STORY BY JOYANNA LOVE
PHOTOS BY JOYANNA LOVE AND CONTRIBUTED
Usually if a friend is offering someone a pet, they expect a cat or a dog — not a peacock.
Yet, this is exactly how Jerry and Pat Farmer came to own their first Indian peafowls.
The female birds are called peahens, and the males are peacocks.
“At that time, Jerry, whatever came up, he took,” Pat said.
Back then, Jerry said he had three chicken coops and up to 50 chickens at a time.
Adding an aviary provided a place just for the peacocks.
Jerry had met the friend offering the birds while working with the Chick Chain project at the Chilton County Extension Office.
Each new bird the couple took in was about a year old. Jerry said the males mature at 3, and the females mature at 2 years old.
The couple did not know a lot about the birds then, and they admit they are still learning. Jerry said learning about the birds has been one of his favorite things about having them.
Pat said she has enjoyed watching them.
After the initial two, the couple received more birds, and now has eight peafowls that roam and fly at will on their property.
The aviary is largely abandoned now but serves as a safe place for a peacock that ran into the road to recover from a broken leg.
Having this many birds around has meant taking precautions to preserve the Farmers’ tomato plants and back porch.
Enclosing the back porch keeps the birds, and anything they might drop, out.
“Peacocks are not for everybody,” Pat said. “They are not high maintenance other than the fact we had to screen in our back porch because they discovered it.”
“They are like geese, messy,” Jerry said. “We would get up in the morning, and there would be three of them looking at us.”
The couple has fenced in much of their garden to keep the peafowls from digging up the soil.
Pat said she is developing a plan to redo her flower beds, researching which ones they will not eat.
The birds are also loud, making a variety of sounds ranging from a caw to a clicking.
“They are good watchdogs,” Pat said.
Peafowls have a diverse palate. Pat said the birds eat ants, ticks, fleas, mice and snakes. However, the birds are also partial to some of the items in the Farmer garden. They love the tomato plant leaves and chives.
Jerry said the birds like chives so much they will eat the shoots then dig up the roots to eat those as well.
“They will eat almost anything — literally,” Jerry said.
Jerry feeds the birds a combination of scratch feed, pellets, raw peanuts, cat food and dog food.
“The one they love the most is the dog food,” Jerry said.
The peafowls will also graze.
The colorful display of feathers usually associated with peacocks is used to attract females.
The males spread out their feathers in a fan shape and begin a time-honored ritual.
“It’s almost a dance,” Jerry said. “A lot of times they (males) back up to them.”
The rearmost feathers on the peacock are very fluffy.
“It’s like a ball of down,” Jerry said.
Pat said the females can fan out their feathers also, but she is not exactly sure why they do it.
“They’re just fun to watch,” Pat said.
While the birds are not usually aggressive, the males are territorial and do not always take to newcomers.
This resulted in one of the birds being run off the property once. He wandered in to the road and was injured, but he is recovering well.
“In the fall, the peacocks lose all of those long feathers for the winter,” Jerry said.
Last year, he saved some and now has them on display in a vase.
This is the first year that the peahens have laid eggs and are setting on them. It will take 28 days for the eggs to hatch.
“They lay in what they call clutches, anywhere from three to six eggs at a time,” Jerry said.
He expressed doubts as to whether any young peafowls would actually hatch. Now that the females have started setting on the eggs, they are only leaving them for a few moments at a time to eat.
“They lay a pretty big egg,” Jerry said.
Similar to chicken eggs the non-fertile eggs of the peahen are edible.
“If a person eats two eggs for breakfast, they only need one of these,” Jerry said.
Pat commented that the eggs are mostly yolk.
On hot days, the birds can be found in shady spots in the yard under bushes and trees — one even likes to perch on Jerry’s tractor. The birds also enjoy spending time roosting in the Farmers’ trees.
“I’ve heard if they don’t like a place, they’ll just leave,” Jerry said.
Apparently, the birds like it at the Farmers’ place because they are staying put.