Seeking advice: Pheasant and chicks moved into garden

We have a female pheasant who moved into our garden on Saturday with about 12 tiny chicks. They have moved onto the bottom terrace lawn which is about 26m x 5m. There are steps and stone walls all around, so the chicks can't get out (but mum can).

Mum is very caring and they all sleep under her at night and peck around during the day. I'm keeping my distance most of the time so mum doesn't get too stressed

However, the chick numbers have gone down, and this morning I think she has 6 or 7 chicks left.

I'm putting down water, chick crumb and mealworms for them, but I know nothing about looking after birds and I really want to do anything I can to help this little family. 

What else can I do to help? Any advice really really appreciated, thank you.

  • Sounds like you are doing everything that you can. As the chicks got in, they can presumably get out the same way? Most chicks don't survive, esp in the early days. One thought us if you are encouraging them, there is less chance of them moving on, so if it is more unsafe than other nearby places, it might be better to not be feeding them. Hard to know without knowing the full situation.
  • In reply to Robbo:

    Thank you for your advice, Robbo.

    At the moment the chicks can't get out, as they came down steps - the garden is very steep so has been terraced over three levels downwards with a couple of steps down each level. As they grow they will be able to get up the steps, but at the moment they are too small. I've put planks to form little ramps up the steps but they haven't attempted those. Mum hops over the wall to get into the garden next door but stays very close to the chicks. The chicks are stuck for now and that is why I'm worried about them getting enough food.. As well as predators of course but I can't do anything about those unfortunately.

    Mum gets very hissy if she thinks I'm getting too close and the chicks run away when they see me, which is all great. I dont want them to see humans as friendly as sadly many aren't. I'm not making a big deal of feeding them and as soon as they get big enough to get up the steps I will stop. I just wanted too try to help them through this stage and feel pretty useless!! They won't be able to hang around long as their presence at the moment means our dog is banned from the back garden, and she isn't too pleased about that!

    I'll just have to hope the fates will look kindly upon them.
  • Hi, I'm back again.
    The chicks are now 8 days old, and another one disappeared yesterday so shes down to 6 chicks left :(
    They are still too small to get up the steps and this morning I noticed a magpie on the wall, so I'm really worried about them. I'm trying to create hiding spaces for them with some old beer crates, with gaps between the crate and the walls that are small, so they can get under/behind something if they need to.
    Is there anything else I can do? Mum got very hissy with me when I built up cover around where they sleep with some branches / hedge cuttings etc but she let me get on with it.
    Should I try to move them out somehow? If so where to?
    Sorry, I know this is nature and the way life is etc etc, but I want to try to help them.
    Thank you for any advice.
  • I think you ar doing a good job.
  • Update.

    I wanted to add an update to my post, in case anyone else suddenly finds themselves in this position.

    Sadly the local magpies and jackdaws targeted the baby chicks. I went out later on Saturday and couldn't see any chicks or the mother, and I just wept.

    Then I found the mother pheasant, with just two chicks left. I added more shelter spots and constructed a wooden shelter, making sure the entry holes were very small so only a chick sized bird could get in.

    On Sunday morning I got up very early but alas there was only one chick left. At this point I became determined the mother would not leave with no chicks, and so I spent most of the following days in the garden. I also got up just after 4am each morning, just before dawn, and sat on the steps in the garden for several hours to chase off the early opportunist visits from magpies and jackdaws.

    On Monday, I could see the chick had developed flight feathers, and it fluttered around, closely guarded by the mother.

    Yesterday the chick was up on the wall for the first time, with its mother, jumping at insects. I watched as it took, what I believe was, its first flight, wings spread wide as it flew from the wall to the ground. I saw the mother encourage her chick up onto the wall again. I also noticed the chick's posture was more pheasant-like than chick, and it looked like a "mini-me" walking with its mother.

    Then at lunchtime they disappeared, up over the walls into a neighbour's garden which is very overgrown with shrubs. Later in the afternoon my neighbour told me he had seen them both walking along the walls of his garden.

    Yesterday evening mum pheasant and her chick were spotted in another neighbour's garden and they are currently under the buddleia in the garden below us. All the neighbourhood (we live in a rural hamlet) know about them and are keeping an eye out for them. So fingers are crossed for them both.

    What I've learned:
    More important than anything is cover. The area the chicks got stranded in is the bottom terrace of a walled garden, so there are walls and steps all around, which they couldn't climb. It is a lawn, which although a bit long was not providing enough cover.

    I ended up creating lots of cover around the edges with upended beer crates, blocking off the entrances with stacks of tiles and paint kettles so that only a small chick could get in. I placed planks of wood on the top of the crates to so they could also hide in the very narrow gap between the back of the crate and the wall and not be seen from above. I built a wooden shelter with an old gate and planks against a wall, again with only tiny openings and this became the night shelter, with mum sleeping outside.

    My garden looks like a little shanty town, but I should have done this on the first day. Then the magpies, jackdaws etc, would not have seen such a sitting target. I'm so angry with myself for not realising this, it was more important than providing food or anything else. But I'm so glad that I managed to help her keep the last chick, after such a hard 11 days losing her other chicks, one after another.

    I currently hate magpies and jackdaws. A few years ago a neighbour culled /shot a lot of magpies and I was quite upset at the time; now I would probably give him a bottle of wine. I know this is nature, the food chain, etc etc, but this is how I feel right now.

    So, if anyone is reading this post in a few days' or a few years' time, my advice would be: build shelters that are only big enough for pheasant chicks to enter. Build lots of shelters if you don't have any natural cover.

    Tomorrow I will dismantle the little shanty town I constructed. The memories of this experience (both good and bad) and especially the magical sight of that little chick taking its first flight, wings wide, are seared into my soul for ever.

    That's it.
    I hope this helps someone else do a more successful job of helping newly hatched pheasant chicks than I did.

    Thank you Robbo for your support and encouragement :)

    Stay safe mum pheasant and chick, though I know now how the odds are against you.
  • Hi Summergarden, I have been following your story. So pleased that mum has left with one of her chicks. So sad about the others. Nature can be so cruel at times. Don't beat yourself up about not doing what you thought you should have done, at the start. You did what you thought was for the best. Fingers crossed the wee one and her mum will be all right now and have lots of shelter and hidey places.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • In reply to Summergarden:

    Thanks for the update. Always good to get them and quite often very frustrating/annoying when people post a question and are never heard from again despite sometimes getting plenty of responses.

    I can see where you are coming from re corvids. Jays and crows are also prolific. It does explain (though not justify in many/most cases) why so many are shot. From a fairly 'open minded' point of view, I can see the argument against culling them to protect pheasants as they're introduced and also shot in huge numbers. However, I don't think anyone can deny that many species that are struggling (not just because of predation) in parts of UK where corvids are plentiful, are doing better where corvids are culled. Very hard to know the best balance.

    Well done re getting a chick through to being able to fly, esp considering the early mornings.