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odd behaviour in a peacock

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

A foster mom of three peahens and one peacock I am looking for some insight into the male's unusual behavior. This free ranging group of peafowl landed at my farm and are not in the least interested in going home.  Their owner is my new neighbor who knows they are here and told me the peacock is three years old.  No worming or vaccinations according to him and I don't think he fed them anything but dog food treats. I do feed them a game bird crumble mixed with wild bird seed( after a month of staying here I started feeding them a little of this in the am )and do give them treats.  Very friendly, non aggressive birds.  Being mating season they are actively breeding as I have seen them but mostly he displays and the hens ignore him, and there has been no indication of egg laying or setting.  When I first saw the peacock's behavior I thought of external parasites but I am thinking now it might be something else.  He is doing it presently and he jumps up and down flapping his wings and pulling on his shoulder feathers often taking off at a run with his beak clamped to his feathers until they are pulled out.  I also have noticed him bending his head down and grabbing his neck.  He looks like he needs to be on Thorazine when he does this and it is getting more prevalent.  he has shown no aggression toward me although I am careful when I am around him.  He has several broken covert(long ones he fans out) feathers and he is starting to look a bit rough with his ruffled sticking out shoulder feathers.  What is he doing and does he need me to do something medically for him?  I can find no good books on peacock husbandry or behavior and I need help as he obviously does too! SOS from a new peafowl foster mom!

post #2 of 7
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Originally Posted by foxchase View Post
 

A foster mom of three peahens and one peacock I am looking for some insight into the male's unusual behavior. This free ranging group of peafowl landed at my farm and are not in the least interested in going home.  Their owner is my new neighbor who knows they are here and told me the peacock is three years old.  No worming or vaccinations according to him and I don't think he fed them anything but dog food treats. I do feed them a game bird crumble mixed with wild bird seed( after a month of staying here I started feeding them a little of this in the am )and do give them treats.  Very friendly, non aggressive birds.  Being mating season they are actively breeding as I have seen them but mostly he displays and the hens ignore him, and there has been no indication of egg laying or setting.  When I first saw the peacock's behavior I thought of external parasites but I am thinking now it might be something else.  He is doing it presently and he jumps up and down flapping his wings and pulling on his shoulder feathers often taking off at a run with his beak clamped to his feathers until they are pulled out.  I also have noticed him bending his head down and grabbing his neck.  He looks like he needs to be on Thorazine when he does this and it is getting more prevalent.  he has shown no aggression toward me although I am careful when I am around him.  He has several broken covert(long ones he fans out) feathers and he is starting to look a bit rough with his ruffled sticking out shoulder feathers.  What is he doing and does he need me to do something medically for him?  I can find no good books on peacock husbandry or behavior and I need help as he obviously does too! SOS from a new peafowl foster mom!


Hmmm, sounds like something might be irritating him -- how odd!  Are you able to catch him to examine him and/or treat whatever it is? 

 

Some wormers will kill external parasites, so if you can't catch him, perhaps giving him "treats" with the medication will help.

 

Another thing that comes to mind is feather picking, which sometimes comes from inadequate protein intake.  Feathers are mostly protein, so birds sometimes develop a habit of pulling feathers and eating them.  They also occasionally develop a habit of pulling feathers to get blood -- but again, that's usually related to diet/availability of water and such.

 

It doesn't sound mating or hormone-related to me, but then, I've never seen a bird do exactly what you are describing.  Can you tell us what he does after he pulls the feather(s) out?  Does he then eat them?  Does he continue to dig into the shoulder, perhaps for the parasites or to get the blood that wells up when a feather comes out?

 

The three things I would suggest would be (1) to examine him if you can safely catch him; (2) increase the availability of protein in his diet, and plenty of food available -- perhaps some high protein crumble (game bird can range from 18% to 28%, check the bag), and supplement with some catfood; and (3) make sure he has plenty of fresh water available from a source where he feels safe drinking it.

 

The other mating behavior is pretty typical.  The hens seemingly pay no mind whatsoever while the males stomp around and show off their trains all day.  At some point, you may see him rush them to mate.  The other big worry is that if the hens start sitting on eggs someplace where predators can get them (they instinctively hide their nests, and a "nest" is basically a little scrape in the ground, not a big twiggy thing), then the hens may get eaten while sitting the eggs.  If you can somehow pen them during breeding season, the girls will be safer.

