Birds are naturally adapted to endure the cold, but their adaptations can be limited when facing extremely cold temperatures, like during winter.
Peafowls, in this case, can survive cold temperatures, but how about extreme and extended cold periods such as the winter?
This article will guide you through the various adaptations peafowls have that help them keep warm during cold weather and how you can help them stay warm, especially during winter.
About Peafowls and Cold
Peafowls are tropical birds, with their origins tracing to hot regions of India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Africa. Because of their natural adaptation to warm climates, they are fine with slightly cold temperatures.
However, exposure to extreme cold temperatures for extended periods could be detrimental to their health and their overall longevity.
Peafowls are wild birds, and domesticating them can be a bit challenging for a number of reasons. First, these birds can fly, and they do not like being caged. Peacocks (male peafowl) also have a long fan of elegant feathers, often making up more than 60 percent of their body length.
This could be a bit challenging for them, especially if you have a small coop. They are highly intelligent birds who love roaming around, eating grasses and bugs, at times even digging in low perches or soft dirt for a warm dirt bath.
Therefore, when creating spaces for your peafowls, you should take care to provide maximum space for them to walk freely and forage around. For this, maintaining peafowls in a confined environment may be problematic, more so if you live in a cold area.
At night, peafowls roost high up in the trees, mainly 40 – 80 feet above, or as high as they can get, solely for security purposes.
They are excellent bug hunters and boundary protectors. Just like geese, they often give a loud HONK alarm whenever they see any trespassers.
How do Peafowls Naturally Stay Warm?
Peafowls can endure little cold, but not extreme cold temperatures, as experienced during winter. In case of such weather, it is highly recommended that peafowls should be provided with shelter like a barn, a shade, or most preferably, a large wooden coop that they can move into when it is extremely cold or wet outside.
These shelters, just like the high roosts, help them avoid frostbite, which could make them lose their toes. Peafowls do not do well with other animals and should have their shelters exclusively for themselves or non-excitable animals like cows. Having cats or dogs around them could easily make the shelter chaotic.
However, before we provide the peafowls with shelter and the additional heating requirements, peafowls have natural heat conservation mechanisms. What are these natural body adaptations?
- Like other birds, peafowls have a counter-current heat exchange system between the outer veins and underlying arteries in their legs that enables them to regulate the temperature of blood flowing up the body. In this mechanism, warm arterial blood flowing to the legs passes close to the cold venous blood from the legs. The warm arterial blood is responsible for warming the cold blood flowing up to the body, and in the process, cools the blood flowing down to the feet.
Although blood flowing to the peafowl’s feet is relatively cold, it is just warm enough for the blood to reach and provide the legs cells with enough oxygen and food and be just enough to avoid frostbite.
- Peafowls also have scales on their feet which helps them insulate their bodies from the cold and snow. They may not be significant in extremely cold weather, but at the least they help. On the other hand, feathers provide significant insulation against cold, starting from late fall through winter.
They also have a thin oil layer lining their feathers from oil glands on the skin, providing them with insulation and waterproofing. Peafowls will often gorge during fall when there are limitless food sources, building up fatty layers under their skins before winter sets in. The built-up fat reserves beneath the skin provide extra insulation as well as extra energy for the generation of body heat.
- Peafowls’ behavioral adaptations include fluffing of feathers to create air pockets that aid in the general insulation in extremely cold weather. Though not common, peafowls at times stand on one leg or crouch to cover both legs in a bid to maintain body temperature and shield themselves from the cold.
They can also tuck their bills into their shoulder feathers to protect their beaks from the cold and even breathe the warm air due to the body heat.
During sunny winter days, they always bask out in the sun, exposing the largest surface of their backs to the sun, and even moving close to stone and brick walls which absorb and reflect heat, helping them stay warmer.
How do You Take Care of Peafowls During Winter?
Besides their natural adaptations against cold, peafowls need extra protection from extreme cold. However, providing coops or other shelter is not enough to lure them into retreating into the structures when cold. Remember, they are wild birds and do not like being confined.
Keeping them warm, therefore, can prove to be complicated. You should have mechanisms that lure them in, such as installing automatic lighting systems that encourage them to move in so that they keep warm and dry at night.
Some owners have heated perches in the sheds. This might be a good idea until they are left to overheat, in turn, burning and dropping off the nails of the peafowl. Heated perches are not bad but should be used carefully.
It may also be necessary for you to go help stranded peafowls into their sheds, especially during cold nights. If you are raising peachicks, they may not have developed an under-covering of feathers to keep them warm.
Therefore, it is recommended to have peachicks confined in a heated area for four to six weeks after hatching, most preferably indoors.
Keep the temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and constantly lower by 5 degrees on a weekly basis. For adults, it is recommended to maintain the temperatures at 70 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and if possible, insulate the shelter to retain warmth.
Additionally, you should create nesting areas within the shelters and keep the bedding clean. Peahens will want a place to lay their eggs in case they mate during the cold months. Placing a little straw on the ground is also essential for insulating the peafowls’ feet from the cold ground.
They will often gather as a small flock during the cold days and crowd together in a small shared space during the night to share body heat.
What do Peafowls Eat During Winter?
During summer, food is available to your peafowls since bugs are readily available, especially moths, spiders, grasshoppers, and termites. However, during winter, foraging for food can be a little difficult. The peafowls will therefore appreciate a small meal a few times in a day.
Do Peafowls Fly?
Peafowls can fly. They usually fly high up the trees to roost atop trees for protection. However, it would be difficult for them to fly over longer distances.
The peacock’s tail assumes over 60 percent of the body length so that the tails cause too much drag over longer distances.
Although they can fly, peafowls do not migrate.
Can You Train a Peafowl?
It doesn’t matter the number of peafowls your house can host, but the baseline is, peafowls do not house-train well.
Try house training them, and you will often find unpleasant surprises wherever it goes anywhere in the house. They aren’t companion animals either, although those raised around people are satisfactorily tame.
In the wild, peafowls are believed to be polygamous, except for the green peafowl that has been suggested to be strictly monogamous.
They often let out a high-pitched cry when the mating season comes, drawing the females to them.
Peacocks cannot tolerate extremely cold weather. If you cannot provide them with a large enough shelter during the cold months, housing them is not a good option. If you live in urban or suburban areas, you should first check with your neighborhood moderators to ensure peacocks are allowed in your locality.
It is a crime to rear exotic birds without the acquisition of proper permits. You should therefore check with your local state to get authorization to rear peafowl.
Many times, peafowls have a noise factor that is prohibited in most places. Besides this, peafowls also stress out because of loud noises and fast objects, so it is recommended to keep them away as far as possible from roads and other hyper animals like dogs.