Pheasant Pen Transitioning

It isn’t easy transitioning birds from the barns indoors, to the pens outside.  Although we like to have a little bit of cover started in the pheasant pens when we move the birds out, sometimes the weather doesn’t completely cooperate. We do a couple of things to lessen the shock for the birds when they move from the inside to the outside.

Cover is grown in the pens, leaving a five-foot lane down the center, and a perimeter around the sides of the pen so the birds have some open area. The birds use the open spaces to dust themselves, and a little bit of cover in those areas also prevents muddy tails.

You can’t put too many birds in a pen without cover because that will actually prevent the cover from growing. A general rule of thumb when we are starting out in a pen without cover or with just a bit of cover, is 50 square feet of space per bird – that’s about half the density that we will end up with in the pen. We also find birds acclimate quicker if we start out with fewer birds.

When the birds are first transitioned, we put lots of straw in the corners and under the huts. The straw in the corners prevents them from bunching up and hurting themselves, and the straw under the huts provides insulation. When it gets warmer, the huts provide shade and the birds hunker down into the dirt to cool off.

We put plenty of food and water out in the beginning, and it’s put out in the huts so it’s readily available for all the birds. We put cracked corn around the perimeter because it provides a quick energy boost for the birds and that helps with the stress of the transition, too.

We try to transition out when we know we have at least three days without rain, but sometimes that’s not possible. The huts, the straw, plenty of food and water all around the pens, and the cracked corn combine to help with the transition, since the weather doesn’t always cooperate.
























Pheasant Pen Transitioning


We’ve been trying out GroGel on some of our hatchlings to see if that extra little boost can cut down on mortality rates, and we’ve been seeing some good success.

Right now we use it with the Hungarian Partridges because the chicks start out on tables, and the white pheasants. If you don’t know about GroGel, it’s a sort of wheaties for chicks. It’s a soft, bright green gel that helps keep them hydrated, adds vitamins and supplements to their diet, and promotes a healthy digestive tract.

It’s easier to use on tables because we mix it up and put it on paper plates with some additional feed sprinkled around it. We have 28 tables for the Hungarian Partridges so we know just how much to mix up so there’s not a lot of waste, and we can also tell how much is being eaten and how much it is helping the birds.

We use it for 24 hours and we actually start it the second or third day the chicks are moved from the hatchery and set up with peepers. Two of our managers have been monitoring the use of GroGel and we’ve found starting it after the initial stress of moving and peeping is actually more beneficial. We see a better outcome with the GroGel use if we wait instead of trying it right away.
















MacFarlane’s New Weed Wicker

We’re always looking for ways to do our jobs more efficiently on the pheasant farm and maintain the quality of the environment for our birds. It’s not that we shy away from work, but working smarter is always better.

That brings us to our new weed wicker – yes, wicker, not wacker. Ragweed, as anyone with allergies knows, grows quickly in the spring so it’s great in the flight pens because it provides excellent cover early on. But as it grows, it shades out and kills the lower cover, like lambsquarter and, if left alone, it will soon grow large enough to tear the nets over the pens.

You can drive ATVs through the pens and spray herbicide, but the mist goes everywhere and affects a lot more than the ragweed. The team did a little research and discovered Vogel’s – a company in Canada that produces custom weed wickers.

Our new 15-foot weed wicker, three lengths of five-foot PVC pipe, is pretty slick. The herbicide saturates a rope threaded through the pipes which have holes drilled at set intervals. The pipes are set to the height of the ragweed, which always grows taller then the rest of the cover.

The herbicide wicks through the rope, through the holes, and it rubs on the top of the ragweed. It dries almost instantly affecting just the ragweed, not the birds and not the lambsquarter. After a couple of days the ragweed dries and crumbles to the bottom of the pen.

The PVC lengths can be popped off so it’s easy to get in and out of the pens. There is less use of herbicide, less waste of the herbicide used, no excessive herbicide floating around in the pens and the PVC pipe is a lot lighter then lengths of metal pipe. It also saves time because we can cover 15 feet of pen in one pass.


MacFarlane Pheasants New Weed Wicker













MacFarlane’s New Weed Wicker

Bulk Boneless Pheasant Breast

If you say, “there’s pheasant on the menu,” people automatically think of a perfect pheasant breast,  or half a bird plated with sauce or nicely crisped.

But distributors, if you’re just concentrating on that or whole birds, there’s a big meat segment you are missing. You can offer restaurant owners who want to offer the “other-other white meat” – boneless pheasant breast in bulk packaging.

You still get the farm-to-table experience because all of our birds are fed a natural grain diet with no antibiotics or hormones. We control the entire process. Boneless breast meat is bulk breast meat that may have some skin attached. The meat is inconsistently and randomly sized, and there may be a tear or hole in the skin. If you want to use the skin for added flavor in stock or other preparations – you’ve got it. It is easy to store and ready to use with case weight varying between 17 to 25 lbs.  It’s a great value.

