The Lady Amherst's pheasant is one of two species known as ruffed pheasants (the Golden pheasant is the other). They are endemic to China as well as Burma and Tibet.
The cock Lady Amherst's Pheasant has a beautiful long tail and plumage of gorgeous contrasting colours which include dark metallic green and blue with red feathers on the head above a ruff of black and white. The belly and lower breast is white as is the tail which is heavily barred with black. The tail also has shorter protruding bright orange feathers (upper tail coverts). He has blue facial skin and grey legs and beak. Lady Amherst's Pheasants look extremely regal strutting about the aviary. They become fully coloured during their second year.
The hens are sometimes confused with Golden hens but they are bigger with blue/grey legs and bluish orbital skin. The Goldens have yellow skin and also a yellow tinge to the feathers. Lady Amherst hens also have stronger markings than the Goldens. Hybrids between the Lady Amherst and Golden can be produced and are fertile. We think it important that the true species is preserved for the future therefore at Allandoo Pheasantry we do not produce hybrids.
It is possible to have fertile eggs in the first year however some birds may not breed successfully until their second year. Laying normally starts during the first or second week in April. A hen can lay as many as 40 eggs in one season. She will lay 6 - 12 in each clutch which should take 23 days to hatch. 2 - 3 hens are often kept with one cock which can put less stress on each hen as the males can become quite aggressive towards them in the breeding season. We have found however that hens can be rather aggressive creatures to one another at times so it is possible to end up with a hen having a hard time from all her company in the aviary. A careful watch on birds when they are introduced is a necessity to make sure all the birds are settling well together.
I would advise an aviary size of at least 150 square feet with a covered area for some shelter and preferably some shrubs added for some extra interest. Lady Amherst's pheasants are very hardy and are easy birds to look after. Although they are likely to nibble plants in the aviary they are not as destructive as many of the other pheasants so plants are more likely to thrive in their pens. They can sometimes be housed with other birds in the same aviary although no other pheasant species should be kept with Amherst's of breeding age. Cocks of different pheasants can be together as long as no hens are kept.
Lady Amherst chicks tend to be easy to rear. They are tough, normally eat well and usually mix with other species without many problems while still young. By the time they are a few months old sometimes the occasional Amherst cock may become more dominant in a pen of mixed pheasants and start becoming a nuisance. We find when this happens, on occasion, we can usually add them in with young Reeves or Eared Pheasants which aren't likely to stand any nonsense from a bullish Amherst. When rearing pheasants you soon learn to be vigilant and act fast before disaster happens.
All in all Lady Amherst's are fantastic birds. They are particularly stunning can become very tame, with only a little time spent with them on a daily basis. The easiest way to calm the birds is by offering treats. It does not usually take long, with hand reared pheasants at least, before the birds start eating from your hand. We have quite a few Amherst's that are always close to tripping us up, as they gather round our feet, waiting for a tasty snack.