Raising Peafowl (Peacocks)
I get asked often how I keep peacocks (peafowl) in my backyard.
Here are my basic principles and things you need to know before you adopt and commit to having such wonderful children in your lives. Peafowl are like little children and need a good mother (you) who will teach and guide them how to grow up in our world (your backyard).
They will call you if they need help, or feel scared, or if they miss you. They can accidentally hurt themselves and are quite delicate till they become young adults (at least 2-3 years old). Sometimes when they are playing with each other, they get too excited and fly somewhere they are unfamiliar with. They may call you for help to get them down or back to where the others are.
One thing they need to learn is not to make unnecessary noises. You have to train them to keep their noises to a minimum, by punishing them when they make loud calls, unless they are lost or in trouble. Disciplining them is as simple as telling them to stop, and if they continue, you need to send them to their home and black out cover their walls so they are standing alone in the dark for ten minutes. Eventually they will learn that stop means stop, and that making noises will get them in trouble, as it will likely get you in trouble with your neighbours or council. You will still get some "bad" days along with the "good" days. But generally I've found that they get better and better with time.
By implication you need a house with covers for them that you can lock them out and block out the sunlight rather quickly. Usually after 10 minutes of being alone in the dark, while their peers are out playing and relaxing, the noisy little boy or girl will settle down and act more obedient and tame for the rest of the day.
Flying and jumping onto things:
Flying and jumping on and off of ledges and platforms composes a great deal of their enjoyment and playing. They need to know where they are allowed to fly and play on, and you will need an extension ladder to shoo them off your roof back onto the ground. If you don't train them and teach them where are acceptable places to perch and play, they will fly anywhere they like. Also you need to let them know how long they are allowed to stay up in that high place. Again you do this by sending them home if they fly onto or stay too long on a place you do not want them to be.
For instance I let mine fly and play on top of the one story portion of the roof, however if they fly onto the second story portions I go up onto the roof and send them home to their house. Then I lock them up for 10 minutes before letting them back out again. This way they eventually associate those areas with punishment and will rarely go there. The other method is blocking out the area where they would other fly onto with red tape or with white anti-bird netting. Both are available at Bunnings. I also do not allow them to stay on the roof longer than 5-10 minutes. If they are on the roof longer than this I go up and tell them to go home. Then I lock them up for 10 minutes before letting them back our. That way if they are on the roof for longer than 5 minutes, they realise that they could be sent home at any time so they decide to fly back down to the ground.
If you don't have anywhere they can fly up onto, at the very least have things off the ground the can jump on and jump off. Such as chairs and tables, plastic storage containers, ledges and fences.
Training them to stop and go home:
They are not difficult to train by whoever is their daily feeder or mother, and they will listen to that person carefully, listening to the sounds you make. So you want to use consistent commands with distinctive sounds which they can memorise. Like a child within context they will learn what those commands mean. Likewise they will reply with sounds of their own, which within contexts, so you will need to remember to understand their language.Talking with them is then a transaction of sounds from you to them, or them to you. Some handy sounds are:
2) drink and don't drink
3) eat and don't eat
4) turn around
5) down and up
6) come here
7) be careful
8) go home!/back home!
9) are you hungry?
10) do you want more
11) don't do that
12) where are you?
15) good night time to sleep
Like little children they need to learn how to stop what they are doing for the sake of their health and well-being, as well as for you and your neighbours. For instance, when they are young they will eat almost anything including their own faeces, and drink dirty water. This will make them sick, so they need to know they isn't good for them. They may also try to eat small pieces of rubbish that blow into your yard. So you need to tell them to stop eating or drinking these things. They may also be noisy or acting aggressive to each other, for whatever reason. So you will need to tell them to "stop" in a loud voice.
They will stop and look at you, then you heard them away from whatever behaviour you want them to not do. Over time, while they are growing up they will learn to associate the word "stop" with a prohibited act, that if continued results in them being punished by losing their play time.
Maintaining your backyard and their home:
They eat constantly and poo everywhere they go. So your water bill will increase. You will also need to clean their house twice daily. They like a clean and comfortable house. I lay their floor with plastic sheets, covered with towels and pet cushions, which are covered again with towels.
