First introduced into Oregon from China in 1881, the ringneck pheasant is now widely distributed in the United States. Fertile ringneck pheasant eggs are hatched by hens or in an incubator for 23 to 24 days. An egg is usually fertile when the male pheasant is housed with the hens prior to egg laying.
Incubators come in many sizes and shapes but are of two basic types. Forced-air incubators have fans to circulate the air and often are large with multiple trays to hold layers of eggs. Still-air incubators do not have fans and are usually smaller than the forced-air models, hold one layer of eggs, and are usually less expensive than forced-air incubators.
Set up the egg incubator, making sure it is cleaned and disinfected. Place the incubator indoors in a room with little temperature variation and out of direct sunlight. The proper temperature and humidity depends on the type of incubator. Follow the manufacturer's directions for maintaining the proper settings. For your purposes, the temperature should be around 37.5 degrees Celsius and the humidity at least 65 per cent.
Run the incubator for 24 to 72 hours prior to adding the pheasant eggs to ensure the unit is operating properly and maintaining a constant temperature. Use an accurate thermometer and a psychrometer to check the temperature and humidity.
Obtain fertile ringneck pheasant eggs from healthy, well-fed ringneck pheasant hens. (The laying season starts in the middle of April and lasts until June.) Be sure to choose eggs of uniform size with a soft sheen. Dull, dirty, spotted or odd-shaped eggs probably will not hatch. Do not place cracked or thin-shelled eggs in the incubator.
Sanitise the eggs using a household disinfectant, following the directions on the container. The eggs may harbour bacteria that inhibit the eggs from hatching.
Place the eggs in the incubator. Use a pencil to mark an X on one side of each egg and turn them at least 3 times per day, at about 8-hour intervals, so that the X faces up, then down, then up again. You may use an automatic egg turner, which maintains a constant schedule of turning. Do not turn the eggs after the 21st day of incubation.
Allow the pheasant chicks to hatch without assistance. Place the chicks in a brooder when completely dry.
Candle ringneck pheasant eggs regularly during incubation: hold each egg in front of a bright light, which reveals whether or not the pheasant embryo is developing normally. Photographs of embryo development may be found on the University of California reference below.