It’s hatching time at MacFarlane Pheasant Farm, and we are busy! We will have about 40 hatches of Ringneck Pheasants between February and August of this year. Each hatch varies, but we will typically have about 16,000 Ringneck chicks per hatch. We have also begun the hatching of Hungarian Partridges (Huns) and French Partridges. We will probably have 6 hatches of 8,000 Huns in each hatch and 12,000 French Partridges in each of 3 hatches!
Although we follow specific guidelines during each chick hatch, each hatch is different, so we need to watch chicks carefully to see if any changes need to be made. During this very critical and busy time, managers make a list of who has been with chicks at what times of day and move crew members around, to get another viewpoint on how the chicks are doing. Constant communication between managers and crew members is necessary so that everyone stays on the same page. Adjustments must be made immediately to avoid any stress on our chicks. We have regular manager meetings and town hall meetings where employees can talk about their concerns or observations. These little extras help us make decisions about changes we might make in a particular hatch to assure that the hatch stays healthy.
Hungarian Partridge chicks and French Partridge chicks are much smaller than the Ringneck chicks, so they require just a little more tender loving care at first. Hun food has to be ground and double ground so that they are able to eat it. We check to see if chicks are perky, spread out evenly, and growing consistently. It is crucial that heat and light are adjusted perfectly. We have found that the French Partridge chicks have to be treated like they are afraid of the dark! Lighting is maintained 24 hours a day in both the “A” and “B” rooms. All of these factors keep our tiny chicks from being stressed and dramatically improve mortality rates.
Similar techniques are used for our Ringneck Pheasants, except we don’t have to grind the food because they start out a little larger. It is still important to provide a constant source of feed and water, keep them warm, perky, and spread out evenly. They can literally smother each other if they are not kept warm enough because they will bunch together to keep warm.
By the time Partridges are 8 weeks old, they are ready to be moved outside into enclosed pens. Ringneck Pheasants are moved outside at 7 weeks. By that time we have another hatch going in the brooder barns. This really is a round-the-clock job for a few months! We check our chicks morning, noon, and night, and more often if any problems are identified.
At MacFarlane, the health of our birds is our top priority. You can go to our Tips on Raising Baby Pheasants manual to read more about this fascinating process or contact us with questions or to schedule a tour.