Perhaps the best reason pheasants and peafowl have been such popular aviary birds for so many years are their ease to feed and keep healthy in captivity on relatively simple diets. With this page, I will describe a few basics on diets that I've used, diets I've heard from others, types of feed, how to feed and other information that may help the novice.
Types of Feed
Breeders often use two types of feed, grain and commerical blends (pellets or mash). The commerical blends and rations have been scientifically formulated to include all the essential nutrients needed. They come in a variety of brands, from local mills to national lines such as Mazuri. Check with your local mill or feed store for the brands they supply. Once offered a brand, you will need to check the protein level of the ration as it varies at the different stages of life. For an example, we will use the Mazuri line as a guide. Newly hatched chicks to 6 weeks of age are offered a Starter blend that is 30% protein; the grower is offered to birds 6 weeks to adults and is 19% protein; breeder diet is 20% and is offered a month before and through the breeding/laying season; the maintenance diet is provided to non breeding adult birds, protein is 12%.
Although the blends contain grains, pheasants seem to enjoy eating the raw product. Some types offered are corn, milo, wheat, oats, millet, barley and rye. During the winter months, extra cracked corn is offered.
Fruits and veggies are important to many pheasant species and required in the diets of peacock pheasants. Experiment with a variety to see which the birds prefer Peanuts can be offered as a treat. You can use them, along with mealworms, to condition the birds to get close for observations. Chopped hard boiled eggs are good to add to the diets of chicks and adult birds.
Many offer vitamin and mineral supplements to the birds' diets. Vionate is a popular product that is in powder form that can be sprinkled on the food. Some mix vitamins in the drinking water, but these can spoil rather quickly on hot days.
Drinking water is very important. Make sure birds have access to clean, fresh water daily.
Live food is cherished by most pheasants and peafowl. Mealworms are the most popular and inexpensive live food you can offer. They are very easy to raise, clean and important for chicks who are having trouble learning to eat. Raising mealworms is quite simple, follow this link for more info. Mealworms are important daily foods for Peacock Pheasants and growing chicks, but are often offered to other species as treats.
Crickets are also offered to the birds. You can purchase from many specialist companies or from your local pet store. I'm a little weary when it comes to feeding wild-caught insects, you can never be sure if they have passed through a treated lawn or other poison (I live within the city limits, so this might not be a problem out in the country!). Earthworms can also be a health risk as they carry the eggs of many harmful parasites. Of course you cannot stop the birds from digging up or finding insects inside the aviary on their own, just take a little precaution when "throwing a bug" in with the birds!
It is very important to offer grit to pheasants at all times. Since everyone is aware that birds do not have teeth, the grit is stored in the gizzard and breaks down the food for digestion.
Fresh food should be offered to birds daily. Many breeders use feed hoppers, these can hold several pounds of food. If using these, scoop out a portion that is available to the birds to allow fresh food to fall down. Others offer a new pan of feed each day. Either way is effective, I like to use the pan method, this way you can see how much they are actually eating each day. Feed should never lay on the floor of the aviary, you would be inviting a host of problems doing this.
The time of day you feed your birds depends on your schedule. During the hot summer months, it is advised that you feed early in the morning or late in the evening to help reduce added stress during the heat. The food which the birds have access to should be kept in a dry, vermin proof area. Greens should be offered as often as possible in an area out of direct sunlight.
It is important to keep unused feed stored in a dry room to keep fresh and from molding. Do not allow feed to remain in sacks on the floor or spilled feed to lay around, you will surely invite rodents this way! In some areas, grain beetles and moths can become a problem. You can eliminate these by freezing your food. With large quanities, this maybe impossible, so use a sealed bin or container.
As you've seen, pheasant feeding is really quite easy. It is really personal preference on your methods and food choice. This page is intended as a basic reference for beginners to the hobby. I encourage beginners to contact different pheasant & peafowl keepers and learn how they feed, what they feed and other methods. You will likely get a number of responses, try each one to find one that suits your, or your bird's needs.
The pheasants in our care are fed Purina game bird diets, supplemented every other day with either cracked corn, milo, wheat and finch seed (niger seed, millets). In addition, safflower, sunflower and chopped peanuts are given as treats as are parrot and softbill pellets. We do offer fruits and veggies every other day. In the winter, greens and fruits are added to the pans of dry food (see below). During the warmer months, seperate pans of these are given so that they can be removed at the end of the day to prevent spoilage.
Lettuce we feed are red or green leaf and romaine. I try to alternate the types given and always try something different, but the most accepted and fed out are apples, pears, banana, grapes, carrot, soft peas, soft corn, zuchinni, sweet potato and brocoli. In season, fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and mulberries are offered (use frozen during winter, rather expensive so perhaps only once a week). I have tried papaya, kiwi and mango, but they don't seem too interested and pick around it. Hard-boiled eggs are given once a week. Shredded cheese is also offered once a week. Mealworms are offered only once a week as part of the diet, but fed as treats through the week. Waxworms are offered once a month or so.