The Pheasants in March are highly strung. They are all preparing themselves for what lies ahead in the near future. Hens are on their toes ready to dart away from the cock birds who are rather overbearing at the moment. Cock pheasants can be extremely aggressive to each other and also sometimes to the hens. If a cock get's into fighting mode he will not back down easily. We've had an occasional male injure himself trying to reach a cock in an adjacent pen. If a bird seems this way inclined we keep it away from others of the same species or place a screen between them which also works fine. Out of sight, out of mind certainly seems to be the case where pheasants are concerned.
The first of our birds start breeding in March. Some of our Peacock Pheasants, Silver Pheasants, Swinhoes and closer to the end of the month also the Cabot's Tragopans and Goldens will be laying. Not all the birds will use nest boxes so we always make sure there are sandy corners with plenty of cover for the birds to nest in. We also scatter some oyster shell grit on the ground for them but they tend to use little of this as they already have a good quantity of grit available being in outdoor pens. The birds go onto breeder pellets as soon as it becomes available. Before that we use a prebreeder pellet and try and keep protein and mineral levels up as high as we can for any of the birds who lay early. We can do this with live food, peanuts, small beans, cooked egg, and a good supply of dark green vegetation.
At last we can see growth on the shrubs and there's new grass appearing in the aviaries. This is thoroughly enjoyed by most of the birds although who also, unfortunately, seem to relish the new root growth which is a major drawback for any small plants. Because the birds like the roots, leaves and also bark of many plants, while any shrubs are still small, we usually cover them with cages made with chicken wire. Once the plants are big enough to withstand some serious pecking we can remove the cages. I like to plant new shrubs, or anything else that's hardy, now. We're usually past the worst of the frost and it's not yet likely to cause too much disturbance for the birds as most of them won't be laying just yet (especially in early March). It's easy to find bare patches to plant in but also see areas where I have spring bulbs growing, so I can stay away from these. Every year there are plants needing replaced but I'm not too quick to rip out something that looks dead just yet, it's still early for growth and sometimes we get a plant sprout from the base that we thought couldn't possibly have survived the onslaught of terror from our birds.
It's great to see the birds more, now that days are lengthening, with many of the cocks spending their time displaying. They put on a great show and are much less likely to scoot away from visitors to the aviaries. They prefer instead to whirr their wings, parade in front of them and call out to make sure they are noticed. This is, of course, due to their territorial nature but there is no doubt a narcissistic streak in them too.
There is great excitement at this time of year not only with the birds but with us too as we wait to see if this year will fulfill our expectations or maybe even surpass them. We know there will be some disappointments (there are always some) but there are high hopes and an eagerness to do better than previous years with lots of new plans for the coming season.
To anyone involved with breeding birds or any animal, GOOD LUCK with this years breeding season from us at Allandoo Pheasantry!