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Table of Contents
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Join Nicole and Douglas Buffington as they talk about raising peafowl, today’s education system, and tips for a fulfilling life.
What You’ll Learn
- Nutritional requirements for peafowl
- Breeding and genetics
- Egg Incubation
- Common illnesses and treatments
- Medications to have on hand
- Housing and free ranging birds
- Worming recommendations
- Douglas’s thoughts on today’s education system and tips for a fulfilling life
In Episode 15 of Backyard Bounty, we are joined by the incredible Douglas Buffington. Douglas is a retired schoolteacher and peafowl expert who created the popular Facebook group Peacocks Only.
Douglas is very knowledgeable in all things peafowl and has helped thousands of peafowl owners with is Facebook group. With 80 birds and several decades of experience raising peafowl, Douglas is quick to help those in need.
In addition to peafowl. Douglas has an amazing outlook on life, one that everyone should hear.
Resources & Links Mentioned
- Peacocks Only Facebook Group
- Earl Nightingale- The Strangest Secret on YouTube
- 5 in 1 Medication
- Grant Cardone
- Email us! Ask@HeritageAcresMarket.com
*Denotes affiliate links
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Intro: Welcome to Backyard Bounty Podcast from heritageacresmarket.com where we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now, here's your host, Nicole.
Nicole: Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. Today we're talking with Douglas Buffington, the creator of the Facebook page Peacocks Only. And Douglas is an amazing gentleman that has many years of experience raising peafowl. He has answers to every question you could possibly have about them. And his Facebook page is a wonderful resource for experienced and new peafowl owners. There's a bunch of great people on there that can answer a number of questions. I know that I've used them several times for questions that I've had with my peafowl throughout the years.
Nicole: And today I recorded with Douglas via Skype, so this episode is going to be a little bit different in that after this introduction, I'm basically just going to play for you the phone conversation effectively that we had together. So I love Doug. It was so much fun talking to him, and I learned so much. And this episode is going to be wonderful for anybody that is thinking about getting started with peafowl or has already maybe started this season. And it's going to address a lot of the questions that people have and some of the things that you need to have on hand for them, treating some illnesses that are really common. And this was an episode that I was really excited to record, and I hope that you all enjoy learning all there is to know about peafowl.
Nicole: It's Nicole. How are you?
Douglas: Oh, okay. Well, what do you want to know about peacocks?
Nicole: Well, first of all, I wanted to thank you again. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and everything. You have been such a vital resource I know for me and my peafowl. And you just have so much information, and I think it's so kind of you to share with everybody. And your Facebook group is the best. I just absolutely love it. And everybody there is great. And any time I have any question about my peafowl, I know that I can find the answer there. And it has made things a lot easier because they're not quite as easy as chickens sometimes.
Douglas: Well, you know, I tell people I'm an old man with too little to do and too much time. I just put it into the group, but I appreciate your compliments.
Nicole: Sure. Oh, of course.
Douglas: I was a school teacher for 31 years, so I'm afraid all of my files look like lessons.
Nicole: Oh. Well, I think I'm pretty analytical, so that works great for me. I think I can find what I need and it's there. And there's not a whole lot of fluff, and it just gets down to it. And I like it.
Douglas: Yeah, yeah. And what kind of peacocks do you have?
Nicole: You know, I actually just have one pair. I've got an India Blue male and a black-shouldered female.
Douglas: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, those go good together.
Douglas: The peacocks, they all are carrying so many recessive genes that you can be pretty sure what you're going to get, but you get a surprise kind of regular.
Nicole: Oh really?
Douglas: Yeah. There are 125 different colors and color patterns of peacocks. A lot of people are just amazed to know that because all they've seen is blue and maybe white, but there's that many. And none of us has seen them all. People in the group keep asking what do you get if you cross this with that.
Douglas: But who knows? We've never even seen them and we don't know what kind of genes they're carrying. So like I said, you're liable to get just about anything.
Douglas: On the real expensive colors though, they don't mix them up too much with the other birds. They want to keep them to where the mating results are pretty predictable because the birds have a better value.
Nicole: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. I know that my male, I actually hatched him out of some eggs that I was gifted from a family friend. And then I got my female last year. And I'm not sure how old she is, but she has some decent sized spurs, so I'm assuming she's at least of laying age. But she ended up getting a little hurt this year and scratched up her face pretty good, and we've been working on getting that healed. And I'm not sure if maybe that was why, but she hasn't laid any eggs this year.
Douglas: Well, that's kind of a common complaint this year and especially last year. People waited for their eggs all summer long. It's always something with these peacocks. One year the season ends too early, the next year they didn't get any eggs. The next year, they didn't hatch. And it's always something with them. You know, that's when we become next year people. That's what I say. Next year is always going to be better. We get into a bad year, and then we start talking about next year. Peacock eggs don't incubate very well on top of everything else. If you put them under a turkey hen or a chicken hen, you're going to do a lot better.
Douglas: But the peacock hens are just not real reliable setters. Sometimes they'll stay on the nest, and sometimes they get halfway through and then abandon it. And sometimes they never sit. If you have an alternative, you know you've got something else to put them under, you probably ought to go with it.
Nicole: Yeah, I hatched out some last year just in my incubator. And I only set, I think it was ... Yeah, I set three eggs, and I had two hatch, so I was pretty happy with that.
Douglas: Yeah. You got about as good as anybody gets, two-thirds. Two-thirds hatch of everything you pick up because when I count my infertiles and those that don't hatch, and all of that, I've got two-thirds of them that result in chicks, I'm pretty happy. It's not like chicken eggs because chicken eggs hatch a lot better.
Nicole: Yeah, chicken eggs, it seems like it doesn't take a whole lot, and it's pretty easy to get pretty close to 100% of fertile hatch on the chicken eggs.
Douglas: They take wide swings on temperatures and humidity pretty well too. You can have a fluctuating temperature of a couple degrees or humidity that's not exactly right, you'll still get a decent hatch. But peacocks, you've got to do everything right, and still, it often is disappointing.
Nicole: Sure. What kind of incubator do you use?
Douglas: I use a GQF, but I'm going to tell you, I'm pretty disgusted with all of them. GQF, I just can't speak ill enough about their incubators. You'll pay about $1,000.00 for one of them now by the time you buy the trays and the egg crates, you know, the part that the egg rests on. And then you've got to buy the metal trays. So I bought one, and it took me a whole year to figure out that ... They've got digital readouts now. You can't just get the old-fashioned one. That it was under-reporting the humidity by 10 points.
Nicole: Oh my gosh!
Douglas: And then the other one, they had some kind of ... I finally wormed it out of the support guy. There was some kind of defect in the electrical system on the fans, and I blew my fans out and it shut the whole incubator down. Luckily I found it and switched the eggs to another incubator. They seemed to have hatched like they hadn't been cooled down for very long. But I could have lost a whole incubator of eggs. I just don't know why somebody doesn't make a plain old-fashioned incubator anymore with double wafers and a fan in it and no digital stuff.
Douglas: That digital stuff on top of everything else, the digital readings are never accurate. You have to take your own temperature reading. For example, in one of mine, to get 99.5, I have to set it on 101.5, set the digital control. And the humidity, oh who knows how far off it is? The only way you can actually know what's going inside your incubator is to take what's called a wet bulb test. And everybody treats a wet bulb test like it's some kind of rocket science, and it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But you're never going to know exactly what your humidity is without taking a wet bulb reading.
Nicole: And how do you do a wet bulb reading then?
Douglas: Well, you have to buy a special thermometer with a spike on it. And you get those from guess who? GQF. And you have to drill a hole in the side because they don't send a mechanical thermometer with a needle. They don't send those with them anymore because if they sent those with them, they would never agree with the digital. So you've got a device with a six-inch spike on it, and they've got a wicking like a sock. And you cut that wicking and you put it on about two-thirds of the way up. And you let the other part sit in the water reservoir. And when the temperature is like 99.5 in the incubator, the wet bulb reading should be 86 degrees. That's 60% humidity for a peacock egg.
Douglas: And you take your reading and you adjust the humidity by opening and closing the vents. You want your intake port to be wide open, but your exhaust vent, you either restrict it or open it up to get the right humidity. And it's important to know that the incubator has to be in a place where the ambient temperatures and humidities are stable. I keep mine in the washroom. Well, the humidity and temperature in there never changes. Because if you have wide fluctuations in the temperature and the humidity, then you're going to have trouble controlling the humidity inside the incubator too. And if the temperature outside swings enough, you'll have trouble controlling the temperature also.
Nicole: I think that's one thing that a lot of people struggle with. They usually want to have their incubators out somewhere that they can look at it. And it's usually maybe in the living room, and then they have their central air run during the day or maybe not at night. And so yeah, those temperature fluctuations, those are hard for those incubators to keep up with them.
Douglas: It's worse if you have them out in a shed somewhere because once the temperature outside the incubator reaches 90 degrees, I wish had a technical explanation for you, but your incubator simply doesn't function anymore and your eggs are going to go bad. If you get 90 degrees or better, you're just not going to be able to have your incubator hatch like you want. And it's frequently that high. I've measured the temperature out here in my barn sometimes at 95 to 100 degrees, and it's inside the barn.
Nicole: Oh, sure.
Douglas: But when you hatch your chicks, it's important that you leave them in the incubator. A lot of them have these desktop incubators and they don't have room for it. Once it hatches, you've got to get them out. But if you have a cabinet incubator where you've got room down in the bottom, the hatching tray, it's important to leave them in there until the third day. They're not like chickens, or guinea, or quail. They're not going to just jump up and start running. It takes them about 24 hours just to uncurl their feet, and then they're just not going to be strong enough and active enough to get out of that incubator until the third day.
Douglas: And people ask about how do they eat and drink when they're in there. You can put some ... Well, I'll revise this is that a chick will not eat or drink typically for the first three days because they've got that yolk in them, and that's what they're living on. So if you offer them food or water, they won't take it.
Nicole: Yeah, I know that with the yolk, I see that question also all the time. And obviously, when momma bird is sitting on eggs, not all of the eggs hatch at exactly the same time, and there can be a natural variation of several days. And so they kind of have that built-in buffer and then the yolk so that everybody can make it through three days without dying of starvation or dehydration.
Douglas: If you've got your hens out and they're laying out in a field somewhere, people will say, "Oh, my chicks, they're hatching, they're doing just fine." You never see the chicks that can't walk, or can't keep up or the ones that just don't make it in with the hen. So you really don't know how you're doing exactly.
Nicole: Yeah, that's a good point. I've actually never really thought about that just because I'm so used to chickens that are in a nest box, so if some of them don't make it, you don't see them. But yeah, that's a really great point.
Douglas: Let's talk about "free-ranging". I'm not a fan of that because whenever you just turn a bird out and you set some feed and water out, they're pretty much on their own, especially a hen on a nest. You never know what's coming in the night. And I've seen nests too where the chicks start to hatch, and like I said, some hatch before others. And the ants will find them. If there's a hole in the egg where they've started to break out, the ants will go down in that hole in the egg and start feeding on that chicken. The next thing you know, the hen can't sit on the nest when it's full of ants, and she gets up with two or three chicks and takes off. And there's dogs, possums, coons, you name it, they're going to come and you're going to lose hens. I don't know how they stay out there for 30 days to hatch anything.
Nicole: Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of free-ranging for those similar issues, the predators. And it seems like it's just inevitable to lose a bird, and especially with the peafowl, it would just devastate me if I lost one.
Douglas: Somebody made the point one time too that peacocks die in pens too. Things get in the pen and kill them. And another thing about keeping peacocks in the pen, you've got to have a big pen, otherwise, they keep reinfecting themselves with parasites and protozoans like coccidiosis and blackhead. And you have to keep up a good worm regiment and stay on top of their health. And a peacock's immune system is never going to be as strong as a chicken, which was kept in captivity for at least the last 10,000 years. Only the strongest have made it this far.
Douglas: They're kind of like a turkey's immune system. You know turkeys, they get blackhead, that's a kiss of death. They used to put things like metronidazole in the feed up until the early 90s. They used to put it in the feed. And then they decided that medication wasn't any good for people. There are residuals that come forward in the eggs. There's a whole class of those drugs that are very similarly related. It's not just the metronidazole. But they come forward in the eggs, and then the chickens like you get at Walmart, they'll feed them that medication right up to slaughter.
Douglas: And there's a certain kind of residuals in humans that wasn't doing them any good. And it's coming at you from every direction because you're using those same medications that you treat livestock with. So you sit down to eat in the morning, it's in the milk, it's in the bacon, it's in the egg. And at noon, here you go again. It's in the beef, in the hotdogs, and whatever else. You're constantly exposed to this stuff on a daily basis.
Douglas: So when they took the medications out of the feed, everybody kept wondering why my turkeys and peacocks are dying. And so I finally figured out what we needed to do to get them to live and the medications you need. And they took everything off the shelf two or three years ago, but you can still get medications at the pigeon sites and sometimes the sites that sell medications for fish, tropical fish. And the reason why you can get the medication there and not anywhere else, if you know what to ask for and you know where to look, you can still get some medications and keep your birds alive.
Douglas: The reason why you can still get them at those places, the pigeon sites and the pet store, is because the federal drug administration identified only five birds as poultry. They listed the bird out, geese, ducks, chickens, turkeys, and guineas. And so you couldn't put anything in the feed for any of those, but they did not mention pigeons. I don't think pigeons are actually a significant part of the food supply. Do you think? Are hey up north maybe?
Nicole: Not here.
Douglas: Well, they used to sell them in the stores all the time. I remember one time reading this book that was written back in the 40s about pigeons, maybe early 50s. And it was a guy in Arizona, he said he had some kind of mites. You know, they take those squab right out of the nest just before they leave the nest. And that's when they send them to market. There was quite a market at one time for them. And he said he had some mite sin there and he couldn't get rid of them. So he got ahold of some DDT powder, and he said, We put powder right in the nest." And he said, "We put it in some of the chicks. We just dusted the squab with them."
Douglas: And he said, "That mite left and it never came back." And I thought what about those poor people who are sticking their hand down in that powder and putting it all over everywhere, breathing it and sniffing it, getting it on their hands? And then the people eating the squab, what about them?
Douglas: We don't have that DDT anymore, and it's a good thing too.
Nicole: Yeah, that was some nasty stuff.
Douglas: What they discovered was one of the bad things about it was that it caused eggshells to get thin. And then those birds like vultures, and eagles, and hawks, those that fed on mice, what you'd have is the mice would feed on the corn that had been treated with the DDT, and you'd get a buildup in them. Whatever ate the mice would get another buildup. And they discovered that the eggs of the eagle, for example, we breaking in the nest because they were too thin. And they simply had to get the DDT, for that and other reasons, out of the environment or we weren't going to have any more eagles for sure.
Nicole: Yeah, that would have absolutely been a travesty.
Douglas: Yeah, condor, vultures, and any number of other birds, and like I said, it just kept building up. If you get a fox that eats so many mice and an owl, and then something eats the fox, it just keeps concentrating as it goes up the food chain.
Nicole: But hey, at least we would have corn to eat.
Douglas: Yeah, there you go. Corn is an interesting product. There's some products that you wonder how civilization could exist without them because they're so vital to our existence. One of them is corn, rice, soybeans, potatoes, and just beans, in general. Do you ever think of sometimes what we would do if any one of those like rice was subtracted from the food supply? You know how many million people depend on rice? Have you ever thought about that?
Douglas: It's probably half the world I'm sure.
Nicole: Oh, at least.
Douglas: India, China, that's two-thirds of the world's population alone.
Nicole: Yeah, and then they put it in everything too.
Douglas: Yeah, yeah. My dad made the observation one time, and when you think about it, it's true. He said, "Every animal including people," he said, "Every animal will eat corn." And it's true. I've seen my squirrels coming to the feeder, but I see rabbits coming up here. Woodpeckers even come up. Everything eats corn. I can't think of anything that would not eat corn.
Nicole: Yeah, I ant think if anything either. That's an interesting thought.
Douglas: And it's a vital ingredient of all livestock feed, corn is. And it goes into cat food, and it goes into everything. Here in the US, 80% to 90% of all of our corn ... We have perfect corn growing conditions and, of course, the equipment and the land to grow it. And 80% to 90% is exported. The rest of the world is just not able to grow corn. Of course, we're not able to grow a whole lot of rice either.
Nicole: Yeah, it's a challenge to grow rice in the middle of Teas I'm sure.
