Winter feeding

  • An average rule of thumb requirement is eight tons of feed per 1,000 birds released. This would normally be made up of about two tons of grower’s pellets to take the birds to 12 to 14 weeks of age, followed by about six tons of wheat. If you are using significantly more than this, suspect that either there are extra wild birds, which are using some of food, or that scavengers are taking.

  • Both systems have their advocates. Hopper feeding is less labour intensive and is often the only system possible on part-time keepered shoots. Hand feeding requires regular visits to the same parts of the shoot each day, but gives the opportunity to manipulate where and when pheasants are found by attracting them to specific parts of the shoot a specific times of day.

  • On most shoots reliant on reared pheasants a rule of thumb of guide is to provide a hopper for every ten birds released. This may seem like a high number but means that you are able to avoid competition at feed hoppers, which can ultimately lead to straying problems. In most circumstances it is considered best to group the hoppers together as feeding stations consisting of three or four hoppers about ten yards apart.

    These can be made more attractive to the birds by the provision of a dusting shelter, and also in dryer conditions a drinker which is regularly top up with fresh water. Getting the feeding strategy right for your shoot is critically important to its success.

  • A good rule of thumb here is to allow 30cm for each bird that you expect to feed along the ride (i.e. a 100m ride should accommodate 300 birds).

  • Giving up feeding at the release site or other home area is potentially a dangerous strategy. However, if you have good feeding available elsewhere on the shoot, it can also be the key to spreading your birds and getting the best from them in sporting terms.

  • Most gamekeepers’ experience, if using tailings, is that it is harder to hold on to their birds. The lower calorific content and poorer palatability seems to be resented by the pheasants. Overall therefore we recommend a good feed grade wheat as the basic ration for adult pheasants during the winter. Also do not be tempted to dump tailings in the wood "to amuse" the pheasants, as this is bound to attract rats and grey squirrels if they are present in your area. The one time when good quality tailings may come in useful is for spring feeding of wild breeding pheasants to improve their productivity.

  • Many people feel that aniseed and other spices are useful in helping to hold pheasants. This is clearly extremely difficult to test out scientifically however. We carried out a trial in the 1980s and found that over-wintered pheasants showed no preference between three different spice mixtures and plain wheat with no additives.

  • There are many very effective designs of feed hoppers available both commercially made and constructed at home. The keys to a good design are that the hopper protects the food from the weather; as far as possible it prevents food from being spilled onto ground; and that scavengers are unable to rob it easily. One home-made design that has stood the test of time is made from an ordinary 25-litre metal drum with slots cut in the baseain copy.

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