Peacocks, peahens, a look at this member of the pheasant family and tips on hatching peachicks, raising them, diet, and how stress affects them
Peacocks (Pavo cristatus) 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. 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. Surprisingly, these birds can be found in zoos across the country, wandering about freely at several of them. While these birds seem to have a low stress level when contained on a farm, they seem to deal better with stress if they have more room, as they do when they are able to wander about at these zoos. Keeping this in mind, if you choose to raise peacocks and peahens, give them as much room as you possibly can.
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. Even today, the image of the peacock is considered so striking, that is used to represent major companies. One of the major television networks even uses the peacock as its trademark. The image of the feathers can also be found adorning everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs, while the actual feathers are commonly found in floral designs, jewelry and other wearable art, such as hats. One of the easiest ways to display the eye feathers in jewelry, is to simply attach an eye feather with a drop of white glue into a bead, pony size, and attach this to a satin or fabric cord, making a very "˜eye' catching necklace.
Where can you raise peacocks? Just about anywhere, as long as you provide them with adequate shelter from extreme temperatures. We live in the north woods of Wisconsin where snow and cold temperatures dipping well below zero are common facts of our winters. While I would not say that the peacocks enjoy the snow, they have done very well all the years we have had them. 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? We feed game-bird feed from our local feed mill, 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. They have been known to eat the cat's food and the dog's food also, and while it did not do them any harm, I would 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. We had a piece of white Styrofoam insulation board, leaning along side of the barn, and they actually made a beeline right for it. We moved it out of their reach, but I am certain they would have eaten as much of it as they could if we had let them.
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. Also, keep in mind that a nest of eggs will be a draw for animals such as raccoons and weasels. One raccoon can destroy a peahen's nest of eggs in a very short time. If you choose to raise some of these fascinating birds, you will have some work ahead of you, but you will not regret it!