Country: Nature Notes

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HEN PHEASANTS nest on the ground, and start in April by scraping out a shallow bowl, which they line with grass or leaves. Often they chose what seems a very exposed site, but instinct seems to tell them that grass, nettles, brambles and so on will rapidly grow up round them, and by the time they begin to incubate their clutch they will be well-concealed.

Each hen lays about a dozen eggs, which are usually khaki-coloured. Sitting motionless in a hedge or at the side of a woodland ride, she is vulnerable to predators. But nature furnishes her with a defence, in that as she incubates, and her metabolism slows, her normally strong scent dwindles to nothing.

When the chicks hatch, their chances of survival depend partly on avoiding enemies such as stoats and partly on the weather. If the days are warm, and produce good insects, chicks grow rapidly; if the weather is persistently wet, many die of hypothermia. If danger threatens, the mother may decoy the marauder away by fluttering off to a safe distance, as if she cannot fly properly.