Peafowl, as peacocks and peahens are called collectively, are birds related to pheasants. They are prized for their magnificent colours and dramatic plumage. Breeding peafowl as a hobby or a business can be both profitable and enjoyable.
Peafowl come from Burma, Myanmar, Malaya, India, Sri Lanka and the Congo. Peacocks are the official bird of India. The blue and green varieties are most commonly found in the wild. Other colours, such as white, light brown and purple are colours developed via careful breeding in captivity. The blue and green peacocks are the most popular birds and are found in zoos and parks worldwide.
Peacocks and Peahens
Male and female peafowl show marked differences in size and plumage. Females are usually larger than the males. Both male and female carry a crest of feathers upon their heads. The female's colouring is not as bright as male's. The most noticeable difference is the male's tail or train, which when mature can be 3 feet long or more. As long as the peacock remains healthy, his train will stay long and full throughout his adult life.
Attracting a Mate
Peafowl reach maturity at approximately 2 years old, with some peahens laying fertilised eggs as early as 1 year old if she is housed with a mature peacock. Peacocks are mature at approximately 3 years of age. The length of a peacock's tail is essential to successful breeding, as it is his display of this tail that attracts his mate. A male with a beautiful tail will have more opportunity to breed than a male of the same age with a smaller tail. He may also have harem of up to five mates.
A peahen will begin laying eggs in the springtime. Once she begins laying, she will lay a couple of eggs every day until she has seven to 10 large light brown eggs in her nest. Free-roaming peahens will dig a shallow depression in the ground beneath bushes, in tall grass or in brush. She lines the nest with grass. Nesting peahens and their eggs face several dangers in this environment, such as attacks by coyotes and other animals that may eat the eggs and kill the peahen. Penned peahens should be supplied with nesting boxes or other nesting areas lined with hay or straw.
Incubating the Eggs
Peahens sit on their eggs and hatch them in about 30 days. A peahen incubating her eggs naturally will not lay any more eggs for that breeding season. Some breeders use chickens or ducks to incubate peafowl eggs and to increase the size of the peahen's clutch of eggs. As the peahen lays eggs, the breeder will remove eggs from her nest and place them under a chicken or duck. The peahen lays up to 30 eggs in an attempt to fill her nest. Peachicks hatched under a foster mother run a higher risk of risk of infection, since chickens and ducks carry viruses or bacteria transmittable to peafowl. Eggs can also be incubated artificially using an electric brooder. Eggs must be kept at a constant temperature of 37.2 to 37.7 degrees Cor the incubation period.
When peachicks hatch they are covered with soft light brown feathers. As they grow, the feathers stiffen and become mottled with white and dark brown, until they mature into brightly coloured adults.
Once the eggs hatch, the chicks must be kept warm. If you are raising peafowl naturally, the peahen cares for the chicks. If you are using artificial methods, a brooder must be used to maintain a prime environment for the chicks. Chicks should be placed in a brooder with the temperature set at 35 degrees C. Each week, the temperature should be lowered by -15 degrees C until the chicks are about 6 to 8 weeks old. It is important to cover brooders as peachicks are able to fly as early as 1 week old.
- United Peafowl Association: The Peacock Journal; History of Peafowl in Captivity; Marion Smith; 1999
- Nat'l Geographic: Peacock
- United Peafowl Association: UPA Newsletter; Peafowl; Craig Hopkins; 1997
- Lancaster County 4-H Embryology, from Peachick to Peacock
- About Peafowl: Hatching Eggs and Breeding Baby Guineafowl: Your Easy Guide to Breeding Guineas