"Lions and Tigers and Bears!
Oh My!"Predators are predators, but the ones in my back yard are smaller than the ones Dorothy was worried about in Oz. I think a fox took one of my barred rock hens, and a guinea cock. The reason I think it was a fox is that the guinea was very fast and very, well, "cocky". He reminded me of George Jefferson, and if I had not already named him "Al", "George" would have been an appropriate moniker. His name was Al because he and his mate were to be a functional pair, helping to control the insects while producing many more little darlings. I assume he ate insects, but he never did fertilize any of Functions many eggs. Alas, I digress.
Al did not stand in one place for long, pumping those little legs as fast as possible, rushing here and there constantly so as not to miss anything. I believe that a predator bided it's time, laying in wait for Al or Function to get close enough to grab, then snatched him up before he knew what happened. And that, my friend, sounds like a fox to me.
Function and Al in the Peafowl pen My Barred Rock Hen
Poor Function was bereft. She returned to their pen in the barn that evening alone. I knew right away something was up. She was never far from Al. He made it a point to always keep her within eyesight. Once, when she sheltered under a tree in the yard during a sudden rainstorm, he stood in the doorway of the barn and called very loudly to her, as if letting her know she was a bit too far away from him to be comfortable with. In the evenings, they would waddle into their pen together, side by side. So when Function turned up all alone, I was surprised. I expected Al to come along at any minute. But he didn't. I went ahead and locked her in thinking that if he did show up later, he could spend the night on the hay bale outside the pen or up in the barn rafters, though I had never seen him fly that high. The next morning I went out expecting to find Al bobbing and weaving around the barn while waiting for me to let his mate out, but he was not there. Function rushed out of the barn, already calling for Al. I checked back several times during the day and about mid afternoon I decided to put Function into the peafowl pen. She was obviously upset and I did not want her to wander into Mr. Fox's greedy paws also! She and Al had shared a pen with the peafowl for several months (at least until Al started bullying the peacock), so she was used to the peas. Imagine my surprise when she went into a corner and hung her head while allowing the peas to place their heads on her back and gently pluck at her neck feathers. Even my husband asked me, "Is she grieving and are they comforting her?" I had never seen anything like it. mercilessly
Once, months prior to this, one of our peahens died in the pen. I found her while I was rushing to take my son to an emergency medical appointment. I realized she was dead, but I really couldn't take care of the situation right then as my son was very sick and we had barely enough time to get to his appointment. I remember the peas looking at the deceased hen, then craning their necks to look pointedly at me with one shiny round black eye, then back to her, repeating this behavior again and again, as if to say "Do something for goodness sake!". My birds often surprise me with their behavior.
The late great Gertrude
Now, I think the peas like Function, but they had merely tolerated Al. Al was mean to the peacock. Really mean. Al would fly at the peacock, taunting him. I don't know why the peacock didn't realize he was twice the guinea's size. Sometimes I let the peas out of the pen to free range and they would gravitate toward Function and run around like a little 4-some group of friends. But Al and the peacock did not hang out unless Function was with them. I didn't let the peas out often, because, for some reason, the peacock thought the guineas next door were the bomb. He would run over there to hang out every chance he got. I would see him across the field, with his identifiable swaying gait, rushing around and around the outside of their barn trying to keep up with the guineas, casting a glance toward our yard now and then. The neighbors would chase him home, and he would return to the barn, panting and happy.
3 peas late winter 2010
I have heard that peafowl do not have the same sense of "home" as other birds. I was concerned, at first, until I visited an estate sale on an old farm property that had been vacant for 5 years. I noticed a peacock wandering around and asked about him. I was told there had orginally been 3 when the owner passed away 5 years prior. One died and one disappeared (most likely the victim of a hungry predator) but one continued to hang around. He stayed even though he was the only peafowl in the area. He was home.
New chain link run for chickens and peachicks (soon to be covered)