Even MacFarlane Pheasants Gets the Late Winter Blues

Last year, in Montana and elsewhere, spring snows delayed the pheasant breeding season. If you were hoping for any difference this year, boy, do we have news for you.

“We often get late winter and early spring snow events that can delay nesting, but as of now, the winter shouldn’t have had a huge impact on the birds’ bodies or habitat conditions,” said Ryan Williamson, Region Six upland game bird biologist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, last week. He added that it sure was a good thing that the winter had been so mild.

But then, the snow-pocalypse!

Earlier this week, just when you thought it was safe to put that down jacket away for the season, the Midwest, including MacFarlane Pheasants’ farm in Wisconsin, was slammed by yet another winter wonderland. Missoula got four inches alone, and in many parts of the country, the records for seasonal, monthly, and daily snowfall have been shattered. It makes us wonder: how are the birds faring?

Well, if you recall, pheasants are tough critters, and in the pens we make sure they’re snug as a bug in a rug before the late season white stuff starts flying. In the wild, however, it’s much more of a gamble.

Late winter and early spring snowfalls can delay nesting, and it’s uncertain if this most recent flurry of flurries will impede springtime birds from getting it on. But as of this morning, it looks like the thermometer is on the rise. In Madison, the nearest big city to our farm, it’s going to reach a balmy 52 degrees today, and in Chicago, where we ship out all of our international orders, it’s supposed to climb up to 59.

Spring is coming, but it’s taking a while to fully catch on.

MacFarlane Pheasants wants to hear from you. Have you seen wild pheasant populations start to peek their beaks out? Drop your first-hand accounts in the comments, and together we can all get through these dark days of winter into the dog days of summer.

Read the whole Montana habitat report here: http://m.missoulian.com/lifestyles/recreation/pheasants-should-have-survived-harsh-winter-in-healthy-numbers/article_3ba625c2-bf46-11e3-befe-001a4bcf887a.html?mobile_touch=true
Even MacFarlane Pheasants Gets the Late Winter Blues







Even MacFarlane Pheasants Gets the Late Winter Blues

Time For Dinner!!

According to the Bureau of Statistics, (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm), 59% of American families have households where two parents are working. In years past, one parent was considered the breadwinner, while the other parent was responsible for mealtime and household chores. Traditionally, mealtime was nothing short of an art form, where everything was made from scratch and took an immense amount of preparation and time.

Today’s world does not function the same. With both parents working, meal times are often a matter of convenience. This can mean take out, or a meal that comes out of a box. Sounds delicious, right? It is a struggle to find a meal that is not only convenient and easy to prepare, but nutritious as well. Most parents would give anything to find a dish that they can feel good about putting into their family’s bodies. Guess what, there is!

Eating lean protein provides a number of benefits, from building muscle to aiding in preventing heart disease. However, a person can only be expected to eat so much chicken and turkey! Have you ever considered pheasant?

While the pheasant has been hunted for sport for years, people gradually began to appreciate the deliciousness of this bird. Pheasant is a high protein meat that is also incredibly low in saturated fat, making it a very healthy option. Pheasant is a popular option. When cooking a pheasant you need to cook it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. This prevents the bird from becoming too dry. This method makes it a nice weekend meal for working families.
Time For Dinner!!
There are precooked options where you can purchase the bird, precooked and ready to heat up. This way you can be assured that you are giving your family a delicious and healthy option that does not take very long to prepare at all, the perfect option for those busy weeknights! Better yet, try our special this month, our Pheasant Pie with Wild Rice! A delicious crust filled with fresh veggies and moist pheasant meat, will make this an instant hit with even the most fussy eaters in your household! Visit us at http://www.pheasantfordinner.com/ to see all the options available to you!



Time For Dinner!!

Does Actor and Outdoorsman Michael Keaton Hunt MacFarlane Pheasants?

Does Actor and Outdoorsman Michael Keaton Hunt MacFarlane Pheasants?
It’s no secret that actor Michael Keaton, who’s starred in such classics as Beetlejuice, Mr. Mom, and Batman, is a passionate outdoorsman. He’s appeared on the TV show Buccaneers & Bones fly fishing for tarpon, and he’s chosen Big Timber, Montana, as home. But did you know he’s also an avid pheasant hunter? And that he’s an excellent shot?

Speaking to the magazine Esquire in a January profile, the 62-year-old American icon invited the magazine’s writer to hunt pheasants with him. Here’s what they saw:

Grass rises in clumps, more like fists than weeds. In between, the bleached and broken bones of antelopes litter the dirt spots, which makes no never mind to Michael Keaton. He points to mountain ranges, three of them in view, names them, names the unseen river.

