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Peacocks Make Good Farm Watchdogs
As I turned in the driveway to Doris Shaw's home southeast of Coffeyville, Kan., I heard several highpitched voices calling, "Help! Hhhhelp! H help!"
A startled look about revealed the identity of the distressed callers . . . peacocks!
"They are good watchdogs. If a stray animal, unfamiliar person, a car or anyone comes up around her, they holler," Doris explains. "When we had cattle, the peacocks paid no attention to our cattle, but if a stray animal approaches, they will holler their heads off."
The peafowl meander about the farmstead and come up to the house taking Doris' red chow dog, Bear, her tabby cat, Tom, and long haired calico cat, Baby, for granted. The peafowl, the cats and the dogs all consider each other as friends, it seems.
"But you let a strange animal come near and everybody gets disturbed," Doris says with a laugh. She has 26 adult peafowl and two chicks. Peafowl nest on the ground or in low places. The hens usually lay between 12 and 15 supersized eggs at each nesting. Eggs are about two in. in diameter and three in. long.
When the hens come in to eat, they always holler. They stand up, shake their legs, yell for help, then fly in," Doris explains. "They are so interesting to watch."
She feeds corn, milo, wheat - whatever field crop has been raised and saved. Her feathered friends also eat several pounds of insects and worms every day.
"Only the males have the beautiful plumage," Doris explains. "The females and young birds are plain gray in color so they blend in with the dry gass and weeds. You can't tell whether the babies are male or female. They look exactly alike.
"A lot of people think the females are turkeys when they see them."
The males begin to develop the colorful plumage at about seven or eight months of age. It takes two to three years to develop the full tail that fascinates humans and seduces the hen peafowl as the cock spreads his tail and struts in all his glory.
The tail feathers grow in layers. The longest bottom layer has no eyes. Subsequent feather layers have eye markings with the larger ones on the longer feathers. These markings get smaller as the layers of feathers are shorter.
As the birds begin to molt during the summer, Doris gathers some of the more colorful feathers to give to interested friends.
Though the peafowl do not provide an income source to Doris, she feels they are worth much more than the grain she feeds. Not only are they beautiful insect eating birds and companions, they give her a sense of security with their warning signals.

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1985 - Volume #9, Issue #4