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Peafowl are native to India, Burma, Java, Ceylon, Malaya, and Congo.
Peafowl are relatives to pheasants.
The main difference between peafowl and pheasants is in the plumage.
Peafowl are very hardy birds and with proper care, can live forty to
fifty years. The term “peafowl”
refers to the species name. The
male is called the peacock and the female is called the peahen.
Offspring under the age of one year are called peachicks.
Peafowl come in a wide variety of colors including blue, green, white,
light brown, and purple. These
colors and many other colors which were not mentioned have come from selective
breeding done by people all over the world.
The India blue and the green peafowl are the two most common colors of
peafowl found in the wild. India
blue peafowl are by far the most common peafowl in captivity and they are what
most people are familiar with from visits to zoos and parks.
Peafowl normally reach breeding age at two years.
Peahens will sometimes lay fertile eggs as yearlings.
They will lay these eggs late in the summer after they have turned one
year old. The best chance for a
yearling hen to lay eggs is when she is in the same pen as a mature male.
A mature male is a peacock which is at least three years old. A peacock will not have a full tail train until he is three
years old. The tail train will
lengthen and get fuller over the next two to three years.
After the peacock is five or six years old, the tail train will remain
consistent in length and quality for the rest of the bird’s life as long as
the bird remains healthy. The tail
train is very important to the breeding cycle of peafowl. The peacock will molt the tail in late summer and this is
when the breeding season will end. A
two year old peacock that has a one to two foot long tail train will be a better
breeder at this age than a peacock of the same age that doesn’t have a tail
train of any size.
A mature peacock in prime condition can be mated to as many as five
peahens. The egg fertility rate for
each male should be monitored closely to determine how many peahens each male is
capable of mating with successfully. When
selecting peafowl for breeding purposes, unrelated males and females should be
selected. Inbreeding can lead to many problems with both the eggs and the
chicks. No matter what age of
peafowl are purchased or raised for breeding purposes, the birds must be
healthy. A healthy bird will be
active, have good feather quality, straight legs and toes, and clear eyes.
Peahens begin laying eggs in April and will lay eggs every other day
until a clutch of seven to ten eggs is achieved.
The eggs are light brown in color and are similar in size to turkey eggs.
If the eggs are collected from the nest for artificial incubation, a
peahen may lay as many as thirty eggs. Peahens,
which are allowed to roam freely about a farm, will hide their nests in tall
grass, around shrubs, and in brush piles. The
nest is a depression scratched out in the ground and lined with grass. Nests in
such locations are many times destroyed by possums, raccoons, and skunks which
will eat the eggs. Peahens that are
setting on these nests are vulnerable to attack by coyotes, fox, and stray dogs
which will kill the peahen. Peahens
which are kept in flight pens will use old tires, wooden nest boxes, and empty
barrels for nest sites. These
structures should be filled with hay or straw to provide nesting material.
There are several methods of incubating peafowl eggs. The first method is artificial incubation.
We incubate the eggs at 99-100 degrees F and at a wet bulb temperature of
83-85 degrees F. The eggs will
hatch after 27 to 30 days of incubation. The eggs should be candled after 10
days of incubation to check for fertility.
If an egg is not fertile, it should be removed from the incubator so that
it doesn’t spoil and possibly contaminate other eggs in the incubator.
Eggs should be placed in the incubator as soon as possible after they are
laid and no eggs should be held more than 10 days before incubation begins.
This rule also applies to the alternative incubation methods that will be
Natural incubation of peafowl eggs can be done in several ways.
The first is to allow the peahen to set on her own eggs and hatch them
herself. Peahens normally do a good
job of incubation but this method limits the number of eggs that a peahen will
produce for the year. Once she has
set on a clutch of eggs, she won’t lay any more eggs for that season.
Occasionally, if a nest is destroyed during incubation, a peahen will lay
a second clutch of eggs and set on them. A
second method of natural incubation, which allows for maximum egg production, is
the use of broody chickens or ducks. The peafowl eggs are collected as they are laid and then set
as a clutch under a chicken or duck. The
size of the clutch is determined by the size of chicken or duck to be used for
incubation. The eggs are left under
the foster parent until two days before the normal hatch date.
The eggs are removed from the nest and put in a hatcher.
A new clutch of eggs is put under the hen and the process is repeated.
If the eggs are allowed to hatch under the foster hen, the risk of
disease in the chicks is much greater, and many times the hen won’t stay
broody to allow for more eggs to be set under her.
