Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peafowl 101

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It's breeding season for our peafowl! It is both the most exciting and busiest time of the year for our farm.  With about 60 adult breeding age and around 20 yearlings, when the peacocks start calling and the peahens start laying, things get super-duper busy around here!

Because so many folks are interested in these lovely birds and so little information on their care is available, we often include a short 'Peafowl 101' in our boxes of hatching eggs.  We thought it might be helpful to share some of that information here on our blog too.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask us in comments or you can always email us directly.  

Without further delay, a little primer on peafowl...

Peafowl come in two basic varieties, the most commonly known India Blue variety and lesser known  Java Green variety.   These varieties can inter mate and the result is called spalding peafowl.  The Blue variety will be described here.

Peafowl colors and patterns

Every Peafowl has a color and a pattern, they can also express multiple patterns.  The UPA (United Peafowl Association) recognizes or has pending recognition of Purple, Cameo, Charcoal, Bronze, Jade, Opal, India Blue, Peach, White, Midnight, Taupe and Sonya’s Violeta.  Patterns include the barred pattern (wild), black shoulder, pied, silver pied, and white eyed.  The males are colorful and comparably the females are more muted and less colorful.
(Barred) India Blue Male
Barred: The basic color of the India Blue is as it says, “Blue”, with a wild wing barring pattern.  Other colors have mutated from the blue variety.  


India Blue Black Shoulder peacock
Black Shoulder:  The natural iridescent color of the peafowl will generally be expressed throughout the wing, showing an absence of barring.  There is variation in wing color and expression within each color, but the barring will not be evident.  It may take up to two years for the color in the wing to become fully evident in these birds.
Pied India Blue Male
Pied:  This is a mix of white and color within the bird and the pattern will express itself differently within each bird.  The train of the bird may also be intermixed with white.
Silver Pied India Blue Male
Silver Pied:  Silver Pied is a combination of the genes for white, white eye, and pied.  The silver pied birds will have significantly less color than a pied and tend to be 80%+ white in color.

Opal White Eye
White Eye:  This is a gene which is co dominant and will express itself by turning the “eyes” of the train white to varying degrees (each birds expression is different). *Note all Silver pied birds are white eyed.

With all of these combinations, you can see that many variations can exist within the India Blue variety (a full list can be found here).  No color mutations have been seen to date with the Green Peafowl. 

Some Examples of color/patterns available:
Bronze Black Shoulder Silver Pied
Purple Black Shoulder Pied White Eyed
Opal Pied
Peach Black Shoulder
Taupe Pied
Sonya's Violeta Silver Pied

Feeding


Peafowl have some, but not many special needs for feeding.  Peafowl will need a slightly higher protein feed than chickens.  20% or better protein feed is recommended to be available.  This may be picked up at any Tractor Supply or local feed store.  If feeding less than this % then supplement with dry cat food to boost protein.  The birds will love treats also: wet or dry cat food, bread, mixed grains, and yogurt are some of the things we’ve seen our birds enjoy.  As with all animals, having fresh water available at all times is necessary.

Housing and Weather

Roosting in the snow


Peafowl are very hardy in cold and hot weather.  Peafowl can survive on hot 100 degree or cold 0 degree or worse days given a few key elements.  Peafowl will need a shelter if not free ranged.  This shelter should allow for removal from severe elements such as driving rain, sleet, wind chill, hot sun etc.  This shelter need not be completely enclosed, but should allow for cover from above and from the wind.  The shelter should also contain some sort of roost, a 2x4 or 2x6 will work well.  The birds will shelter themselves on the roost given extreme cold or heat.  If confined in a fenced and covered run, the peafowl will also enjoy an outdoor roost. 
Peahens in the snow

To Pen or Free Range


Free Ranging Peafowl carries some risk.  As with any animal in the wild, they have potential predators.  Generally they are limited, but the friendlier the bird, the more likely it is to not be wary of potential predators.  Predators could include coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and dogs.  These birds have no problem flying, so this really helps as a defense.  Many people free range their birds with no problems, but to do so please follow the steps below.

Confine your birds for the first two months minimum.  Give them food, water, and treats regularly.  This will allow them to get the idea that easy food is available here.  When ready to be set free, allow them out for short periods of time and then re pen them.  Wait to feed them until ready to re-pen, it will make it easier than feeding and then letting them out.  Gradually allow more time out, but re-pen each night.  After a while they will generally come back at night.

With the above steps being followed, sometimes even the most trained peafowl may end up at the neighbors or off in the woods.  Most of the time they come back, but if the neighbor is offering food or the hen is nesting and laying away from the home, it may be some time before their return.  These are the risks, but many people do free range peafowl.

