Free - Ranging peafowl conjures up an image of the picture perfect yard with glittering birds strutting their stuff out on a freshly cut lawn. Large white and pink flowers surrounding the lawn create the perfect backdrop to the peacock's stunning show. I certainly had this beautiful image in my head when I first got peafowl. I thought they would be beautiful lawn ornaments. Unfortunately, there were several things I was not aware of. While many people and places successfully free-range peafowl, there are certain things you should do before you free-range peafowl, and there are also things you should do while you free-range peafowl to insure that your birds will stay on your property.
There is a long history of peafowl being free-ranged. Kings would free-range peafowl, the wealthy would have free-range peafowl in their luxurious gardens, temples and castles would have peafowl free-ranging the grounds. Fortunately these days you don't have to be a King or a wealthy person to have pretty peafowl roaming your yard. Today peafowl can be found free-ranging at almost any zoo in the world. Few if any other animals at zoos can enjoy such a luxury. Some botanical gardens have free-range peafowl gracing their expansive gardens. Most peafowl breeders free-range peafowl and some peafowl breeders/keepers do not pen any of their peafowl and prefer to let them all run lose. There are even communities in Florida, California, and New Zealand (just to name a few) that have feral populations of peafowl.
Surely with all of this history we have discovered the key to free-ranging peafowl right? Yes, but, each case is different. Some people get very lucky free-ranging while others have many issues free-ranging their birds. Before you free-range peafowl there are some preparations & thoughts you might want to consider:
1. Fence in your yard. Peafowl can fly over fences anyways, and you shouldn't clip their wings to prevent this. The fence is more to keep predators, such as dogs, out.
2. If you live right next to a busy road, it might not be the best idea to free-range peafowl. You don't want your birds to get run over, or worse cause a car accident.
3. Have something to protect your birds from predators. So far it seems the best thing to use is a dog or dogs. An outside dog that is friendly to your birds and can look after them is a great idea. Many people use Great Pyrenees dogs to guard their flock. These dogs are great for protecting livestock. You have to raise them with limited human contact so that they will bond to the birds and not you. If you raise them too closely to yourself, they will be very protective of you and won't care about your birds.
4. Build a pen for your peafowl on the land they will be free-ranging. You can't just buy them and turn them lose on your property. You wouldn't buy a new dog and turn it lose in an un-fenced yard without a leash on would you? Probably not. You have to give your new peafowl some time to adjust to the area they will be living before you turn them lose so give them some good space to live in until they can be turned lose. Remember the rule for size is 100 sq. ft. per bird and at least 6ft. tall.
5. Consider if the neighbors will be okay with the peafowl wandering into their yard. Peafowl can jump onto cars and scratch them, poop on front porches, make noise, etc. Read this article for more about neighbors & peafowl: http://bamboopeacock.com/Neighbors_&_Peafowl.html
The age of the peafowl is something else to consider. Raising peachicks to free-range can be more successful than buying adult birds for free-ranging. The main rule is the longer they have lived on your property or if they grew up on your property, the more likely they are to stay.
Once you get your first peafowl you will want to keep them penned for at least 3 months before you turn them lose. Some sellers will tell you a week, a month, etc. Waiting a short amount of time or turning the bird lose the same day you get it might have worked for some people, but you should take the safe route and wait 3 months. You will not be sorry for waiting! With peachicks, I would wait until they are around a year old before turning them lose. Basically once they are full size you can let them out. While your first peafowl are penned take some time to tame them down and get to know them. Work on getting them to eat out of your hand. The friendlier you can get them, the more enjoyable they will be when you free-range them. Once you turn your peafowl lose, you have to watch them and make sure they do not leave your property. If they do, herd them back home. You might have to do this several times until they get the message. When breeding season comes the peahens will go off to make a nest somewhere. This is often the time when people lose their free range peahens because they are very vulnerable when they are on their nest. They stay on the nest even at night so it is very easy for a predator to come along and get them. Ways to keep your peahens safe is to pen them when they get ready to lay, collect their eggs and incubate them yourself, build a temporary pen around the peahen while she is nesting (make sure to provide food and water in this pen), etc. It is still a good idea to worm your birds 2 times a year. There is liquid wormer you can mix with their water or there is a paste wormer you can put on bread or inside treats to feed your free-range birds. Even though your peafowl will be foraging for bugs and eating grass, it helps to feed them treats daily to insure that they will stay in your yard. Feeding them treats can make them like you. Don't forget to provide them with water if you do not have a pond or a creek on your property.
I never free-ranged much. I made the mistake of not penning my first pair for long, and I decided that in my current location free-ranging is just not a good option. Someday I will free-range again, but for now this article is a blend of information I learned first hand and information that I have learned from other people that do a lot of free-ranging. I would like to thank Zazouse especially because she free-ranges all of her peafowl on her beautiful property and I have learned a lot from her free-ranging setup. She has great success free-ranging 50 plus peafowl even when she has predators such as coyotes, foxes, bobcats, opossums, and raccoons. Zaz has a pack of dogs ranging from several Great Pyrenees to a pit bull. Her dogs are gentle with the birds and tough on all of the predators.
In conclusion, do not let your new peafowl out right away and once you do let them lose, keep an eye on them and keep them safe. Feed them treats to keep them tame and keep them on your property. You can have beautiful peafowl roaming your yard with a little work. It will be worth it to look out the kitchen window and see a peacock in your yard shaking his long train feathers for peahens passing by. The calls of the peacock in the spring and summer will add a wild, jungle feeling to your landscape. Not only will the peafowl be a beautiful lawn ornament, but they will be a wonderful addition to your family.