How the Hen House Turns: A Little More About Peacocks

How the Hen House Turns
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.
A Little More About Peacocks

Just a moment to honor one tough, honorable, bird. He came to visit every day for a while, sometimes slept on top of the Hen House or high up in the Ponderosas that inhabit our back yard.

He appeared in the morning when Bobbie goose heard the water running and started honking, “Let me out of here.” Then he waited on the Hen House roof or the chicken pen fence until I filled water pans and set out lay pellets for my ten birds. He sometimes pecked a bit at the food and drink I left for him on the roof, then he joined the turkey, geese, chickens and ducks in the pen.

Like a savvy new kid on the block, he preferred to keep to himself. Probably because Red, the Rhode Island Red chicken, took him on one day. In the lower pen he had access to a nice dog igloo lined with straw. It gave him shelter when needed or a sun bath when the sun was out.

His name was PP. He was a young peacock who loved to hang out with the gang in the Hen House. The neighbor who had adopted him didn’t mind, and there was nothing either of us could do about it anyway. Peacocks are good flyers.

It only took him a few days to figure out how to get into the pen. There’s a gap in the chicken wire roof near the gate and another gap through the apple tree. He soon mastered them both, so he can go home to his warm lamp under the neighbor’s house whenever he likes.

He grew during the few months we knew him. At least his neck grew longer. It was covered with gorgeous iridescent feathers that changed color as if lit from inside.

All the birds were out  one day, so the visiting peacock PP followed them out of the pen and started barking, the first noise I’ve heard in some time from  him (Or her? My neighbor’s dad says he acts like a male.)

The dogs got excited when he flew, so he retreated to the top of the wood shed and barked some more, not unlike the “owrk owrk owrk” of First Turkey whenever she spotted us coming out of the house.

I called the dogs off, and I they accepted the idea that he was part of the “pack”  Sure enough, when I looked out, the peacock was taking a dust bath, and paying no attention to the dogs when they ran by to check out someone going by on the sidewalk.

Later in the day, as was their habit, the birds all went into the pen, so I gave them their Honey Dew melon rind and shut them in. Peacock was already inside with turkey. They were about the same size and seemed to be hanging out together more often than not.

The helpful websites say peacocks are tropical, but hardy. They will eat anything. I can testify to their intelligence and sociability. When I trapped him twice—once to “save” him from a single digit overnight outside and once to treat a torn toenail—he was very gentlemanly. Not a peck, and very little struggle after he decided I meant him no harm when I sprayed his toe with antiseptic.

When he refused to go home to sleep, my habit was to shut him up with the other birds, for safety from nocturnal hunters. No arguments. He avoided me after that, however. He did not like to be shut up at night. He probably had had enough of the dog igloo.

That’s why he flew to the Ponderosa limb twenty feet over the pen to sleep. It  was warm that night. I thought PP would be safe sleeping high in a Ponderosa or on top of the hen house. There was nothing I could do. I didn’t get down to the pen before dusk—the moral of this story.

I still wonder how the raccoon managed to get him. Peacocks are strong flyers. They must also be sound sleepers.

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