Morning brings the sound of bird song into LaDonna and Victor Lickteig's farm home south of Eudora.
The Lickteig's morning call comes from several hundred live birds, including 20 species of exotic pheasants, some of which are on the endangered list, and lots of quail, doves, chickens, geese and ducks.
Added to the birds' euphonious sound is the cacophonic braying of seven miniature donkeys, the humming of two llamas yes, they really hum the barking of cattle dogs and the bovine sounds of 60-plus registered Angus cattle.
There's not a cat in sight. But Mrs. Lickteig said human visitors always are welcome. The could regularly give tours to Scout and church groups, as well as other pheasant breeders and curious people.
Recently, several artists have expressed an interest in using the birds as subjects for their paintings and woodcarvings.
The Lickteig's keep their rare birds to help preserve the breeds, and because one day about 2 years ago, they decided they'd like to have some. They purchase from other breeders and at exotic animal sales.
"All pheasants are from Asia," Mrs. Lickteig explained. "Over there, they're just like us. They're getting rid of the forests, so it's up to us breeders to save the birds."
THE PHEASANTS, for which the couple has government permits, reside mostly in breeding pairs in more than 20 pens built in clusters of four by Mr. Lickteig.
Most of the meticulous pens have hand-lettered signs that tell the birds' names and native habitats and note whether they are endangered.
Most of the male pheasants sport vividly colored feathers in luminous shades of purple, blue and teal. Some are bright crimson and gold far more showy than their Kansas relative, the ring-necked pheasant.
Exotic female pheasants are uniformly much less spectacular than their mates, and all the babies are drab.
Mr. Lickteig said it took babies nearly a year to get all their color.
In the first pen at one end of several rows of pens sat a pair of Impeyan pheasants from China. The male sported irridescent green, blue and brown feathers, and had proved himself quite a show-off, Mrs. Lickteig said.
DOWN THE LINE were some endangered species, including a Brown Eared pheasant, native to the high altitude forests of western China. A sable brown bird, it had narrow strips of short white feathers that swept back along each side of its face, into a swirl.
Blue Eared varieties also exist, Mrs. Lickteig said, noting they have a breeding pair of even rarer White Ears on order that haven't been hatched yet.
A pair of Blue Ears, native to north-central China, lived in the pen next to the Brown Ears. They are slate gray with blue and white tails, bright red skin called wattle around the eyes, and white "ears." The male was dubbed Grumpy because of his breeding-season demeanor.
In another row of pens, several gray peacock pheasant babies lived together. They are true pheasants, Mr. Lickteig said, but the males will fan their tails just like real peacocks do.
Among the rest were Mikados, also on the endangered list and native of China "quite a strutter" and hard to keep alive and a "pet" Blue Ear named Little Bit that can be hand fed.
"VIETNAM DID produce one beautiful thing," Mrs. Lickteig said, showing Silver pheasants native to China, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and southwest Cambodia. The male was white and blue, the female brown.
The Lickteigs' most expensive pheasants are a breeding pair of Siamese Firebacks, named for the fire red back feathers on the male. Natives of southern Indo-China, they sell for about $280 a pair.
The Silvers aren't too popular around here, Mrs. Lickteig said, because if their wattles free, they become impotent. They also have to be 3 years old before they can raise babies.
The couple's most colorful pheasants are endangered Swinehoes from Taiwan, which have brillant green, blue, lavender, black and white feathers; Yellow Goldens, which are a true gold color; Red Goldens, which are bright red and gold and which Mrs. Lickteig called "the real granddaddy of them all," and Dark Throated, which are a mutation of the Red Golden.
OTHER FOWL on the farm include some Malay chickens, native to Malaysia, and lots of Silkies, which are the "working" hens when it comes to hatching pheasant eggs. The epitome of a "super mom," they handled four batches of pheasant eggs this summer, and then started on their own.
There's even a "Granny" Silkie, all feathery white, that nursemaids the baby pheasants after they hatch.
When the eggs are under Silkies rather than in an incubator, Mr. Lickteig said, he and his wife don't have to worry about turning them, about whether the electricity will go out or what the humidity is.
"We've had some (hens) hatch out 100 percent," he said. "In an incubator, if you're getting 60 to 65 percent, you're doing good."
Roaming free around the barn were Canada geese Mick and Mack, running ducks Mork and Mindy, African geese Frick and Frack, and three little mallards.
In an enclosed flight pen complete with wading pool, lived Mandarin ducks from Japan, wood ducks, Rudy Shell ducks from South America and and Ringed Teal ducks from Brazil.
THE TWO resident llamas are Freckles and Bandit, and they keep company with an Angus bull named Quantum that took Reserve Senior Champion at the Midwestern Beef Classic last weekend in Topeka.
Several of the Lickteig's other award-winning cattle are in another pen, and next door to them are six of the miniature donkeys. The jack is penned by himself nearby.
Ranging downward in size from the jack's 35-inch height, the seven donkeys were purchased a couple of months ago as a group from an elderly man. Three have been named so far Ozzie, Jerky and Diggie.
Mr. Lickteig works off the farm, and Mrs. Lickteig handles the daily chores. They take from three to four hours each morning and night, she said, "but I love every minute of it. . . . I worked construction 13 years and I took a lot of guff.
"I don't even like to go to town any more. It's real peaceful out here."
The Lickteig's farm is 3 miles south of Kansas Highway 10 on Douglas County Road 1057.