Can Pheasants and Chickens Mate?

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking into chickens, you probably already know there are a huge variety of domestic breeds out there. Over 400, in fact! But when you see all the different sizes, colors, body types, and behaviors it really makes for a remarkable variety among these common birds.

chickens pheasants inbreeding featured image

But what you might not have known is that each and every one of these chickens is itself descended from the Asian wild jungle fowl. That family tree gets pretty narrow at the bottom!

But chickens themselves also have close cousins in the form of pheasants. In fact, they are very close cousins. So close that this begs the question: is it possible for pheasants and chickens to mate?

Yes, pheasants and chickens can mate successfully, but this pairing is highly unlikely to result in chicks that will live to adulthood. Hybrid birds that result from mating are also plagued with health problems.

It’s quite surprising, in a way, when you consider how different pheasants and chickens look. Nonetheless, genetically they have many similarities. They are similar, but ultimately incompatible as we will learn.

In case you go no further, I warn you that you should not attempt to crossbreed pheasants and chickens, and I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t in detail below.

Why Would Anyone Try to Breed Chickens and Pheasants Together?

It’s hard to say exactly why someone would try to crossbreed pheasants and chickens, but undoubtedly such pairings have occurred in places where both birds are present and, of course, also as a result of direct human intervention.

But looking at the endeavor more scientifically, sometimes there’s no telling what good (or ill) will result from such a pairing.

Careful, specialized, and selective breeding of all kinds of domestic animals has led to the breeds we all know and love today, including the ones responsible for laying the vast majority of our eggs and supplying truly gargantuan amounts of meat.

Lots of good can result from careful breeding practices, including hybridizing, but far, far more often the end result is either completely non-viable. Sadly, the latter is the case when talking about pheasants and chickens.

Is it a Good Idea for Chickens and Pheasants to Mate?

No, it absolutely is not. Though both pheasants and chickens belong to the same family, Phasianidae, these pairings will very rarely produce viable offspring in the form of a fertilized egg, and even more rarely will that egg even pip.

Even more rarely than that will the chick survive to adulthood. Again, genetic similarity does not mean true genetic compatibility.

I will also note that the end result is not improved or even influenced depending on the pairing of either sex from each species: If a male chicken mates with a female pheasant, or if a male pheasant mates with a female chicken, the end result still has an extremely high chance of failure.

In fact, the only reason that someone would engage in this sort of activity is if they didn’t know better or were acting irresponsibly.

What is the Resulting Chick Called?

There is no special name for a chicken-pheasant hybrid. The birds are called either “pheasants” or “chickens” at turns, though most folks will refer to them as pheasants because they look far more like that species than the average domestic chicken we are used to.

I mean, if you really want to, you could come up with a name for them that you prefer but as you will learn in the following sections, these birds are so rare and so addled by health problems, that they truly don’t have a special name.

Can Chicken-Pheasant Hybrids Reproduce?

Yes, but the likelihood of this occurring is vanishingly rare. That is because the first-generation hybrids resulting from the pairing of a chicken and a pheasant are unlikely to reach maturity, and among those birds that do reach maturity they will still suffer from gravely reduced fertility. This is because the parents of such a bird have different numbers of chromosomes.

To be clear, these hybrids can and will definitely lay eggs, assuming they make it to adulthood, but any bird that mates with them be it chicken or pheasant is very unlikely to fertilize the eggs. Plus, those resulting eggs will be even more plagued with issues than those of a first-generation pairing.

a chicken eating corn husks
a chicken eating corn husks

Hybrid Eggs Almost Never Hatch, and When they Do There are Major Health Issues

So just how unlikely is it for a chicken pheasant hybrid to reach adulthood? As I’ve said several times already it is very, very unlikely. But let’s look at the math and then you can decide for yourself.

For starters, only 3 out of every 100 eggs that are fertilized will even develop properly enough to make it to hatching. That’s it, and even if they do make it that far in the developmental process the outcome is far from certain.

Of those eggs that develop far enough for hatching to even be possible, only 6% of those will be able to pip. And yes, I mean pip only, not completely exit the shell and survive. In short, 100 fertile hybrid eggs will only sometimes successfully hatch even a single chick.

It’s truly harrowing, but absolutely true. I’ll spare you the big lecture on the math because it’s been done and studied before. The bottom line is that out of every 1,000 fertilized eggs produced by the pairing of a pheasant and a chicken, of either sex, only 2 of their offspring will survive and develop into adulthood.

That’s it. Just 2. Every other bird will either fail to develop at all, fail to pip, fail to hatch or fail to survive after leaving the shell.

This is a genuinely dreadful amount of death and malformation, and the chief reason why you should never, ever, by action or omission of action allow a pheasant and chicken to mate.

Chicken-Pheasant Hybrids are Not Remarkable in Any Practical Way

So, it speaks for itself that these hybrid birds are incredibly rare to obtain even under ideal conditions. Frankly, most people who try will still never get a live adult or even juvenile bird. There must be something really remarkable about them then, yes?

Sadly no, or perhaps thankfully no because that would lead more people to try to get them…

These hybrid birds look very much like a pheasant with plainer plumage and their size is somewhere between that of both species. They are totally unremarkable in all regards except for the fact that they tend to be very unhealthy.

Even these precious few hybrid birds that survive to adulthood are likely to be beset by all kinds of health problems and even with the best care, nutrition, and environment they do not live very long.

What birds have been studied show a remarkable vulnerability to all sorts of common poultry diseases and also genetic disease more broadly, including lung and heart problems along with a host of physical deformities.

Do Hybrid Eggs Taste Good or Bad?

The few people who have tried them report that the eggs laid by hybrid hens taste basically like any other chicken egg that you’ve had. So once again, this proves the assertion that there is nothing truly special about these poor, rare birds.

You’re going to get some magical or incredibly delicious or nutritious egg out of them to justify the ceaseless toil and attempts needed to produce one.

Don’t get any ideas!

It’s All an Exercise in Futility

Considering how excruciatingly difficult it is to successfully breed pheasants and chickens together and produce viable offspring, we can safely say that the whole notion is simply a non-starter and very likely unethical if you were to even try.

There is no way to make these birds economically viable for any purpose, even as a ghoulish sort of sideshow attraction. Neither their eggs nor their meat has any particularly good redeeming quality, and these few begotten animals that survive to adulthood will suffer through life besieged by all sorts of diseases and other maladies.

While it is ultimately possible to produce such a hybrid, there is absolutely no reason to do so or even to attempt to do so.

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