Chinkwell Shoot 2002
(Click on images to see larger version)
It’s the time of year again (August) when we begin the annual cycle of putting our young pheasants 'out to wood'. This is where they will start their lives on the shoot. The birds have been reared so far from incubator then in pens on grass fields away from the wood until they are capable of flying.
Entry gate to the pen. Battery powered electric fencing unit.
Our 300 or so birds have now been put in the release pen in the wood, which is protected by an electric fence. The pen is not so much to keep the birds in but more to keep the foxes and other predators out until the birds learn to roost off the ground at night in the safety of the trees branches. If one fox were to enter the pen at an early stage in this process it would probably kill all the birds. A neighbouring shoot lost 200 birds in one night last season.
The return over only six or seven shoot days can only be expected to be between 10 to 15 of these birds per day with other non-reared game making up the remainder of the bag. This will be due to density of cover, predation, walking off the shoot and other natural factors, Of course if we have a particularly cold winter we can also gain as birds from surrounding areas they seek the warmth and protection of the woods.
A 'pop-hole' a fox snare
The birds obviously don’t have their wings clipped and can fly. If they fly out of the pen they can re-enter it using a pop-hole
There are a number of these holes around the fence perimeter, which have small grills in them, large enough to allow a pheasant through but not large enough for fox. A fox may patrol the perimeter of the pen looking for a way in so snares are placed here to catch the persistent offenders. UK laws state that snares must be free running (not locking and must be checked each day between sun up and sunset.
A pen casualty.
No matter how hard you try and as in any stock rearing there are casualties. It is essential that the pen is visited at least once a day and note is paid to the physical condition of the birds for any onset of disease. Also a good look around for any signs of predation. I found the young bird pictured above on an 11am visit to the pen. The body was still warm the spinal cord was severed and the back of the head was plucked clean as the bird was probably a little to large to have fallen to a hedge hog the offender was likely to be an avian raptor (probably not an owl due to the time of day. Law protects all birds of prey here so if you want to protect your pens at this stage it can be done by suspending items such as old CD's or the like which rotate in the breeze and reflect light which scares them away.
A drinker A small hopper feeder
The things needed to sustain life are Water, food and shelter (from weather and predators). Our water is gravity fed from a stream, which rises from a spring within the wood and is piped to the pen. This constant flow prevents any disease building up in standing water.
The birds are currently being fed on commercial pheasant pellets in the small feeders pictured above. The pen has plenty of perching places and bracken areas where the birds can hide out of sight.
Large 45 Gallon hopper feeder.
As the birds grow their diet will be changed to wheat from a 45 gallon feeder as shown above the large size is convenient as they don’t need to be refilled so often. Note the spring at the bottom, which presents the feed to the birds and allows it to drop as they peck at it. This feeder is at this time located outside the main gate of the pen and filled with the young birds current feed. This will introduce them to this type of feeder a number of which are placed at strategic locations around the 100-acre woodland plot.
Photos From around the wood
Foxglove 'Cheesy' hunter photo