Spring on MacFarlane Pheasants’ Wisconsin farm is an exciting time of year. The rising temperatures make our work so much more pleasant. We have lots to do, though, to get our outside pens ready for transitioning our pheasants and partridges to a safe and healthy environment where they will grow to maturity.
• We recover the feed remaining in the pens. It can be reused this summer once the birds are past the growing stage at about 18 weeks of age. Once our birds are fully grown, they don’t need as much nutritional energy to grow feathers, bones, and muscles. At that point, we can blend that feed with the new feed and the birds maintain their beauty and strength.
• After the feed is pulled, we take out all of the feeders, waterers, and shelters to clean and sanitize them. They are also repaired and inventoried. While this is being done, pens are mowed and tilled.
• Currently, 60%-70% of the pens are being tilled and we hope to complete the process by May 1. At least 50% of the pens are tilled each year. The rest just get tilled around the perimeter and one path down the middle. The perimeter is where there is the heaviest traffic and where there would be any spilled feed.
• Lamb’s quarter, the primary weed we manage for cover, is set back about 2-3 weeks when we till up the ground. When pens are tilled completely the cover isn’t tall enough to provide protection to the birds. There is a chance they will eat enough of whatever lamb’s quarter comes through to kill the cover and set the growth back further. Any birds scheduled to be moved out in May go into pens that have only the perimeter and a path tilled. Birds moved out in June can go into pens that have been fully tilled.
• Weather is also a factor in spring, as in every season. We usually start tilling around March 20th, but the date varies depending on when the frost is out of the ground. The soil also has to be dry enough so the soil doesn’t stick to the tiller tines.
Spring is an exciting time of year because before long our outside pens will be filled with thousands of beautiful pheasants and partridges, once again. We never grow tired of seeing the results of our preparation.