Things to Consider Before Purchasing Your First Peafowl
Peafowl are gorgeous birds that require relatively little upkeep to raise successfully. But before you purchase your first peafowl there are some very important things to consider.
Space Requirements - Peafowl are large birds. Mature peacocks with full trains can be almost six feet in length. Therefore, peafowl need a lot of space to thrive. For healthy, happy birds consider at least 200 square feet for a pair or trio of mature peafowl. The more space available the better.
To Freerange or to Pen: the Great Peafowl Question - Many people buy peacocks with the intention of having them roam their property as they've seen in zoos, manors, and many farms. While this can be done with great success, it isn't quite as easy as it may seem, and requires a timely acclimation process and some training on the birds' part. For a more in-depth exploration of this issue, check out To Freerange or Not to Freerange (coming soon). Before you buy birds to let loose, be aware that you will need to keep them penned for awhile if you want them to stick around, and there's always the chance of losses to predators or their own wandering whims. Keeping peafowl penned, while requiring more money for aviary construction and not as fun in some respects, is a much safer alternative, especially if you intend to buy any of the fancier colors or patterns.
Shelter and Pen Construction - If you plan on keeping your peafowl contained, pen construction will be your most important concern prior to purchasing your birds. Tips on building pens for peafowl can be found here. Pens should be large and tall (when displaying peacock's trains are often over 5 feet tall) and include a shelter so the peafowl can escape rain and snow, get out of the cold, and have a shade from the sun depending on the weather. Under the shelter should be at least one roost. Even if your ultimate plan is to freerange your peafowl, you will need to have a pen to contain them for at least a month, and shelter is an important issue.
Dietary Needs - Although peafowl love a whole variety of treats, for the proper vitamins and minerals they should be fed a gamebird pellet or crumble feed. This can be purchased at any store that sells feed for livestock. Before you purchase peafowl find such a store-you will be there often. Consider supplementing their diet with dried dog or cat food for extra protein and cracked corn during the winter months for extra body fat.
Weather - Peafowl of the India Blue variety and any of its variations (basically, anything that doesn't have 'Spalding' or 'Green' behind it) are very hardy birds which can withstand a wide range of temperatures. But it's important to consider your local weather before you buy birds, especially while building pens. If your winter temperatures frequently go below zero consider insulating the pens, and be sure to feed lots of cracked corn as soon as breeding season's over. If you're often over the hundreds, lots of shade, and possibly a sprinkler system, is a must. Although blue peafowl can survive most temperatures, extremes can stress them out if they are not properly compensated for. If possible, find a peafowl breeder in your state and ask if they do anything special because of the weather or habitat. Green and higher percentage spaldings are more susceptible to cold weather, and should have insulated shelters available if your winters are frigid.
Noise - There's no way around it: peafowl are noisy birds. Although pretty quiet during most of the year unless startled, spring heralds the beginning of breeding season and a period of frequent calling by peacocks, even (and often) in the middle of the night. If you've never heard a peacock's call, listen to this. I have a vague memory of being a little kid at a produce auction and almost leaving with an adult peacock until the guy told my mom they scream like a woman being murdered. (I think my parents forget this when I started asking them for peacocks eight years later). I personally think it sounds more like a dying cat. That being said, I actually love the sound and start to miss it when I'm away at college. You'll get used to it, and the spring and summer late night callings won't bother you. Your neighbors and even family members, who may not love the birds as much as you do, might not be so understanding. Talk to them beforehand and warn them that the birds will be noisy for a few months. Invite them over to see the peafowl as soon as you get them-if you can get them to love the birds as much as you do they're much less likely to be bothered. And, if the noise really is a problem, its best to know this before you pay for birds and get all attached to them and then find out your neighbors want them gone. There's very little that can be done about the noise itself. An old book on peafowl offers instructions for a devoicing operation, but this is dangerous and rarely done, and not something you really want to but your peas through. A little bit of creative landscaping/windbreaks/pen construction might cut down on the volume, but the calls carry. The up side is, that by the end of August and probably before breeding season is over and the noise all but stops for eight months or so.
Predators - Because peafowl are so large and are strong fliers, they are less vulnerable to predators than chickens or smaller fowl. However, peafowl can be prey to foxes, dogs, and even weasels, owls and hawks if they are young. Freeranging peafowl with tall trees around are almost completely safe if they are healthy and alert with one exception-setting peahens. While peahens are nesting they are extremely vulnerable to any predator that happens by because they are not likely to abandon their nest, and even if they do it might be too late. Here lies one of the great dangers of freeranging-many keep their hens penned during the spring and summer to prevent deaths. Chicks are also very vulnerable until they can fly, and even then they are in some danger until they grow. With penned birds, it's extremely important for the pens to be predator proof. Peafowl are in the most danger if they are locked in a pen with a predator. I lost my first four peafowl when our dog dug under the chain link fence. Their roost wasn't high enough to be safe and they had nowhere to go. Consider burying the wire a foot in the ground to prevent things digging under it, make sure your netting is strong and secured both to keep peafowl in and other birds out, and make sure no local varmints can get in through the holes in the wire: smaller is better.
The joy of watching your peafowl makes the hassle of dealing with any of these issues well worth it. But these practical concerns should be addressed before you make a purchase so your new birds will be as safe, happy and healthy as possible.