Breeding, Hatching and Raising Peafowl
Just like chickens and other poultry, peafowl are addicting. Every spring we go out and buy more chicks at the farm store. Soon, we start asking the questions: “Should I incubate, breed and hatch peafowl so I can have more?” If you have the time, money, energy and space then yes, you should. Below is information on breeding, hatching and raising peafowl.
You should keep one peacock for every four peahens you own. This will insure fertility and safety all around. If you keep too many males than there will be fights and chaos in the coop. If you keep too many hens then you can’t be sure that the one you want is fertile or not.
If you want active, alert and otherwise healthy chicks then obviously you need to pick healthy parents. Look for peafowl with bright colors and feathers, clean eyes, faces, feathers, vents and feet, activeness and alertness. Age also contributes to the birds you buy. If you want to start breeding right away, choose two-year-old peahens and three-year-old peacocks. The easiest way to breed peafowl is to purchase quality stock and let them produce and raise their own chicks. Also, make sure that the birds you choose are from different breeding stocks to prevent genetic problems in the offspring.
The breeding season starts around March and ends in August. Hens sometimes start laying before they are bred with. Once the male has lost his tail train, egg production and fertility levels will drop noticeably. Breeding pens can be kept for pairs if you are wanting to breed specific birds to each other. One thing to remember when breeding, is that not all colors and patterns will breed true.
Peahens DO NOT lay in their first year. After this though, expect one egg every 2-3 days. Clutch size varies between 4 -12 eggs with 6 being the average. If you remove eggs while the peahen sits on them, she will continue to lay through the whole breeding season. Peahens will lay eggs in about three cycles during the season if you continually pick up the eggs daily. They may lay for a month straight and then stop laying for seven to ten days before starting to lay again. Sometimes they don't stop laying altogether but will lay an egg every few days instead of every other day. Hens will normally lay one egg every other day and in most cases they will be laid in the late afternoon or right before dark.
If you do not collect the eggs daily, the hen or all hens within the pen will all lay eggs together in what’s called a "clutch" with many eggs in one nest. They will then have a high chance of going broody. (See below.)
Once you have your breeding birds, you need to decide whether or not you will be hatching the eggs artificially or if the peahens will hatch them naturally. There are perks and downsides to each choice. Hatching them artificially means it is entirely up to you to incubate, hatch and raise them. You have to monitor the incubators closely. You get to raise the chicks yourself and tame them how you want. Hatching naturally means you don’t have to do as much. The peachicks will not be as friendly. But studies have shown that peachicks raised naturally are brighter, healthier and more in tune.
Peahens usually go broody about twice a year. If the hen is hatching her chicks, make sure that she is in a safe area where other animals including members of the flock cannot bother her. It's best that you put her in a large dog crate or other box from the time she starts brooding to until the chicks have hatched. Keep her and her babies confined in the box for at least three days after hatching so that they can get acquainted with one another and not get killed by predators or other peafowl. Make sure the crate or box has food and water. It takes 27 - 30 days for peafowl eggs to hatch. Again, a peahen's clutch ranges from 4 -12 eggs with 6 being the average.
One peahen will become broody and begin sitting on the nest to hatch the chicks. If she is the only hen laying, sometimes she will start sitting when maybe only a few eggs are laid and then continue to lay eggs until she has several all of different ages. Her peachicks will start hatching around 28 days after incubation. If some of the eggs were laid six to seven days apart, there will be that much age difference between the first and last peachicks hatched.
Once the hen has hatched her peachicks, she will most likely be weak and skinny due to sitting so long without proper nutrition. Be sure to fatten her up with treats and goodies along with feed, water and maybe even some probiotcs.
In the incubator, the temperature should be 99.5 - 100 degrees F. This is not a recommendation, this is a necessity. If the temperature drops below even one degree the chicks probably will die. Check the temperature at least twice daily.
Humidity is also important when incubating eggs. It should be set at 86 - 88 degrees F wet bulb temperature. Humidity shouldn’t fluctuate more than 1 wet bulb degree. If your incubator uses a passive humidity control system, then you need to add water daily to the water trough to ensure correct humidity levels. If the humidity in the incubator is too low or too high, the hatch will fail. When humidity is too low, the air cell will be too big at hatching time. The insides of the egg will be too sticky, thick and hefty to allow the chick to turn. The membranes will be too tough to break open. Additionally, the navel will not close correctly. If the humidity in the incubator is too high, too little water will evaporate from the egg. The air cell will be too small for the chick to reach during hatching. The chick will then drown. The yolk sac will also be too large for the navel to completely close. These problems will also, obviously, cause the hatch to fail.
Once the fertile eggs hatch, place the peafowl chicks under a standard brooder lamp at 95 degrees F. Decrease the temperature of the brooder by five degrees each week until it is down to room temperature.
Raising the Chicks
Peafowl chicks require lots of care. They need to be fed, watered, handled, observed and otherwise cared for each and every day. If the mother peahen hatched them, then all you have to do is be sure they have food, water and protection. Peachicks need to be fed a medicated starter feed during their first six months. It also is recommended that you mix this with a game-bird starter feed. Also, make sure that they get a starter with "amprolium" to prevent coccidiosis. Starter feed should contain 20-24% protein. Like other poultry, peachicks need grit if they eat other foods or treats besides the starter feed. However, there are some soft foods such as yogurt, eggs and oatmeal that can be fed without the need for grit. Note that the mother peahen can eat all these foods along with her babies and doesn't need anything else.
If you are brooding the peachicks yourself then they need a large brooder in which to make a home in. Peachicks are a lot bigger than baby chickens, ducks, guineas and other poultry so make sure that the brooder you buy or build can contain them. They also grow very fast! Peachicks poop a lot so you may want to cover the floor with wire so that the droppings and unwanted feed fall through. Make sure, though, that the wire gaps are not big enough to harm the peachicks' feet or allow them to slip through and suffocate. You also will need a lid for the brooder to contain the chicks because they are good flyers. If the brooder is tall enough then consider putting a roost or two in for them. Again, be sure to feed them a medicated starter feed with “amprolium.” They need water available at all times. Give them toys such as mirrors, dirt and bells to play with. Make sure you hold them and talk to them each day if you want them to be tame and docile. Peachicks are ready to move outdoors when they are two to three months old.
Above is a rough summary of what you need to do when hatching, breeding and raising peafowl. I hope this has helped you make your decisions.
Good luck and thanks for reading!