The Chinese ring-necked pheasant is one of the most popular game birds in the United States among hunters and diners alike. Changes in farming practices and continued urban sprawl into previous farmlands have led to a decline of natural breeding areas for these birds. Many people are choosing to raise pheasants to reintroduce into the wild, to keep as pets or for the dinner table. Successfully hatching pheasant eggs can be accomplished with the same tools and methods currently used every day to hatch chickens and other poultry.
Start the incubator at least two to three days before you plan to set the eggs. This will allow enough time to make sure the incubator is operating properly.
Select the best possible eggs. Discard dirty, oddly shaped, oversized or undersized eggs. Do not set eggs with cracks or other deformities in the shell.
Mark an "X" on one side of the egg and a "O" on the other with the soft-lead pencil. This will make it easy to keep track of when and if the eggs have been turned.
Place the eggs on the wire floor of the incubator with the "X" facing up.
Place the thermometer on the floor of the incubator and check temperature regularly. The temperature inside the incubator should be maintained at 37.8 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity at 86 to 88 per cent.
Make no adjustments to either temperature or humidity for at least eight hours after setting eggs. It takes several hours for the inside of the eggs to warm up to the temperature inside the incubator. Increasing the temperature too soon could result in overheating the eggs.
Turn the eggs an odd number of times each day, and stop turning the eggs on the 21st day.
Increase the humidity to 90 per cent by filling in the water troughs in the bottom of the incubator. Open a vent to increase ventilation.
Prepare the brooder so that it is ready to receive the hatched chicks. The temperature in the brooder should be maintained at 35 degrees Celsius (95 degress Fahrenheit) or the first week, and decreased by five degrees weekly.
Leave the incubator undisturbed until all the chicks have hatched.
Transfer dry chicks from the incubator to the brooder and discard unhatched eggs.
The normal incubation period for pheasant is between 23 and 28 days.
To maintain the proper hatching temperature and humidity, do not open the incubator after the 21st day. If it is necessary to increase humidity, add additional water by inserting aquarium tubing through a vent opening and feeding it to the trough in the bottom of the incubator. Use a syringe to add water through this tubing. Opening the incubator during the hatch can result in humidity dropping and drying out the membranes inside the egg. This will make it difficult or impossible for the chick to hatch.
- University of Illinois: Incubation and Embryology: Operating a Still Air Model Incubator
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: Basics of Incubation for the Home Flock
- Mississippi State University Extension Service: Care and Incubation of Hatching Eggs
- Michigan State University Extension: Managing Game Birds
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Habitat Management Institute: Ring-necked Pheasant