Breeding Peafowl

If you are considering breeding peafowl you may find the below information useful. The Peacock and Peahen sections also explain some of the behaviours you may notice in your birds.

The Peacock

As a general rule, peacocks are around three years of age before they will reliably trade (mate with) hens. We have used two-year-old peacocks – sometimes they do the job and sometimes they don’t. On the other side of the scale we’ve used some cocks into their teens.  

A peacock does not have to trade the hen every time she is going to lay. For the best chance of fertile eggs though, he does have to nearby.

The Peahen

Nesting boxes for Breeding

Use large wood shavings or chopped straw in the nesting boxes. Put in a good amount; your hen will rearrange it into a nice nest. For young hens just starting to lay, we often add fake eggs to the nests. Hens seem to get the idea that that’s where they should lay, but some will still lay on the floor in a corner.

Peahen Nesting Habits

Peahens as a rule don’t reliably lay in their first breeding season as an adult. The exception is if she was a very early summer chick, when she may lay one or two eggs when at around 16 months.

A hen will lay an egg every other day and only in the evenings. She won’t sit immediately but will wait until her nest is full (anything between 2 and 10 eggs). When the last egg is down she will start to sit on all the eggs at once. If an egg is fertile the chick will start to develop (strike) after 12 hours of warmth. By this method the hen will have all her chicks hatch on the same day, 28 days from the time the hen started sitting.

Hens will lay and sit on eggs regardless of their fertility. If you know her eggs aren’t fertile and she is broody regardless, then please do her a favour and possibly even save her life – lift the eggs and do away with the nest. There is nothing more sickening than coming out one morning to find that Charlie the fox has visited, killed your hen and eaten the (infertile) eggs she was too broody to leave. She died for nothing!

Candling Eggs

We usually candle nest eggs at two weeks in daylight. Eggs in an incubator on the other hand can be candled in the dark at 8 days. Candling is done in order to remove eggs that are not viable as they will rot. Unfertilised eggs are called ‘yolkers’. Those with embryos that have died are ‘quitters’.

Equipment and Timing

We use a small LED torch with a round hole cut in a piece of wheelbarrow inner tube taped over the lens. Just push the rubber to the egg until it seals against the shell. At 7 days you should start to see blood vessels. If at over 10 days old the eggs are clear then they are most likely unfertile.  But repeat the test at 14 days if it’s your first time.

The light will not hurt the embryo, however do not leave it in the light for a long period of time. Rather than the brighter the light the better, the better the seal between the egg and the light, the easier it is to candle eggs.

Closer to hatching, candling a good egg will reveal an uneven air pocket and you may see the beak protruding into it. If you hold the egg to your ear, you can often hear the peachick cheeping. Once pecked, an egg can take 24 hrs or more to hatch.

The Hatching Process

Peachicks do take a while to hatch. Don’t help the peachicks hatch unless really necessary. If the chick gets stuck after it has started to break a circle around the egg, it can usually be helped without a problem. However if blood appears where you break pieces of the shell off, stop and wait several hours.

Immediately After Hatching

Peachicks have claws on their feet and need a surface they can grip on to walk. DO NOT use newspaper as it’s very slippy – if a chick slips and does the splits it’s hard for them to stand again. We use anti-slip mats in the hatchers and corrugated cardboard in our rearing pens for the first week. Carpet is a good alternative. At seven days we put pine wood shavings on our concrete floors with underfloor heating.

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