Introductory Care Topics For Peafowl

A peahen and peacock in an outdoor living space. The peacock is presenting his tail feathers.

Peafowl are actually members of the pheasant family! A peacock is a male bird of the species, females are called peahens, with young called peachicks. Peacocks can make quite a ruckus at certain times of the year. This should be considered before bringing in peafowl to your sanctuary. If you have neighbors close by, the call of a peacock can be a cause for complaint.  Peafowl are likely to wander and care should be taken to ensure that are safely housed, with large protected outdoor spaces to explore. While this resource isn’t an exhaustive guide for all aspects of caring for peafowl, it strives to provide an introduction into peafowl care for rescues and sanctuaries.

First, Consider This:

  • Peacocks can be rather noisy! People have been known to call the police as the call of a peacock can sound like a human in distress.
  • Peacocks like to wander. For this reason, the more space you can provide them, the better. But it should be enclosed and protected from predators.
  • Peafowl require special consideration with the height of perches and enclosures, as the train on the male is quite large!

Housing

Like many bird residents, peacocks require draft-free inside enclosures and outdoor living spaces. Some species are particularly vulnerable to cold, meaning you will need to take extra precautions to keep them warm over winter months if you live in a cold climate. Heated living spaces, heated water dispensers, and perches that allow them to lay their feet out flat, can all help peacocks stay warm enough during cold weather. Round perches leave their toes exposed and may result in frostbite, depending on the temperature.

Peafowl may require more height in their living spaces than chicken residents, as they may prefer to roost higher, and peacocks have long tail feathers so higher perches should be made available. A roof or overhead covering is important for shelter, protection from predators, and to prevent wandering. Peafowl enjoy a nice walk about and will often wander off and roost in trees, if allowed. Netting is a good option for outdoor living spaces, as it has enough give to prevent serious damage if a resident takes flight and flies into it, but still prevents predators from above.

Be sure that resident peafowl cannot stick their heads through the fencing, as this can cause injury and exposes them to possible predators. Placing chicken fencing around the bottom of their living space can prevent this. Some predators may also try to dig under the fencing. Consider burying fencing further down to prevent digging predators. As always, safely secure those gates and doors! Raccoons in particular have nimble little paws and clever minds, and can work out how to undo an easy latch!

Check for sharp protrusions and nails and screws to prevent external damage and be sure to carefully check their surroundings for things like dropped coins, bits of metal, and string to prevent hardware disease.

Peafowl appreciate a good dust bath too. Efforts should be made to ensure there are stumps, dust bathing areas, and a variety of places to perch.

As with any other resident species, you must ensure you have an area adequate for any quarantine needs that arise.

Nutritional Needs

Peafowl enjoy a diverse diet in the wild. They are omnivorous and will eat anything from grains, fruits, and veggies, to small reptiles, mammals, and insects. Resident peafowl will need a “game bird” maintenance feed. Limited amounts of cracked or shelled corn can also be given in winter time. While chicken feed will not necessarily hurt peafowl, it does not have the higher ratio of protein they require.  Like chickens and turkeys, peafowl will need access to grit. Peachicks can be given a medicated starter feed during their first six months. This can be mixed with “game bird” starter food. Ideally, starter feed should contain 20-24% protein. Peafowl need access to clean, cool water all the time. There is no exception. Like any living creature, peafowl can become dehydrated very easily, which can quickly result in death. When providing water for young chicks, ensure they cannot fall into the water and drown.

Medical Care

Peafowl are susceptible to most (if not all) diseases that turkeys may suffer from. Like other birds, peafowl are susceptible to both external and internal parasites and should be monitored for and treated for both if they are found present. You should work with an experienced veterinarian to determine de-worming needs and scheduling based on each individual peafowl. Viruses such as Fowl Pox, Newcastle Disease, and Hemorrhagic Enteritis are all potential threats to peafowl, as are many bacterial agents. These include, but are not limited to, Fowl Cholera, Avian tuberculosis, and Staphylococcus. Protozoan diseases are also a potential health risk such as, Trichomoniasis and Blackhead

Some diseases can result from deficiencies in peafowl diets, though this is usually seen in younger birds. The following are examples of the disease different deficiencies can cause:

  • Rickets – Calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D deficiency
  • Curled Toe Paralysis – Riboflavin deficiency
  • Nutritional Roup – Vitamin A deficiency
  • Perosis – Manganese deficiency
  • Crazy Chick Disease – Vitamin E deficiency
  • Gizzard Myopathy (white muscle disease) – Selenium deficiency

All peafowl residents should be routinely given a health exam. Be sure to first observe the behavior of the resident and their mobility then move on to feather, skin, crop, abdomen, wings, legs, nose, mouth, and eyes  Check out our resource on turkey health exams to give you an idea of how to begin.

Handling

Ask An Expert

If at all possible, have a veterinarian or care expert give you hands-on training for safe peafowl handling! Failing to use appropriate technique can gravely injure peafowls.

If you’re caring for peafowl, it’s very important that you know how to safely handle and hold them. Some peafowl are more receptive to being held than others depending on their size and how they’ve been socialized. Each resident in your care might have their own special handling requirements depending on their breed and health needs. Regular handling of peafowl will help familiarize them with the experience and can help make stressful events like health concerns, separations, and relocations a little less nerve-wracking, but be very mindful of the unique challenges that peafowl face!

Unsafe Holding

NEVER pick up peafowl by their wings, feathers, legs, feet, or neck. This is an unacceptable practice that can harm peafowl. Do not allow anyone else to pick them up by their wings either! Some veterinarians have been known to do this as it is a standard practice in animal agriculture environments.

For peafowl without many health challenges, you can stand beside them and then hug the bird to your upper body, making sure to safely cover their wings. This will prevent them from injuring themselves or jumping away from you. It’s not safe to hold peafowls bodies under their wings for these reasons. You can place your other hand under their feet for an extra sense of security. Be mindful when setting them down. DO NOT let them jump down.

Social Needs

Peafowl do well with a little family unit. Peacocks can usually be housed together while they are under a year old, but will often begin fighting after that. Generally, peahens are less confrontational. An ideal grouping would be a single male with multiple females.

As with any group, sometimes disputes happen or bullying may take place. If this becomes a problem, then finding a new grouping is important in order to prevent distress and injury.

Enrichment

Peafowl have inquisitive minds an enjoy exploring things in their living spaces. Rearranging and adding new perches and stumps can help break up the monotony, as can providing a little water feature and adding fruit or veggie treats for them to forage. Hanging treats can also be an interesting way to engage with their food and environment. A small, securely fixed mirror may grab the attention of curious residents. Just be sure the mirror is not large enough for a male to see his full body, as he may begin attacking the mirror. Colorful balls that are large enough they can’t eat but small enough they can manipulate is also a fun enrichment option!

At The Open Sanctuary Project, unacceptable means that we cannot condone (or condone through omission) a certain practice, standard, or policy. See a more detailed explanation here.

SOURCES:

Peafowl 101: Basic Care | BackYard Chickens Non-Compassionate Source

Peafowl 102: Advanced Housing And Accessories | BackYard Chickens Non-Compassionate Source

Diseases Of Peafowl | United Peafowl Association  Non-Compassionate Source

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on August 3, 2020

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