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Breeding and Brooding the Blue Peafowl

In approaching this topic, we must take into account several aspects, namely: the shelter and the habitat, the food and water, the hygiene, the prophylaxis and the prevention of diseases.

SHELTER AND LIVING AREA

There are two possible situations regarding this aspect. The former is refers to the peafowl bred in open spaces (pens, domains, different green areas) without paddocks or any other night shelters, in the so-called way of semi liberty, in which case, similarly to the wild peafowl in India, they will choose stable sleeping places, more or less scattered according to the structure of the group they belong to and will be faithful to certain areas in which they will carry out their daily and seasonal activity. According to the annual thermal regime (first of all, according to the rigours of the winter), these peafowl can either be left permanently in this environment or, during the cold season, they can be enclosed overnight in aviaries equipped with paddocks, meant to ensure a supplementary protection against winter sharpness.
There are regions with warm short winters where this does not apply. The great advantages of breeding in semi liberty are: the birds have width (aspect appreciated with all the galiforms), can develop and manifest themselves freely, their plumage will be impeccable, and have at their disposal numerous supplementary sources of food, inaccessible when living in aviaries. The disadvantages lie in the fact that the birds will be subject to all the weather whims in the region in question (cold rains, frosts, white frosts, snows, hails); in case there are several colour varieties, the descendents can no longer be retraced; in the situation of natural nestling, the females are exposed to predators (foxes, stray dogs) and the losses of peachicks are quite important on account of the weather whims; last but not least, since these birds are not accustomed to entering an aviary in order to be caught, neither vaccinations nor due treatments can be performed. The latter situation is that of the peafowl bred in special aviaries, usually grouped in harems (families). In this case, it is advisable to build up a spacious paddock in which the birds can take refuge whenever the weather conditions become unfavourable. This paddock can be enclosed, being equipped with a gate or an access little gate, that can be closed especially in winter nights; or semi-open, having a free wall, advisably opposed to the prevailing direction of the wind.


      aviary

There are no standard dimensions of the paddock, but they must take into consideration both the dimension of the males' train (the minimum height of the support they sleep on must be 1,4-1,5 m) and the number of peafowl having access to this space.
The paddock can be made up of plastered masonry, of rabbeted timber (in order to reduce the draughts inside) of polypropylene cellular sheets, and as far as the opaque walls are concerned, a skylight should also be built.
In wintertime there is no need to ensure the heating of this space, in our experience we have not had any cases of chilblains or any other problems of this kind. It is not the low temperature that is dangerous but the cold draughts, the snow, the white frost and the cold rains. It is advisable to build the floor of the paddock out of a material that keeps warm, such as the wood (timber, different kinds of sheets).
In any case, especially when concrete is used, we recommend covering the floor with a layer of shavings, coarse sawdust or sand, and changing it periodically in order to ensure a proper hygiene. Under no circumstances should this species of peafowl be kept throughout the winter in heated spaces (except for late series peachicks in the year in question). As long as the birds have a place to roost and paddocks or shelters that may be unheated but not draughty, in unfavourable weather conditions (blizzard, hard frost), they will be fine.
We have often seen peafowl kept in stables, in which case most of the times they got ill of different breathing troubles, because of the stale air, of the ammonia vapours and of the big microbic charges in this environment. The aviary is recommended to be as large as possible, both in length and in height, conditions that vary according to the available space and to the financial investment the breeder disposes of. The minimum surface in the case of an aviary for a family (one male and 3-4 females) can be 15-20 sqm, in a square - or rectangular - like shape, but not very elongated, at least 2 m high, in order to allow the peafowl to fan out its train at ease. In the case of the aviaries shaped on the vertical, we recommend mounting high supports (bars, beams), the peacock being a bird that enjoys sitting high and looking down to the ground.
A usually neglected thing by some breeders is the nature of the support the peafowl rest on or just sleep. The best material in this respect is the wood, which is "warm". We have seen situations when the peacocks roosted on iron pipes or on other "cold" materials, which is a bad thing, especially in the cold season. These birds get sooner or later different leg diseases, which are sometimes very serious, leading to permanent limping or even to the loss of toes. The aviaries can be either uncoated or coated for protection against the rain, with light materials, transparent and waterproof, the optimal solution being a partial coating.
The construction of the aviary must be made in such a way as to prevent the access of the rats, polecats or other predators, with a minimum foundation, with a net provided with adequate loops in terms of size, etc. The floor of the aviary can be made up of beaten earth or concrete, covered with a layer of gravel (sort), coarse sand or even ballast, in order to ensure a good draining.

