Welcome

Life With Peacocks 

 

Why I got them

I originally got a few peacocks to desensitize the horses to birds.  I got the idea from visiting another horse farm. It made a lot of sense. Here's this sort of little bird that can turn into a BIG bird. That should scare a horse! It's like opening an umbrella. They fly over top of the horses, walk in their pastures and can be really loud. What a great idea to introduce horses who are prey animals to these birds in an environment where they are comfortable. That way when you are on the trail and a turkey or grouse flies up, the horse may only startle instead of doing a full out spook scraping you off on trees or running through a barbed wire fence.


The first peacocks

I started with three. They were supposed to be two females and a male but it turned out to be two males and a female. They are kind of hard to sex when they are young. They were about three months old. I got them in the fall and kept them in the barn all winter so they got used to where their food came from.


At first when I got them, the horses smelled them immediately and absolutely would not come in the barn even though the peacocks were locked in a stall.  It took a little coaxing, but they finally got used to them being around.  I didn't really know what the peacocks would eat, so I tried game food for pheasants. They didn't like that. Turns out they live very well on cat food in the winter.  Also wild bird food such as sunflower seeds, corn and coarser feeds.  I have pet parrots and the peacocks love the food the parrots waste. They especially like the fruit flavored bird food. They like the colors too.  Mine pick out the red and orange ones first and leave the green ones for last.


When it warmed up the following spring, it was time to turn them loose and hope they would stay around. When I let them go, the disappeared for about two weeks.  "That was a grand experiment," I thought.  Well, they showed up again and have been here every since.


What I've learned about them and their care

Over the years, I've learned to know them and what I think makes them happy. They are VERY hardy and seem to easily tolerate our winter temperatures of 10 degrees below zero at night and our hot, humid weather over 100 degrees sometimes in the summer.  In the winter, they stay in the barn of their own choosing and mostly eat cat food or bird food.  In the summer, they go out during the day and forage for bugs and grasses.


The males do wander away and as the saying goes, come home to roost at night. I have only lost one 1 year old male who wandered off and perhaps met a coyote before he found a new territory. They seem to either not care or want to defy cars.  Mine have never been hit, and I'm fortunate that our buildings are far enough off the road that they tend to stay near them or go into the woods. 


As they have gotten older, they seem to stay closer to home which makes me feel better. They seem to be happiest when they are free and that has it's risks. However, keeping them caged has its risks too if a predator gets in their area. Basically I've found that the less I interfere, the better they do. However, they have to go through a learning process and can make fatal mistakes just as my young male did. When I got my three, they were just a few months old and did not have the benefit of their mom showing them the ropes. My opinion now is that if the chicks can stay with their mom for a year, she will teach them to be good survivors and the hen and chicks will separate naturally when she has a new nest to tend to.


It takes about two years until they become fully mature. They can live to about 15 years. With my first peacocks, the hen had an egg and hatched a chick when she was three and the chick died. The second year she had a few eggs, two hatched and one died. That was a female that I kept. Each year the hens get better at the whole motherhood process. They have more eggs, more that hatch and more that survive. The hens seem to pick the same general nesting area. The chicks can't fly. At my place I have a wooden chute outside that is about eight feet wide. This is the roost of choice for both hens now. They bring their chicks to the chute when it's getting dark, fly to the top and cluck to their chicks to encourage them to fly up. They chicks may only be able to fly to the bottom board, but are then able to criss-cross the chute until they are at the top with their mom. Pretty smart for a pea brain, huh!


The males get their full plumage at three also. They too seem to stake out the same territory year after year. I thought with two males there would be fights. Mine spar and play but there is no serious fighting.They have spurs on their legs for fighting and that's what they would use to hurt their opponent. Courting and breeding is in the spring. About June or so, the hens disappear the are sitting on their nest most of a month. Once the deed is done and the mission accomplished, the males lose their pretty feathers in July or August supplying me with a multitude of beautiful feathers of all lengths, plus the sword feathers.


Courting

The courting process is fun to watch and provides great entertainment for visitors. Interestingly, it does not appear to be the pretty feathers that are of interest to the female but rather the fuzzy butt feathers. He always sticks his back side to her and she seems to kind of walk around him to be able to see his back side. Much like the human world, the male shows off overtly trying to get the female's attention while she pretends to ingore him. She seems to be just tending to her business and doing practical things like grazing for bugs or grooming herself, but every once in a while she discreetly casts an eye in his direction. However when he makes his move, he moves in facing her. Maybe all the eyes on the feathers are to ward off opponents and hypnotize her.


Each male stakes out his territory sort of like a carnie at the fair. "Step right up ladies . . ." During the breeding season, when one starts calling, they all start calling. It can get pretty loud for a couple months. Any noise can set them off. I am not able to tell the birds apart by how they look.  I know them by their behavior and territory.


My most dominant male, Aries has the barn. Tango is allowed to stay in the barn in winter but moves out and stakes out the house around March. A younger male, Cisco has now claimed the front of the house and Tango has the back of the house. The hens move from territory to territory, visiting all the males like they are going shopping. Once the female enters "the zone" the male in that area begins his display. No point showing off if there's no girl involved, right? I'm pretty sure the hens eventually breed with the same male every year but check the other ones out anyway. Cisco being the youngest probably does not have a mate and seems to lose his feathers first. Aries being the most dominant and probably most successful breeder loses his feathers last.


It's all about the chicks

For the hens, their whole life is to have chicks.  If they lose their eggs or chicks they will have more.  The hens are happy as long as they are mothering at least one chick.  I'm understanding from my veterinarian that we seem to be more successful than most at having healthy chicks that live. 


Having tried alternative ways to keep the population down, it seems our hens are getting very successful at being moms.  Therefore I need to get better at finding homes for our young, strong yearling chicks.  


The courting process is fun to watch and provides great entertainment for visitors. Interestingly, it does not appear to be the pretty feathers that are of interest to the female but rather the fuzzy butt feathers. He always sticks his back side to her and she seems to kind of walk around him to be able to see his back side. Much like the human world, the male shows off overtly trying to get the female's attention while she pretends to ingore him. She seems to be just tending to her business and doing practical things like grazing for bugs or grooming herself, but every once in a while she discreetly casts an eye in his direction. However when he makes his move, he moves in facing her. Maybe all the eyes on the feathers are to ward off opponents and hypnotize her.


Each male stakes out his territory sort of like a carnie at the fair. "Step right up ladies . . ." During the breeding season, when one starts calling, they all start calling. It can get pretty loud for a couple months. Any noise can set them off. I am not able to tell the birds apart by how they look.  I know them by their behavior and territory.


My most dominant male, Aries has the barn. Tango is allowed to stay in the barn in winter but moves out and stakes out the house around March. A younger male, Cisco has now claimed the front of the house and Tango has the back of the house. The hens move from territory to territory, visiting all the males like they are going shopping. Once the female enters "the zone" the male in that area begins his display. No point showing off if there's no girl involved, right? I'm pretty sure the hens eventually breed with the same male every year but check the other ones out anyway. Cisco being the youngest probably does not have a mate and seems to lose his feathers first. Aries being the most dominant and probably most successful breeder loses his feathers last.


For the hens, their whole life is to have chicks.  If they lose their eggs or chicks they will have more.  The hens are happy as long as they are mothering at least one chick.  I'm understanding from my veterinarian that we seem to be more successful than most at having healthy chicks that live.