And just in case you’re wondering, Keaton is a great shot. Keaton flushes a male pheasant at 60 yards, pauses, shoots, and “the bird falls, straight down, like a stone from a tree branch, dead when we reach it. Great shot,” writer Tom Chiarella recounts.

The question we’re wondering is, could that be a MacFarlane pheasant? We ship chicks and mature birds all over the U.S., including Montana. We supply the state’s hunt clubs with chicks and mature birds. Seven different clubs all less than a two-hour drive from Keaton’s Big Timber hometown receive hunt-ready birds from MacFarlane Pheasants.

Was Keaton hunting MacFarlane pheasants? Here’s a better question: Why would a man of Keaton’s refined taste hunt anything else?

Who’s your celebrity of choice to pheasant hunt with? Drop your answer in the comments, and read Keaton’s whole profile in Esquire here: http://www.esquire.com/features/michael-keaton-interview-0214


Does Actor and Outdoorsman Michael Keaton Hunt MacFarlane Pheasants?

2014 Breeder Flock Update

Our breeders are finally approaching full production.  This spring has been unusually cold, and the final traces of snow just melted here in the past week.  Until this week, our overnight lows were still consistently below freezing which makes both watering and egg collection difficult for our staff.  Our breeder manager Troy Cisewski has been awesome in scheduling the last daily picks of eggs just prior to dusk, enabling us to avoid the high cull rates that occur when eggs sit out overnight in freezing weather.

We have over 39,000 pheasant hens in production, which is our largest breeder flock in the history of our farm.  Troy is using 8 pickers to collect the eggs, making at least 4 complete picks (often 5 picks) daily.  Our breeder pens cover over 20 acres of pens, so those pickers put on a lot of mileage daily.

Even with that many hens in production, we believe we have nearly our entire April and May chick production committed.  Our sales staff now are telling our customers that we are into June for people calling wanting straight run, or cock chicks.   It appears that there is a strong market for pheasants this year, and with 39,000+ hens producing eggs, we’ve got the birds.

Staff Development at MacFarlane Pheasants

MacFarlane Pheasants has been able provide the best pheasants in the United States since 1929 because of one reason: our staff. At full strength MacFarlane has 85 full- and part-time employees, and when it’s egg season (right now), we bring on another 30. They are our most valuable resource, and just like we’re building a better bird, we nurture our staff year after year to help us achieve our goal of being not just the biggest, but also the best pheasant farm in the country.

Our employee development begins with hands-on training, whether our staff is outdoors in the pens, inside in the brooding rooms, or in the front office. With the unpredictability of life, we make sure that each employee is cross-trained on one or two other employees’ jobs so that, if need be, they can slip seamlessly into that role. Not only does this help them understand the many pieces that go into delivering a hunt-ready pheasant to your doorstep, but it also gives them real-world experience in other jobs.

In our office, it’s even more imperative that the staff knows each other’s jobs. Vacation, a death in family, or out-of-office training can all mean absence, and training in a variety of jobs means that the workload is handled even as the unexpected comes up. This isn’t a formal program. It’s just how we do things at MacFarlane.

What if your dream job is just in the next barn over? That’s another benefit of a diversely trained workforce. Our employees are able to find out where their skills best fit, and we help them make moves based on their skill set and interest. Those whose hearts are more compassionate seem to gravitate toward the brooder department with the baby birds. Those who are stronger, more physically fit, and need the fresh air tend toward designing and building the outdoor pens, which requires lifting poles and netting. We’ve found that you tend to do a better job when your heart’s in it.
Staff Development at MacFarlane Pheasants
We work with both government agencies and major universities to discover the best recruits. Our summer internship program works with the University of Wisconsin — Madison to invite lucky college kids with a Poultry Science major to join us in our busy season. (Our current Hungarian partridge manager is a Badger alum, and was recruited out of this program.) We also work with the Kansas State University’s Wildlife Management degree program to provide us with another two interns. They get experience, a paycheck, and some great stories, and we get to scout the next generation of MacFarlane staff.

Finally, we work in tandem with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to find quality employees that may be down on their luck. Two of our full-time employees have come through this program, one of which has been with us for three years.


And at MacFarlane Pheasants, we’re always looking for great people to join our team. Check out our Employee Opportunities page (http://www.pheasant.com/ContactEmployment/Employment.aspx), or email our Human Resources head Sarah Pope at s.pope@pheasant.com.

Staff Development at MacFarlane Pheasants

Birds On Top of Birds: Preventing Piling with Partridge Chicks

Partridges can pile plenty, and that’s a fact, Jack. MacFarlane Pheasants raises a number of partridge varieties every year, including French Redleg, Hungarian, Chukar, and Chukar/Redleg Cross partridges. And we raise a lot: up to 12,000 at a time. But these small birds have their own host of issues that make them more challenging to raise than our pheasant chicks. The biggest issue with partridges and partridge chicks is piling, and we’ve learned a few practical strategies on how to deal with it.

