Adult Pheasants introduced into the wild

seramasJanuary 11, 2009

Has anyone had any experience with introducing adult Pheasants into the wild. The reason I ask is I received 7 adult Green Mutant x Ringnecks Pheasants that have been kept in a small cage. They have a lot of feathers missing and open wounds (feather picking). Have tested each bird for the usual diseases and they test clean. Each have been placed in separate cages and the feathers are growing back and the wounds are healing.

I've always raise them from chicks and allow them to free range after they are 6 weeks old so they learn how to forge for natural food and allow them to choose to live wild or stay with us.

I'm afraid that they would not survive the transition from small cage to the wide open. Tried to let them loose in the greenhouse but they wildly flew into things and the walls. Had to put them back into cages after several days of this behaviour.

I'm afraid that these being adults they won't have the skills to survive in the wild.

Any thoughts on how to do this?

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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Why do you want to let them go into the wild? They are naturalized and aren't in great competition with any native species.

You have accomplished the first step, testing for disease (not just assuming a healthy looking bird is healthy) and the next one is letting them free range and learn to feed themselves, the only difference between living with you and living in the wild will be predators, which aren't really something you can train them for (you could let a muzzled dog chase them, but most of us wouldn't do that). If you have some adult free ranging Galliformes you can put these adults with them, and they should pick up on the idea that there is food to be had, this will be especially easy if you provide a small amount of supplemental food. You might also consider planting out a food plot for them to use durring the winter, millet is a common choice I believe.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 9:03PM
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Mr. B--Did you read the first line? I would like to have information from those who have introduced pheasants into the wild-especially adult birds. If you have raised wild game birds you would know that adult birds raised in captivity are very hard to introduce into the wild without stressing them to the point of heart failure or they will find a hiding place and end up starving because they will not leave their hiding place. It is further complicated by their being raise in a small cage and not a large flights. That is why they went bonkers when released into the large greenhouse..they simply are not used to so much space.

Unless you have first hand experience don't waste my time responding. Pheasants are not flock birds, they are solitary souls most of the year. During late winter you may see small groups of them until nesting season is underway, then back to the solitary life (mainly males).

Again, unless you have first hand experience don't waste my time.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 10:24PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I have first hand experience with prairie chickens, which have similar behavior. I am aware that pheasants are not flock birds, but they do pay attention to the birds around them, and my suggestion of moving them to a semiwild place still stands, as does planting a food plot to help them get used to foraging with out starving, so does the question of why you would want to do it in the first place,

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 10:43PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I figured I'd check and see how applicable my advice was, as it turns out even the folks who professionally manage pheasant stocks can't figure out how to keep any alive more than a few months, it would seem that high fat deposits on cage raised birds lead to a drastically reduced ability to escape predators, and that they lack the skills needed. It seems that everyone releasing phesants is trying to get them to live (and failing) for research purposes or releasing them right before a hunt. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 10:11AM
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As I tried to tell you that it is very difficult. I have never tried to release adults but others may have and by examining all the tried methods that didn't work I was hoping to find a way.

I have very high success releasing young birds by letting them come and go as they please starting at 6 weeks or so old. They are a naturally skittish bird and fly at the slightest provocation so I'm not worried about predators getting them. Of the 21 young birds that choose not to stay with us we have located 17 a few days ago. All the neighbors have put out feeders (one land owner has placed 30 feeding stations on his 120 acres) and by the pictures everyone has taken we have recognized 17 birds. Everyone in the area want them to become plentiful again. If the springs are too warm they come from nests with fewer chicks thereby fewer surviving to adulthood. Being Green Mutant X Ringnecks each bird has different color patterns and about 20% larger than the regular ringneck. The Mutant Green is a sub-specie of the ringneck and will slowly genetically dilute out reverting back to the normal ringneck size and coloration. In the short run they will be bigger hens that can cover more eggs and hopefully hatch more chicks.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 10:42AM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Still my experience releasing adult cage raised Galliformes is probably the closest you are likely to get. Depending on how long ago those 21 were released it could be a strong sign that you have a low predator load in your area, Dogs and coyotes are the most likely predators with cats following (you don't have anything else in your area do you, no bears or wolves or big cats, do you have eagles or other large raptors?). I think most game birds startle easily but that doesn't give them evasion skills. Do you have a good fence around your property? I would imagine that you could pinion them, and that a male would join and claim them as his harem, then they would raise up a clutch on your property and those clutches could move out into the wider world and repopulate the area. With our batches of prairie chickens we saw about 25% die from unknown causes and about 35% were lost to mammalian predators, but the rest made it a full year, then we stopped watching, but there were plenty of coyotes around to take advantage of our birds, and they are better at flying than pheasants.

Semiwild is the way to go, let them be birds, but not be at risk of starvation or predation.

I'm curious where you heard about them going into hiding and starving to death, I think that's probably rare behavior, if it were common they would be a horrible hunting experience (like Easter egg hunting only in huge wide open undefined spaces), and if you meet their needs (food, water, shelter) they will be less prone to stress.

