Raising peafowl may seem “too exotic” and impossible, but it’s a fantastic hobby with many rewarding results.
What are peafowl?
“Peafowl” is the generic term for peacocks (the male of the species) and peahens (the female). Peachicks are the offspring.
Most peafowl are not what you would consider tame. They tend to be fairly wild in temperament and are more difficult to keep than chickens. Peafowl come in a vast variety of colors from White to Emerald. The easiest coloration to find is India Blue. Peafowl can live up to 40 years in captivity (zoos, breeding facilities, etc.), but only about 20 years in the wild.
Facts About Peacocks:
Peafowl are like any other bird: They require shelter and room to run. If you plan on keeping peacocks , you will need to allow extra room in their housing and run for their ever growing tail which can reach up to 5’ long. Ideally, the housing for the peafowl will be tall with a tall roost to accommodate tail length. Do not use metal roosts in your peafowl’s housing. Using metal roosts can result in severe frostbite and toe loss in the winter. Wooden roosts are the best choice. You can use an untreated 2×4 with the short side of the board facing up.
You should also be aware that some peafowl are more cold sensitive than others. Many Java Green owners, for example, will use heat lamps in the winter.
When building the run, you must consider two things – peafowl like to run and peafowl love to fly. Your run must be completely enclosed and a top net is absolutely required. After a few months, you may choose to let your peafowl wander your property, but it’s not guaranteed they will always return home.
Clipping a wing — or both wings — is not enough to keep a peafowl within a 5’ fenced area. Peafowl have excellent flight abilities and can easily fly up and over treetops. While that it is truly majestic sight, you’re also watching your time, money, efforts, and love fly away.
The run should be built in a dry area, ideally. If you know a spot on your property where the rain drains away from well, build there! Muddy and wet conditions can cause tail feathers to break and result in illness. For some extra fun and exercise for your peafowl put roosts of various heights throughout your run.
Food and Water
As with all animals, water is vital to survival. Peafowl need access to clean water daily. You may use tubs, water troughs, or other containers for water. For young peafowl, use shallow water containers to prevent drowning. I would not recommend chicken waterers for adult peafowl due to their size as they may have trouble getting enough water.
Peafowl require more protein than chickens and should be fed accordingly. Game bird or pheasant feed is more appropriate than chicken feed. You can also mix in a bit of dog food into a peafowl’s main food source or use dog food as a treat for extra protein. You can also treat them with any vegetables/scraps that are appropriate for a chicken. Watermelon is a favorite among my flock.
Breeding and Incubation
Peafowl mature sexually between 2 and 3 years old.
They do not breed all year like chickens. Instead they have a breeding season that starts in April through May which continues to about September.
A peahen can lay up to 20-30 eggs a season if eggs are collected and artificially incubated. If eggs are not collected, a peahen will lay a clutch (5-7 eggs) and incubate them herself.
It takes 28 days to hatch peafowl eggs at 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. You can check eggs for fertility after 1.5 weeks of incubation. On the 25th day, or when you first notice any eggs pipping, you can stop turning the eggs and wait for the peachicks to begin hatching. (you should use best egg incubators)
Caring for Peachicks
Caring for peachicks is similar to caring for chicks.
Peachicks need to be kept in a brooder until they feather out or until the brooder temperature meets the outdoor temperature.
Each week that a peachick is in the brooder you should lower the brooder temperature by 5 degrees.
This will ease the peachick into lower temperatures with the least amount of stress possible.
Peachicks should have access to clean water — chick waterers can be used at this point — and feed.
Game Bird Starter is the recommended type of feed for peachicks.
When moving a peachick out of the brooder, you will need a covered run and shelter.
It is not advisable to mix peachicks with your mature peafowl.
Your peachick is likely to get picked on.
Sexing your peachick is nearly impossible for the first year.
You can get DNA sexing for $30 – $50 online. Otherwise, you need to wait — sometimes more than a year — to have an idea of the peafowl’s gender through its tail length.
Dr. Jan Pol, of Nat Geo WILD’s “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” is rapidly becoming America’s favorite veterinarian.Dr. Pol, originally from the Netherlands, spent his youth on the family dairy farm before becoming a vet specializing in large animals.
His more than 40 years of farm and animal experience means he has a lot of helpful information for new and experienced farmers, big and small.
We recently had a chance to interview Dr. Pol and get some answers to some of the more common questions homesteaders might have.
What is the number one mistake you see new farmers make?
The number one mistake new Farmers make is that many times they over extend financially. They need to start small and then grow.
What is the easiest way to ensure the health of your animals?
The easiest way to ensure the health of your animals is to keep a closed herd. Do not buy and sell animals frequently. If so – vaccinate with a good vaccine.
What kind of animals do you have?
We have horses, dogs, cats, chickens, peacocks, ducks, chickens, and doves.
How important is cleanliness on a farm?
Cleanliness on a farm is very important. When you sell a product, it is very important that it comes from a clean environment.
Is there a difference in the health of animals on larger farms and smaller homesteads?
I don’t see much difference in the health of animals between large or small farms.
What are some health problems in livestock that homesteaders and farmers shouldn’t see a vet for?
The health problems in livestock that homesteaders and farmers shouldn’t see a vet for depends on the owner and how much he can diagnose and treat for himself.