Pheasant and partridge chicks can both pile, or climb on top of each other in a panic until the lower birds suffocate. One reason they can do this is if the temperature is too hot or too cold. (Some of our previous posts deal with how to know when the heat is sufficient, and how to know when it’s not.) Ensuring that the birds are evenly ringed around the heat source should be your first concern, which is even more critical with partridge chicks.

Another way to prevent piling with partridge chicks is to keep to a routine. If our staff walks the brooding room from the left to the right, or counterclockwise, they walk that direction every time. When MacFarlane employees vary their established pattern—as simply walking a different direction—the birds can pile. It happens fast, in as little as 10 minutes. For that reason, when employees must deviate from routines—we had a feed spill recently that had to be cleaned up inside their room—employees work in pairs. One will address the issue, and one or more will systematically walk around the pen, shooing the birds from the corners where they could pile.
Birds On Top of Birds: Preventing Piling with Partridge Chicks
Partridges have a reputation with MacFarlane employees for being tricky to raise if you’re not careful. Our employees talk of being “on your guard,” and describe the birds as finicky. Approaching these birds with a measure of care is essential. We are careful, and we’ve got the raising of partridges down to a science. Our first flock is in the brooding room now, cared for by our experienced staff so they’re ready for your fall hunts. Place your orders now by visiting us today at Pheasant.com.




Birds On Top of Birds: Preventing Piling with Partridge Chicks

The Big Cost of Small Birds: Chukars and Partridges Versus Pheasants

There’s a lot to that old saying “Bigger isn’t always better,” and at MacFarlane Pheasants, we know that good things come in small packages. Besides pheasants, we also raise smaller birds for the hunting season, including French Redleg, Hungarian, Chukar, and Chukar/Redleg Cross partridges. These birds are often a third of the size of a pheasant, so wouldn’t it make sense that they’d be a third of the cost? It’s a common misconception that smaller birds are cheaper. They’re often more costly to raise for a bunch of reasons.

True, smaller birds do have some inherent advantages. A smaller bird requires a smaller space, and therefore more can fit comfortably and luxuriously in MacFarlane’s series of outdoor pens. But that’s about where the advantages end.

The Big Cost of Small Birds: Chukars and Partridges Versus Pheasants


The smaller the bird, the more delicate their constitution, making the mortality for the partridge family higher than the hardier pheasants we raise. The partridge family is more susceptible to worms, for instance, and for that reason we house the Chukar/Redlegs on wire instead of hay as we do for the pheasants, getting them off the ground. It’s more expensive, naturally, but with smaller birds, it’s even more important that our care begins with disease prevention rather than treatment.

Partridges are also more labor-intensive, meaning that these smaller birds, when it comes to man hours, can actually be more expensive than the pheasants. We estimate that these birds, despite their size, can actually demand about 25% more time than our pheasants. Much of this is in the brooder, where Hungarian partridge chicks pose unique challenges, one of which being the feed. It must be pulverized into a flour-like consistency for the birds to bite. The chicks are even hand-watered!

They further demand more time by requiring a preliminary step before the A and B brooder rooms. We call that first area the table room, which is just that: tables, off the ground, where the birds live for the first week so we have immediate and easy access, providing clean bedding and water at all times. A smaller environment is easier to prevent catastrophe and make immediate changes, and it’s essential to raising these birds.

But the reason we breed French Redleg, Hungarian, Chukar, and Chukar/Redleg Cross partridges is the same reason our customers keep ordering them year after year: they’re a thrilling hunt. They’re a lot quicker in the air and harder to hit because they present a smaller target. And it’s because our customers crave variety year after year that these birds continue to be favorites. So try them out this season, and order your partridge chicks today (http://chicksquote.pheasant.com/Scripts/prodList.asp).




The Big Cost of Small Birds: Chukars and Partridges Versus Pheasants

Hatching Pheasant Eggs at the MacFarlane Farm

Hatching pheasant eggs is a very delicate process, especially when you consider the quantity that our farm handles on a regular basis. Our Hatchery Building is sectioned off according to stages. Not only do we hatch our pheasants here, but we also provide eggs for sale.

Eggs are collected at the breeder farm anywhere from 4-8 times daily. Next, they are entered into a machine where they are gently cleansed by temperature-controlled, softened and chlorinated water that contains special disinfectants. This process avoids the eggs from forming bacteria, cracking their shells, or producing E Coli.

The eggs are taken next to the Hatchery Building. Here they are stored and eventually put into incubators. Our incubators at the hathcery hold 21,528 eggs, each! It is recommended that eggs are turned 5 or more times daily to ensure even distribution of heat. Our eggs are automatically turned every half hour, which is the closest imitation possible to a hen in the wild.

