As the U.S.’s largest pheasant farm, MacFarlane Pheasants produces an astonishing number of day-old chicks and hunt-ready adult birds every year. And where to they come from? We grow them ourselves on one of the most high-tech and efficient pheasant farms in the world. But it all starts as twinkles in pheasants’ eyes across the road from the main farm in our breeder pens. This year over 39,000 have been out and about living the charmed life, eating, crowing, and making more pheasants. Here’s what happens as we close down the egg-laying season.
The first thing Breeder Manager Troy Cisewski and his team will do is remove the pheasants. Most of the birds, all between one to two years old, will be sent across the country for fall hunts. But a few, selected by merit of certain desirable traits, will be retained for next year’s stock. They’ll be the foundation for perfecting the MacFarlane pheasant. Once those select birds are set aside, Troy’s team will empty all the pens out of huts and other equipment to clean and sterilize them, then enter the pens with tractors to till over the earth and replant for the fall. All the pens will be sterilized, tilled, and replanted in less than two weeks.
While the rearing pens on the main farm have access to water, across the street in the breeder pens we split irrigation water access with a local farmer. Because of the demand on resources, we’re much more dependent on natural rainfall. This year, with consistent rain, Troy describes it as “fantastic.” Even with the summer’s cooler nights, he says, the vegetation in the pens has grown exceptionally well. We’re hoping for more of the same as we plant our winter cover.
In the breeder pens, we till milo, also called sorghum, exclusively. It will have the next few months to grow high and thick, and by October, when we’re putting the next generation of breeder birds into the pens, seldom is it shorter than shoulder-height. It becomes the basis for the birds’ cover and protection. True, live cover is more difficult than just putting huts out, but it’s something we consider vital to our birds’ health and wild nature. Natural cover is always a bit of a gamble, being so weather dependent—if the milo isn’t fully mature by the first frost, it withers fast. But with the season that we’ve had, we’re confident that we’re laying the seeds of another banner year.
It’s been an amazing year for MacFarlane Pheasants, and not just in the pens. We’re bigger than ever, and it’s because of our staff that we’re able to continue as the U.S.’s number one producer of pheasants and pheasant chicks. This year we expanded to our largest number of breeders ever to meet our customers’ demand, and Troy says he wouldn’t be surprised to see another 6,000 breeders in the pens next year to provide the stock for an even larger number of orders. Well, he hopes to see them. The cover he and his team have planted will be awfully high.