We call birds that escape from our outside pens strays. Though we do everything we can to prevent the birds from escaping, it does happen. When it does, it is an all-out emergency!
Why Are Escaped Birds an Emergency?
1. The obvious reason is that if they are not captured right away, the chances that they will be killed by a predator is very strong. Escaped birds attract predators and that is a very bad situation on a pheasant farm. If birds are not killed right away, they may just fly or run off. Either way, MacFarlane Pheasants will have lost the cost of rearing the birds and a potential sale. On a positive note, most birds try to get back in after they get out so quick action is important.
How Do Birds Escape?
1. Birds generally escape through holes in the fence pens and top nets. Once the birds catch on that there is an escape hatch (they see one bird go through a hole) others will follow. Holes below knee level, especially in corners are the worst situation.
2. A bird has to hit a small hole in a top net almost perfectly to use it as an escape. A hole in top net with a prop post leaning can be as bad as a low fence hole, though. Birds will use the prop post as a ramp and exit the pen. Obviously, a big hole in the top net can cause significant problems.
3. Negligence can also be a contributing factor to birds escaping. As birds are caught, driven, or staged in lanes, if someone leaves a door open or doesn't secure gates properly, birds will get out. This is a rare situation, but human mistakes happen and care must be taken at all times to protect the birds.
Procedures for Preventing Strays
1. Pens are gone through before birds are placed.
2. Pens are checked daily for damages.
3. Preseason pens are thoroughly checked and fixed by patching with net, wire, and hog rings.
4. Diligence and attention to detail is the only way to prevent strays.
How Do We Catch Strays?
1. We have catch boxes that assist in catching strays. Basically, birds walk along the fence and climb into these boxes to eat some corn and cannot find their way out.
2. We also catch strays from vehicles using nets. Sometimes two employees are needed. One person drives and one is in the back of the truck, to catch birds on the move.
How Do Holes in Fences and Nets Happen?
1. Birds flushing or getting pushed into an area can cause stress on pens as there is a lot of pressure when birds fly or bump into the fencing/nets.
2. Rats, if present, will chew holes in fences for traveling, but will also destroy nets if they are laying on the ground.
3. If prop posts and pens aren't properly maintained, posts can make holes in the top net.
4. Sometimes, tilling of pens and mowers can cause problems and occasionally it goes unnoticed. If a tire lug, bumper, or mower deck catches a pen fence it can tear a huge hole and the driver may not be aware they even got close. This is why those daily checks of outside pens is so important!
5. Cover and weather will rip the top nets pretty easily, especially where netting is weak.
Prevention is the key to success in avoiding strays, but if birds do escape, we have a plan of action to prevent disastrous results!