Important Chores For the Summer Months

We are very busy this time of year at MacFarlane Pheasants. Two of the big jobs we do in spring and summer are mowing and keeping the farm picked up. We do both of these jobs for aesthetics and some very important health and safety reasons. Keeping the farm picked up is, in fact, a year round chore, but much easier in the spring and summer when we don’t have to fight the weather. Pride in our farm is always a focus, but the health and safety of our game birds is a priority.

Mowing Around the Pen and in the Lane 

  • Mowing keeps rodents and predators away from our birds.
  • Mowing allows us to easily see holes in the perimeter fence.
  • Mowing the lane makes it easier to drive birds down the lane to catch pens.
  • Mowing gives us a great view from the roadside when doing our daily farm checks. 

Keeping the Farm Picked Up 

  • Keeping old feed, etc., picked up keeps rodents away.
  • Organization means our care of the birds is more efficient.
  • Keeping the farm picked up minimizes equipment breakdown (flat tires, and damaging mowers from mowing over debris). 

We hope you will feel free to contact us with questions about our farm or about raising game birds. We are never too busy to help. Have questions about your game birds? We can help. Whether you have questions about breeding, raising, feed or anything else, our experts are available to help. Just post your questions online at Game Bird Forum and we’ll give you advice. Visit online today at


















Important Chores For the Summer Months

Dog Houses Aren’t Just For Dogs!

The Hen Barn has a manure gutter clean out shoot. I know that doesn’t sound all that exciting but if you have problems with your gutters, it can be an exciting mess that no-one enjoys cleaning up! The manure gutter chain runs through the barn to the outside where the manure is dropped into the manure spreader. When it works well, it is a good system for removing waste from the barn.

We were running into issues every time it rained, though. The water would collect in the gutters, making it hard to get the manure out. The water would mix with the manure and create a very wet manure that would not catch on the chains. That was a problem in need of a solution.

Our winter time problem was snow blowing in and melting when it was inside the barn and freezing when it got really cold. Once it would freeze, we would have to chip the ice out of the gutter, before we could turn the chains on to get the manure out of the barn. We also had issues with too much cold air coming into Room A where we wanted the temperature at 100 degrees for the chicks.

Now, here was the solution. We decided we needed a cover on the outside. I’m not sure who came up with the idea for calling our solution the Dog House but that became its name. This was a cover we put on the manure gutter clean out shoots. It has saved employees some valuable time and  kept some of the cold air out of the barn so our heaters could more effectively warm our chicks. So, that is why dog houses aren’t just for dogs at MacFarlane Pheasants!
















Dog Houses Aren’t Just For Dogs!

How Do You Calibrate Egg Incubators and Keep Eggs at the Proper Temperature?

MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. hatches over two million birds each year in our hatchery. That means we collect over three million eggs in order to get that many hatches! Obviously, we have our system down to a science. We use the Natureform I-14 machines to incubate our eggs. These machines must be calibrated to 99 degrees. In order to calibrate the machines to the required 99 degrees we use a mercury thermometer.

Calibrating for Temperature

The digital sensor on the machine must be at the same height as the mercury thermometer and when this is done, it ensures that the temperature reading is accurate every time. Calibrating is done while the machine is empty. Once we have the machines calibrated and set for the proper humidity, we put the eggs in place and keep an eye on the egg temperatures.

Calibrating for Humidity

To calibrate 51% relative humidity that is just right for incubating chicks, we use a       hygrometer. The use of the hygrometer is not complicated.  It is similar to measuring temperature. We use a wet bulb hygrometer, which has a mercury thermometer and a wick with a water tank attached to it. We wait for the machine to get up to temperature and then calibrate the digital machine based on the mercury thermometer.

Checking Egg Temperature

The temperature of the embryo inside the egg is critical for hatching high quality chicks. You can use an infrared ear thermometer or a baby forehead thermometer to gauge the egg shell temperature. The measurement is taken right at the equator of the egg. The optimum temperature for the embryo is 100-101 degrees. This checking process requires both speed and accuracy so that the door to the setter is not opened long enough to cool down.

  • Check eggs on the left and right, from, and back, and top, middle, and bottom of the setter.
  • Choose eggs in the middle of the tray to monitor, as eggs on the edges will be cooler.
  • Sample three eggs from the center of each tray.
  • During the second half of incubation, reject any significantly cooler measurements, because it is a sign that the egg does not have an embryo.
  • Monitor at each stage in the incubation period.
  • Plan where you are going to monitor, so that once you open the door you can work quickly. Some setters may have to be turned off in order to work safely. If this is the case, and you cannot finish the job in 10 minutes you may have to turn the machine on and wait 30 minutes before finishing the job.
  • Record your results.

Calibrating the egg incubators and checking to make sure the embryos are the right temperature is an important part of hatching chicks. If you would like more information on this process please contact Krystal at She knows the process quite well and is happy to help you learn about hatching eggs. Please enjoy a tour of our hatchery by using our hatching link!