Are these all females? Can you put a male or two in with them (), allow them to form into harems, and then let them on to your property? Being in a social structure with an experienced male will allow them to better adjust (his confidence will rub off on them, so will his field smarts).

in any case if you release them straight to an area with predators they do not stand a chance, and if you release them to an area with no predators semi-wild would be a better name for it. Good luck, let us know what your plans are and how it goes.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 12:02PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Have not heard of any long term success with release of adult birds that were raised in confinement. No skill in survival. They lasted for various lengths, but not a year. Winter like now, would surely reduce food sources with our MI snow cover.

Could they be used as breeders? Get some more chicks that could be acclimated to wild living as you mentioned? Keep the adults contained, with fencing that allowed the chicks to come and go as they grow, learning what to hunt for in nearby brush and pasture areas? Then they can go wild if they choose.

I watched a clutch of pheasant chicks develop over spring into late summer, and they were very interesting. Lived in the regrowth area beside my pasture, making forays along the fences. I keep my fenceline cleared 4ft outside the pasture, so they tended to use that area as a roadway to go along the pasture for grazing of things they eat. Pasture is clear mowed often, so is very visible, yet fence had cover outside from the Hawk family that hunts the fields. Went from scrawny puff balls to leggy brown juveniles. Never saw a hen mother, so they were indeed lucky survivors. Numbers were still good, last time I saw the group running away down the fencerow. We called them the Roadrunner Gang, since they look so leggy and upright.

Did hear some calling come fall, probably roosters, so we figure they will be back come spring.

Good luck with your birds. I have heard they are not bright, and cage living leaves them no skills. Very high strung, hope they will lay for you to raise chicks.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 2:05PM
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not that this is exactly on topic BUT I noticed in the feed store that the pheasants all peck each other horribly. what is the reason for this seramas? are they naturally aggressive to their own kind? They are very pretty but I know nothing about them...

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 12:19AM
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They are very territorial, even the hens. On occasions 2 or more hens will live together in the wild but when food/water gets hard to find they will part company and stake out individual territories.

Males will stake out a territory that will overlap several hens territories and will Gard it against any other male.

In captivity these traits have not been breed out of them and it results in feather plucking in crowded conditions. When food/water is not always present they will feather pluck and even cannibalism may occur. Then there is poor quality foods that do not contain the appropriate nutrient needs-mainly high protein levels.

The 'ideal' pen (if there is one) would be large and covered. The height being 12 plus feet tall, length 50 plus feet long and 10 or so feet wide. This will give them the ability to fly safely.

Plant shrubs-black willows are among the best being fast growing and very hardy in most conditions. Black willow can be cut to the ground each year so they remain bushes not trees. Cut part down in the early spring and the balance at mid-summer. This gives them the cover that they feel most secure in.

Be sure you have 2 or more feed and water stations so all will have the ability to eat in peace all they need to be healthy.

Most of all don't overcrowd.

I have four that decided to stay with us this winter and they are in a 12'x50'x12'high greenhouse. The 2 males are starting to come into full spring color and have established their pecking order and the hens are watching in awe of the whole social process.

They will fly about and prefer to stay up on the cages and beams out of the reach of the chickens that run loose on the floor.

They are unusually friendly and like to set on my head or shoulders. They follow me about as food is distributed to the cages and such-having to taste each batch of food that is mixed. They are definitely not normal pheasants. They love to be feed out of hand-and don't mind being touched.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 11:48AM
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very interesting. Funny your 600' sq ft cage is just short of the total sq ftg of my house (875). LOL.

They are very pretty birds indeed. I hope you can get the birds to acclimate to your place and not have to let them out...

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 10:42PM
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My son raises around 45,ooo Ringnecks per year, they will be going back up to 75,000 this season. It is one of 3 farms the PA. game comission operate. These birds are released when approx. 6 months old, fully grown. Survival rate is very low, it used to be higher 40 years ago when n only cocks were harvested. The y have tried introducing genetics of several other types into the breeding to develop a more sturdt bird but not a lot of success. They are trying different management types in some release locations. I know a lot of people who raise much smaller numbers of Ringnecks. Some of these are reared for eventual release and some birds do survive; many have planted areas to assist the birds survival. They do not have a home, they just kind of move about. we have had several hens nest in our area but few come off with chicks that live long. Too many housecats and wandering dogs, fox, coyotes, et cetera. Some times one of my Golds, Silvers or an Amhersts will escape and I normally never see them again. Silvers will sometimes live on the loose around a farmstead. There are areas of the United States wher ringnecks do live and breed in the wild, also in England and other not native areas. reeves also exixt in the wild in some areas.

