by Robbie McCrory
(first published in Peafowl Today, June 2007)
I have toyed with the idea of writing an article for Peafowl Today for several months and decided that now is as good a time as any. I am no expert in breeding, genetics, or for that matter any thing else. I just enjoy my birds and seem to be able to raise a respectable number each year. I currently have 60+/- peafowl ranging from charcoal to muticus-spicifer and many in between. I have bought birds from many different sources and have received a lot of advice from everyone. Ricky Cupples in Tennessee, Craig Hopkins in Indiana, Sid Drenth in Texas, Bruce Siltanen in Minnesota, Brad Legg in Missouri, and Greg Nelson in Louisiana have all provided me with some beautiful birds and some great advice. (I have probably left out someone else and if so my profound apologies!)
I house my breeders in 10'x20' chain link enclosures with an 8'x10' lean-to type shelter on the north side. I keep breeding trios (although a few of my more aggressive males have an extra hen or two). I have 9 pens of this size. I also have five 12'x16' wood and wire constructed pens in which I have miscellaneous pheasants, ducks, and some peafowl pairs. All my pens are covered in Top-rite netting and have site barrier fabric to curtail fighting and keep interest where it should be. I find that peafowl are like a lot of people and think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I have 4" of sand on the ground, which makes raking pens easier and eliminates mud on the tails. I use large rubber pans for waterers in the spring, summer, and fall and use heated water buckets in the winter to avoid ice blocks on the rare occasion we have sustained below freezing temperatures. All my feeders are placed in recycled window air conditioner covers underneath the shelter to avoid wind driven rain from spoiling my feed. This also helps curtail the peafowl scratching the food out of the pan. I have a local metal recycler save me the best of the lot and only pay $2-$3 each for them. I learned this from a local waterfowl breeder would not do without them. I have tried hanging feeders and wall mounted feeders but find in the humid summers we have here that unless you allow the feeders to completely empty each week you will have some mold growth. With the open rubber pans I can empty the feeders once a week easily and feed the remaining feed to my catfish pond.
I have a local feed mill prepare a breeding mix for me from March thru September. This mix consists of high protein layer pellets (22%), sinking catfish chow, medicated game bird breeder, and high protein hog finisher pellets (40%). I am having kelp meal added to the mix this year to see if this makes a difference. The cost of this equals about $8.75 per 50-pound bag that is only $1.25 more than I pay for the high protein layer pellets I feed throughout the rest of the year. I feed my chicks medicated turkey starter for the first 9-12 months and seem to have very few leg problems. I worm my birds 3-4 times a year with Safeguard wormer feed and use Ivomec pour-on 2 times a year for mites. I use 1 cc per adult bird at the base of the neck on the back. I do lightly salt the sand in the pens for worms and also spray my brooders with pyrethrin and virosan between clutches.
We built a new house this past year and I had the contractor build me an incubator house so I no longer have to drive down to the bird pens to check eggs at the old feed/incubator house I was utilizing. I have a 20'x24' incubator house with my starting brooders close enough that I can walk out the back door and check on them in my slippers. I have 4 GQF cabinet incubators and 1 GQF cabinet hatcher. All have automatic humidity pails and turners. I also have a natural gas powered automatic generator on my house, which comes on within 30 seconds of a power outage. This has proven to be well worth the expense! I have a full time job and lost three-dozen peafowl eggs last year due to severe weather and we have already had two power outages lasting 3-4 hours this year and the generator took care of everything. I have my starter brooders in the incubator house so they are climate controlled and I can keep a close eye on my chicks in that first two weeks. I am currently building a secondary brooder barn in which my chicks will graduate into at two weeks of age. These are 4'x6' raised wire cages with heat. I move them to the other side of the barn into 5'x8' sand floor runs at six weeks of age with heat at night. They will then go into a larger flight pen with shelter for finishing. I plan to try automatic waterers for this set-up but I am still apprehensive, as I have heard that sometimes these are unreliable and can leave your chicks without water. If anyone has any suggestions as to brands or comments please let me know.
I have had birds for over 15 years and have started "specializing" in peafowl for the past 4. I have several times wondered if I have lost my mind and my wife seems to think this at times also. We enjoy the birds and my wife always knows where I am in my free time. Those of you in the "business" know that you don't have time for much else. Especially during the 3-4 months of "torture" we endure every spring and summer. I try
to maintain a good sense of humor and let the eggs fall where they may but sometimes that is difficult when a "special" pen has a run of infertile eggs or a rare chick dies after days of trying everything and nothing helps. Like I said in the beginning of this article, I am no expert. This venture is a culmination of advice from experienced breeders and the school of hard knocks we all must attend. All I know is what works for me and what little I have learned so far. I feel that raising birds is a rewarding hobby and a constant learning experience. If I ever get to the point I feel like I know it all, I believe I will sell out and start collecting stamps! Have a great breeding season! May your eggs be fertile and your chicks feisty! Any advice or comments please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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