A day-old peachick. Notice that the flight feathers are already present.
Not long ago, we embarked on the adventure of raising peafowl, having obtained some fertile eggs to put in our incubator. This is the beginning of a project we have dreamed of for some time.
While peafowl - unlike chickens, ducks or geese - might not seem like the obvious choice for a small homestead, raising ornamental poultry of any kind might actually be a wise move from an economic standpoint. Peafowl, pheasants, quail and ornamental chicken breeds such as Silkies can fetch a very handsome price, if you have good breeding stock. And the expense and effort of raising them are not much more than of the usual feathered homestead companions.
Peafowl, however, do need to have enough room to roam and exercise, so that the males can strut and spread their tails - a magnificent sight. Those beautiful feathers can also be collected whenever they are dropped, and used or sold for crafts. And, of course, if you let your birds free range, they will provide pest control on your property by consuming bugs, spiders, grasshoppers, etc.
Now to hatching. Obtain peafowl eggs from a conscientious breeder with good, healthy stock, and be sure to get the freshest eggs possible to maximize hatching rate. Set your incubator to 99-100 F and 60% humidity and, if you don't have an automatic turner, turn manually 4-6 times a day. The peachicks should hatch on day 28 or 29, and you can stop turning the eggs around 3 days before that. You will probably be able to hear cheeping from inside the eggs a day or two before hatching.
Once your peachicks have hatched and dried off a little, transfer them to the brooder - which can be a simple cardboard box with a heating lamp, a dish of water, and a dish of food. Briefly dip each peachick's beak in the water to teach them to drink, and tap your finger in the food tray until they begin pecking - this might take a day or so. I've heard that professional breeders keep their peachicks on game bird starter, but we just give them regular chicken crumble with high-protein supplements such as hard-boiled eggs (which they go crazy for), cheese and sardines. They also get fruit and vegetable scraps for a diverse diet.
Unfortunately, we have experienced some power shortages during the final days of hatching, which left our precious peafowl eggs without heating for hours on end. It is one possible reason why many of our peachicks were hatched with leg problems - both splayed legs and curled toes. We put the toes in a cast of cello-tape, and stabilized the legs with the help of soft wool thread, and the chicks were completely fine in a couple of days.
Our hand-raised peachicks are very friendly, and love to be handled, snuggle up to us, and sit on our shoulder. I find them to be less independent than chickens of the same age, which might have to do with how long young peafowl stay with their mothers in nature - up to one year.
Peachicks are hatched with flight feathers and start flying pretty soon, so you will want to cover your brooder with a net to make sure they don't fly out. Once they grow and you move them outside, provide them with a tall roost, the taller the better. In nature, peafowl like to roost in trees, but I wouldn't let my birds sleep outside on account of predators.
Raising and breeding peafowl is a long-term venture - while chickens may start laying and setting at 6 months, peafowl take a lot longer, and it may take them two years to reach reproductive maturity. The male's train of feathers does not reach its full growth until three years of age.
Two more things to take into account: peafowl are loud, especially males during breeding season, so if you have near neighbors you might want to consider them as well; and they poop a lot, considerably more so than chickens, which makes cleaning up after them somewhat labor-intensive.
There are several breeds of peafowl, the most common, as well as, in my opinion, the most striking, being the Indian Blue. Our young peafowl belong to this breed, and I am looking forward to seeing the deep blue of the males' chests, and the iridescent green of their tails, once they grow up.
Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.
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