One of the most common questions we are asked is: Can pheasants live with chickens?
This, however, is not a simple yes or no answer. Often many of the pheasant species will mix fine with poultry but they do need plenty of space to do so. They are also likely to fly unlike many breeds of poultry so it is best to add soft roof netting to their aviary. Pheasants certainly do not settle in a traditional chicken coop. They will not settle well in an area less than 100 square feet and that is a bare minimum for only a few species such as the Peacock Pheasants or possibly the Goldens. Our smallest aviaries are 144 square feet and these are only kept as spare pens for short term stays, a single bird, or a small number of chicks.
Poultry are actually descendants of the Red Junglefowl which belongs to the pheasant family. As such there can be territorial disputes but sometimes the pecking order will be quickly sorted and they will live fairly amicably, pheasants and poultry, side by side. Unfortunately however this can't be guaranteed.
If you wish to mix Ornamental Pheasants with other bird species it is usually best to house them with birds which will not be direct competitors for food and roosts. Birds which have a tendency to stay perched in the top half of the aviary more than on the ground are best. I have seen pheasants mixed successfully with budgies, cockatiels, starlings, pigeons, parrots and waterfowl. I have also heard from other breeders who have kept quail, turacos and finches with them without problems. The list I'm sure could be much longer than this but these are only the species I can say I have definitely seen or had conversations about with other breeders housing them together.
We have reared a few silkie and guineafowl chicks alongside our pheasants in the past and they were ok together although we did have to move both the Guineafowl and Chickens in with older pheasants after a while as they grew at a much faster rate than the pheasants we originally kept with them. I cannot say how they were as adults as we only kept them together when they were still poults.
Although we keep our Ornamental Pheasants on their own they are joined on a regular basis by some of the smaller wild birds that fly in through our roof netting. These are mainly sparrows, chaffinches and dunnocks with the occasional great tit, blue tit or robin. The pheasants very rarely bother the smaller birds even when they steal a meal worm from just under a pheasants beak.
The story can be completely different when trying to mix pheasant species. We have a good number of pens with more than a pair of birds in them during the Autumn but as the days start to stretch in early spring many pheasants will suddenly become much more aggressive so it can be much riskier to have numerous birds together by this time. We usually sort out our breeding pairs early in the year and keep them on their own. There are however a few cock pheasants which have to stay completely separated from any other birds and will only be allowed into their mates once laying has begun. Even then a couple of cock birds only have limited access as they will attack their hen as soon as she no longer accepts their advances. We do have some birds which live together on a more permanent basis and seem perfectly happy and at ease with each others company. We have had a pair of Grey Peacock Pheasants who shared their aviary with a trio of Golden Pheasants. We have also successfully mixed breeding Satyr or Temminck's Tragopans with mature Goldens. These few species definitely seem more likely to mix well than most species but they do tend to be exceptions. Normally pheasants do not abide other pheasant competition and will fight off any threat to their home, themselves or their mate.
As I've already mentioned, some Pheasant species can be easier to mix than others but this is still usually young immature birds which can be mixed with a breeding pair after the breeding season is finished. It can make rearing chicks much easier if we can rely on some adult birds accepting youngsters sharing their aviary. We always put the young poults into an aviary and add the adult birds afterwards as it causes less problems if the territory does not "belong" to the stronger, mature, birds. It is important to always keep watch for any problems which may occur. The Peacock hens for example will in no time at all be smaller than Silver, Reeves and many other pheasant chicks so it is normally best to keep them with only the smaller chicks. Although the Tragopans are often our candidates for mixing with youngsters, not all are likely to be as generous with their space as others, it does depend very much on the individual. A few of our quiet natured hens are split from their mates after breeding and the company of young birds can be good for them but care still always has to be taken, as to what can be mixed. The poults we mix with adults are normally ones which are well grown and troublesome to other youngsters and the adult birds will tend to "keep them in their place". Expecting to be able to house a lot of pairs of adult pheasants together will only ever lead to disaster.
Eared Pheasants can be difficult to mix and usually have to kept by themselves. That being said we have had a White Eared hen who was on her own but when we had a Lady Amherst cock who was attacking his pen mates and also a Monal who was bullying the birds with him we decided to risk putting them with her. Luckily they got on brilliantly with each other right from the start. It is often fine to mix pheasant species if hens and cocks are kept separate and out of sight (at least not in an aviary adjacent or opposite each other). We have had an aviary in the past with seven mature Golden cocks in it and they looked absolutely stunning together. They never bothered each other but if hens were added there would certainly have been injuries if not deaths as one cock would be unlikely to tolerate another.
All in all with a bit of care and consideration for the pheasants natural habits these wonderful birds can share their lives with many other birds. It is generally wise though to keep a spare room in case of rather unneighbourly disputes.
Please bear in mind that we cannot guarantee pheasants will be fine with any bird - this article is from our own limited experience and there are instances of our birds having to be moved to a different pen as they have not integrated well with others. It always takes careful planning taking a particular birds personality into account when housing them with others. We don't generally recommend mixing them but that doesn't mean it can't be done. I don't doubt there are plenty of successess and failures in efforts to keep pheasants either with other pheasant species, galliforms or less closely related birds. I am alsways interested to hear news from other breeders and bird keepers so if you have a story to tell of your own experiences feel free to get in touch and let us know.