2008 - Volume #32, Issue #4, Page #02[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
The Mystery of the Funny-Looking Chicken
It featured a photo by Jerry Fuller of an unusual looking bird that he claimed was a hybrid cross between a pheasant and a chicken. The photo was taken three years ago on the farm of an acquaintance in California. However, Fuller had lost touch with the friend and couldn't recall where the hybrid chicks had been purchased.
We were intrigued by the strange-looking bird and decided to find out if such birds actually exist.
We started our search on the internet where there was very little information. The tidbits we found discussed the problems of crossing the two breeds, which includes the fact that the birds have different incubation periods (21 days for chickens versus 23 to 26 days for pheasants) and that the hybrid birds produced are sterile.
The most detailed information we found was in a February, 2008 article in the same magazine that ran Jerry Fuller's photo ű Backyard Poultry Magazine (www.backyard poultrymag.com).
It seems that more than 50 years ago, Charles Peterson of Iron Mountain, Mich., decided to cross chickens and pheasants. Despite doubts from poultry experts at the time, Peterson successfully hatched two chicks from a BB Red Old English Game hen and a ring-necked pheasant.
To get them to breed, he placed the pair in a wire pen away from his other poultry and included plenty of shrubbery in the pen. The chicken laid 45 eggs before she decided to set. Peterson had marked the eggs and removed all but the freshest dozen. The pheasant showed interest in the nest, but didn't bother the hen, who faithfully stayed on the eggs through inclement spring weather.
Peterson said incubation took two days longer than normal for chickens. Only two chicks hatched.
"They looked like striped chipmunks, taking coloration from both parents, but acted more like chickens than pheasants," Peterson wrote in his article. "The pheasant seemed to be so proud. He'd stand on his tiptoes and beat his wings."
Peterson was thrilled to be able to send photos of his hybrid birds to the poultry experts who had said it would never work. He observed the birds daily and watched as one grew to look like a hen and the other a rooster. He removed the parents after three months, and made the hybrids a simple shelter in which they survived through temperatures as cold as minus 20 degrees. Unfortunately, the hen escaped and disappeared the following spring. The rooster lived and later won a county fair ribbon. He weighed 5 lbs., had a domestic nature, and characteristics more like a hen than a rooster - with no comb, spurs, wattles or earlobes.
After trying to sell the one-of-a-kind bird with no luck, the hybrid fowl became the main entrÚe for Thanksgiving dinner.
If you have more information about crossing pheasants and chicks, let us know at 800-834-9665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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