Backyard Poultry

Beyond Backyard Chickens: Raising Peacocks and Game Birds

Starting a Flock : Considering Chickens

Flock Management : Layer Nutrition

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Raising peacocks, pheasants, quail and other game birds can be a fun addition to a backyard flock. They are most often raised for farm fresh eggs and meat, as well as their colorful feathers and unique companionship. These birds thrive best on a high-protein diet, such as Purina® Flock Raiser®.
 
Peafowl, quail, pheasants, guineas and other game birds are a unique option for flock raisers. These birds are raised for many reasons, from meat and eggs to sport and companionship.
 
If you’re looking to add beauty and variety to your flock through peacocks, game birds and ornamentals, here are a few ideas to start:

Facts about raising peafowlWhat do peacocks eat? Peafowl need a high-protein diet to maintain their beautiful feathers.

Raising peafowl may seem exotic, but can easily be a rewarding hobby. Peafowl is the generic term that covers both male peacocks and female peahens.
 
Interestingly, peafowl are members of the pheasant family and can live to be 40-50 years old. This is much longer than the lifespan of other poultry, so be sure to keep this point in mind when considering peafowl.
 
The vibrant and colorful display of plumage draws people to raising peacocks. Peafowl come in a variety of types, including India Blue, Emerald and White peacocks. The pure white albino peacock exists, although they are very rare.
 
If you are raising peacocks, they need a spacious coop and run. A general rule of thumb is 80 square feet per bird with a pen height of at least 8 feet to fan their feathers. These birds prefer tall roosts to accommodate their tails, which can reach up to 5 feet long. Peafowl can fly high and away into trees, so trimming wing feathers is key if they free range.

What do peacocks eat?

Peafowl need a high level of protein to maintain their beautiful feathers. A peacock feather is made of 90 percent protein, so it’s important to provide essential amino acids with a complete feed.
 
From hatch to 6 weeks of age, peafowl chicks should be fed Purina® Gamebird + Turkey Startena. After 6 weeks, switch to Purina® Game Bird Flight Conditioner or Purina® Flock Raiser®. If peahens are laying, provide them a layer feed for extra calcium, such as Purina® Game Bird Layena®, Purina® Layena®, or Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3. Once the laying season has ended, switch peahens back to Purina® Game Bird Flight Conditioner or Purina® Flock Raiser®.


Facts about raising game birdsRaising game birds requires a high-protein diet to support growth, and a layer feed with Purina<sup>®</sup> Oyster Strong<sup>®</sup> System to produce farm fresh eggs with strong eggshells.

 Quail, pheasants, guineas and jungle fowl all fall into the game bird category. Coturnix quail are the most commonly raised species of backyard game birds since they don’t require much space and can be very social. There are eight species and several varieties of Coturnix quail, which vary in feather color and pattern.
 
Coturnix quail can be raised for both meat and egg production. These birds are excellent feed converters and will reach their mature weight of 5-6 ounces in just 6 weeks. Coturnix quail begin laying beautiful speckled eggs between 7 and 8 weeks of age and can lay 250 to 300 eggs each year.

Like other backyard birds, game bird chicks should spend their first 4-6 weeks in a brooder and then move to a coop with a run. A large area with places for the birds to find shelter and comfort can promote a happy flock community.
 
If raising pheasants, these birds do best when provided a flight pen with approximately 20 square feet per bird. Pheasants love gardens in their flight pens where annual grasses, evergreens and perennial plants can provide shelter and promote full feathering.

What do pheasants eat? What do quail eat? And, what do guinea fowl eat?

For these birds, you can follow a similar feeding program. Because they have unique nutritional requirements compared to other flock species, choose a complete feed formulated just for game birds.
 
For example, whether you’re raising quail for meat or sport, feed Purina® Gamebird + Turkey Startena® from 0 to 6 weeks of age. At 6 weeks, transition meat quail to either Purina® Game Bird Flight Conditioner or Purina® Flock Raiser® as they are very similar in nutrient composition. 
 
If eggs are your goal, move females over to Purina® Game Bird Layena®, Purina® Layena®, or Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3. Coturnix Quail may begin laying as early as 6 weeks of age. Once the egg laying season has finished, switch back to Purina® Game Bird Flight Conditioner or Purina® Flock Raiser®.
 
If you find that your game birds are putting on a little extra weight in the off season, consider switching to Purina® Game Bird Maintenance. The lower protein and energy of this feed helps keep birds in shape as their feed intake increases during periods of cooler weather. As the weather begins to warm and the hens prepare to start laying eggs again, transition the hens back to a layer feed and the males back to Purina® Game Bird Flight Conditioner or Purina® Flock Raiser®.
 
Ready to add peacocks or game birds to your flock? Visit your local Purina® retailer to pick up everything you need to get started.