This is the fifth in our series regarding raising pheasants.
Now that your poults are seven or eight weeks old you can take them to the releasing pen as long as they are strong and healthy. Many syndicates sell on a number of birds at this point. The release pen will have been constructed in small woodland with food and water in place. You and your syndicate will have set up many weeks in advance.
The time has come to catch your poults
The pen is made with seven foot high fencing which is loose enough to prevent foxes climbing it and electric fence around the entire release pen to ensure that the pheasants are safe there. Before building the pen, make sure there is enough low growth and some trees in the pen itself make sure the site does not flood.
The time has come to catch your poults. Do this first thing in the morning and only do so on a dry day. If you have several thousand birds to catch you must do so with a large team, even this will take you several hours. At the very beginning perhaps the day before place straw in the bottom of each crate. This protects the birds from the bottom of the crate when crates are being stacked.
Catch four or five birds at a time and hold them by the legs.
Take the food hoppers and drinkers out of the night shelter and brooder house and then using several of your syndicate drive the poults into the night shelter and brooder. Close the entrances one or two of your syndicate much climb into the night shelter and brooder in turn. Catch four or five birds at a time and hold them by the legs.
Use one hand to hold their legs and use the other hand to remove the bit from the birds beak. They must then pass the pheasants through the entrance to another handler who checks the beaks are clear of bits and then places the birds gently in a crate counting each one as this happens. You can normally get 25 polls into each crate depending on the size.
There are essentially two method to tagging pheasants and both are a pain
If you wish to tag your birds this is also the time to get this done. Tags are used to identify where birds have come from and which brood they are (earlier or later). Also it is worth discovering if you are attracting wild birds to your cover crops and feeders (or other syndicates). There are essentially two method to tagging pheasants and both are a pain. The first and most simple is the wing tag which is clipped on through an area of the wing which has no blood vessels and causes the bird no pain. The second is the leg ring which at this stage must be quite loose as the bird has some growing still to do. These regularly fall off.
Try and get this all done within two or three hours if possible
The smell can be something awful and the dust from the sawdust or straw can be unbearable, so do wear eye and mouth protection. A mask and goggles are essential. Once you have all completed this and all the healthy birds are created, place them onto a trailer or truck and take them to the release pen.
because there should be enough daylight left the birds will get used to their new surroundings and will start to roost fairly quickly
Try and get this all done within two or three hours if possible do not pause and work trough lunch. The longer the birds are in the crates the greater the chance of them starting to peck at each other. Once you have released the birds into the release pen by early afternoon, because there should be enough daylight left the birds will get used to their new surroundings and will start to roost fairly quickly.
in the release pen check them morning and evening, do not disturb them, allow them to settle in
Once you start to collect your birds from the weather run, put them into boxes and transfer them all to the release pen slowly. Let them out by opening the box and then going to get the next box. By the time you come back the poults will have bolted or will be in the process of doing so.
Do not empty them out of the crate (by tipping them) allow them to get out in their own time. While raising pheasants you must check the birds in the morning and evening, but do not disturb them, allow them to settle in. They will soon get used to the new accommodation.
In the evenings you will see the poults starting to climb on top of shrubs and bushes and low trees as the urge to roost starts to take hold. Let them do this as this is their new home and they will need to be as comfortable as possible, when the beaters come this is the safe place where they will head back to. Just do not disturb them.
Raising pheasants for your shoot can also subsidise your own shooting syndicate
If they do get out you will have ensured there are fox grids in the walls of the fence allowing birds to get back in but not to use them to get out. These are ingenious devices which prevent foxes themselves getting into the pen.
Raising pheasants for your shoot can also subsidise your own shooting syndicate. If you have sold a number of pheasants to a new owner you must inform them of what they have been fed with so that the same routine can be continued. Changing food needs to be done carefully slowly and gradually. Now in the release pen poults start to change very quickly.
As the birds get older and their wing feathers develop some bird will take a flight out of the release pen and this is exactly what you want
Use off the ground feeders, these can be adjusted to hide to the birds and the food inside cannot become wet. It also means that vermin, rats especially can be kept at bay. The feeder must be kept dry and the area around it, so put the feeder on very slightly sloping ground so water cannot pool underneath them.
As the birds get older and their wing feathers develop some bird will take a flight out of the release pen and this is exactly what you want as long as they do return at night into the pen itself. For the birds that leave the pen you will need to put out feeders in and around the release pen and next to cover crops near where to intend to shoot.
Owls; sparrow hawks and buzzards are a particular nuisance but for pheasants four legged vermin are the enemy
You may need to bring water in and the best way to do that is via a vehicle. If there is no water or not enough clean water your birds will leave the release pen and go searching for it. You will also need to place piles of poultry grit in the release pens near their food. This is for the birds and is used in their gizzards.
Poultry grit has calcium in it and help the birds in their growth. If you don’t put it in the release pen and near the feeders outside the pheasants will go looking for it, and quite often they will find this on the roadside (with the remains of winters road salt) which will increase your death rates significantly! Raising pheasants is full of pit falls. Read as much as you can and ask around. You have been warned.