The rule of thumb in brooding peafowl chicks is to start the chicks out
with a brooder temperature of 95 degrees F and decrease this temperature by 5
degrees for every week of age. Brooders
can be made at home or can be bought commercially.
The brooder should provide a consistent heat source so that the chicks
don’t become chilled or overheated. The
heating area should be large enough so that the chicks don’t have to pile on
top of one another to stay warm. The
brooder should have a wire bottom floor so that droppings and wasted feed fall
through. Brooders with feed and
water troughs attached to the outside help keep the chicks healthy because the
chicks can’t get into them and make a mess out of the feed and water.
The last thing that a brooder must have is a lid. Chicks that are only a
few weeks old are surprisingly good flyers.
The chicks are usually left in the hatcher for a day after they hatch.
This gives them plenty of time to completely dry off and to gain enough
strength to stand. The chicks are
then placed in a small wooden brooder using a heat lamp for warmth.
Chicks under a week old should be kept in small groups so that they learn
to eat and drink without having to compete with one another.
Chicks sometimes have to be taught to eat and drink. This can be done by
placing a teacher chick, which is 3 to 4 days older and has learned to eat and
drink, in with the new chicks. Baby
chickens or pheasants can also be used as teacher chicks.
If no teacher chick is available, I place a shiny marble in the feed and
water container for the chicks to pick at.
While picking at the marble, they will learn to eat and drink at the same
time. I also provide the chicks
with finely chopped lettuce or grass clippings along with their starter feed.
The green color of these seems to attract the chicks’ attention and
provides a natural food source for the chicks.
Peafowl are not finicky in what they eat.
They will eat shelled corn, cracked corn, oats, rabbit pellets, dog food,
trout chow, sunflower seed, grass, dandelions, insects, and many other foods.
Since peafowl are members of the pheasant family, their diet should be
structured with this in mind rather than feeding them like a person would feed a
chicken. Breeders are fed a game
bird layer feed during the breeding season.
They are fed a game bird maintenance feed during the months prior to and
after the breeding season. Dry dog
food is mixed with these feeds throughout the year as a source of meat protein
and as a treat for the birds. Shelled
corn is added to the maintenance feed in the winter months as a source of extra
calories for extra body heat. Chicks
are fed a medicated starter feed for the first six months and then are switched
to a game bird grower feed until they are a year old.
After they are a year old, the birds are fed the maintenance feed until
they reach breeding age.
The housing requirements for peafowl are dictated by the age of the
birds. As mentioned earlier, chicks
can be kept in small brooders until they reach the age of two to three months
when they no longer require heat. The
chicks can then be kept in small buildings or a large flight pen until they are
sold or reach breeding age. Breeders
require much more room because of the males’ long tail train. A flight pen for breeders should be at least six feet tall
and ten feet wide so that the male can fully spread his tail.
The length of this flight pen should be determined by the number of birds
to be kept in this pen. For
example, a pen for a trio of breeders should be twenty feet long with a building
or shelter attached to the end. The
flight pen must be covered with wire or netting because peafowl are strong
flyers. The building or shelter
should be six feet tall and be at least eight feet wide and eight feet long.
The roosts should be placed four to five feet off of the ground, and made
so that they can be removed if a hen starts laying eggs while up on the roost. A
flat roost such as a 2” X 4” should be used rather than a round roost.
If a round roost is used, there is a chance that the birds’ toes will
suffer frost bite in extremely cold weather because the toes are exposed while
gripping the roost. A flat roost
allows the bird to sit on it’s feet without having to grip the roost which
prevents frost bite from occurring.
Peafowl are very hardy birds but there are a few preventive steps that
can be taken to insure the health of the birds.
The easiest way to keep adult peafowl healthy is to worm them at least
twice a year. Many of the diseases
that peafowl are susceptible to are carried by internal parasites. There are several wormers available that can be given orally
or mixed in the drinking water. The use of wire bottomed cages and brooders will
help keep the chicks healthy. Feeding
a medicated starter to the chicks will help prevent coccidiosis.
The starter feed should be kept fresh because these medications lose
their effectiveness over time. Chicks
can also be given medication in their drinking water for various other diseases.
Peafowl are one of the most beautiful birds in the world. The selective breeding of these birds has provided colors which mother nature had never even imagined. Raising peafowl has been a hobby of mine for many years and I continue to learn new things about these birds every day. This article was written as a source of information for people who are interested in raising peafowl or for people who already own peafowl already but enjoy reading about different ideas on how to raise these beautiful birds.
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