FOOD

The mature birds feed on: seeds, green mass, fruit, root vegetables, food of animal origin, food supplements. The seeds can be given as such or ground as croups or coarse flour. The first category ranges from corn, sunflower, oats, barley, hemp, pumpkin to millet. When mixing and obtaining different types of ground fodder, we can use all of the above, next to pea and soy beans. The proportion between the different seeds differs from breeder to breeder, but at a rough estimate, we can recommend the following proportions: 40-50% corn, 25-35% sunflower, 10-15% soy beans or peas, 20-30% oats or barley, 2-5% hemp, etc. The green mass can be constituted by: dandelion, Spanish trefoil, red clover, white clover, chickweed (Stellaria media), gallant soldier (Galinsoga parviflora), horse radish, beet leaves, cauliflower leaves, celery leaves, parsley leaves, cabbage, garden lettuce (Lactuca sativa), horse thistle (Cirsium arvense), sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis), lettuce (Lactuca srriola), garden sorrel (Rumex patientia), broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius), leaves of cock's foot (Dactylis glomerata) or other graminaceae. In winter, this mix can be successfully replaced with hay or with finely chopped dry Spanish trefoil or clover. In terms of fruits (and by that we also mean the vegetables which from a botanical viewpoint are also fruits), highly appreciated are: the apple, the pears, the water melons, the tomatos, the vegetable marrows and the pumpkins (chopped, so that they could be swallowed), the cherries, the plums and, last but not least, the grapes. Among the root vegetables that are appreciated especially in the cold season, we can mention: grated mangel wurzels, beets, carrots, as well as boiled potatoes. In the category of the food of animal origin that can be supplied relatively easily to the peafowl in captivity, we can mention: boiled eggs, cow cheese, boiled minced meat, the larvae or the adults of cock chafers, earthworms, different other insects. Surprisingly, fact noticed both by us and by other breeders, when they have the chance, the peacocks eat Colorado beetles, insect that does not seem to have any enemy among the birds in Romania. In the category of the food supplements there are: vitamins (soluble in water or mixed with the fodder), numerous premixes that can be found in the specialised shops, squashed egg shell, charcoal, sand and fine gravel, squashed shells. In addition to them, bread, polenta and different other pastry products are also consumed with pleasure by peafowl. Feeding the peachicks is easy if we resort to the different kinds of fodder consumed by the turkey and pheasant poults, the broiler chicken or even by the quails, the specialised shops offering a wide range of products, ranked according to age, species, granulation etc. A very important criterion in choosing a particular type of fodder is the presence of the medicinal supplements (for instance the coccidiostatics), in which case the breeder won't have to deal with numerous health problems the peachicks are usually liable to catch. Their feeding should neither lack the green mass and the food of an animal origin (boiled eggs, cow cheese, boiled minced meat).

WATER

This is a factor neglected more than once by many breeders. It is, in fact, the main vector by means of which numerous pathogens are transmitted to the birds (viruses, bacteria, eggs of different parasites). This is why special attention should be paid to it. The water vases must be made up of neutral materials (that are not degradable under the influence of the water or of the cleaning substances), of plastic materials, of glass, of burnt and enamelled ceramics, of porcelain, of aluminium or of stainless steel, so that they could be easily cleaned and disinfected. They must be positioned in such a way that the dung or any other dirt does not come into contact with the water. I personally recommend changing the water daily (if possible) and doing a general disinfection every week, while in the warm season, the disinfection should be done even more often. In order to alleviate this process, in each aviary or compartment there should be two water troughs, used in turns, after disinfection.

