Pheasants enjoy a great variety of foods and there is no shortage of nutritous snacks available. Our birds eat Marsdens Pheasant pellets as their staple diet but all our birds love their extra treats and we feel they benefit greatly from having them, in moderation, on a daily basis. Here are a few that our birds love:
Black and red currants are a pheasant favourite and are extremely nutritious in fact blackcurrants are usually now labelled a "superfood". They are just as good for pheasants as for humans with a very high vitamin C content (around four times as much as the same weight in oranges). Black currants are slightly higher in nutrional value than the red but although our pheasants do love both when given them together they tend to eat the red ones first. Red currants have three to four times more vitamin C than oranges. Both the red and black varieties are also high in vitamin B, iron, potassium, phosphorus and fibre. Potassium helps the muscles and nerves to function and also maintains the bodies' acid balance. Currants are good for the immune system, helping to digest other nutrients as well as having antiseptic properties. They also contain vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, zinc and the trace elements, copper, manganese and selenium. Among the health benefits provided by the nutritional content of black currants is improved kidney function. Black currants are a significantly higher source in antioxidants than blueberries (these are also a favourite of pheasants by the way). The concentration of antioxidents tends to be higher the darker the fruit so the black currants will be better than the red currants in this instance. Black currants also contain the essential fatty acid GLA (one of the omega 6 group). In other words, these colourful little fruits are a fantastic and well loved treat.
Dandelions are an easily found weed which is "in season" from very early in Spring until very late in Autumn.
Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins A, B complex, C, D & K and a wealth of minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper, choline, boron, silicon, and calcium. These leaves contain more iron and calcium than spinach and more vitamin A than any other salad ingredient. They also have higher levels of Beta carotene than carrots. At the very least dandelions sre great cleansers, removing toxins from the body, but unlike similar plants with diuretic properties there are no problems due to a depletion in potassium as the dandelion has a high quantity of this essential mineral in its leaves. There have been recent animal studies that indicate that dandelion may lower total cholesterol levels and improve levels of good cholesterol. Dandelion root is reported to have antiviral properties. It can be used as a digestive aid and to stimulate the appetite. With so many nutrients packed in to dandelion leaves they are a great addition to any pheasants diet... In fact I might just include some in a salad roll for myself.
Mealworms are high in protein (around 47 - 49%). Feeding livefood is both interesting and nutritious for the birds. They are especially beneficial during the breeding season, when the cocks will often try to attract a hen with mealworms. During the spring and summer the Tragopan hens which are normally not interested in livefood will often start to prefer them to any other treat even if they are not rearing chicks. This may be a natural instinct to gather insects and bugs at this time of year for young (whether they have them or not). It may also be that they help in the production of eggs. As a source of animal protein it is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids included (some of which are not contained in vegetable proteins). An advantage to feeding mealworms is that they do not carry any pathogens (any germ that causes disease) or parasites unlike maggots or earthworms.
Peanuts have to be the no.1 best loved food by pheasants. There are no species that don't enjoy them! They are a high fat food however most of the fat they do contain is mono-unsaturated which is a healthy type and good for the heart as it can actually lower the amount of bad cholesterol in the body. Peanuts have high levels of protein, niacin (beneficial for blood flow), folate, thiamin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper. Peanuts also contain vitamin E which is a powerful antoxidant as well as a small amount of calcium and vitamin D.
There are many, many, more nutritious foods to choose from that birds will gulp down with relish. Ours eat all sorts of seeds, fruits and berries as well as many greens that grow in their aviaries and live food. I am a firm believer of variety in diet being beneficial and I'm pretty sure our birds agree.