What is a peafowl? Isn't that a peacock?
Great questions! A male is called a peacock, whereas a female is called a peahen. Collectively then, they are called peafowl. Can you guess what a baby one is called? You guessed it! A peachick!
Peafowl are members of the Phasianide family, basically just a big pretty pheasant. There are two species, but the most common are the ones found from the Asiatic decent. Originating in India and Pakistan, they were brought to Europe and then to the Americas. They can adapt to hot or cold climates fairly easily. Since being bred in captivity, the now come in a wide range of colors; A peafowl farm in Missouri has 150 varieties.
Here on our homestead, we have actually down-sized from the amount of peafowl we have had in the past, focusing on the Pied and Silver Pied.
Everyone has seen the common India Blue Peacocks; an India Blue pied or Pied, is a blue with 30%-40% white on it. A Silver Pied is basically a white bird with with only 10%-20% blue on it.
After years of breeding the India Blue Pied, we have added two white peahens for the 2017 breeding season hoping for Silver Pieds. Although Peafowl do not do statistics or use a punnett square; when breeding two pieds together, they have the possible outcomes of having 50% of their offspring also being pied, 25% expressing the India Blue color and 25% expressing the pure white color.
They are seasonal layers, laying in the spring, early summer months. The peacocks will display their train trying persuade the peahens to mate with him. This train is shed annually and regrown to begin the following breeding season
Somethings to note that is often over looked when purchasing peafowl for the first time. rule of thumb is minimum 100 sq ft per adult bird if contained in a fly pen. They are considered a game bird, so require a high protein diet of at least 24% protein feed. They take two years to reach sexual maturity; a yearling hen might lay an egg, but rarely is it ever going to be fertile. A male will start to grow his train feathers at a year but will be very small and not touch the ground, by two years they start to develop and can fan them. It won't be until they are three years old before a well developed train will emerge. They can free range and are very excellent fliers. To train them where "home" is, they need to be contained in a large run for several months before releasing. During the breeding season, adult males will fight and to the death if housed together. I have found a single male with 3-4 females gives the optimum fertility rate of eggs laid.
Only a week old or so, a hatch from a Pied pen is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get (color-wise) until it hatches. We have the whole gambit in here, with Pieds, Whites, and India Blues.
We use a Brinsea 190 to incubate our eggs for 28 days. We date them with a pencil and code for the breeding pen they came from. We do staggered hatches so dates are important.
The method that we found gave us the best results, is lay the egg on the side, with "pointy end" slightly lower than the large end. The digital controls are set for 99.8 degrees F with a humidity set at 57%.
We have had "Taj", our India blue Pied Peacock, since 2010 ad he was estimated to be 6 years old at that time. They have a long life expectancy of 20 plus years and sometimes up to 30 years if the conditions are right.
Two chicks just hatched! It is amazing to how formed they are compared to other species of poultry. They can fly from a brooder in just a couple of days if startled, so a top is key. At this age, the peachick can imprint on a person and become rather tame.
Peanhens are excellent broodies and mothers. When left to nest in with the other peafowl she is protective, but all adult members of the flock will aid in caring for the peachicks.