 

Good luck!  I hope someone else has seen something like this -- I agree, it sounds strange!

 

And btw, welcome to the peafowl forum!  :welcome

-- The Accidental Peahen
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-- The Accidental Peahen
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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your wonderfully informative reply! The peacock does not eat the feathers and no blood is apparent.  I need to get my friend to video this.  He is also pulling at his neck skin til it tents out and then letting go and repeating.  I have noted that this behavior follows his displaying sessions and also if he has spent time looking into my glass door window or admiring himself in the silver wheel wells of my truck.  Why is he not participating in the foraging forays of the girls as I always see them without him?.  Being a former equine vet I have seen frustrated, stressed out stallions that are stalled self mutilate and this bird behavior seems somewhat similar. He is beginning to look a bit rough with his tousled shoulder feathers and broken fan feathers and if it is behavioral I figure by the time breeding season has ended he will be naked and mentally a mess(although during these too frequent sessions he already looks like a mental mess!). Thanks again for your great input-foxchase

post #4 of 7

Well, it doesn't sound as though I helped much :gig

 

Definitely very strange behavior.  Males get pretty competitive and some get quite aggressive during breeding season (occasionally to the point of being really stupid and having to be isolated).  The fact that he's doing it after seeing himself makes me wonder if he's somehow cross-wired his brain to see himself as a competitor :thThat would be a new one for me, lol.  He's three years old, so is experiencing the full hormone rush of breeding season for the first time -- perhaps that has added to his confusion.

 

I wouldn't necessarily expect him to go off with the girls -- especially right now.  Peafowl are "lekking" birds, so during breeding season, the males congregate and duke it out over patches of territory -- each male stakes out his own, preferred "lek" and hangs out there, stomping around, calling for hens and displaying.  The hens wander in, seemingly completely ignore all the males, and eventually decide which ones they prefer.  So your boy may have staked out his lek, and he is trying his best to defend it from... himself?  :lau

 

On the off chance that there may still be some medical/health/nutritional component, and in the interest of general pea health, I would suggest that you treat them all for parasites.  Are you able to catch or pen any of them?  Safeguard liquid goat wormer is often recommended for internal worms, since it is more effective than ivermectin for the kinds of worms that peas get, however it will not get rid of external parasites such as lice.  Internal ivermectin will sometimes (not always) work on external parasites.  Ivermectin pour-on used on the skin seems to work well on the external parasites.  There's also various dustings which can be used.  So if you can catch them, putting ivomec pour-on externally and dosing with safeguard internally should take care of most parasite issues.  You can also give the safeguard in treats, if you can't get your hands on them, but that won't get the exterior bugs.  If you absolutely can't catch them, you might also give ivermectin in treats.  Occasionally one hears of external parasite loads becoming so high as to cause behavioral symptoms, such as head shaking or picking, but this guy seems more breeding-related, idk.

 

The other issue that comes to mind (and remembering that these are young birds, if the male is three, are the hens also?) is the safety of the hens.  During breeding season, free ranging hens tend to go off and hide their nests (a scrape in the ground) far away and in isolation.  When they start sitting, they stick it out 24/7, with very brief breaks each day.  Sadly, many become pea-snacks for predators (foxes, raccoons, stray dogs, hawks, owls) during nesting season.  They lose the safety that they have the rest of the year (when they typically roost in trees), and many hens don't survive nesting season.  So if there's a way you can get the girls penned up safely through breeding season, they will be safer.

 

Good luck!  I'm really curious what this is about, and hope that perhaps someone else has better insight or more experience with this than I do :/ 

 

Edited to add: Eagerly awaiting video -- should be fascinating!!!


