Our March hatch pheasants are giving us quite a time. We have always known that pheasants hatched in March are old enough while the days are still getting longer (up until June 20th) that for some of them, their bodies are physiologically old enough to begin producing sexual hormones. In other words, March birds begin to enter puberty while the days are still getting longer.
The outcome is that, for years, we have seen our March hatch cock birds become quasi-aggressive, with their waddles swelling up, wanting to fight etc. Every 2 or 3 years, we would experience some of the hens dropping their tails (i.e. molting) and then regrowing a new tail. This year, we are finding that some of our cock birds are dropping their tails (the three king feathers) and new king feathers are in place and growing already to replace the dropped tails.
We have been in a tailspin here trying to figure out why this is happening. Our April hatch pheasants (both hens and cocks) are absolutely not going through any of this at all – there are no problems and their tails are superb. We have tested our feed and there are no issues with the feed.
We think we have it figured out. The first component is the day length issue identified above. The second issue is the heat – our theory is that our March birds entered puberty right when we had a stretch of 90+ degree days. Of course feed consumption dropped during that period. Our thought is the birds didn’t get enough protein and therefore, some of them have gone into a molt.
Our plan is to bump up the protein on our March 2011 hatch birds through the summer, and we think that will solve it.