The Best Tips for Incubating and Hatching Pheasant Chicks
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Since we raised pheasants here at Clucky Dickens Farm for a few years, we are often asked about our experience raising pheasants. We get a lot of questions having to do with the actual incubating and hatching of the pheasant chicks themselves. Here are a few of the things I’m asked about our experience incubating and hatching pheasant eggs.
Where do you get your pheasant eggs?
There are many places online you can buy or bid on pheasant eggs for hatching. If you order chicks, please be aware there are some states that require permits/vet checks before shipping.
We went a different route: we raised a batch of pheasant chicks (try Hoover’s Hatchery or McMurray Hatchery), kept a rooster and ten hens, and started collecting their fertilized eggs the following year.
*Please note: if you plan to incubate pheasant eggs or over winter pheasants at your farm, it may require a game farm license. Please check with your local Department of Natural Resources.
We prefer to run a closed, “self-sufficient” system here, so we collect and incubate eggs from the breeding stock that we keep year round. Pheasants generally start to lay eggs in late March and continue through the summer. They will usually lay an egg a day – if you keep a lot hens, it can be hard keep up!
Why don’t you just let your pheasant hens hatch their own eggs?
We had heard that pheasant hens weren’t the best moms. We decided to let a hen stay with a clutch of eggs one year. (Or rather, she hid from us in our outdoor run and appeared with pheasant chicks some time later.) She was not a good mom.
Within 24 hours, the majority of her chicks were dead or close to. She did not sit with them in the cold of the night, and we found them in various places—dead or almost dead—all over the coop. We found the last chick abandoned the following morning next to a puddle in a rainstorm.
Yes, we rescued all the chicks that we could.
I realize she’s only one example (and that there must be some hens who are decent moms or the species would completely die out in the wild) but after our experience, we’ve decided it’s just easier to incubate and hatch the eggs ourselves.
Do pheasants need nesting boxes?
Pheasants are ground nesters so you don’t need to worry about building them traditional nesting boxes. We do have little huts we’ve built for our pheasants, but they’ve been known to lay eggs anywhere, even out in the open on the dirt.
The tricky thing about pheasants is that their eggs aren’t white and they are smaller than chicken eggs so sometimes you won’t see them right away. I sometimes mistake a pheasant egg laid out in the open of our outdoor run as a rock.
The other tricky part about pheasants is they will cover their eggs. I’ve found eggs covered with grasses or dirt or dug in underneath the corner of one of their huts.
In our experience, pheasants don’t lay in the same spot twice very often (unless someone has decided they’re gonna go broody). Pheasants catch on real quick that you’re coming for their eggs and they get sneakier and sneakier.
If you do happen to have a hen who decides to sit on eggs and you want to take those eggs, watch out. Chickens can get sorta snippy about this and peck at your hand…but pheasant mamas can downright turn into Mama Bear.
What do I do with the eggs while I’m waiting for enough to put in the incubator?
We store ours in the incubating room of our barn. We place them, pointy side down, in egg cartons. We stick something underneath the egg carton and tip the eggs one way. We tip them the other way a couple times a day.
Some folks are very particular about the temperature in the room you’re saving them in or the amount of time you can save the eggs before they will no longer be incubated to hatch. We aren’t that particular. We are more of a try it and see what happens sort of family. Some folks have said you can’t save eggs longer than a week or two. We’ve hatched chicks from eggs in nests we’ve found that we know were older than that. Your method will probably depend on how many roosters, hens, and incubators you have.
And just so you’re aware, if you do end up with way more eggs than will fit in your incubator, you can eat pheasant eggs. They taste just like a chicken egg but are much smaller.
Do you label or date your eggs?
In the past I numbered all my eggs, simply to just to be able to look and say “Egg #14 is hatching and has been trying to hatch for 24 hours.”
Some people mark the eggs with an “x” so they can tell if they have been turned or not.
