Update on the Manchurian Pheasant Project
It has been 14 years since MacFarlane Pheasants successfully imported a shipment of Manchurian pheasants direct from China. In 1989 the eggs were collected near Changchun City, which is in the Jilin Province. The Chinese people who collected the eggs indicated that most of the eggs were found along the borders between cropland and brushy forested areas. The people also reported that the pheasants are part of the local diet and are very hard to catch.
It is with pride that we have seen the success of our Manchurian pheasants across the United States. In the western U.S., Manchurian pheasants are in fact now the bird of choice, the most prevalent breed of pheasant available in the marketplace. We will hatch and sell over 300,000 Manchurian pheasants this season.
There was a significant investment made by our farm throughout the whole process of bringing the eggs to the United States from China. A complete quarantine facility setup was required by APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). Once the chicks hatched, they were subjected to exhaustive testing by APHIS (over 300 separate samples were taken) before clearance was given for the now 30 day old chicks, to be taken from the quarantine facility to our farm. When these first Manchurian chicks arrived at our farm, they were taken to a new brooder house and pen one mile from our main farm.
Over the years we have maintained this original pure Manchurian bloodline. We are the only farm in the U.S. to have this pure bloodline because we are the only farm that imported Manchurian pheasants from China, and we have not sold pure Manchurian pheasants to anyone.
Why do we assert that our Manchurian pheasant flock is a pure flock? As many of you are aware, pheasants cross breed quite routinely. In different areas of China there are many diverse types of pheasants. In some areas in China the pheasant breeds are homogenous and in other overlapping areas, the pheasant breeds are intermingled. Our imported Manchurian flock is homogenous in appearance, in other words, the birds all look alike. We have had several groups of wildlife biologists inspect our flock and their opinions have been unanimous that our Manchurian flock is a pure flock of pheasants.
Why do we assert that our flock of Manchurians was in fact imported from the wild? There are a couple of facts that we can bring to the forefront here. First of all, in 1990 when we first bred our imported flock, the hens laid an average of 22 eggs each. Nearly all gamefarms pheasants produce 60 plus eggs per hen each season. Pure Manchurian pheasants lay very few eggs because they are wild pheasants. If someone captured wild pheasants in our country and bred them in a pen (and collected any eggs laid on a daily basis) those wild hens would lay the equivalent of about 2 clutches of eggs - or about 22 eggs per hen. Secondly, my wife and I visited Jilin Province in 1994 and met the people who collected the eggs from the wild five years previously in 1989. We were able to see where the wild birds live and breed.
Why are we only selling Manchurian cross pheasants? At 22 eggs per hen, the cost of pure Manchurian chicks would be uneconomical. We are in the pheasant business to provide ourselves and our employees a living. We knew from the outset that our farm needed to recoup the initial investment in bringing the Manchurian pheasants to the U.S. If we sold pure stock, we would have lost control over our project and we would have been unable to recoup our investment. It was a business decision (to retain proprietary ownership of a product or an idea) that is made daily throughout our entrepreneurial society. So we made the decision to breed pure Manchurian cock pheasants with our own game farm hens. Using this method we have been able to get the 60+ eggs per hen (from our game farm hens) and the wildness from our pure Manchurian cocks. The offspring we sell are therefore 50% Manchurian pheasants. We know that the 50% pure Manchurian pheasants we sell are purer than any other Manchurian pheasant available in the pheasant market. Here's why - anybody who breeds their purchased 50% Manchurian pheasants together will get at most a 25% Manchurian chick.
Why don't we sell Manchurian chicks earlier than early May each season? My father first started lighting pheasant breeders in 1960. By lighting pheasant breeders, one can trick game farm pheasant hens into laying eggs earlier because the hens think it is later in the year. So at our farm we have been lighting pheasants for over 40 years. When we attempted to light our pure Manchurian flock, there was absolutely no response from the pure Manchurian hens, the hens did not lay eggs any earlier than they laid without the additional lighting. We certainly get other breeds (or cross breeds of Manchurians) to lay eggs out of season - as other pheasant breeders in the U.S. now accomplish. Certainly if we lit a 25% pure Manchurian flock we could get those hens to respond to light. But again, pure Manchurians inherently don't respond to light.
Coupled with the other steps we take here at our farm, such as the utilization of our modern Kuhl Corp. egg washer we make the assertion that the Manchurian pheasant chicks we sell are the highest quality, purest Manchurian pheasants available.