A FOWL ADVENTURE
" God loved birds so he made trees. Man loved birds so he made cages"
Not long ago I acquired peafowl and I'm no expert on their sex lives but I'm learning. They don't reach sexual maturity until about two to three years and my hens are barely two yrs. The male peacock though is over four, and you can tell come April his thinking turns amorous. Like a lot of males he struts and spends a lot of time on his appearance. He spreads his elaborate tail feathers and rattles them to attract the females. He circles and seems to push out his private parts and 'wink' at the hens. They seem aloof, uninterested, and continue picking the various insects falling from the garden plants. He's irritable and he screams a lot, but bless him, at least he spends a lot of time on foreplay. If he has been lucky enough to have a sexual encounter I've missed it. Perhaps I tell him, next summer when the girls are a bit more mature, and bored with the same old garden tour they will be more impressed.
I did get a surprise though, when one of the peahens started acting strangely. She would disappear for most of the day and them come home to frantically gulp some food and water and tear off again across the field. She reminded me of myself when I was working as an E.R. nurse. No time for a decent lunch or bathroom break, just rush rush. She had that same familiar wild look in her eye. Then the final straw. She stopped coming home at night.
One misty afternoon in late August I decided to follow her. She sprinted across the pasture and through the page wire fence. By the time I did a not so graceful critical-crotch maneuver over the fence and picked myself up to check for broken bones she was in the woods. I eventually found her sitting in a hollow looking glassy eyed. At first I thought she might be ill. Although fairly tame, I can't normally touch or 'pet' these birds. They keep an arms length distance. Now just as a heavier rain started to fall I reached out and ran my hand over her back.
Slowly, very slowly, she stood up to reveal five perfect eggs.
During the day my peafowl are free range but every evening at dusk they come home and roost in the rafters of the barn. They are safe. I know I'm probably pushing my luck. There's hardly a day that I don't see a coyote prowling the perimeter of our fields, not to mention the raccoons and hawks. Now here she was venerable, and because of her age and what I understood, her eggs probably weren't fertile so it was all for nothing. But how was I to know for sure? So I did what seemed sensible. I went back to our barn and built her a nest.
. Up in the hay mow and partially covered with a tarp and the softest hay I could find it was a glorious nest.
I went back to find her still sitting there meditating. I put her eggs in a bag and she let me lift her without much fuss. Once I had the right grip I headed off. I knew I'd never get over that fence juggling a ten pound struggling bird, so I walked the quarter mile perimeter to the gate. It was raining briskly now, and my hair mixed with hay and sweat was plastered to my forehead. I was soaked to the bone. My glasses were steamed up, and I needed to pee badly. But I felt it was a noble thing I was doing so I stumbled on.
I deposited her on the nest and gingerly slid the eggs underneath her. I wanted to crawl in myself it was so calm and inviting up there in the rafters. I sighed knowing what a wonderful conscientious farmer-woman I had become and went in the house to clean up.
Thirty minutes later she was gone.
She didn't come back for two days. I couldn't find any more eggs and she ignored the penthouse nest I had constructed. After a week I bit my lip and destroyed the eggs.
Sometimes I'm even a little angry that we import wildlife to a country where they don't belong. We lock them in cages and stare at them. We expect them to cope in a habitat they're not adapted too. Next season I will be ready. I'll get an incubator and try and keep the females penned. They are here now, a part of my life on Windy River Farm. All you can do is try and protect the things your love.
Are you having any fowl adventures?