If you want to keep track of dates and how old the eggs are and whether or not they hatch, or you found a clutch of eggs and aren’t sure how old they are, it can be beneficial to label them as such for the incubator. But in all honesty, I generally don’t look at the shells of what has hatched when I’m cleaning out the incubator, so in recent hatches I’ve stopped labeling the eggs.
How long do pheasant eggs have to be incubated?
Well, now. That’s a great question. With chickens, it’s 21 days. With ducks and turkeys, its 28 days. With pheasants…well, we have a saying at our house that pheasant chicks hatch when they want to hatch because, pheasants. We’ve almost always found hatch day to be right around 24-25 days, but I’ve seen places online that say its anywhere from 19-30 days. Pheasants are definitely a different breed of animal. They do what they want.
How do you incubate pheasant eggs, anyway?
The process is basically the same as incubating eggs of any other farm or game bird.
- Place the eggs in the incubator. Keep the temp at a pretty constant 99.5 and the humidity at 50-65%.
- Turn them a couple times a day.
- A few days before hatch day, stop turning them. (We stop turning around day 21.) Try not to open the incubator so the humidity can build up to 65-75% percent or so and stay nice and high for hatch day.
- If you have to open the incubator during those last days, don’t freak out. Opening the incubator after lockdown is not going to ruin your hatch.
- Also, do not freak out if they don’t get turned a certain amount of times per day. We took a clutch of eggs from a mama hen and because we didn’t know how close it was to hatching, didn’t turn the eggs. 12 days later, we had one of the best hatches (80%) yet. Friends, that means those eggs weren’t turned for 12 days.
- In our experience, we let the incubator run for a couple days longer than what we think is long enough. Pheasants do what they want, and sometimes they take their sweet time deciding to hatch.
- Move the pheasants to a brooder (95ish degrees) after the chicks are dried off and fluffy. Don’t freak out that they have to get in the brooder right away — a wet chick should never go in the brooder. Remember, chicks don’t have to eat those first few days because they suck the yolk into their body right before they hatch and that yolk sustains them in those first days. It’s the whole reason that hatcheries can ship chicks to you.
Do you candle pheasant eggs?
We do not. We tried to candle the very first batch of pheasant eggs we incubated and discovered it’s a lot harder to be sure about what you’re seeing like it is with a chicken egg. Pheasant eggshells are much darker and thicker than chicken eggshells.
We incubate everything we collect. This means our hatch rates are less than they would be if we were candling (because we’re obviously incubating some eggs that aren’t going to hatch) but we’re not confident enough candling the dark shell to be sure we wouldn’t be tossing out something that was fertile and growing.
How big are pheasant chicks when they hatch?
Itty bitty. I was lucky enough to catch a pheasant chick hatching on camera. Check out my super short video Want to See A Pheasant Hatch?
My husband joked once that pheasant chicks are about the same size as a piece of saltwater taffy. I said, nah, it’s maybe…two pieces.
They are small. And they are fast. Consider yourself warned.
Here is a video of our first day with our very first batch of pheasants (from Hoover’s Hatchery.)
Any tips for when they go in the brooder?
- Put rocks in their chick waterer. Pheasant chicks are very small and the rocks help them from sticking their beaks in too deep.
- We use sheets of newspaper for lining the brooder. Of all the birds we’ve raised, pheasants are the worst for trying to eat wood shavings, and straw is too slippery for them.
- Be ready to put a screen cover of some sort on the brooder right away. We use a couple grates we found around the farm or we’ve also cut pieces of this poultry netting and secured it with a bungee cord. Trust me — you want a cover. Those babies will be popping out of that incubator WAY earlier than chickens, turkeys, ducks, or geese would even dream of doing.
What other questions do you have about incubating and hatching pheasants? Let me know in the comments!
35 thoughts on “The Best Tips for Incubating and Hatching Pheasant Chicks”
Thanks for the tips Amy! I am going to try Pheasants one day. Gorgeous birds. Tasty too!