At 20 days, the eggs are transferred to the Hatchers. Each Hatcher is able to accommodate about 50,000 eggs. During this time, it can be stressful monitoring the temperature and humidity. As the chicks begin to pip, having an appropriate humidity level will prevent any of the egg shell membrane from sticking to the chicks. Once the birds have hatched, they are left to dry and rest. There is quite a bit of energy used to pip their way out of their shell!
Hatching Pheasant Eggs at the MacFarlane Farm
After this, the chicks can be separated according to gender. We use distinct markings under the eyes or the beginning of a waddle to determine this. They are then shipped either to the main farm, or directly to our customers.





Hatching Pheasant Eggs at the MacFarlane Farm

Our Various Gamebirds Have Different Traits and Attitudes

When you walk into your local grocery store, it is common to see the child that is walking quietly next to their parent, hand on the cart, the picture of obedience. Even more common, is seeing the naughty child that is taking every opportunity to escape, and run out the door the second it opens. Well, game birds are not very different.

Different breeds have varying characteristics. If you want to know how to raise pheasants, your best advantage is going to be to study these characteristics, and accommodate them as best as you can. We have taken the time to do this, and in doing so, have discovered a few breed-specific tricks that have proven effective.

How To Raise Pheasants Successfully

The Burken’s with Bill MacFarlane

Naughty child, meet the Hungarian Partridge. Hungarian Partridge, meet naughty child. We have found that this particular breed requires much attention to the small details, for a variety of reasons. For starters, when hatched, the chicks are roughly the size of a quarter! You can imagine how easily one or more can get away from you. Through the guidance of Gene and Nancy Burken, we have found that placing these birds on a tabletop yields the highest survival rate. The tables have mesh wire and black plastic, and use an electric brooder. Paper towels placed over the wire prevent their tiny legs from being trapped. The Hungarian Partridge grows quickly, and is known for being aggressive. At around 7 days, they are ready to be moved to the floor and gain a little more space. However, always be on the lookout for runaways, they will use any opportunity they can get!

Through our years of raising pheasants, we have found the French Redleg Partridge to be a little less demanding. For starters, they are immediately placed on the floor. Feeder flats are strategically placed to promote healthy eating, and the transition to feeders is done at around 14 days. Close monitoring is key to raising a healthy French Redleg. During every transition, (feed, room changes, etc…) the mortality rate is closely tracked and adjusted accordingly. This breed is known for being a flying bird; therefore, we attempt to get them outside as soon as possible.

Our birds are more than our job, they are our passion. We have the highest success rate when this simple concept is remembered. This way, we can guarantee nothing but the best when you see the MacFarlane name.



How To Raise Pheasants Successfully

Penning-In the Hungarian Partridge

At MacFarlane Pheasants, we don’t raise the same old pheasants as other farms, and we don’t build all our outdoor pens the same. Our Hungarian partridges have different requirements than our ringneck and Manchurian Cross pheasants, so we cater to them just like we cater to our customers.

Your average Hungarian partridge weighs about a pound. When compared to our average Manchurian Cross pheasant, which tips the scale around 2.8 pounds, it’s about a third of the size. Naturally, we scale the pens down to suit. Our partridge pens are 9,000 square feet (about half of a pheasant pen), and this is in part because it makes it easier to get the birds out of the pen when it’s time to ship them to you. We scale the bird density to their size, and in an average pen we’ll have around 900 partridges, or one for every 10 square feet.

We switch our netting mesh size to a 1.5-inch for Hungarian partridges versus our standard two-inch netting for pheasants. The reason is simple: if we used the bigger netting, there’s the potential for the partridges to pop right through if they flush, and we can’t have escaped partridges flapping all around the farm.
Penning-In the Hungarian Partridge
Another difference in the pens is the type of cover we grow. At MacFarlane Pheasants, we’re a huge proponent of growing live, natural plants in the pens to shelter our birds. For partridges, our favorite is milo, also called sorghum. It’s a great low cover for the birds at beak-height, but it takes a higher soil temperature to germinate, so sow it well after the spring thaw for your summer birds.

One last piece of advice: When the daylight hours get longer in the late winter and early spring, the birds get restless, and the females can be particularly aggressive, going after the males and picking at them. To prevent mortality, we segregate them by sex as the snow melts to avoid these issues.

Every year MacFarlane Pheasants sells 40,000 mature Hungarian partridges to our diverse customer base across the country. Just like each of our customers is different, we treat every bird species we raise on the farm as unique, with different requirements to make it to your doorstep healthy and vigorous for the fall hunting season. Our first partridges hatch on April 1, so get your orders in now.




Penning-In the Hungarian Partridge