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In Living Color

Flash, as he later came to be known, dropped from the sky one fine summer day, and hung around for years. We were the beneficiaries of being adopted by a full plumage Indigo Blue Peacock, aka Flash. I never thought of myself as a bird guy until I became responsible for hundreds of laying hens and flocks of turkeys, then out of the blue we had an exotic beauty among the others. All we could figure is he came from a nearby farm, run off by dogs or something. We did not go knocking on doors to find the owner since one never really owns a peafowl, much less, there was no way to catch him.

Quite the specimen, he was a similar body size to the heritage turkeys. His fluorescent blue neck extended to support his elongated head and his beak was adorned by a feather mohawk looking thing. And that tail! When fanned out it must have been three feet high and six feet across. The pattern of the blue and yellow eyes I could see on his feathers varied depending on his tailhead position. He was very wary of everything, and I’m sure he had seen a lot of stuff getting this far in his life. Lucky for him he landed by the sheep barn, which is home base for all poultry feed and daily animal care. He ate when he wanted to but seemed to fend for himself as he made his daily rounds, checking on his subjects: the chickens, the turkeys, the vehicles, and us. Mostly he held court in the driveway, preventing customers and delivery drivers from getting past him.

Beyond the regalness, peafowl (and Guinea hens) act as sentinels of activity around them. They let loose a top-of-the-lungs screech if they deem it important enough. After a while, I truly think he figured out he could wake the dogs up if he needed their full attention. While we are home to several generations of Eastern Bluebirds, Blue jays, and occasionally we spot Indigo Buntings flitting about, his exotic purply-blueness seemed to defy nature. We were glad to have him around, until he wasn’t. For some unexplainable reason, Flash saw fit to go down to the highway and eventually he got hit. It was quite a sad day. He is the only feathered friend buried alongside the furry friends I have shared my life with.

A few years after we lost Flash, I ran up on some peafowl on a farm I was visiting in Western Kentucky. Somehow, those Amish boys climbed up in the tree where the birds roosted and captured them for me. One cock and two hens. We knew to keep them penned up for some time so they would imprint on our farm as home base. Over the next several weeks they each escaped and were last seen high above the treetops headed toward Elkhorn Creek. We have no idea if they adopted another farm, or where they ended up. We were sad again.

Then the spring the pandemic was setting in, a friend of the family called and said she had all the peacocks she wanted, and one was incessantly pecking at her backdoor, did we want to come grab some? Back in business. We took all kinds of netting and tarps and such, and I set up a trap for mister house-pecker. It took five of us, but we came away with nine eggs and no peacock—better than nothing. They went into the incubator with the turkey eggs, five hatched, but none of them tolerated being a part of the turkey flock. Yet, another failed attempt.

Last year, our friend called to say she saw a bunch of hatchlings in her yard and asked if I wanted to come help her catch them. With her mobile oxygen tank tethered, this little lady scurried around the barnyard snatching up chicks and putting them in the gathered-up portion of her house dress, while my helper and I got one or two. This time, we kept them in the brooder room in the barn as their turkey contemporaries went outside. After several more weeks, they had the brooder to themselves. They then were allowed out on a little protected porch of sorts. Eventually, we gave them the entire sheep barn, where they can safely roost at night. Every morning they step off a beam to fly down and roam the barnyards?a total of three cocks and four hens. Their topnotches have been apparent since they were a few weeks old. The male necks are that bright blue, the female necks are more a teal green. Tailfeathers are another year away, as are eggs seemingly.

Last week they decided to fly over the trees and camp out by the greenhouses, a half-mile away. What? Why? They made it back the next night. Then they disappeared. All seven of them. All that work, and then one day they were gone. Truly born to be wild.

Four days later six of them were here again when we woke up, three males and three females. They ate from their feed trough and went straight up into the barn rafters, possibly a need to rest and feel safe. Number seven showed up the next day. And none of them have strayed far from the barn since.

Maybe they had their fun, looked around at their options, and decided to go home. They don’t really belong to us, but they sure are fun to have around. Now that I really am a bird guy, maybe I’ll try my hand at homing pigeons next. —Mac

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