I love this post Amy! Just starting to get my chicken house rebuilt with new silkies. I would love to have some pheasants someday soon. Thanks for sharing!
How long do you raise your pheasants before you harvest them?
5ish months. We also would harvest any hens who were no longer laying from our adult pen or any roosters who needed to be replaced. 🙂
Do you need to “help” your pheasants hatch? I am hatching my first batch of Melanistic Pheasants and 4 were pipping then 1 just stopped and is dead. I am so sad but I have 3 still chirping inside their little eggs! Do I help them after any certain time??? I have had to help the occasional turkey hatch due to their thick shells…
I do know fellow homesteaders who have had luck with helping chicks hatch, but I’ve never had any luck with helping any chicks out regardless of what breed. It is sad to see them get so close to hatching and then not make it. 🙁
The pheasant that lives on our farm was sadly run over. I’m completely new to this but I’ve put her eggs in an incubator and followed all the online guides re temperature, humidity etc. The biggest problem I have is not knowing how long the eggs had been incubating prior to now. They all weigh roughly 26g, is it possible to determine from their weight what stage of development they are at, please?
I’m not sure about that as far as weighing them. Whenever we’ve found eggs that were being sat on but we weren’t sure how long, we just incubate them and keep a careful eye on them.
pheasant chicks wont hatch, start hatching and just quit. don’t understand! please reply…
There are a lot of reasons they could struggle, temp and humidity in the incubator being one of the bigger issues. We’ve never had as good of hatches with pheasants as we do with chickens/ducks/etc.
If you have eggs where the chicks can’t seem to hatch it is probably because of low humidity during incubation and/or during the pip and hatch. The humidity during incubation helps to soften and thin the shell, making it easier for the chicks to break through (pip) and hatch. If they can’t pip, their shell is too hard and thick; indicating too low of humidity during incubation. If they pip but can’t seem to hatch it may be due to low humidity during the hatch. In low humidity, once a hole is in the egg, the inside of the shell starts to dry out quickly and the chick sticks to the inside of the shell and cannot turn to continue breaking its shell. I keep my humidity really high throughout, especially during the hatch. If the chicks seem to be stuck in the egg, give them a light squirt (fine mist) of distilled or purified water inside the incubator and on the eggs. (Don’t soak them with spray; just do a quick mist and close the incubator to get the humidity and temperature back up). This sometimes helps them get unstuck from the shell; and then they’ll be able to continue turning and breaking until they can push and crack the shell. I hope this helps.
Hi Amy, bit of an odd one, we had a nesting pheasant in our garden and the neighbors cat has killed the mother.
We do not own an incubator, is there anything else we can try?
Without an incubator I’m not sure how to keep them at the right temp and humidity to hatch them. Let me know if you find out about anything!
I hatched 1 pheasent out of 3 two weeks ago. I have now got 6 eggs in at 13 days. Your information helped me relax and not over think . thank you
I’m glad to hear that!
Do you clean the eggs at all, before putting them in the incubator? I know chicken eggs are not supposed to get wet, I assume phesant eggs would be the same, but I havve read where some people clean them with soap and water first???
We never washed with soap and water. Shells are very porous. I would wipe them off as best as I could, I don’t see an issue with using a wet rag (as they’re going to be in a humid environment anyway in the incubator) but I wouldn’t ever use soap. Having said that if there was an egg that was really super dirty and I couldn’t wipe most the stuff off, I’d choose not to incubate that one.
Could you use an automatic egg turner with pheasant? Could I use the chicken egg turner I already have?
That would all depend on the size of your egg turner. Pheasant eggs are quite small. We’ve never had an automatic egg turner, so I can’t advise on that! Let us know what you figure out!
How many days we can store pheasant eggs before keeping in incubator
I would usually save mine for 7-10 days before starting another incubator full.