They need their food and water changed twice daily, as well as feed some yummy treats twice daily to keep them on their best behaviour. Basically there shouldn't be any reason why they should even think about leaving your backyard.
Setting up your backyard:
Peafowl require bit of an extensive set up and/or enclosure to keep them within your backyard.
You need high fence lines, places for them to run, jump, fly up to, crawl under and hide, chase each other around and dig in the dirt to dust bath. They need open spaces, as well as thick and semi thick shrubs and flowers to explore and hide and run around under. Plants that have edible berries or leaves and attract insects are a great source of food and entertainment for them.
You may also need to use your bathroom for when the babies are too young and without their mother. They should be kept inside the house where they are safe from the summer heat, predators and drowning if you have any ponds or swimming pools.
You may also need a spare bedroom, just in case one of them accidentally hurts himself and needs to be hospitalised. You cannot keep a weak birds with the flock, they will attack the weakened bird. You may also need to sleep next to him or her each night while she recovers, as they don't like to sleep alone. I recommend using a dust mask, and a teddy bear. Over time you can swap yourself out in place for the teddy bear. Camping in your own home is less fun than it sounds.
Learning their names:
Always call them each by name, whenever you talk to them. Use their name followed by a familiar commandment they can learn. If they act correctly give them treats (i.e. meal worms) and/or clap for them and they them [name] they did a good job. It takes about 9 months to a 1 year for them to learn their names. Some peafowl learn faster than others, for some it might be 3-4 months.
They require a wide variety of food - vegetables (bok choy, cabbage, carrots, celery), meal worms, sunflower and mixed seeds, oats, berries, brown rice and other grains and insects (such as crickets). However, as my Vet tells me they need a balanced died, and the best way to do it is feeding them game bird pellets. These foods are generally available to the birds on a daily basis.
They will also need some protein, because chances are they won't eat too much of the game pellets. Salmon is great if you have just two to four birds. However, if you have a larger flock you can give them ground beef mince mixed with sweet potato.
Peafowl are quite routine animals. They wake up at roughly the same time, poo at roughly the same time. Eat at roughly the same time. They play, rest, in the same times in the same areas each day. Most days are as repetitive as the movie Ground Hog day for them. This is or course good for you and good for them, as it means they are so happy with everything, that they will do it every day. Being predictable for you makes your life easier, as long as you stick to this routine they've made for themselves. Mine wake up around 6 am, they eat, poo around 7 am. They want to be out of their house by 7:30 am. They will run around for ten or so minutes before wanting to eat meal worms. Then they will play games with each other, before taking a rest in the garden under the olive tree. They will then play around noon, before taking another rest under the bougainvillea hedge from 1-1:45 pm. At 2 pm they want their afternoon meal worms. They will take a rest to let the food digest. Then at 3 pm they will play again for the next hour or hour and a half to 4:30 pm before they go home to get ready for bed. I lock them up at 4:30 pm and change all their food and water. They will eat a little more before sunset. They will watch the sunset from inside their home. At 5 pm I have to put their covers on their walls, and pray for them. They will walk around a little bit and by dark they have made themselves comfortable and are ready to sleep. In summer home time is 5:30 pm and their covers are on by 6 pm.
Deviations from this daily plan will likely irritate them, unless its due to punishment or unusual events, such as lawn mowing. Loud motor noises can frighten them, so it's best to lock them up in their house when your neighbours are mowing.
Peafowl are playful. They like to run around chasing each other in a game of tag. They also like to forage in the bushes for insects to eat. These are two activities you can partake with them twice a day. They also enjoy sitting around, as well as watching the sunset together, just before their bedtime.
If you have any further questions or need advice in keeping your peafowl in a small suburban block feel free to ask. It isn't always straight forward and sometimes things don't go so smoothly. However with patience and persistence, love and understanding you and your peafowl will make it. I do recommend that you with either work from home or are semi-retired and you have family members around to help you when your children get out of hand. They won't learn the rules overnight, it will take a few months.
In about 3 years:
You're wonderful peafowl should have learned everything about their home, it's rules and routines. They will likely be well mannered, well behaved birds, better than most children and dogs and most of all they should have their plumage of beautiful feathers for you to enjoy.
God bless your feathered kids live a long healthy, happy life with you.