How Do You Calibrate Egg Incubators and Keep Eggs at the Proper Temperature?

Plan Ahead for MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Tours!

We do fun farm tours at MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. because many people who hear about our pheasant farm are interested in seeing how wild birds are raised. We enjoy helping our guests learn about our pheasants and other game birds that live and grow on our farm. In days past, we allowed our guests to walk about, but increased biosecurity precautions have eliminated that part of a farm visit.

We now give vehicle tours around the farm. The tours are free for groups of five or less people. We encourage at least 24 hour notice, but the more notice we get, the more likely we can accommodate our guests.

Student educational tours are always free. The adult in charge should call our office to schedule the tour. You are never too young to consider working with game birds as a career. We can also remind students that even farmers need higher education to learn about animal science and the technology, math, and reading skills needed to raise animals successfully.

We also provide Coach bus tours with a $75 fee, which includes an experienced tour guide and smoked pheasant samples, provided in our retail store. We have many interesting delicacies besides pheasant meat available for purchase. You won’t be disappointed!

The best time for a tour is late June through the fall. It is the perfect time to see mature pheasants in the outside pens. But of course we look forward to hearing from you throughout the year!

Anyone interested in a farm tour should contact Sarah Baker. You can call the main office at 608-757-7881 or email her at She can answer questions and arrange your tour details.

Plan Ahead for MacFarlane Pheasant Farm Tours!

Download The Complete Guide to Incubation

During the month of April,I wrote an article about practices for incubating and hatching eggs in our hatchery that was an overview of our practices at MacFarlane Pheasants. We hatch over two million chicks per year so our staff is quite knowledgeable about incubating eggs and hatching baby chicks! After that article was written, we published The Complete Guide to Incubation.  Our employees spent many hours preparing this document and I think you will be pleased with the results. The booklet is a free download and gives you detailed information about how to incubate wild bird eggs for a successful hatch.

Table of Contents

  • Is Hatching Eggs Right for You?
  • Gathering Necessary Supplies
  • How to Properly Handle Eggs
  • Preparing Eggs for Pre-Incubation
  • Incubation
  • Hatching the eggs
  • Chick Handling

In addition to these topics, our booklet tells you where you can purchase supplies. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are included. Enjoy this newest download and be sure to check out other resources on our website at
























Download The Complete Guide to Incubation

Helpful Barn Dimmers

We have been using the PLS-2400 MR4 PTC Light Dimmers from Precision Lighting out of Arkansas since 2015. Before we got these dimmers in our barns, we used residential dimmers and dimmed our lights manually, for the most part. Our newer system does the job with greater ease and effectiveness.

The dimmers allow us to have a program in place to run the lights. We can set the lights to a calendar and have the lighting periods change daily, if we choose. The “ramping” feature allows us to ramp up our lights for sunrise and ramp them down to simulate sunset. Once we hook up a laptop to the dimmers and install the dimming program, there isn’t any reason to touch the lights.

Now , it is likely that some of you are wondering why we need to dim or brighten our lights! Dimmers are used for a few good reasons.

  • They control the aggressiveness of game birds.
  • They simulate daylight periods at certain stages in the birds’ lives.
  • They keep our birds and equipment safe.

In our white flocks (raised for our food division), we decrease the simulated daylight as the birds get older. This keeps them calmer.

The “ramping” feature is also very important as the birds don’t flush when the lights come on, as they did in the past. When birds fly in the barns, they can break equipment or cause water leaks. Injury is also more likely if game birds fly in the barns!

That, my friends, is the reason we are so happy to have this high tech, but easy, system in place at MacFarlane Pheasants. We would be happy to answer your questions about this system and the use of dimmers in the game bird world.















Helpful Barn Dimmers

Oh Yuck, Beetles and Bugs in the Barns!

Beetles and bugs in the barns are not just yucky. They cause sanitary concerns, as well as affect the health of our birds.

  • The Darkling Beetle, is a vector for salmonella, e-coli, Newcastle disease and other diseases and viruses.
  • Flies are a big pain and are controlled with permethrin spray and traps.

Beatles and bugs can also do serious damage to buildings and equipment!

  • They can destroy insulation.
  • They can bore into wooden structures.
  • They can destroy vapor barriers,
  • They can create voids between the ground and the concrete.

The best tactic for monitoring beetles/bugs is to be observant. We have made this statement about most situations on the farm, repeatedly. Nothing is more important on a wild bird farm, than being observant!

There are some products available for monitoring and controlling Darkling Beetles. One of them is Capt 7 Beetle Traps. It is a very green approach and doesn’t use any chemicals. It looks like a giant egg with holes in it. A yeast mixture is placed inside, which attracts beetles and traps them.

The next step we might take is to dust or spray the floor with diatomaceous earth.

When we notice a problem, we have to step up the control. We use a product called Tempo that can be purchased in either a dust form or a solution form. Either work well when we use it on the floor and bedding where we observe a problem.

