This is the sixth in our series regarding raising pheasants.
The cover must be of low and medium height so about six or perhaps eight feet high
A release pen is an area where the birds are released and where they effectively live; it is a safe haven free from predators where they get fed watered and roost at night. There are three types of release pen permanent release pen; the temporary pen and the covered release pen.
A permanent pen is best sited away from boundaries and your neighbours, this prevents you from losing your birds to other Estates and other syndicates in the area otherwise you will be raising pheasants continually! Try and find a sunny location particularly early morning sunshine. The cover must be of low and medium height so about six or perhaps eight feet high. This is the primary pen used for raising pheasants.
the release pen should be designed so that the pheasants can wake in the morning sunshine and feed themselves
The cover should not be very dense brambles for example would make a poor cover for the birds as they cannot take flight. There should of course be a mixure of trees and some water. Pheasants do like fresh water and streams are always a magnet to them; but do not site a release pan over a stream or ditch.
Any heavy rain will mean the ground becomes soggy and your birds will become ill very quickly, so you will have to supply your own separate water with drinkers so that you can medicate your birds and give them vitamins.
The site should be warm enough and have enough cover, make sure it is not a windy location and there should be some woodland and pasture nearby. Essentially the release pen should be designed so that the pheasants can wake in the morning sunshine and feed themselves to woodland provides them with all the shade and shelter that they need to roost. The pen must be quite large so that there is plenty of room, but not so sure that the birds disappear.
Remember they are ground based birds and not smart ones either!
The release pen for 500 birds should be 10,000 m², or a size of say 120 x 85 m in total this means they are about 20 m² for each bird which will prevent pecking and a drain on resources. Make sure that the fence itself has no undergrowth near it on both sides so that should predators walk around the release pen the pheasants can see them coming.
Cut the grass by mowing it and treating the pen as the ‘hub of a wheel’ put spokes sticking out around it. This will help birds find their way home when they fly out of the pen. Remember they are ground based birds and not smart ones either! As their heads are only just above the ground as they wander around they will encounter one of the ‘spokes’ and be able to see their way back to the release pen.
Temporary pens are to be used when the landowner does not want a permanent pen on his land and temporary covered pens for when birds of prey are a particular issue because they are covered they are significantly smaller and therefore cannot house more than about 100 birds.
Check the water supply daily. You will need to put an electric fence around the release pen so please check that the battery is still charged
Your routine in the release pen is quite simple less is more at this point. As you approach the pen it is a good idea to whistle quietly as the birds get used to you topping up your hoppers and look for feathers distressed birds and remove any dead birds. Make sure you know how these birds died; if it disease perhaps pecking or has some vermin got into the release pen?
four legged vermin are the enemy
Owls; sparrow hawks and buzzards are a particular nuisance but for pheasants four legged vermin are the enemy.
Every time they are disturbed they will head for the safety of the release pen and roost in the trees
Check the water supply daily. You will need to put an electric fence around the release pen so please check that the battery is still charged. As soon as the birds can fly you over the fence your visits can be reduced to just one visit per day. Raising pheasants at this point is a real joy as you can see the end in sight. The pheasants will now become semi-wild and although they will take your food they will become weary of anything new and a few survival instincts will kick in. Every time they are disturbed they will head for the safety of the release pen and roost in the trees.