MOUNT VERNON — Male peacocks have around 70 beautiful, long plume feathers they can fan out at will, Knox County farm owner Michael Butler says. It’s often done to impress the females of the species.
When two of them are in mid-air, squabbling for lofty bragging rights with peacock hens nearby under some shade trees, you don’t see all those feathers — just flashes of moving color. The dark blue-purple necks of the birds are craned as they attempt to snap at each other a bit.
Late June is well past mating season, although baby chicks just a handful of days old, two of them, scurry between tall grasses to keep up with mom.
Butler and his wife, Julie, have about 15 peacocks and also a few African Guinea Fowl, which they bought years ago as chicks from a seller in the Fredericktown area. Their property offers plenty of trees, including tall, shady pines for them to roost in, along with a sun-blocked bamboo grove.
The bamboo makes them feel at home as peacocks are native to India and Sri Lanka. That said, Butler offered that the hot summer sun doesn’t appear to bother them too much. The Butlers also have numerous other animals to account for, including dairy goats, and Michael is thinking about getting into beekeeping in a nearby field in a year or two. During the cold months, peacocks do well wintering in a barn.
Peacocks and African Guinea Fowl are often considered “guard birds” because of the calls they make. In the case of peacocks, it is often mistaken for the sound of a child calling out for help. Butler said he keeps the birds around more for aesthetic reasons but offered peacocks often make their calls when they hear sudden noises, like a car door slamming shut.
Butler was asked if peacocks have any predators, and he said the adults generally do not although some chicks are usually lost because they will scatter when they feel endangered. Julie said once there are just one or two chicks left, the hen does a better job of counting them and offering protection. The adults can fly surprisingly well, despite tail feathers reaching up to 6 feet long.
“They’re a big bird,” Michael said. “They roost up in the trees or in the barns so the raccoons can’t get to them.” However, he added, it is best to be ever vigilant for animals such as raccoons and coyotes, and he was in the process of attempting to humanely trap and relocate a few raccoons.
Peacocks, also known as peafowl, are omnivores. They eat a variety of foods including seeds, grass, fruits, berries, and flower petals as well as ants, millipedes, crickets, termites, and even reptiles and small mammals.
“We just supplement with a little corn,” Butler said.
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