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PAS Meeting January 13, 2018
Pheasants – Breeding, Raising and Maintenance


James Pfarr (center)  chats with club members Donnie Woodward and Barb Teats

The Pennsylvania Aviculture Society (PAS) held their winter meeting at the Hoss’s Restaurant in Mechanicsburg PA. on January 13, 2018. Although the weather was troublesome in parts of Pennsylvania, there were over 30 people in attendance, many from out of state.

James Pfarr

James Pfarr, author of True Pheasants, A Noble Quarry, was the guest speaker and did a terrific job keeping everyone’s interest while talking on “Pheasants – Breeding, Raising and Maintenance.” James has spent almost his entire life, raising and breeding birds from chickens and pigeons to the rarest of pheasants. You might say his avocation is in his genes as his grandfather was a geneticist and his godmother Joanne Watson was a taxidermist at the San Bernardino County Museum. 

Listening to James’ talk, his down to earth style led you on a journey of keeping and raising pheasants and ending with the backbone of what it means to be an aviculturist with quotes from Jean Delacour and William Beebe. James’ enthusiasm is contagious and his eye for detail is outstanding. The slides were a blend of beautiful species, museum skin closeups and practical examples from over 40 years of experience. The beginning slides set the stage for conservation breeding - keeping multi-pairs to maintain a species and raising pheasants with the best stock available. James explained the difference between Seed Stock and Brood Stock, which he has expanded on for this article: 

Seed Fowl 
- The breeding stock of a species / subspecies, that are typically inbred (Homozygous) and are the geographic core type for the species. They are consistent in passing on the same traits of fine point species distinction, are more nervous, have less vitality, but are crucial for long term breeding and conservation. 

Brood Fowl 
- Breeding stock of species / subspecies, that are genetically pure and are not pre- potent (Homozygous) for phenotype expression (pre-potent is an individual that is highly capable of passing on his good traits to the off spring). Brood fowl produce offspring that on the whole have a greater degree of variation (not showing the consistent traits of fine point species distinction Seed fowl do) but have high vitality and can produce Seed fowl. 

Birds from each of these 2 types of stock are used as TWO separate lines, lending to each other’s lines as needed. Seed fowl are used to bolster Brood fowl when their vitality drops, by infusing 1 Seed chick for every 20 Brood chicks raised. You can inject Seed fowl into Brood fowl at 50%, and maintained at 25% of the genomic continuity without jeopardizing the vitality. You can infuse Brood fowl into Seed fowl, but that presence will never be more 31/32 pure. 

These two lineages are the very example of genetics found in wild breeding birds. Brood fowl: Are very vigorous, occupying the greatest geographic territory, are found outward from the central core epicenter to the species expected range limitations, and are the most widely seen representation of the species/subspecies.

Seed fowl: Are the core representation of a species or geographic form, consisting of family 
breeding units, sympatric pods, that are within 25% of its geographic epicenter. 

His pheasant slides included many pictures of imported birds and showed examples and comparisons of similar species and what to look for in quality birds. For many it was the “Ah ha!” moment when you see the subtle differences in tail markings or breast feathering or richness in color. He was able to explain the difference between specie variations, which, in the wild, doesn’t determine a subspecies, and phenotypic traits found in a population in specific geographic locations which does determine a subspecies. James has traveled to museums around the world with Kurt Landig (also at the meeting), to photograph not only pheasant species but also all the various subspecies. Just prior to this meeting, James, Kurt and Ron Johnson spent two days at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum reviewing many of the pheasants in their collection. 

James emphasized the importance of record keeping, especially when you are raising very closely related species, describing his methods and how he bands using different color ties to keep track of the various strains. These are recorded on a master list, tracking breeders and their offspring from year to year. He also uses metal leg and wing bands which give the year. James went on to show various types of incubators and hatchers, recommending when hatching eggs of closely related species to keep the eggs of each species in separate little wire boxes inside the hatcher. 

He spent time explaining his method of feeding a variety of foods and supplements to keep the birds in excellent shape and ready for the breeding season. These include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as different mixes for the tropical species. Two supplements that have proven beneficial are Red Cell, a horse vitamin/mineral mixture, and Pigeon Builder powder. There were a number of slides showing feeders made out of PVC buckets which prevented waste, and waters that have over time proven sturdy. In addition to feeds, health and disease prevention are just as important to maintain quality birds, using disinfectants like bleach or Virkon to sanitize equipment preventing disease outbreaks. There were numerous questions on his use of medications and what a breeder needs to keep on hand in case of problems, including tube feeders and hand feeding formulas. 

The next series of slides were of pens and enclosures from around the world. James described positive elements in each and how many breeders in Europe use prefab structures. It was great to view what others use, especially to see how young birds were raised. Many of these facilities house numerous species but use compact designs, utilizing space very efficiently, and all were planted heavily to give cover to the pheasants. 

James ended with a famous quote from William Beebe. “When the last individual or a rare race of living things breaths no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.” This was an outstanding, informative presentation, enjoyed by all who were in attendance. PAS thanks James for sharing his knowledge and experiences with the membership.