Peacocks are recognized globally for their amazingly iridescent, colorful feathers. Plus they have special links to specific religious and cultural beliefs. But the bird specie’s name is really peafowl. Peacocks are male peafowl with their magnificent-fanned-tail displays for courting season. Dullish in appearance, the females are peahens, and the babies are peachicks.
Peafowl may be feral or domesticated, are popular in zoos, and even roam urban areas. On some farms, they even serve as guard animals. However, they are unique birds, and consideration of their needs and personalities is integral when deciding whether or not they will successfully relocate and adapt to a specific environment. But one successful relocation story comes out of Oklahoma.
A Rehoming Tale
A county sheriff called up Gloria and Chester Hocker 20 years ago to ask if the couple would round up a group of escaped peafowl running loose in a small town. The birds were free-roaming neighborhoods, damaging property as they went. Their sharp talons scratched cars when the birds jumped on them.
The Hockers own Chester’s Party Barn and Farm in Piedmont, Oklahoma. An over-25-acre farm, the rural location is home to 18 animal varieties. Even though the venue doesn’t rehome animals, the sheriff asked the Hockers to make an exception.
“Rounding them up was interesting,” said farm manager Jasie Dinkel. “You have to catch them at night, when you have an element of surprise in the darkness, and they are in one location roosting and sleeping. Our crew used fishing nets to catch them one at a time.”
Team Chester integrated the peafowl into their popular agri-tourism venue. Some of the 13 have now passed away due to old age, but the farm currently has two peacocks and one peahen. (The peahen was hatched on the farm.)
At Chester’s, the peafowl are docile with no issues around people. As well, they cohabitate with chickens, roosters, turkeys and ducks in a 400-square-foot area with lay boxes. They have outdoor areas to scratch and roll around in the dirt for dust baths, plus at least three levels of roost—including ledges, poles and rungs—for added height to their enclosure. Like chickens, the peafowl roost on almost anything off the ground.
Chester’s is a petting zoo, and visitors easily see the peafowl up close, and pet and feed them. But the birds’ enclosure is made so the peafowl cannot leave. So, although the other birds may get to free graze on the farm, the peafowl have to stay at home base.
“Our peafowl cannot totally free roam for their safety from predators, cars, and the risk of them getting loose and causing nuisance situations for our neighbors,” Dinkel said. “You can train most chickens to a home area. But our peafowl are not like chickens in that way. If they get out, they are gone. Perhaps some other farms may be able to train them to stay close, but we have not been successful.”
Housing & Keeping Peafowl
Chester’s birds reside in a barn stall with an open-air side accessible through a doggy-style-bird door. One side is walled. The third and fourth sides are open to the barn’s interior, which is perfect during cold months as they are kept out of the wind, rain and snow. The crew monitors their water so it is fresh and unfrozen. For added comfort, the crew pampers them with extra bedding, such as straw, when crazy Oklahoma blizzards hit the area.
As ground feeders, peafowl eat pesky insects, small mammals, reptiles and scorpions. As well, official grub time at Chester’s is smorgasbord style, and the whole gang chows down together. The crew feeds all the birds using a basic poultry feed with a mix of laying pellets, hen scratch and crushed corn.
On a rotation system, the crew gives them multiple aids in their water such as dewormers and multivitamins, plus apple cider vinegar—a natural dewormer that aids in digestion.
“They may be the easiest animals on our property to care for,” Dinkel said.
Known to run almost 10 miles per hour, or 16 kilometers per hour, peafowl are prey for predators larger than them. In Oklahoma, those includes skunks, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and more.
Although they can make good pets, peafowl are big and pesky, and they can be destructive to farm crops, gardens and property (including cars). They’re also very loud, especially in the morning, and produce a lot of feces.
Peafowl are very social and live in groups. They can’t fly very far and need places off the ground to roost, sleep and escape predators. They tend to live in tropical regions with high humidity and rainfall, as well as arid regions with low rainfall.
However, they can sometimes adjust to various environments. There are several types of peafowl, and not all types get along well with people and animals.