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Pheasant Biology: April and Frozen Nests

While we welcome an early spring, it is of little benefit overall to the hen pheasant’s nesting cycle. Egg laying and nesting is tied more closely to day length than warm temperatures. Nest initiation typically starts in early May, followed by incubation in late May.


Pheasants will make up to four attempts at a successful nesting effort, though the number of eggs laid decreases with each subsequent effort. PF File Photo

And while an early spring may not expedite the entire nesting process, a late winter can be hazardous to it. The first part of April can be very unpredictable regarding weather in the Upper Midwest, with early spring snow storms being very detrimental to breeding pheasants. For the early hen that does start a mid-April nest, one freezing night is all it takes to destroy her effort.

As the early nesting hen gears up to 1.3 eggs per day, cold temperatures and shortages of food can delay production. Now remember the hen does not incubate until the nest has 12 eggs. So if she’s laid 10 eggs in the nest and the temperature dips below 29 degrees, those eggs have frozen. The hen will lay her remaining three or four eggs and incubate the nest, but only those three or four will hatch. Small as it is, this is her family, and she is done nesting for the year – she will not nest again.

If the entire nest effort fails, hen pheasants will re-nest – until they are successful, or up to four times – but the number of eggs decreases with each subsequent attempt.

The Big Spur Blog is written by Jesse Beckers, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Wildlife Biologist for North Dakota. If you have a pheasant habitat or pheasant biology question for Jesse, email him at JBeckers@pheasantsforever.org.


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