The peacock is the prima donna of domestic birds with its sparkling fan of coloured feathers. Strutting around the yard, it demands attention, sparkling in the sun with its iridescent feathers.
“It’s like having a walking flower garden,” said Bill Benner, a Massachusetts peafowl breeder whose bird experience extends back to the late ’60s.
India’s blue peafowl, which come from India, are the majority of peafowl bred in the US. This peafowl species is highly tolerant, making it ideal even for the northernmost reaches of the world.
The traditional Indian blue peafowl has a long, vivid blue head and neck with an elaborate green, gold and blue tail. Over the years, however, the breed has been selectively bred to develop a number of other colours, including an all-white variety, a variety of brown and tan, multiple varieties of pied and a variety of black-shouldered. All of these are merely variations of the same species.
“I think there are now around 200 different colour variations somewhere,” Benner said. “People have come up with many more mutations in the last 30 years.”
Furthermore, in the US, an entirely different peafowl species called the green peafowl is also raised, although it is not as common. Originating from Southeast Asia, these species are not as cold-tolerant, so they need heated shelters in northern states.
The beauty of birds, Benner said, is one of the primary reasons people in the United States collect them. Yet some farmers have discovered that peafowl can fill a few other positions on their property, for which “peacock” is the term for male and “peahen” is the term for female.
Blue peacock in India at 4Ds Farm in Maine. | Photo taken by Scott DeMoranville
“Scott DeMoranville, who raises peafowl and a variety of poultry on his farm, 4Ds Farm, in Bradford, Maine, said, “The peafowl are enormous watch dogs. “Without the peafowl knowing it, nothing can move in that yard at night and when they get alarmed, they scream.”
Moreover, a number of insects, as well as snakes, amphibians and rodents, are eaten by peafowl. So certain individuals use them to help keep populations of pests under control. However, herbs, vegetables and other things on your land that you might not be so happy about will also be eaten by peacocks.
There are a few things you should remember before investing in your first Peachicks.
Can you eat meat or eggs of peafowl?
Peafowl eggs are much too expensive to be routinely sold as food, though they are edible and nutritious. Usually, one peafowl egg costs between $25 and $100 in the US. Therefore, peaches only lay an average of 20 eggs a year. And peafowl meat is not in high demand in the US, although it is widely eaten in several Asian countries, and is also very costly.
“Out there, there are recipes,” Benner said. “But you know, they are so stunning. Instead, just eat a turkey… They’re valued more like a pet for most of us.
Requirements of Peacock housing
Make sure local zoning codes permit the bird before buying peafowl. Just because chickens and other poultry in your neighbourhood may be allowed does not imply that peafowl are. Sometimes, because of its propensity to pose a disturbance to neighbours by roaming, causing noisy noises and destroying property, this bird is treated separately by lawmakers.
“If you can see and walk to the house of your neighbour, the peacocks will walk to the house of your neighbour,” said Dennis Fett of Iowa, who created the Peacock Information Center with his wife at Peafowl.com. They will eat their vegetable garden and their flowers. They’re going to get up and scratch their cars.
Peafowl are mostly kept within large enclosures for this purpose. Fett proposes a wire enclosure with a closed-in top measuring 12 feet wide by 16 feet long by 8 feet tall. Peafowl are professional flyers and, if given the chance, can flee. During the mating season, they often need space to fan out their plumage, which can reach over 6 feet tall.
Peafowl need to be equipped with roosting sites, and these perches should be 4.5 to 5 feet off the ground so that the ground is not touched by their long tails, Fett said. This will discourage mice at night from gnawing on the feathers of the birds. Roosts help peacocks weather the cold as well.
“This is how a bird protects its feet from frostbite,” DeMoranville said. “What they do is sit on the roost and settle down over them with their plumage and keep their feet from being exposed.”
In addition, a shelter should be given for peafowl in cold climates, such as a large coop, a shed or a barn that they can escape into when it is extremely cold outside. And this shelter should have available perches for them to sleep on as well, DeMoranville said.
He said, “When the wind howls and it gets frigid, that’s when you see them going inside and roosting inside.” “But they amaze me most of the time because they’ll sit on a roost outside with three inches of snow on their backs instead of going into their homes.”
Some individuals prefer to allow their peafowl, free from an enclosure, to roam their land. Fett recommends that you keep your peafowl in an enclosure for at least a year if you intend to do this, so that they understand where to return for food and shelter. And you may still find that your peafowl are wandering away from your farm.
Last summer, our oldest couple, 12 or 13 [years old], let them out for the first time in the free range,” said DeMoranville.” We figured getting out and stretching their legs would be neat for them. And they flew over the treetops as soon as we let them out, and we thought, ‘Oh boy.”
The male of the pair came back soon, but the female was gone for three days before the bird was found by her neighbours.
Some special treatment is required for peafowl
The susceptibility of birds to parasites, especially parasites carried by chickens and wild birds, is another reason for keeping peafowl penned in. It may cause them to develop diseases, such as the sometimes fatal Blackhead disease, often transmitted to peafowl by chickens, by allowing them to wander close to other animals.
DeMoranville, who likes to keep his peafowl apart from the other poultry on his property, said, “A lot of people keep them together and they do fine.” “It’s just an important thing you need to remember, and periodically your peafowl needs to be wormed like you would a dog or cat or the parasites will basically overcome them.”
DeMoranville feeds its high-protein peacocks poultry feed for food and supplements it with game bird feed, black oil seeds of sunflower and occasionally biotin and other additives. They are fed grass and dandelion greens during the warmer months, and occasionally feed them kale or spinach during the winter months. Yet peacocks are not picky, and they can eat a wide range of food, just like chickens.
Tendencies and popularity of peafowl
When he was about 10 years old, back in the late 1970s, DeMoranville was given his first pair of peacocks by his father. His family lived near Cape Cod, and peacocks were relatively rare in that region at the time.
“DeMoranville said, “Not many people had them, and I thought the colour was striking.
Over the years, the popularity of peafowl has increased across the world. They were especially sought after to adorn their gardens and lawns by the wealthy.
In 1980, Fett and his partner, Debra Buck, bought their first peafowl and soon established themselves as bird experts, self-publishing two peacock care books in the 80s and launching www.peafowl.com in the mid-90s. They’ve raised and sold thousands of these intricate birds on their farm in Iowa.
“Until the late 1990s, they were really popular, and then they died off,” Fett said. “In the last two years, it’s been a little better… People get them just because they want something different.”
Fett created a Youtube channel devoted to peacocks in 2008 to continue to spread excitement and knowledge about peacocks, and has since released about 400 videos featuring his birds.
Though peafowl can be a lovely addition to a farm or homestead, they are not for everyone. One thing that peacocks do that can be extremely irritating to individuals is screech in the spring during the mating season.
Benner said, “The screeching is quite loud and you can hear it for miles.” And there are a lot of things going to set it off, so they’re trying to drown out the guys next to them. So if they hear a noise at 2 in the morning, they think they might be another male, like a car beeping, they’ll start screeching.
Also, the fact that it takes three years for a peacock to completely grow its intricate tail feathers and become sexually mature can also deter first-time peafowl owners, although peahens seldom lay eggs in their first year. In addition, in the summer after breeding season, peacocks lose their beautiful tails, then the long tail feathers gradually grow back over the course of about six months, so that they have full plumage by mid-winter.
Fett said, “People get impatient and want results.”
It may be a resident on your property for quite some time for those who are patient and grow a love for the bird. Peafowl, if given the right treatment, will live to be over 20 years old. And if you want to grow them, there are a few things that are cuter than a little peach.