Pheasant breeds and breeding
Breeds of pheasants
There are many different breeds of pheasants in the world. In Australia, the most suitable breed for commercial meat production is the ‘True’ or Ringneck type, genus Phasianus. These pheasants, of which there are more than thirty species, are the oldest and best known of all pheasants. The Chinese Ringneck breed (Phasianus colchicus torquatus) or its mutants have the most contrasting colours of all ‘True’ pheasants. As with other pheasants, the male is brightly coloured while the female has much plainer markings.
- Male. The head and neck of the male is bluish-green with a distinct white collar around the neck. The centre of the breast is a rich purplish-red, the sides are lighter and the flanks are pale yellow with large black markings. Tail feathers are olive yellow with broad black crossbars.
- Female. The female has crown barred black and brown neck feathers, with chestnut borders. Breast and back feathers are mottled with a blackish-brown centre. The abdomen is pale brown. The tail feathers are marked with black and buff close wavy lines.
Selecting breeding stock
- The aim of producers of pheasant meat should be to produce well-fleshed heavy birds at marketing. In selecting breeding stock, look for birds with good body conformation and weight at 16 weeks of age. Minimum weights for selection are 900 g for hens, and 1200 g for cocks.
- Egg production is an important consideration in selecting breeding stock. The number of eggs produced in a season varies with the strain, and may be as low as 20 per hen or as many as 130 per hen. Average egg production is about 50 per hen. Producers should select breeders with an egg production of at least 60 eggs per season. Egg production is slightly higher in second-year hens when compared with first-year hens, but egg numbers decline rapidly after this.
- Most Ringneck pheasant flocks in NSW have the same origin, so when establishing a breeding flock, use some stock from another state in the breeding program to reduce the risk of inbreeding. By doing this, a much faster rate of genetic improvement will be achieved.
- Both 1-year-old and 2-year-old males can be used for breeding as there is no difference in fertility. Males can be kept till they are 3 or 4 years old.
As a general rule, breeders should be mated at the ratio of one male to six hens. However, with some strains of birds, good fertility has been maintained with mating ratios of 1:8. In other flocks, a ratio of 1:5 is needed.
Identification of birds
If pheasants of different parentage are to be raised together, it is often necessary to know some or all of the birds’ origins, particularly for the selection of future breeding stock.
Identification can be made by fitting either numbered leg bands or wing bands to the birds. Both leg and wing bands are numbered and are available in different colours.
- Leg bands, unless properly fixed, fall off or get caught in objects and are pulled off. Although leg bands are easier to see, they can only be fitted to birds which are at least 8 weeks old.
- Wing bands can be fitted to day-old chicks. Fit new bands when birds are about 16 weeks old to prevent flesh growing over the original band. Wing bands are placed in the web of the wing and are clamped in position with a pair of pliers.