General Care of the Peafowl (Peacock)
General Care of the Peafowl
Peacocks are a common name for peafowl, which are of the family of Phasianidae. There are 3 species of peafowl, which are closely related to pheasants. The Congo (Afropavo congenis) is found mostly in Africa. The Javanese (Pavo muticus) and the Indian (Pavo cristatus) are the more domesticated species. The Javanese, also called the green peafowl, originated in Java and Burma. The Javanese has green, blue and bronze feathers. This species prefers warm weather and is predisposed to frostbite more than the blue species. The calls of the green peafowl can supposedly be a little less obnoxious than the blue species, yet the green species can be more aggressive towards other birds. Males of the green peafowl should be separated if they are kept in confinement. The sharp spurs of the males can be a problem. It should be noted that the spurs of peafowl, or any bird species, cannot be removed surgically to reduce the problem with these “fighting spurs”.
The Indian, also called the blue peafowl, is the most common species we see. The blue peafowl originated in India and Sir Lanka. The blue peafowl can tolerate our colder climates and can live with other species of poultry without fighting. The white, pied and the black winged (also called black shouldered) varieties are color variations of the Indian peafowl.
The peafowl males are up to 4 feet in body length, or 130 centimeters. The smaller females lack a long tail (train). In the males these long tail feathers can be up to 5-6′ in length (150+ centimeters). Females have a brown head ornament (noodle) while the males head ornament color is the same as its tail (blue and green).
Coyotes, foxes and dogs are a main concern for anyone who has free ranging poultry. We recommend that you have a tree where the birds can perch at night to be safe from most predators. If this is not available then a completely covered and closed “hen house” is recommended. Raccoons still can open and destroy the hen houses and the peafowl eggs. These birds required a fairly large area to roam. If you have less than 5 acres then you should consider either keeping the birds totally enclosed, or consider purchasing another species of poultry. By clipping their wings some peafowl can still jump a 6′ fence. With predator problems in our area we do not recommend clipping the wings of any poultry which are allowed free range.
Birds who free range have a tendency to roam, especially peafowl. To keep the birds home at night we recommend that you feed them 1/4 of a cup a food in the morning, and again a larger amount at night. By allowing them to eat what they can in 15-20 minutes twice a day, is usually a minimum amount for adequate food consumption (and keeps them hungry so they will want to return at night). Underfeeding may also cause the birds to look elsewhere for food, such as the neighbors. If their cries cause a neighbor complaint, then consider making a large custom elevated tree house, where the doors will close a night (photocell) and open in the morning. A battery-operated devise is much preferred over household electricity. This can also be done manually and/or by a remote transmitter. We do not recommend 110v heat lamps, etc. where one cannot monitor the units daily. Unfortunately peafowl prefer to be outside, and not inside a house when being compared to chickens. If you are going to attempt to use the night enclosure method, we recommend that you accustom the birds to this exercise from the chick stage, if possible. The birds will need to be fed in this house, which can be accomplished by using an extension pole and cup to drop the food into a fixed bowl before dark. Naturally the birds will want to eat insects and forages in the day, which includes flowers and vegetable.
Any species of birds will fight and/or inter species fighting will occur if you confine them to less than 100+ sq. ft/adult peafowl bird as a pair. We feel a much larger space is required if there is more than one sex of each bird in confinement. An adult male’s body and his train (tail feathers) may be up to 7’ long.
Peafowl should have clean, fresh water available daily. Chicken scratch is not a complete diet, even for chickens. The layer’s diet is probably adequate for the hens in the laying season, but overall we prefer a pheasant diet if at all possible. There are grower turkey diets for the baby peafowl, and adult turkey pellet diets we recommend for the adults if you cannot find a commercial pheasant diet. A commercial chicken diet would be the 3rd type of diet for peafowl. For any species of birds we do not recommend the homemade diets, or a “total diet of insects and whatever they can naturally find”. For their health 1/2 to 2/3 or more of their diet should be a complete, commercial mix. As with any bird the oil seed diets, such as sunflower seeds and peanuts, should be kept to a maximum of 5-10% of their diet.
Breeding season starts in the spring, around April. At the end of the breeding (courtship season), in mid-summer, the birds will drop their tail feathers. One male typically can have a harem of females. The birds are noisier in the mating season. Their identifiable cries after dark can be bothersome to some people or neighbors. Unfortunately we cannot devocalize birds like we can dogs.
Hens prefer to lay eggs on the ground. A clutch of eggs may range from 4-12, with 6 being average. The incubation period lasts approximately 1 month (28 days). Some hens may have 2 sets of eggs in a year. We have baby bird formulas and directions if you have an orphan bird. Baby birds can be started on a starter mix if desired or need be. Expect the chicks to stay with their mother for at least 2 months. A chick may be adult size at 10 months, yet full maturity is around 2 years of age. It may take up to 3 years for a cock to obtain the mature tail plumage.
There are no vaccines routinely used in peafowl. Avian pox is a concern if the disease does affect the flock, especially the young chicks at 2-3 months of age.
Blackhead is a disease of turkeys, peafowl and other gallinaceous. To aid in the prevention of this disease we recommend fecal samples of the peafowl and chickens, if on the same premises. All birds periodically should have a stool examined by a fecal test for parasites.
The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic