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Who You Calling Chicken?

I’m graduating up to the big guns – or the big birds as the case may be. Here’s a hint: I’m gonna be proud as a (fill in the blank.) I guess it was only a matter of time till I pushed the envelope.

On my birthday (as a present to myself), I placed an e-bay bid on two blue, peafowl eggs for incubation. (That’s the traditional colorful peacock, mostly green and blue, for those of you who are not poultry savvy like me.) 
Then, when it looked like I might win, I got excited, so I went browsing to establish just what a good deal I was getting, and low and behold, another seller was offering two pure white, peafowl incubator eggs and she was going to throw in two of the more common blue peafowl eggs too. Therefore, naturally, I had to place another bid. The only thing more striking than a beautiful green peacock is a snow-white one.

(The actual parents of the eggs in question are pictured above. These pictures came from the farms selling the eggs.) 

For those of you wondering, a fully-grown peacock costs about 100-200 dollars depending on its gender. However, because you purchase them as adults, they are rarely very friendly and they don’t always stick around. An aloof bird is the price of getting a ready-made, pretty-as-a-peacock peacock. You need to be a part of  the imprinting stage for warm peacock report. They also need to know where “home” is from the beginning if you want them to stick around. A baby peafowl chick is 50.00, and they are cute, but you have no idea what gender you are getting. (Remember, the girls grow up to be just big, grey birds. The boys become the beautiful, striking peacocks that become the logo for TV stations and typical decoration for oriental art.)

So, you may be thinking, what does a peacock egg go for? I’ll tell you. I got my two blue peafowl eggs for 28 smackers. Of course, I won the second bid as well (and in case you are laughing at me because you think no one else would be dumb enough to bid on “maybe” fertile peafowl eggs, I’ll have you know I was pitted against 9 other peafowl enthusiasts. Ha. I won. Better than buying the Brooklyn Bridge, I’ll tell you. ) My two, white peacock bird eggs (with the two bonus blue bird eggs) went for 48.00.  Shipping adds about 20.00 to each order. So all told, I have six peacock eggs (two of a rare white breed) for only 102.00. Happy Birthday to me!

Now, you might be asking, Will they hatch? Hell if I know. However, I’m told the odds are good. At least my rare white eggs are guaranteed fertilized because the owner candled them in advance. (Surprisingly enough, I know how to do this now myself. Gosh, it is fun to learn new stuff that has absolutely no practical value in a normal world.)

Sellers cannot guarantee eggs bought on the internet will hatch, because they cannot control what happens after they are shipped. For example, if the post office ex-rays the package, it can kill the embryo. In addition, no one will take responsibility for someone else’s incubation activities, because success requires commitment and attention to the project. You must turn the eggs three times a day, watch the temperature and humidity etc… so if the eggs don’t hatch, who’s to say the failure is due to a bad egg? 

E-bay has a rule that all incubator eggs must be shipped one day within purchase, and sent next day air. As such, I’ll have my eggs by Tuesday. This is not the case with the Welsh duck eggs we won, because those haven’t been laid. That seller offered pre-sale eggs that will be shipped the moment they are laid, nice and fresh. Fascinating.

Now, you might be asking, what does Ginny know about peacocks? Um.. . . . Nothing. 
Why does she want them? Um . . . . . cause they’re pretty and I’ve never had one.
How much work and effort will raising them be? Um . . . . I dunno.
Next, you may say, Hey Ginny, considering you know nothing, like Shultz from Hogan’s Heroes, what were you thinking!?! Um . . . I wasn’t thinking. I just thought a world with peacocks hanging around my back door would be mighty interesting.

Therefore, since I’m now into peacock performance knee deep, I went to Amazon and bought a book on peacocks. I have 39 days to learn about these birds while I await the hatching. If there will be a hatching. One can only hang around, stare eagerly into that little incubator window, and hope.

If all goes well, I’ll build a peacock pen next to my chicken coup. A section of our property has turned out to be devoted to my animals now – out where the barn will eventually be, where I feed the horses, donkey and llama and rear the angora bunnies. So it isn’t as if I have to be concerned with space for additional critters. It is more a matter of planning. I simply must consider what I need for long-term convenience for me, the caretaker, and for the health and well-being of my flock(s).

I must assume Lady, the killer-dog, will lust for a peacock snack as well as she craves live chicken nuggets and a rooster appetizer. Damn dog. So a cage will be required, more for protection than to contain the birds . I will allow them roam during the day to free graze as long as I’m around, just as I do with the chickens. Perhaps, when the barn is built, the peacocks will nest there, free and safe up on perches. That would be fun as well as decorative. If Lady someday disappears, all my animals will be able to roam naturally. That is only fair. What the heck is the point of 50 acres if you can’t have some privacy to let a chicken out now and again?

