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Getting the Right Start

Craig Hopkins

One of the most common questions that I answer in the spring is how to brood peachicks and how to get them to eat and drink once they have hatched out.  This question normally comes from people who have hatched their peafowl eggs in an incubator or removed the eggs from a broody hen or goose and allowed them to hatch out in a hatcher.  If a peahen hatches out her own eggs or a broody hen is allowed to raise the chicks, the mother will brood the chicks and teach them how to eat and drink.


The chicks are 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.  I use a red colored, 250 W, heat lamp bulb so that the light levels in the brooder are kept low so that the chicks wonít pick on each other.  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 shallow feed dish and the 1 quart 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 have also used finely chopped lettuce or grass clippings along with their starter feed to encourage the chicks to eat.  The green color of these seems to attract the chicksí attention and provides a natural food source for the chicks.  Make sure to use a shallow water container so that chicks donít drown.  We use a 20% medicated, chicken starter crumble for the first 4 months of a chickís life.  At 4 months of age, the chicks are switched to a medicated chicken grower pellet of 18% protein.


            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 donít become chilled or overheated.  The heating area should be large enough so that the chicks donít 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.  For the very young chicks, I cover the wire with an indoor/outdoor mat so that starter feed crumbles can be scattered about for the chicks to pick at.  Brooders with feed and water troughs attached to the outside help keep the chicks healthy because the chicks canít 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.


Chicks are left in the brooder units for 5 to 6 weeks depending on the time of the year.  Chicks that are hatched in the spring or late summer have to been in the brooders longer than chicks hatched out in the summer months since the nights are colder.  Chicks are moved to unheated, grower units at 5 to 6 weeks of age.  Chicks are moved on days that the weather forecast is for warm nights so that they can adjust to nights without a heat source.  Since we use brooders with adjustable thermostats, the chicks are accustomed to reduced brooding temperatures as their ages increase.  On hot summer days, the heat source is turned off during the daytime hours for the chicks that are over a month old.  All of our brooders and grower units are kept inside a pole barn, safe from the elements and predators.


            Chicks are kept in the grower units until they are about 3 months of age.  After the grower units, the chicks are kept in small utility buildings and then on to grow out flight pens.  The methods described above have worked well for us for almost 30 years and can also be used for raising pheasant chicks, baby ducks and geese, swan cygnets, and etc.


            I hope that you have found this article informative and helpful.  Please visit our web site to find more peafowl related articles and photos.  We raise many more birds and animals on our farm and information on each can be found on the web site as well.  Thank you and best of luck with your peafowl.

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