Thank you very much for all the information ! I feel much more ready for them to hatch anyday now !
So we had 3 eggs hatch. The first 2 died fairly quick once we took them out of incubator. The 3rd one was 4 days old and it died. We couldn’t get it to drink and it’s feet didn’t look normal. What could we have done wrong?
There are lots of reasons the chicks could have struggled, it’s hard to know with only three eggs. I hope you get the opportunity to try again!
I’m not 100% as to why the babies died, but feet looking abnormal or deformed is a major indicator that at some point during incubation the temperature dropped substantially at some point between days 1-18. We had a hatch where we lost power for several hours and no one was home to get the generator running. Although most of the eggs hatched, the majority of chicks had deformed feet.
Do you store your eggs at room temperature or in the fridge before incubating? I’ve heard both but our house stays pretty cool (around 64 degrees) so I’ve just been leaving them out. Thanks for all the great info!
We’ve always just stored them in the barn in a room that stays a bit cooler, I’ve never refrigerated them. 🙂
Thanks for all the great info! I just starting raising pheasants this spring. I have 3 females and 1 male. I’ve incubated my first batch of eggs, which were due to hatch last Friday. We candled the eggs and kept the fertile ones. Of 22 eggs, only 3 hatched. Several of them pipped, but then just died in the egg. I didn’t have the heart to just toss the eggs, so i left them in “just in case”. Low and behold, yesterday (Wednesday) my boyfriend sends me a picture, one hatched while he was out feeding! Then this morning (Thursday) another message, another one is popping through!!! What is going on??? How long do I keep them in the incubator before I give up hope? Is there something I can do to figure out if more of them are alive? Any thoughts on dry hatching? Any help you can give will be appreciated!
Hi! Here’s one that baffles me. I have 5 hens that I hatched here in July. They started laying New Years day. A couple froze as I was not looking for them and another got stepped on. Winter here in Saskatchewan is cold and the barn is not insulated. I keep a red heat lamp on a timer that comes on for a while in the eve and then again in the morning for about 3 hours until daylight. I chase them in at dusk each day to deprive the foxes etc… Do you think the eggs will hatch? They aren’t frozen but quite cold . Also any thoughts on whether the red heat lamps are tricking them into laying with the extra hours of light, even though it is red? The adventure continues!
My research tells me that chicken eggs can be hatched as long as they haven’t frozen, so I would guess it’s similar for other birds as well. Try it and see what happens! (Maybe bring them to room temp before taking them from cold to an up-to-temp incubator?) Providing extra light for chickens helps with their laying (they need about 16 hours of light a day to lay eggs) so again, I would assume this is helping your pheasants as well. 🙂 I would offer that you don’t need a heat lamp on full grown pheasants, they certainly wouldn’t have this in the wild. But your barn, your rules!
Thanks…good call on the lights…will turn em off and save the power. Still finding the odd egg, but they are small and will not try to hatch them. Into the next omelet they go.
How far above the birds do you keep your lights? I started out with 60 chicks and I’m down to 25 is that normal, I think it was bc they were drowning themselves at first but I’m loosing 1 bird every three days now I received them may 6th.
We don’t keep pheasants anymore, but the height of the light is going to depend on your brooder set up, how big it is, how tall the walls are, etc. Do you have a thermometer in the brooder? Are the chicks clumping in the middle under the light (too cold) or pressed to the sides of the brooder (too hot)? Pheasants are pretty tiny so they will drown in a waterer, it helps to put rocks in their water dish so they can’t get/tip too far in. I would say a loss of 35 birds in a month is pretty significant, but if they were drowning in the beginning that explains that. Having said that, in my experience pheasants have a higher mortality rate than any other bird I’ve raised here. Are they acting sick? Are they killing each other?
Can you place pheasant eggs under a chicken hen to hatch them?
That I don’t know. The pheasant eggs will take longer to hatch than a chicken egg, but I never tried hatching a pheasant under a chicken.