HYGIENE, DISINFECTION, PROPHYLAXIS AND PREVENTION OF DISEASES

These aspects must be considered together. From the outset, we must say that the exemplary hygiene of the breeding spaces makes the breeder avoid having to face many veterinary- sanitary problems. The cleaning of the aviaries and of the paddock must be done whenever it is needed, especially during the moult (or afterwards). Periodically, at least once during the spring and once during autumn, a general disinfection of the spaces should be done (nests, roosts, paddocks, aviaries), with specific substances that can be procured from the veterinary pharmacy, especially against the shelter ticks. The external disinfestation of the birds can be done in two ways: either by catching each bird and spraying insecticide powders and acaricides under its wings, on the side parts of its body, behind tits neck and the area of its rump, or by putting in the sand tub the powder in question, mixed with sifted ashes. In the latter case, the disinfestation will take place by itself the moment the peafowl bathe in the sand. Particularly important is also the internal disinfestation of the birds (twice a year), by using antiparasitical substances, soluble in drinking water or administrated orally, according to the weight of the peacock/ peahen and the dosage instructions. The diseases affecting the peafowl are numerous, in the 8 years I have been breeding these birds I have faced different situations and come up against the lack of information regarding the diseases and the treatments that must be applied to the peafowl. I have often appealed to the internet, I have corresponded with veterinary surgeons abroad and the positive results were not long coming.


BREEDING

Since peafowl are polygamous birds, the families will be made up of a single male and several females. In the aviaries, the breeding couples will be formed of one male and 2 up to 5 females (even 6), each family disposing of its necessary space. On no account is keeping two or more males in the same aviary (where the females are) in the breeding season recommended. As a rule, the males become very aggressive to each other in this season, and the result is, along with (sometimes serious) injuries, many sterile eggs. If the peafowl are bred in semi-liberty (large green spaces), special attention must be paid to the relation between the size and the complexity of this green space (surfaces with grassy vegetation, trees, shrubs) and the number of peafowl and, most of all, to the ratio mature males - mature females, in order to avoid possible conflicts that may appear, especially during the mating display. The peafowl will establish the scope of their own territories, where they will flare our their feather fan on the purpose of attracting the peahens for mating. The families formed in this regime are quite stable, up to the moment of the laying of the clutch, including as well the period of brooding (if the females are left to brood in the places they chose). The breeding season for this species takes place during the spring and in early summer, sometimes prolonging till late summer. The mating display starts in early spring, according to the weather conditions (if it gets warm earlier, then the mating display will also start earlier).


      Peafowl Family

The sexual maturity of the peafowl, contrary to the opinion of many breeders, is reached when they are two years old, both in the case of the males (even if their train is not fully developed) and of the females. Personally, whenever I used 2-year old males of different colour varieties for breeding, I did obtain peachicks and the proportion of fertile eggs was not different from the ones obtained with older males. From all the peahens we have used in breeding, just a single one did not lay eggs when it was two years old. Moreover, some of them laid two series of eggs in the year in question. I have also heard the opinion according to which some peahens may lay eggs when they are 1, 1,5 years old in summertime, which I cannot deny nor approve. Personally, I have not encountered such a case. In both cases, for the three-year old peahens as well as for the two-year old ones, the food regime bears a significant importance, since it is in direct connection with the eggs' quality (size, shape, shell breadth) and even with their number. The eggs are laid in the evening, very rarely in the morning, one every other day (sometimes one in 3 days). The clutch can be made up of 4-8 eggs (11), and according to some breeders, even more. At the end of the egg laying period, if the eggs are left in the nest, the female becomes a brood peahen, the peahens being very good mothers. The incubation can take place artificially, with the aid of the incubators or naturally, with the aid of the hens, turkey hens or peahens. The incubation period is in theory of 28 days, but in practice I have noticed that most of the times the peachicks hatch 27 days later. The peachicks can be bred with or without the help of brood peahens, in proper rooms, on the ground or in special batteries, set up on age brackets and sizes. The peachicks grow up relatively quickly in the first months, getting the size of the adults when they reach the age of 1 year or even quicker; subsequently, they will develop completely and will put on weight up to 18-20 months.

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