important to keep notes up to date even when time is in such short supply. Reasons for keeping a special watch on particular birds can be varied - if we think they are not doing quite as well as they should or if a bird has been a menace to others, it's been with previously, we have to check it doesn't start throwing it's weight around again with it's new pen mates. If we know where all the birds are it helps us keep control and quickly stop what may seem a slight problem becoming a disaster.
We do also try and ring most of our chicks with permanent closed rings as they get a bit older. Each chick then has an individual number. The ring also shows the year they have hatched, the size of the ring and our own stamp "AP", for Allandoo Pheasantry. Once again this is important partly so we can check the ring numbers in our book and make sure that birds we are selling are unrelated. The closed rings are quite costly so we try and order only the amount we expect to need in that year (we can add to the order later in the season if need be). It is too wasteful to order a large quantity we won't use as they are no good for the following year.
We have many e-mails every year asking what we feed chicks. We have mostly been using Marsdens game feed as the quality of the feed has proven to be more consistant than some others we've tried and the service reliable. The newly hatched chicks get chick crumb, then the starter pellet which is the same but as the name suggests a bit bigger than the crumb. They then go onto an early grower pellet followed by the grower pellet which they will usually still be on when we sell them. It is important when rearing pheasant chicks not to feed them a poultry mix as it is not high enough in the nutrients needed for pheasants, especially protein.
I know that June can be a worrying time when things don't quite go right. The chicks are at a fragile age and for beginners rearing them for the first time, panic can take over. I hope my website can help but if not please feel free to get in touch. As we are outside seeing to birds a lot of the time you may not always reach us on the phone but leave a message, email or catch us on facebook. I will get back to you as soon as possible. We want happy people and happy, healthy, chicks. Now enjoy the summer.