What do you think has contributed to your success as a vet?
I think that three things have contributed to my success as a vet: hard work, being available 24/7, and being honest.
Many of your family members are farmers. What made you decide to be a vet and not a full-time farmer?
As the youngest of six children, there was not a chance that I could get on a farm in The Netherlands. Therefore, I decided to become a large animal veterinarian. In order to practice, it was easier to practice in another country.
Large animal vets are declining in numbers. Why do you think this is?
Many large farms have their own herdsman, so the work for the large animal vet is declining. Also the work is physically harder and the pay lower in most cases than small animal work.
What does your ideal retirement look like?
My ideal retirement would include lots of sun, sand, and sea in many different places.
About Dr. Pol:
Dr. Pol’s veterinary practice began in 1981 out of their home. It has grown in the decades since, and now Dr. Pol employs ten people and has served more than 19,000 clients since opening.
He treats horses, pigs, cows, sheep, alpacas, goats, chickens and the occasional reindeer.
Dr. Pol prides himself on working with family farmers to ensure they remain in business. Known as something of a character among Central Michigan farmers, Dr. Pol works long hours traveling all over with his Dutch accent and signature mustache.
His son, Charles Pol began assisting his father at the age of five. Charles lives part time in Los Angeles, but joins his father to film episodes of the Nat Geo WILD show, The Incredible Dr. Pol. A graduate of the University of Miami, he divides his time between filming the show and working in the entertainment industry.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the August/September issue of From Scratch magazine. Click here to read more articles from that issue as well as see more photos of Dr. Pol in action. Click here to read the latest issue. Click here to Want to subscribe? Fill out the form below. It’s Free!
On a trip to a giant conglomerate craft store the other day I passed though the yarn department and I must say … not too shabby folks … not too shabby at all. I remember a time not so long ago when the yarn department at these types of stores was rather, well, lacking. Think “The One Pounder” in five different primary colors. Everything was a nylon blend of worsted yarn that reminded me of Crayola colored bailing twine. But the yarn department has upped its game. I found myself ogling over some pretty impressive machine spun yarns that looked very hand spun. There were art yarns with plies of fancy feathery blends and mixes with beads and sequins and all sorts of fun additions. This was no Granny Square yarn.
So why spin? Why spin when there are all of these beautiful yarns out there to choose from at half the price, with double coupon days? And my answer to that question lies in an equation. For me, spinning is to yarn as gardening is to dinner.
Have you ever tasted an heirloom tomato? The big, juicy purple ones that make you want to sink your teeth into the flesh like a maniac. They taste like … and I know this is ironic … a tomato! The flavors are complex, sweet, acidic, tart, almost smoky at times. I could talk about heirloom tomatoes like some people talk about wine. (It’s a problem really, sometimes my husband gets jealous.) But a grocery store tomato might as well be that Playschool plastic food that my 4 year old niece plays with. You’ve seen the rubber cheese, convincing, but not appetizing.
Raising fiber goats, and shearing, and spinning for me, is the equivalent of toiling in the garden, pulling weeds and composting. All that work, just to experience that delicious burst of flavor. Sure it’s easier to go to the store and buy a bag of tomato “looking” vegetables, but not nearly as satisfying.
I learned to spin a few years ago, after we adopted our two Angora does Knit and Purl. I loved goats, and was (then) afraid of the whole milking routine. So we decided that we would just keep a few goats as pets. Then I found a breed called Angora that could be sheared like a sheep. At the time, fiber seemed a lot less scary than milking, and with the same reasoning as in keeping chickens, why not raise pets with benefits?
After our first shearing, the fiber was too tempting, too irresistibly beautiful not to do something with it. So I learned to spin. And I fell in love with the whole process.
Spinning, knitting, crocheting and weaving are on an up swing as far as popularity these days. In general, it seems that there is a whole movement toward the old artisan crafts. And that’s a great prospect, as these skills are being lost from one generation to the next. But spinners aren’t exactly common, and spinners who raise their own animals are even rarer. So just as heirloom seeds and heritage breeds are dwindling, so are the traditional skills that our no-so-distant ancestors carried. Spinning, blacksmithing, basket weaving, traditional woodworking — it’s a part of our history. It is skills like these that have brought humanity to where it is today. But tragically, in only a few generations, has all but disappeared as a way of living and become only a scarce hobby.
If you have the interest to start spinning, do it! Learn it, and teach everyone you know! (Or at least those that are interested.) A hand spun yarn tells a story. Somewhere on a farm, an animal turned hay, grain and pasture into fleece. The fleece was sheared and washed and carded and dyed into colors that were selected and dreamed up in the imagination and creative enthusiasm of an artist. Every inch of the twisted plies has been lovingly touched and contemplated by the craftsman who spun the yarn. It has slipped through the fingers of a human who sat before the wheel with the soft clickety clack of the treadle pumping the twining fiber. A hand spun yarn is not just a lifeless medium to turn into a scarf, it is strands and skeins of art and skill.
Story and Photos by Jennifer Sartell
If you want to learn more about the craft of spinning, dying fiber or raising Angora goats, visit Jennifer’s blog at www.ironoakfarm.blogspot.com