Pheasant Program & OCFSC
The Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (OCFSC) Pheasant Program in cooperation with the Jamesville Correctional Facility, and following the policies of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, raises & releases approximately 3,400 mature Ring-necked Pheasants throughout Onondaga County each year. Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery is just one of many locations that this program takes place.
The costs of supplies and fees for this program over the last twenty-five years has been covered with donations from sportsmen and women within the Federation. The additional effort and hours required to ensure the birds receive feed, water, and proper care during the rearing process comes from the cooperation of the Jamesville Correctional Facility staff/inmates during the week and a dedicated group of volunteer sportspeople on weekends.
Pheasant rearing is a 16-18 week process from day old chicks to adult birds capable of fending for themselves in the wild.
Day One – Newly hatched day old chicks arrive from the Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca, New York. They are placed under infrared brood lamps designed to create a floor temperature of 950 F. to keep the birds warm.
The chicks are given clean, cool water with electrolytes to help them cope with the transfer and handling stress they encounter, and they’re given a high protein starter feed with medication added to prevent Coccidiosis.. The high protein diet mimics the high protein insect diet the bird would receive in the wild.
Week Two through Six – The young birds acclimate to their surroundings and grow quickly. The heat lamp is raised weekly to lower the temperature 50 and is removed entirely when the floor temperature is 850.
At four weeks of age, the birds are lightly sprinkled with water daily to encourage preening of their feathers. This prepares the birds for cold rain when they are moved outside.
Week Six - The young birds grow rapidly and are ready to be moved to the outdoor pens, located next to the building. Where half a square foot per bird was adequate as a newly hatched chick, growing and adult birds may need 40 times that amount. If adequate space isn’t provided, stress on the birds can result in “feather picking”.
In the wild, birds can spread out but in a pen, they can’t do this. To compensate, temporary blinders are placed on the birds to allow side vision but not direct sight. This fools the pheasants into thinking there are fewer birds in their vicinity and thereby reducing stress. The blinders are removed when the birds are released.
Feed requirements are less for birds at this stage and less expensive feed (Grower Feed) is used — lower in protein, higher in carbohydrates, and without the medication. Clean water without electrolytes is provided twice a day.
Week Six through Eighteen - Being outside, means the birds must contend with stress from predators and the weather. Owls, hawks, coyotes, raccoons and thunderstorms can decimate a population overnight.
The nets and fence keep the birds safe from most predators and corn or sorghum planted in the pen provides natural cover and feed for the birds. Water is still provided daily.
Feed changes once again two weeks prior to release. Scratch grains like cracked corn are gradually incorporated into the diet to prepare the birds for release and survival in the wild.
Release sites are selected based on adequate cover and proximity to feed.