In a large infestation of beetles, we may need to check with an exterminator for advice. It is critical that we stop a problem in its tracks, because beetles can transmit anything they are carrying to the whole farm, in a short amount of time.

In conclusion, the key is to be diligent about any pests that can cause harm to our flocks. It is up to us to see the issue, diagnose the problem, and fix it as fast as we can without causing harm to our birds.

Please contact if you would like more information about controlling beetles and bugs in your wild bird barns.











Oh Yuck, Beetles and Bugs in the Barns!

Jay Illbeck-Assistant Maintenance Manager at MacFarlane Pheasants

“I have repaired just about everything on the farm at least once,” says Jay Illbeck about his work on our farm. He is the assistant maintenance manager at MacFarlane Pheasants and has been with us for six years. He has also delivered birds and helped with new construction projects, over the years. Jay is a self trained man who attributes his maintenance skills to being around other skilled people and extensive reading. He told me he loves the variety of his job. 

Jay lives a balanced life, though. When he isn’t working, he spends time with his wife and four year old son. They also have two cats. One is a kitten he brought home from the farm and the other was found outside his home, as a kitten. So you might say, he has a thing for stray kittens! Jay also likes to work on his Mustangs, 3 wheelers and RC cars, when he isn’t playing with his son! What a great life! He tells me he still has time to dream about “traveling what’s left of Route 66.” 

Jay says his grandparents have been most influential in his successes. His favorite quote is attributed to Bruce Lee and states quite simply, “Do or do not, there is no try.” 

How can you not respect a guy with such a great attitude toward life? Jay’s contributions to the success of MacFarlane Pheasants are greatly appreciated. We hope he can take one of those Mustangs down Route 66, someday soon!













Jay Illbeck-Assistant Maintenance Manager at MacFarlane Pheasants

We Use Different Methods to Make Sure Inside Birds and Outside Birds Both Produce Thousands of Eggs!

The story of egg production at MacFarlane Pheasants is truly phenomenal! I have separated the procedures into two methods to explain what we do to make sure we get the thousands of eggs we need to produce the chicks and mature pheasants that are the life blood of MacFarlane Pheasants.

Inside Birds 

  • Light stimulation is started in the middle of December, resulting in our first eggs being ready at the end of December/early January.
  • We typically start two barns of 3120 breeder hens.
  • Birds are laying on bedding over concrete, so changing the grass/straw bedding is an everyday affair.
  • We have one person, per barn, who picks eggs, who picks from 6 am to 4 pm, daily.
  • Management is critical in tight space, so dust in barns and extreme temperatures outside mean we are adjusting barn temperatures and fans accordingly.
  • The barn temperature is a constant 45 degrees.
  • We pick eggs at a slow, careful, steady pace.
  • At peak, both barns produce roughly 5300 eggs per day.
  • Birds are moved to outside pens at the end of April or early May and eggs are continued to be picked.

Outside Birds 

  • We start light stimulation for some hens at the beginning of January, for our first eggs to be ready in the middle of February.
  • Some birds are stimulated into production by natural light. By using both methods we have a steady flow of egg production throughout the season.
  • 30,000 outside breeders are started.
  • Huts are placed inside the pens to attract birds to lay eggs under them.
  • Huts are strawed twice a month.
  • We pick eggs in extreme elements (cold, ice, snow, heat).
  • We pick these eggs with two crews of four men each.
  • At peak production birds lay over 30,000 eggs per day.
  • Each picker must pick around 3000 eggs per day.

Troy Cisewski ( is the person to talk to if you would like more information about light stimulation to encourage birds to produce on a specific schedule.












We Use Different Methods to Make Sure Inside Birds and Outside Birds Both Produce Thousands of Eggs!

Shayne Noller-Manager of Food Products Building

Shayne has worked for MacFarlane Pheasants for 11 years. He was originally hired as an assistant manager in the flight pen operation, but he quickly moved into the management position and stayed for eight years. After that he worked in the hatchery for a season before becoming the manager of the food products building. He told us that he learned his management skills in college, but that his experience and on the job training provided most of the skills he needs to do his job. 

Shayne’s favorite part of his job is interacting with employees and being a motivator. When I asked him who had been most influential in his success at MacFarlane Pheasants, he named Brian Klein, Ben Lawton, and Brad Lillie. He told me that his favorite quote in life is, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” I had to smile a bit at that quote because for a person whose favorite part of his job is interacting with employees and motivating others, I doubt that he has to use a “big stick” very often! 

Shayne has a life beyond work though. His wife Jessica, and children seven-year-old Cole, and four-year-old Ilsa make all that hard work worthwhile. One of his favorite parts of life is spending time with them. Shayne also enjoys his lemon beagle, Winnie and his little gray cat, Ophelia. When he gets some free time, he likes to go ice fishing. One day he hopes to travel to Alaska! 

Thank you Shayne for your commitment to MacFarlane Pheasants, helping to grow our Food Division, and keep our food operation top notch!














Shayne Noller-Manager of Food Products Building