Pheasant meat is lean, higher in protein, lower in fat, cholesterol and calories. It has a richer flavor than chicken and it retains its texture. It stands on its own when combined with rich sauces and it’s not something you need to be afraid to use with spices. Restaurant owners can use less and still keep the flavor in savory pies, soups, over rice, combined with noodles – think of the possibilities!

There’s nothing more elegant on a menu than seeing “pheasant.” If you’ve got a food truck client trying to set themselves apart from the rest – how about pheasant tacos, pheasant tempura or pheasant wraps? How about pheasant sausage – tasty, chic and trendy!

It’s a great alternative lean protein for bodybuilders and for athletes, too.

Distributors call us today to discuss price – we’ve got stock now. 1-800-345-8348. Retail customers, if this has got you thinking about pheasant for dinner – drop by our store at 2821 S. Hwy 51, Janesville or check out the possibilities online at


Pheasant Phajita

Pheasant Phajita

Bulk Boneless Pheasant Breast

International Pheasant Chicks

Blog_ShippingInternationallyWe’ve got a month or two left of our international shipping window for chicks and eggs. Space has to be booked with the airlines three to four weeks in advance to guarantee room and to make airlines aware we are shipping live cargo.

Live cargo – eggs or chicks – can’t go into a cargo hold with materials containing dry ice. There is only a certain amount of oxygen available and when dry ice degrades, it uses up oxygen. By the end of June, most airlines don’t take live cargo because of the heat.

International shipments are timed for hunting seasons in specific countries. Eggs are boxed in cardboard boxes with egg flats between them and chicks are crated. The custom boxes have four compartments to keep the chicks comfortable. An extra layer of protective Styrofoam is attached to the bottom of the boxes so birds don’t become chilled sitting on a cargo floor.

We ship partridges and pheasant chicks. About 130 pheasant chicks go in a box and about 175 partridges will fit in a box. They are packed with a gel that contains moisture and vitamins to help them survive the trip – but they are pretty hardy and we’ve been doing this long enough to make sure the chicks are in good shape when they arrive.

Both chicks and eggs get an international health certificate before they go and a local vet as well as a federal veterinarian sign off on the certificate. Chick and egg boxes are clearly marked so airline employees know its live and fragile cargo. Our trucks take the boxed chicks and eggs to airports in Minneapolis or Chicago.

By far the easiest country to ship to is England because they have set regulations and there is not a language barrier. But we’ve shipped to Tajikistan, Kajikistan, Qatar, Italy, France, Denmark, Spain and Canada. The language barriers can be difficult, but we manage. We’ve even got a contest going to help keep track of our pheasants –

Even though chicks and eggs might be going on a 14-hour flight, they actually get there sooner than if they are shipped in the United States by the U.S. Postal Service. It can take several days to ship across the United States.

chicks in hand

International Chicks

Pheasant Bedding

We get asked about bedding for the birds in the brooder barn, as well as for the mature birds, before they go outside. For the brooder barn, where chicks stay for about three weeks, we recommend larger dried pine chips. We’ve found the chips are best, shavings are too small and the chicks can eat them and then die from an impacted gizzard. We don’t recommend sand or newspaper for the brooder barns because both are too slippery for the chicks.

Burlap or brooder paper is a decent bedding option, but they need to be changed as soon as they start getting soiled. We’ve found the dried chips to be the best because they have a high absorption factor and they also provide insulation.

When the birds are old enough to move to the “B” room, they are bedded on straw. Although the bigger birds are dirtier, they don’t need as much insulation and the absorption factor doesn’t need to be as high. It is imperative, though, to keep bedding clean to maintain the health of the birds. Wet bedding raises the humidity in a room and it also gets moldy. We keep an extra bale of hay handy in the “B” rooms so we can top dress, or cover up the dirty areas with fresh bedding.

When breeders are in the barns, bales of straw or alfalfa help provide cover for breeding, as well as areas for the females to lay eggs. They also provide cover for males to avoid other males. Breaking open a bale of alfalfa can help prevent picking if you notice that might be becoming a problem.

We use straw in the outside pens when we first move the birds out to prevent piling in the corners. It is stacked in all four corners of the pen for extra cushioning in those areas.


Pheasant Bedding

Transitioning Pheasants

Spring is truly a time of transition. The snow melts here, everything starts to green up – its rainy one day, clear the next, hot and humid and then chilly. The temperature variations make it particularly challenging to transition the gamebirds from barns to outside pens.

We don’t want to move birds outside if there is rain in the forecast because birds not exposed to water don’t have their oil glands fully activated. We want them outside to preen in the sun and the wind so they move the oil to their feathers and activate their natural waterproofing. We try to move the birds when the nights are warm and there is no rain in the forecast.

To start the transition we begin dropping the temperature in the barn on a daily basis to start matching it up to the outside temperatures. We can drop by two degrees a day – but we watch the birds closely to make sure it’s not dropping too fast. If the birds start looking like they are going to pile to keep warm, we hold the temperatures and then continue to drop. Ringnecks can go out around seven weeks, the smaller birds, like the partridges, about eight weeks.