Confinement of peafowl is generally the safest way to keep your pet.  The pen should be 10-12 feet wide minimum (12 ft for a full train male) and at least 15 feet long.  Eight to ten feet high is perfect with flight netting on top.  Do not go lower than 6 ½ feet as this may interfere with a full train in display. 

Breeding

One Year Old Peach Peacock

Peafowl take a minimum of two years to reach breeding age.  During the winter after their first year, male peacocks will begin to develop their first train.  This train will be smaller than subsequent trains in future years.  A peacock is fertile when he has his first eye feathers in his train.  
Yearling Peach peahen


Peahens are very similar, no train, but breeding at two years of age.  Peacocks will be able to mate with up to 6 females.  Peafowl will generally remain fertile until they reach lifespan, which can be up to 20 years of more given ideal conditions.

Egg Laying and Incubation


Peahen Egg

Peafowl are seasonal breeders, with the season (here in the states) lasting from Mid-April through July.  Peahens lay up to 30 eggs (typically though more in the 10-20 egg range) if collected daily and not allowed to sit on a nest.  Eggs take 27-28 days to hatch.  If the peahen is left with her eggs, she will lay her clutch of eggs over several days and then sit on them.  Peahens lay an egg every other day and will often lay their eggs in the evening and frequently at the same time daily.  Most begin to lay in their second year but it is possible (although not likely) for a year old hen to lay.

If you choose to collect eggs you should keep them in a cool place, with temps around 60 degrees.  You should keep eggs on their sides and rotate at least twice a day.  Eggs should be incubated at 99.5 degrees in a forced air incubator.  Eggs should be left on their sides and turned three times a day for the first 24 days.  Humidity should be 60-65% for the first 24 days.  On day 24, raise the humidity to 65-70% and stop turning eggs.  Chicks will begin to pip as early as day 25 and often hatch on day 26-27.  Peachicks can take up to 36 hours to hatch and they will often take several hours to rest after pipping. 
India Blue Peachick

Once hatched, peachicks will need medicated starter with 20% protein, a heat light (same temps as for chicks) and they should be raised on wire mesh.  Peachicks are very susceptible to worms and other disease so it is very important they be kept off ground until at least 3 months old.  Beginning at three months and approx every three-four months thereafter, they should be wormed. 

Worming


Bronze Peacock in the snow
Peafowl are in danger of contracting many different types of parasite worms from the soil.  Some of these will just be a hindrance to their best health, while others may be fatal.  The first worming of your peafowl should be a few months after they are put on the ground, around 6 months.  After that they should be wormed regularly, at minimum in the spring and fall but for most effectiveness every 2-3 months.  Worming should be done using fendbendazole, (i.e-Safegaurd Goat Dewormer).  Use 3cc per gallon for 5 days.  Repeat two weeks after last application to kill any hatched parasite eggs.  

Additional Links


We are, of course, happy to answer any peafowl questions you have or chat about the birds that have become our passion.  We are very active members of the United Peafowl Association (UPA) and Jay sits on the board of directors.  We encourage anyone interested in peafowl to join the UPA; for a $30 yearly membership you have access to the members only section of the forum (filled with tons of knowledge and information), you will also receive a subscription to Peafowl Today which is a bi-monthly magazine chocked full of peafowl pictures and articles and your membership also gives you discounts on the yearly convention (2012 convention will be in Cincinnati, Ohio) as well as other peafowl friendly businesses.   Just the magazine subscription alone is worth the cost of membership!  To find out more about the UPA, membership or just peafowl in general visit the UPA at their homepage or on Facebook.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Peafowl information with Peafowl 102--Peafowl Genetics.  Coming soon!

Linking up with Clever Chicks Blog Hop @ The Chicken Chick

7 comments:

  1. Your birds are so beautiful! I hope to have peafowl someday, so I'll definitely refer back to this post when we take the plunge. Great information and gorgeous photos!

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    1. Thank you! Feel free to contact us direct if you do have other questions when you make the pluge. Peafowl are SO much fun. :)

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  2. Fascinating, Jen! Someone just asked me about peafowl at my niece's birthday party today and I didn't know a thing about them. Now I know a thing or two!

    Thanks for linking up at the Clever Chicks Blog hop this week! I hope you will link up again tomorrow!

    Cheers Chica,
    Kathy Mormino
    The Chicken Chick ☺

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    1. Thanks Kathy! What a funny coincidence at your niece's birthday.

      Thanks for the chance to link up, lots of fun. :)

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  3. We're hoping to get a clutch of purple peafowl when we get our new farm settled, and your 'primer' is a big help. Although...those peach ones are so very pretty!

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  4. Found my way over via the Chicken Chick party!! This was a fabulous introduction to peafowl care!! they are beautiful birds and I have been fascinated by them since I was a child. HHL

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