When pheasants are going out to customers, we generally do the catching and crating in the morning. The crates are set up in a catch pen and we put straw in them the night before. Birds are herded into a lane between the main pen and catch pen and provided with food and water.
The next morning, they are moved into the catch pen. If we crated them the night before, there’s a big chance we’d get feather damage on the birds. It’s also not good to keep them confined overnight, especially if it’s warm and humid. It’s cool in the mornings and less stressful for the birds to catch, crate and truck.
If we are catching young birds inside to move them outside, we also do that in the morning. That way, the birds have a day to acclimate themselves to the outside during daylight and find food and water. If we are catching inside, we can reduce the light which keeps them calmer.
Catch pens have shade cloth on the sides that run about two feet high. Four or five employees herd the birds into the catch pen in the morning and the employees set up in the corners to avoid the danger of birds piling. Crates, as I said, are already in the catch pen and employees work as quickly as possible, catch by hand and crate. It’s pretty amazing to watch, imagine catching and crating 400 or so pheasants at one time.
And it's not efficient to grab and crate one – that’s how we do it with the stragglers at the end – but usually we catch and hold five or six at one time. Our catch crew grabs the pheasant by both legs, pins it against their leg so it doesn’t thrash around and get hurt and then move it to one hand and grab another. Still working as quickly as possible, they grab the wire cutters, remove the peepers, and put the group in a crate.
Sometimes we have to use nets, but catching by hand is the most efficient because we can sort by breed, sex or quality of bird. The catch crews operate like a well-oiled machine, catch, cut and crate. They work fast and the birds are in the crates and on the road before they have time to get stressed.
There’s a video on our website and you can watch the crew in action - http://tinyurl.com/og4zl74.