To have the best chance of hens laying well and producing good quality embryos, that will succeed in growing and hatching normally, the adult pheasants need to be well nourished. If a hen is not fed a good nutrient rich diet her eggs are not going to be of optimum quality. The hen herself is also likely to suffer if not during the time she is laying then afterwards when trying to brood or even later when she moults. For strong chicks the male should also be in the best possible condition and should not be stressed in any way.
It is important to get the aviary ready for the hen laying before she is due to start. Many pheasant hens will prefer to lay their eggs on the ground so try and plan for this by giving them areas which are suitable. She will want privacy but also have a need to see around her to help her to feel safe. We like to put branches in the corners of the shelters for the hens to hide behind. If possible make the space big enough for the hen to get into but not for the cock. This will allow her the chance to escape him if necessary. When preparing sheds and nestboxes we add soft wood shavings which the birds can lay on. Even though they don't actually make a "proper" nest as such they will still scrape a shallow depression to lay in and they seem to like the shavings for this. If the bird is likely to nest outdoors, possibly under a shrub, some clean soft sand is ideal for her to lay on partly as this will allow the eggs to stay cleaner than on the soil and also cushion them nicely. The sand is also useful as it cannot rot so it does not matter as much if the hen is sitting in the same spot for a lengthy period of time.
Some pheasants will use nest boxes and if you wish to breed any of the Tragopans they are of the great benefit as these birds do prefer to nest off the ground like they would in the wild. Most of our nest boxes are placed about 4 foot high. Slightly higher or lower would be ok but if too high the birds may land rather heavily if flying down within a fairly small enclosed space and also may not access it easily enough without much of an area around it although extra perches could be added to make it easier for the birds to get up and down with ease. If it is outdoors then it will need a roof but indoors it can have an open top. I would suggest the hen has enough depth in the box so that she will not be spotted easily when sitting on eggs. The box (excluding roof space) should therefore be roughly 7 - 10 inches (about 18 - 25 cm) deep. This is not set in stone and birds may still use something shallower or deeper. It is handy if you can see the hen is ok without disturbing her too much but also let her feel safe and not too exposed. The hen, I think, will be more comfortable if she feels she can escape if need be so if the box is too deep she may be less inclined to use it. The box does not need to be really wide but the hen should have enough room to move about freely. If the box is outdoors care must be taken to keep it in the most sheltered spot possible to protect it from the elements but it should still have a fair amount of space for the entrance at the front. We have a few outdoor nest boxes for tragopans and the birds took to them almost immediately. They have enough room to stand perched on the front panel which they seem to like.
We remove our birds eggs on the day they are laid which is usually best to keep them as clean and fresh as possible. We have a couple of hens who lay quite late in the day so we normally leave them until the next morning as if we disturb them when they have not yet laid they can end up roosting and laying on the perch instead of their "nest" and of course the egg would end up broken on the ground. Another reason for collecting the eggs soon after they're laid is there is less chance of them being broken. Egg eating is a fairly common problem with pheasants and one we are asked about every year. It is more often the cock that will do the damage. He may originally break an egg in curiosity but then develops a taste for them. If space permits it is often easiest to remove the cock pheasant to another pen when the hen is due to lay. If this is not possible or causes too much upset in the aviary you must be able to allow the hen some good hiding places to stay away from the cock when laying. Some males will actually follow the hen around until she lays to consume it immediately.
The eggs from the different species of pheasant vary every bit as much as the birds. From the blue-green eggs of the Brown Eareds to the small white eggs of the Grey Peacock and the extra large and heavily speckled Monal eggs. From time to time even the healthiest hen can lay the occasional missahpen or thin shelled egg but it should not be a regular occurence. If it is it may be due to stress, malnutrition or disease. It can be a sign of infectious bronchitis in pheasants. As always, it helps to stay vigilant. Know your birds, look after them well and keep records of their progress. In this way problems can be kept to a minimum as they can be spotted and dealt with quickly.
We have more information about egg eating and other problems common with breeding pheasants at: http://www.allandoopheasantry.com/trials_of_pheasant_breeding.html We also have a webpage about incubation at: http://www.allandoopheasantry.com/incubation.html
Please have a look at the many pages of our website for lots of details about how we look after our birds at Allandoo Pheasantry. There is not always a correct way of doing things but we have tried to offer a little help through our own experiences.