I dont like ringnecks, they are brutal and never seem to really settle in.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 5:11PM
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The ringneck is very skiddish and are aggressive toward each other. When they are in a mixed group as I have, they try their best to stay away from the others and are easily bullied by even the smallest of chickens. In fact Mr. Q (Male Jumbo Bobwhite Quail-6 ounces) attacked Charles (Alpha Male Green Mutant X Ringneck-5.8 pounds)for getting too close to Mrs. Q's nest and removed a number of his feathers. Charles ran like a scalded dog. But, when Ed (Charles brother) gets too far into Charles' territory, Charles will viciously attack Ed. One time I had to put Charles in a small cage and cover it up for 30 or so minutes to calm him down. When I let him out he stayed in his area and Ed stayed in his. Looks like I'll have to give Ed away to some one who wants a pet. The four Pheasants that decided to stay are so tame they allow you to walk over and pick them up. Never had Pheasants that would even let you get close. I think that every time I turned around my wife was hold them when the were newly hatched and they imprinted on us.

They definitely not a bird for just anyone.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 6:20PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

In his book The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins talks about aggressiveness within species. He uses the example of moles and robins but the same reasoning works with pheasants and other birds as well. While a robin and a mole both compete over the same worms that's most of what they compete over. However two robins compete over everything for worms, roosting sites, nesting sites, mates, and they spread the same parasites and diseases that afflict any individual robin. In the wild there are only so many pheasant sized and shaped hiding places and only so much pheasant food and only so many lady pheasants, and that would explain why Charles and Ed do not get along.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 10:02PM
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Thought you might like to know that out of 45,ooo chicks hatched there are usually about 12 mutants. They used to get the melanistic beeetle green blacks somee years ago , now they are running mostly chocolate with a few buffs. I brought a bunch home 1 year, raised them up then released, never saw 1 again.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 10:22PM
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Not one single male looks the same of the first 25 chicks raised. The seven that were given to me all the males (5) are totally different. Some of them have white patterns on their legs. The hens have white rings around their necks. The seven are from the same parents as the 25 I raised. One of the males (of the 7) is all metalinguistic beetle green on its back, chest and belly all the way back to the tail, the sides have some chestnut coloring. He is only about 1/2 way through his molt. I can't waite to see him in his full coloring.

The vet was here today doing the monthly testing on the flock and he was happy with the pheasants progress in such a short time. Most of the bare spots are partly covered or full of pin feathers and their tails are growing out. They all have doubled their weights. They don't pace the cages like they did when they first arrived. All in all they are calmer. Next week am going to double the size of their cages and hopefully will be able to let them out together in the larger flights in the back yard.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 11:14PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Well that's good news. Its not surprising that they all look different, ringnecks aren't necessarily a species any ways, more of a cluster of hybrids.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 11:24PM
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Phasianus totquatus = Chinese Ringneck. The black neck,Formosan, Mongolian are all species of the True or game pheasant. They have been liberally inter bred to form different hybrids. They have also been crossed with green pheasant, Phasianus versicolor. There are most likely around 30 sub species of the ringneck-P.torquatus.

You can improve the green sheened blacks by selective breeding just as in the sumatra chicken and East indie duck. The greed sheen is not a color but is due to structure of the feather. A purple sheen could also be selected for but in poultry breeds it is undesirable. The melanistics originated from feral stock in Europe over 100 years ago. Even tho most Ringnecks we see have been hybridized, they are their own species.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 5:41PM
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sherilynn(Zone 9)

I'd like to know how it went with the pheasants.

Side story: we lived in Seoul, Korea, 12 years ago, on the US Military base called Yongsan Garrison. Pheasants were everywhere there. We put up a 6' fence around the back patio of our house and had a cozy little yard with a tree. A male pheasant decided that this was going to be his home. It was funny... he was there when we weren't, but when we left, he returned. He was lovely to watch from the window. I never fed him because he was doing just fine on the grub and worms in the soil. Healthy gent.... There were no dogs allowed to run wild, so it was a pretty easy life living on the base. Few predators on all fours.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 1:20AM
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Releasing captive-born animals into the wild probably violates a lot of state and federal regulations.

That and the birds will NOT survive. You may as well kill them now.

Birds raised to be released are raised in LARGE enclosures with very little contact with humans.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 10:36AM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

The original post was over a year ago, so the fate of the pheasants has long been decided.

The programs that release pen raised pheasants for hunting say that none of the birds will survive very long in the wild.

Reintroducing a wild population is very difficult. That is why there are farms that raise pheasants for release, right at start of hunting season and again during hunting season every year. The birds do not establish a wild population.

Ditto with quail. If they are pen raised, they just don't make the transition.

The birds talked about here aren't even pen raised. They are cage raised. They haven't a chance to become wild birds.

I wanted to make a suggestion to anyone else who is given cage raised pheasants. The old method of raising pheasants involved a long narrow run that was short in height. The run was then filled with vegetation so the pheasants had cover and could stay hidden.

Top of the cage was low, perhaps 3 ft tall, to prevent the birds from flying. It was made of a heavy enough wire to be visible. The pheasants would hunker down and hide in the tall vegetation, and could run along the length of the cage, perhaps 30 feet long or even more, still hidden in the vegetation.

That type of housing should prevent the pheasants from flinging themselves against the walls and top of their pen and injuring themselves.

Note: that is not how pheasants are raised now. With the invention of netting, it is now possible to build very large flight cages, and that is what is used now for raising pheasants.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 11:52AM
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