Let me introduce you to Larry, the peacock. He's a young guy still looking for the “right” peahen. But as you can see, he already has the makings to be a beautiful piece of living lawn art. He belongs to one our local Dgers and has been a continuing source of amazement and enjoyment to all of us reading the thread for some time. And he is the inspiration for this article.
Peacocks are members of the pheasant family. The word peacock actually refers to the male bird, while females are peahens, and the young are peachicks. A group of these together is referred to as a bevy
There are but two naturally occuring peacock species, the Indian peafowl Pavo cristatus from India, often called Blue peafowl and the Green peafowl Pavo muticus which lives farther east in Burma, Thailand, Indo China, Malaya and Java. The latter peafowl has three subspecies: Spicifer in Western Burma, a duller, bluer race; Imperator in Eastern Burma, Thailand and Indo China, much brighter wid greener: and muticus in Java, which is still more brilliant. The last two are usually kept in America at present, and probably mixed, but for practical purposes they are just the same, the differences being noticeable only on close examination. There are many mutations and breeds that have been developed and are commonly available from peacock breeders.
The India Blue Peacock is commonly kept and bred in captivity by people across America and around the world. They are not expensive and thousands of them are bought and sold each year. They are hearty and easy to keep, even in cold districts. The Green species is not bred as often as the India Blue and is therefore more expensive. You can see that the tail of the green peacock is exceptionally beautiful! The Green is more susceptible to cold and needs to receive adequate protection from the cold. Peafowl can be quite sociable and often display their feathers right in front of you in the springtime. Many also live and breed in parks and gardens. The male peacock in the spring not only displays his gorgeous tail feathers, but also utters its famous call which is always a delight to hear!
While the peacock is a wild bird by nature, they have been domesticated in many countries. The raising of these beautiful birds can be both a time consuming and worthy hobby. One of the first things that a new owner of peacocks and peahens will learn is that they can and do become stressed. These grand birds like peace and harmony. They need a lot of room to move around in to be happy. Many zoos have them walking around quite tamely, getting plenty of attention from everyone for their gorgeous colors and attitude.
When many people think of a peacock, the first thing that comes to mind is the beautiful colors of this bird's feathers. Blue, green, gold, and the appearance of what looks like an eye, right in the center of some of the feathers, are the trademarks of this bird. They also have a crest, or crown, on top their head, making them appear even more regal than they already do. The peacocks beak is on average an inch long in a full-grown bird. Reaching heights of over three feet, an adult peacock's ‘train' of tail feathers can be sixty inches in length. A peacock does not come into this full glory of feathers until he is about three years old. For centuries, the peacock's feathers have been used to adorn clothing and people themselves. And Peacock feathers are popularly used in unique crafts and decorations.
Where can you raise peacocks? Just about anywhere, as long as you provide them with adequate shelter from extreme temperatures. Their feet are the one area of concern for those that raise them where the temperatures can be quite cold. Make sure that they do not get wet, then frozen, feet. Make sure that your birds are kept out of the wind, given ample straw or other safe material for their bedding, along with proper food and water, and you will be able to raise them even in a colder climate. Peacocks and peahens also should be provided with sturdy perches. A peacock can have a wingspan of up to six feet, so make sure that this is taken into consideration when building a pen and perches. Peacocks need, and will use, all the stretching room you can offer them.
What do peacocks eat? They can be fed game-bird feed , along with cracked corn. Wheat can also be added to their diet. Peacocks will also eat just about anything they can get their beaks into, so be sure that garbage and debris such as paper is not left in their reach. Larry did in fact eat the screen off the patio door. They have been known to eat the cat's food and the dog's food also, and while it doesn't do them any harm, it is not recommend it. If you are able to give them access to your yard at times in the summer, they will also eat grubs and green grass and love you for it in return! Watch your flowers though, as they will mow down a whole garden full in a very short time. Peacocks seem to be drawn to light colors also, especially white, so keep this in mind if you give them access to your yard or other open area.
Hatching new chicks can be done either the natural way, letting the peahen sit on her nest of eggs, or by putting them in an incubator. If you choose the second, the incubation period is 28 days, and you should keep the temperature a steady, (very steady!) 99.5 degrees. A peahen may lay eggs only once a year, or several times a year. I believe this has a lot to do with her stress factor. A happy peahen will lay more eggs, more often, while a stressed peahen may not lay any eggs at all, or just one or two only once. Keep noise and activity to a minimum around your pen if you are trying to have your peahens hatch the eggs too. A peahen will abandon a nest if she feels that too much commotion is going on.
If you choose to raise some of these fascinating birds, you will have some work ahead of you, but you will not regret it!
Credits: Pictures and information about Larry from jeri11, thanks for sharing. Additional information about peafowl provided courtesy of the gamebird.com
About Catherine Smith
Hubby and I have been doing Organic Gardening off and on for over 25 years. Just finishing the Virginia Master Gardening classes at the end of Nov 07. I love talking and teaching gardening to anybody that will listen.