Edited by Garden Peas - 5/15/16 at 9:09am
-- The Accidental Peahen
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-- The Accidental Peahen
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post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Should I be worming them now during the breeding season?  Also penning and catching them is not a possibility but I have thought of soaking a treat in wormer and giving it to the individual birds. What is the dose of panacur goat wormer and does it need to be given for several consecutive days or repeated in a couple of weeks or what?  I have been trying to find out dosages and types of wormer for these birds but of course all I can find is info on the internet so I am not totally confident.  He does seem confused and overwhelmed by his hormones but one thing odd is that he has never shown any aggression toward me or the hens.  In fact when a treat is on the ground right in front of him he most often defers to the hens trying to reach it.  I usually try to give him any treats when I catch him around the barn by himself and I am driving by in the golfcart which he walks up to and takes the treat out of my hand.  First time I saw him actually trying to breed a hen he fell off before he even really got started, but subsequent to this I have seen him look alot more successful( assumption as I have Never seen a bird breed!). Last night when I went down to feed the horses they all went with me or appeared shortly after I got down there!  When I come back to the barn after feeding they all come back with me- I feel like the pied piper of peacocks!  The other day I was out messing with my tomato plant and cucumber seedlings which they destroyed and I looked behind me after I finished and there within 10 ft were two hens lying on their sides sunbathing while I was working at undoing their mess!  I am starting to feel like they think I am the main hen! I am most definitely developing a relationship with these gorgeous birds and they have adopted me.  I value any advice as I do want to do the best for my new avian family!  foxchase

post #6 of 7

Nice job noticing the fine details of pea courtship behavior :clap  Yes, when a male is trying to get the attention of his lady love, he allows her to eat and get what would otherwise be his food.  He may not be so magnanimous and generous in December :gig  The way you are going, you will have them lapdog tame in no time.

 

For worming, use 50 mg/kg of fenbendazole 5 days in a row, then repeat in 10 days.  You probably only need it for that long once a year or so.  Since you can't weigh your birds, that amount typically turns into 2 ml to 3 ml for a fully grown male (depending on size), of the 10% liquid suspension (goat wormer), and 1 1/2 - 2 ml for a fully grown hen.

 

I divide it up onto bread chunks -- I put the same amount of wormer on each bread chunk and then toss the number of chunks of bread that each bird needs to make the total, one chunk at a time, while counting.  (Hard when they are dashing around, helps to have a helper, lol)  I also take some "distraction bread" without meds, so if a bird is stealing the other bird's medicine chunk, I can toss a blank to it.

 

Ignore any instructions you find on the internet about putting fenbendazole suspension in water or bird waterers, the recommended dosages are ineffective and it does not remain in suspension.  Some people do, however, successfully mix it into food, if they are feeding a wet or fermented mash to their birds.  Also, there's a water-soluble version that has just come on the market, called "Aquasol" -- that one would work in water, but I checked with my vet and it is $300 a bottle.  (It's highly concentrated.)  So my birds will keep getting it in bread for the foreseeable future...  Some people catch their birds and administer it orally -- gotta get it in the correct tube in the throat, but with practice it's not that hard, as long as you can catch your birds :lau

 

As for giving the ivermectin orally, @casportpony was working on figuring out an effective dose recently, so hopefully she will jump in here and keep me from having to dig back through and find her recommendation.  Ivermectin does NOT kill all the different kinds of worms that need to be removed from pea innards, however it would be one way to remove external parasites without catching them, so might be something you want to do.

 

And yes, peas are naturally curious, and very social -- @zazouse has many amazing photos of her birds following her around on the tractor and eating out of her hand.  @KsKingBee has levitating birds (they jump for treats), and a number of folks have imprinted chicks.  One of our 4-H folks has trained his birds to ride on his arm like falcons.  They're just so much fun!  So glad you have joined us -- let us know how it goes!

 

Edited to correct a typo in the hen dosage!


Edited by Garden Peas - 5/15/16 at 7:22pm
-- The Accidental Peahen
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-- The Accidental Peahen
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post #7 of 7

Oh, and on the breeding season thing -- there are stories that it affects eggs, and published information that it doesn't.  I tend to side with "it doesn't" -- but I did have one hen this year whose eggs started being clear after worming.  However there were a couple possible factors -- she is very young, she had clears earlier in the season before some fertile eggs, she runs really fast, AND she stole far more than her share of bread chunks during a five day worming...  so got more than the recommended dosage.  It's safe enough that I didn't overly worry about overdosing, but I can't prove that it didn't affect her fertility for a few weeks...  There's also a slight chance it can frizzle feathers if used heavily during molting -- but when weighing frizzled feathers versus serious consequences to lack of worming....   Of course, if you can plan in advance, that's always best, too.

-- The Accidental Peahen
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-- The Accidental Peahen
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