We already have some information about how we look after our chicks on our calendar pages: "May" & "June" so I will include new information here as best I can. We do get quite a lot of emails and phone calls regarding problems with chicks so I will try to help a little with some of the more common troubles associated with young pheasants.
When the chicks hatch hopefully they will be in good condition but sometimes there are problems. I have already mentioned curled toes on a separate page in our disease & disorder section under "crooked toes". Another quite similar deformity is splayed legs and if this is not too severe the problem can be corrected with a narrow strip of medical tape wrapped carefully around the legs of the chick. It does seem quite cruel at the time but with a bit of extra care and perseverance within a few days the tape can be taken off and the chicks legs will hopefully be in perfect order. It can be tricky to get the tape positioned correctly but it is vital to do so. The legs must be parallel to one another and the joints level. There is a good chance that for the first day or so the chick will find it difficult to stay upright so you must be prepared to spend time sitting it up and making sure the chick drinks regularly. It is also important that he/she is not allowed to become overheated or chilled. Within a day or two the chick will probably be managing to get around surprisingly well and before long the tape will be able to come off. If the chick still has trouble walking properly the tape should be put on a second time for a few more days. This should not be a common problem. If you find this happening regularly with hatched chicks try using foam or ridged (and ventilated) rubber matting for the chicks to hatch onto as it may be the lack of grip that is causing the chicks to slip and slide around and damaging their delicate joints. This will also cause the chicks a lot of stress at a vital time when like all babies they should be restful and relaxed.
On occasion I have been asked about another problem - when chicks have hatched before their yolk sac has been absorbed properly. Unfortunately often the chick will die but if left alone for a few hours there is a chance that the chick will recover and the sac will be absorbed. If this happens or even if the belly looks a little raw it is best to spray it with a dry antiseptic such as an iodine spray. We use a "savlon" spray bought at the chemist or supermarket. This will stop the chick getting an infection which will lead to a quick deterioration and death.
One of the most likely problems you will face with pheasants throughout their young lives will be bullying. Keeping chicks busy enough and healthy enough not to peck each other can work to a degree but they are notorious for their tendancy to peck one another. Even at a day old we have had to separate some chicks. The worst offenders at this early stage, for us at least, have been the Reeves and White Eared Pheasants. In fact we now almost always rear these chicks with only their own kind while they are still in boxes (for at least a couple of weeks). Once they go into small pens sometimes we can mix them but great care should be taken and a close eye kept on them. The bullies are often cock birds as the hens will usually mix much better even at this young age.
Strangely we have found certain species of our pheasants will peck different areas. Why this is I haven't the faintest clue and if anyone can enlighten me I would love to hear from them. From our own experience we have found Tragopans more likely to peck the beaks of their pen mates while the Silvers will go for the rump and Swinhoes the neck (although there are some beak peckers among the latter too). Obviously any pecking is not good but if a bird starts pecking another on the head this tends to be a particularly aggressive move and the culprit should be removed immediately as it could well scalp and kill a bird in next to no time at all. The more intensively stocked the birds are the worse pecking tends to be. Also boredom, overheating and dehydration can be causes but it is not always easy to eliminate feather pecking completely especially once it has already started. Keep birds distracted by offering other things to peck at, perches and hiding places (although not too numerous that you can't find the birds to check on them).
Always watch the birds to make sure they are not trying to keep away from the heat source and that they have a constant supply of fresh food and water. If a bird is being picked on there is a chance it will hide away and not come out to feed when it should, so it is important to keep a count of the number of birds wandering around and always check that there are none cowering in a corner somewhere. If there is it should be moved out of its pen straight away. It may be possible to mix it with smaller chicks so that it still has company. This may all sound very obvious but at times when there is pressure for space it can be easy to think it might be less trouble to leave a bird where it is. This is not the case and I can't stress enough the importance of separating the bullies from the more timid birds.
If having to move birds around whether they are young or old it is usually best to put all new "mates" into an empty pen, rather than adding newcomers into an area with birds already resident, as the established birds will often be protective of their territory and not take kindly to new arrivals. However with young chicks & poults if you wish to mix a bigger chick with smaller ones it is generally best to introduce it into the smaller birds pen so as not to frighten them too much.
Much of the care of pheasants is common sense and just taking time to watch them so that you notice when a bird's behaviour changes. It is useful if the birds are used to human company as they will relax and behave normally in your presence so that it is easier to spot if something is wrong.
If you have any unanswered questions regarding pheasants please do not hesitate to get in touch either by phone, email or facebook. We all make mistakes but if anyone can learn from ones we have made ourselves previously it may stop a problem before it starts.