When birds are ready to go outside, the “process crew” catches the birds, crates them and moves them outside. The acclimated birds stay out – no matter what the temperatures or weather – until they are caught and shipped to customer.

Once the birds are moved out, the room is cleaned, disinfected, the barn is set up and the next group of birds moves in. The chicks start on the “A” side of the room and move to the cleaned and disinfected “B” side when that group moves outside. It’s a scheduling dance we play and our teams plan down to the wire – chicks in the “A” room until 21 days; into the “B” room until about seven or eight weeks of age.

We have set dates for the hatches to move to the “A” rooms, so sometimes even if the weather is working against us, we’ve got to move the birds out of the “B” rooms. Hatch, move, clean, move, transition, move, and clean – start over.

This has been a difficult spring because it’s been cold and wet. Wet is bad, but cold seems to be more stressful in general. Sun and a light wind go a long way to helping them adjust as does generations of breeding hardy birds.

Transitioning Birds


Transitioning Birds

Transporting Pheasants

Trucking game birds around the country is a balancing act. To get healthy birds across hundreds and hundreds of miles requires attention to detail, as well as attention to weather and distance. It is a team effort at MacFarlane Pheasant Farm.

We have five trailers and there are times when we have 10 loads going out in a week. That means carefully orchestrated departure, crating, unloading and the entire behind-the -scenes work of invoicing and checking and double checking paperwork.

We use two types of crates, and what we use depends on the weather and what we are trucking. Big crates are the best in the winter, but also are used year-round. We can fit up to 10 roosters without compromising tail feathers in the bigger crates which have air holes on the sides instead of wire. The smaller crates have wire sides and we can fit five roosters, 10 hens or 15 partridges.

We’ve shipped as many as 4,000 Ringneck roosters into Canada in one load. Since Ringneck hens and Partridges are smaller, the maximum load for those birds is bigger. We have shipped as many as 6,500 Ringneck hens in one load out East and 7,500 Partridges out West. Our gamebirds are acclimated to the outdoors, so they can ship in all kinds of temperatures.

We combine loads to customers to be able to give the best price possible. It’s more work for us, but it means better pricing. We load trucks in the order that they are going to be unloaded, make sure unloading instructions are crystal clear to drivers and customers, and that we have to have time to clean trucks and crates before turning everything around.

And then there’s the paperwork – we’ve got invoices, purchases put into excel spreadsheets, crate numbers, vet papers, everything is checked and double checked by different staff members. Sometimes we’ve got COD orders, sometimes customers need to keep crates and then we need to get them back. The final step is a delivery report from the driver on how everything went. Fortunately we have staff who have been doing this so long, that although the process seems cumbersome when you write it all down, it appears to be seamless to them!

Transporting Pheasants

 Transporting Pheasants

Transporting Pheasants

Our Chicks Make It To California!

As you may have already heard, we are hosting an Around the World Tour to see how widespread our pheasant have become. We are happy to publish our latest entry here. Stephen Cardwell has submitted a photo of himself with our chicks brochure in front of the Santa Monica Pier in California.

Each person that submits a photo of themselves with our Chick Catalog in front of a US State sign or another landmark will receive a free can koozie and t-shirt. Find out more details here:

Chicks baby

Air Flow in Barns

Air movement in the barns plays an important role in keeping game birds healthy. When the temperature starts to change in the spring and the fall, we have to adjust so the birds can get acclimated enough to go outside without problems. Being able to do this involves getting the inside temperature equal to the coolest outside temperature the birds will be exposed to.

In order for the birds to adjust properly, it can’t be 40 degrees outside and 60 degrees inside – that would be like us traveling from Florida to Alaska for birds whose core temperature is about 103 degrees. Too hot in the barns means we are spending too much money on energy because the fans and the heater are running at the same time or competing. It also can dehydrate the birds. Too cold encourages piling.

Our managers have setting the fans pretty much down to a science. The fans are at the height of chest level for an average adult human – too high means the bedding won’t dry and too low means drafts and condensation. One of the questions we are asked a lot when we are having tours is why not use ceiling fans?

Ceiling fans push the air down and then out, this would result in inconsistent air flow around the facility and high energy costs. Fans need to be set in the barns at opposite ends for intake and output – fresh air in to keep acclimating the birds to outside temperatures and drying bedding and moving stagnant air out.

Fans are on timers. Depending on the size of the barn, they run every 10 to 30 seconds per five minutes. Or, to look at it another way, they run for 30 seconds out of every five minutes. In the warmer months the fans will run longer if the barn gets above a desired temperature as well as continuing to run on the timer. The time can be increased depending on the weather conditions.

In Wisconsin right now, we could have rain and 40 degrees in the morning and humid and 60 close to dusk. One of the good things about being located in Wisconsin is that we can pretty much help our customers out with advice about any sort of weather conditions all over the world because the weather here changes so much.

You can set up a maintenance schedule for your fans, or if you have good managers like we do – they can walk into a barn and immediately know something needs to be adjusted. The managers can tell by the smell, the air quality in general and they know after being in the barn for five minutes, the fans should have turned on and off.

Air Flow in Barns

Air Flow in Barns