Feeding Captive Peafowl
Joshua R. Nelson
Rocking B-A-B Ranch
One of the most frequently asked questions we get from folks concerning our birds is “what do you feed them?” It is one of those questions that produce a different answer from each and every peafowl enthusiast around, and chances are none of the answers will be the same. The fact is that most breeders have different feeding routines, usually determined by what feeds are available and cost effective. In this article we are going to share our feeding philosophy and describe what we feed our birds and why. This does not mean that what we do is the best or scientifically proven to be the healthiest, it just produces great results for us and it is what we found to work well.
It is our opinion that the diet we feed our birds should closely resemble what they would be eating naturally if they were wild roaming birds. Wild peafowl are omnivorous, which means they eat both meat and plants. The meat in their diet typically consists of insects and small reptiles, usually anything that crawls on the ground and can fit in their mouths. The plants in their diet usually consist of leaves, grasses, grains, and any types of seeds or berries that are available in their natural habitats. It is nearly impossible to provide captive birds with the exact diet they would have available if they were free roaming, but we attempt to get it as close as possible.
The first and biggest mistake bird enthusiasts make in feeding their fowl is restricting their diet. We put the birds in a pen and pour in a bag of chicken feed and expect the peafowl to live happily ever after. This may keep the birds alive, but it is far from optimal conditions and will not achieve the best results. When feeding your captive peafowl please consider that variety is the best way to improve your bird’s diet! There are thousands of feed companies throughout the U.S. that produce manufactured feed for all types of birds, very few companies produce a feed specially formulated for peafowl. Our base feed is a manufactured feed formulated for quail. It is not ideal, but the nutritional requirements for quail are very similar to peafowl. Depending on what region of the U.S. you live in, you should be able to purchase some type of manufactured bird feed formulated for game-birds or turkeys. That manufactured feed should provide your birds with the minimal nutritional requirements, but will not be optimal. Most manufactured feeds are cooked at high temperatures and are based solely on plant protein. Again, manufactured feeds will provide your birds with minimal requirements, but by limiting their diets to that you are greatly restricting their nutrition.
In our feed we mix 2 parts manufactured Game-bird feed with 1 part all natural seeds and grains, this mixture is available to the birds at all times. Nutrena makes a Gamecock feed that consists of 12-14 all natural seeds and grains. We mix this with our manufactured feed to provide the birds with the all natural seeds and grain portion of their diet. We also have our manufactured feed specially made to include Kelp meal. The Kelp meal is not cooked and provides the birds with natural greens, many micro nutrients, and Keratin (which produces brilliant yellow coloring on the face of Green peafowl and Spalding peafowl). The all natural grains and seeds will also contribute to brilliant coloring on the face of Green and Spalding peafowl. We also feed our birds as many fresh greens and or plants that we can, grass would be sufficient, but it is difficult to keep grass growing inside the bird pens. To meet the meat portion of the peafowl’s diet we feed them a no-soy dog food. The protein content in the dog food is derived from meat sources only. This is vital because it provides the birds with meat based protein they would be getting if they were wild. I have heard many people feed cat feed the same way. We feed this dog food twice weekly by throwing it into the bird pens. We could mix the dog food with the rest of the feed, but by throwing it into the pens it gives the birds the opportunity to walk around pecking at the ground, which they thoroughly enjoy. It also brings them close to the fences and allows us to have a closer look at there spectacular colors.
In conclusion, please remember that in feeding captive peafowl we should try to provide our birds with as much variety as possible. This variety should include a manufactured feed formulated for game-birds or turkeys, all natural seeds and grains, a source of meat based protein, and as many natural greens, fruits, and vegetables you can provide. If you attempt to provide your birds with a diet that closely resembles that which they have available in their natural habitat, you will literally see a difference in your birds coloring, behavior, fertility, and egg hatchability