Saturday, May 26, 2012

Peacocks in the trees

What more elegant bird could grace your estate than a peacock? This bird, the national bird of India, has been a favorite of English country gentry, its haunting call the harbinger of mystery. Peafowl, encompassing males (peacocks), females (peahens) and chicks (peachicks), are now bred in a wide variety of colors, from the traditional blue peacock to peach and white. A bird for any color scheme, although unusual colors are much more expensive. If you’re starting out, a pair or trio of the traditional blue color is easier to get hold of and you aren’t as deeply committed financially.
Peafowl take to a wild lifestyle easily, becoming feral and deciding where to live on their own. If you want to avoid having to collect them form the neighbors, keep them caged for several months and then train them to stay close to your property by keeping one or more in the enclosure while the others are out. 

Their haunting screech echoes across the lawn in English suspense dramas. They heighten the sense of the strange and unexpected. 

Peafowl are actually the largest of the pheasant family, at 7 ½ lbs. for females and 11 lbs. for males, which can get as big as 15 lbs. The tails for which they are admired extend longer than six feet. Adult birds have a wingspan of four feet. Flight pens need to accommodate the reach of wings and tail, at least six feet tall and ten feet wide, long enough to provide sufficient area for the number of birds confined. Plan on at least 80 square feet per bird. Two hundred per male and 100 per hen is preferable. In cold climates, they will need a protective shelter and may need heat during the winter.

This map, from National Geographic,  shows the natural range of peafowl in the wild. The blue peacock is the most familiar, inhabiting India and Sri Lanka. It's the national bird of India. Green peafowl live in Java and Myanmar and rare Congo peafowl in Africa, but they are not suitable for private ownership.

Birds generally get along well with each other. Overall, the various species of poultry and fowl live compatibly on many farms. General principles of cleanliness and good maintenance are the best defense against disease.

Hatcheries such as  Purely Poultry in Fremont, Wisconsin and Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, Missouri sell peachicks in a variety of colors. Chcek with independent breeders as well, such as Bow's Peafowl Farm in Texas.

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