Last night, I told our friend, country-boy Ronnie, that I won some peacock eggs. He said he always wanted peacocks. Love’s ’em. He especially loves that deaf defying loud, shriek they make.
Um…. they make a deft defying shriek? Ahem..
Mark just lifts his eyebrows at me.  He’s getting very good at that “I married a moron but it is only now coming out,” look.
At that moment, I thought about mentioning how good a few peacock feathers would look weaved into his antler baskets – just to hint at the creative possibility for him, which might diffuse any peacock concerns he might have – but I thought my blatant stretch would be too obvious. I just reminded him that the coup is so far away we can’t hear the roosters so it is unlikely peacock calls will be an issue. He gave a “that will suffice for now” sort of nod.

I am constantly amazed and shocked that my husband doesn’t pitch a fit when I pursue a new interest that involves something alive. He takes it all in with this eerie calm. I mean, I guess I haven’t done anything that will interfere with our quality of life. We have animals already, so in order to travel we are going to pay somebody to feed the livestock anyway, and what is a few more cups of grain tossed into one additional cage?  I do the care and maintenance of the animals so that assures my getting pets doesn’t mean more work for him – except when I ask for help to build new housing or need him to get me hay with the tractor. Nevertheless, I always feel tentative about confessing a new livestock interest and I expect steam to come out of his ears. Perhaps he is saving it all up for one big meltdown – or he has some secret huge thing that he wants and he is going to hit me with one of these days, and there won’t be a dang thing I can say because I’ve been shown all this consideration over and over again regarding animals. Gee, perhaps I should worry about that.

Anyway, this week, I will receive six peacock eggs to hover over in Neva’s incubator. They will come bubble wrapped, nestled in foam peanuts. I don’t know what to expect in regards to size or color. Are peacock eggs blue like pheasants, or red like some ducks? Maybe they are white like geese. Or green like mallard duck eggs. Hummm…….. Will they be as big as a fist? Bigger? Will I know the difference between the albino peafowl eggs and the others? And when the birds hatch, will the white and blue birds look differently or will they all be covered in yellow fuzz like ducklings or swans. How long will it take until they lose the down and start getting feathers so I will know which are boys and which are girls – who will be white and who will be blue? Will the boys fight like roosters so I can only keep one?  I have to wait to see! The suspense is killing me. I need my book!

At least I do know that when the eggs arrive, I must sit them at room temperature, big end up, for about 8 hours so they can rest and adjust after their journey. Then, I put them in the incubator at 100 degrees with light humidity for 39 days.

You see, all fowls lay eggs but usually they lay one a day or less. They don’t sit the moment they lay an egg as you imagine. They wait until they have several eggs, and then the brooding instinct kicks in. If the eggs disappear, they don’t give it another thought. But if the eggs remain and start to gather, the mothering gene kicks in. In fact, some people put fake eggs under a bird to get her “broody” so she’ll sit. It takes time for a collection of eggs to gather, so an egg stays “fresh” for about 6 days, thanks to the protective coating nature provides for this duration. Only when the hen begins sitting and warmth sets in, does the fertilized egg begin to grow. This is how people can sell fertilized eggs, transport them etc… because they have a week after the eggs are laid to set up for the process of developing. Amazing, don’t ya think?

We have one little bantam chicken egg in our incubator now. It is brown and tiny and it has a cute smiley face drawn on with magic market. Neva turns it about four times a day, talking to it as if it is her best friend. Do I dare mention how I want to just toss that dang thing into the trash so we can make room for the super eggs. Well, considering I don’t particularly want to scar my daughter for life, I will just have to share incubator quarters for two more weeks. Then, our one baby chicken (maybe) will come into the world. I will have to quickly clean the incubator so no fluff or debris contaminates the environment, a minor risk to my expensive peacock eggs, but only fair. While this chicken egg was a freebie and we could have dozens more anytime we want ( it happened to be the first we picked up in our coup) and it won’t become any special sort of chicken, it IS our first experiment, and the fact is, it IS Neva’s incubator. Of course, Neva has bargained for compensation for allowing me to hatch my peacocks in her machine. She gets to help me name the potential peacocks, and one bird will be totally “hers” if we have several in the end. She will also get first dibs over all the pretty tail feathers that will fall on occasion.

Anyway, stay tuned for more peacock news. I will post a picture of the eggs and the chicks if and when they hatch. Then I will take you on a journey of what it is like to live with peacocks right outside your back door.

I think of the entire hatching a peacock thing is one more metaphor for life. Liife, like a peacock, is fragile and fascinating, beautiful and you can learn alot from it  but take care ’cause it also packs an ear-splitting screech and can peck you to death if you aren’t careful and don’t treat it well.

I am aware that this experiment may end in dissapointment and in 40 or so days, I’ll just have a bunch of lifeless eggs taking up space, rotting in our incubator. But that is a risk I am all for taking. Life isn’t about the rewards, as much as enjoying the experience – trying something new and focusing on the promise it holds.  Happiness is a matter of whether you see the peacock glass as half-full or half empty. I, for one, just count myself lucky to even have a glass. The peacock juice inside is a marvelous bonus. And frankly, I won’t waste energy considering what might go wrong. I am too busy celebrating everything that may go right.

Not a bad attitude to adopt for every area of life.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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