Douglas: Yeah. We do some down here in Southeast Texas where it's closer to the Louisiana border. And Louisiana grows a pretty good bit. I think there's some over maybe way down south in California. I don't know. There's another place over there in the west there down toward Mexico that grows it. Of course, Mexico grows a fair bit of it.
Douglas: The peacocks seem to be a bird of increasing popularity. It started about 2005, the interest in them started perking up. Maybe it was the internet and the access, but also people are learning how to keep them alive. They just don't tolerate coccidiosis and what's called blackhead. It's Histomoniasis, and it's a protozoan also that that attacks the liver in birds. It actually hijacks a ride into the bird's system by being on cecal worms. And it's a parasite on cecal worms and, of course, the birds develop cecal worms. And then the protozoans find their way to the liver and it'll kill them.
Douglas: We first noticed blackhead in this country about 1881 or 82. It came in from China with some pheasants that were imported. And the pheasants are pretty well immune the blackhead, but it's devastating to turkeys especially. Turkeys just don't have immunity to it. Well, after 140 years, that and coccidiosis was first identified. Who knows how long it's been here? But it was first identified about 1903. And after 100 to 120, 30, 40 years experience with those in this country, we have to assume that every bird in the United States and maybe in the whole world I'm sure has some amount of coccidiosis and blackhead protozoan in them. But their immune systems can handle a low level of it, it's just whenever the birds get old, or stressed, or sick with something else like a respiratory infection, then their immune systems can't hold it in check anymore. And that's why some of the birds will get sick and some won't.
Douglas: Respiratory infections are another big problem with sinus infections, their eyes swelling up, and then that gets down into their lungs. You treat that with antibiotics. You have to give them antibiotic injections for that, which is not hard to do. But you've got to stay on top of treating a sick bird because they go down fast if you're not careful.
Nicole: I know online I see you often post the 5 in 1 purchased from the pigeon supply store like you talked about earlier. Do you use the 5 in 1 if they have a respiratory infection as well, or do you just do injections of, I'm assuming Tylan or something like that?
Douglas: Well, let me tell you about 5 in 1 and All in One insecticides. That same product is sold under three or four different names, but it's the same thing. It has medications in it for the protozoans that your bird will get, which is canker. There's pigeon canker, sometimes makes its way into peacocks. And the blackhead, coccidiosis, and Hexamita, so it has medications for that. And it also has what they call a combo pack. There's an amount of probiotics, amino acids, and proteins, and they're some things in it that will speed a recovery. And it also has some Tylan powder for antibiotic.
Douglas: But what I've found is the amount of antibiotic in the All in One or 5 in 1, it's not strong enough to kick a respiratory infection by itself. So what I recommend is you give an injection, and then you give the 5 in 1 or the All in One along with it. And it's gt a worm medication in it too. The bird will start expelling worms in less than 12 hours. But here's the thing about those medications you put in the drinking water, your bird has to be drinking normally in order for them to do you any good. And you can syringe that medicated water down their throat, which is another story on how to do it.
Douglas: But the best thing to do if they're not drinking is to give them a shot of antibiotic, usually three-quarter cc for a grown peacock. Three-quarter cc of LA200 or one of the generic form from Tractor Supply. Give them an injection, and give them metronidazole tablets. You have to search around. If you look in my group I can give you some sources for metronidazole where you don't need a vet's prescription. They're very okay because you know your peacocks are not going to be part of the food supply.
Douglas: But it won't kick a respiratory infection, the 5 in 1 and All in One. It won't kick it by itself completely, but you give them a five-day treatment and you give them an injection of antibiotics on the front of it if they're not breathing normally.
Nicole: I can hear your peas in the background.
Douglas: Yeah, yeah. What was it that your bird had? You had a sick bird the last several months?
Nicole: I know that I talked to you, I think it was last year. Oh gosh, I don't even remember what the issue with them was. Oh, my chickens. I reached out to you because my chickens had expelled some tapeworms in their feces, and I knew that the peafowl was different, but I knew that you would have the answer. And that was probably one of the most disgusting experiences I've ever had with poultry. That was awful.
Douglas: I bet. You know, there's a number of good worm medications, and some of them are easier to give than others. But the one that is absolutely the worst, Wazine. And it's so obsolete it shouldn't even be on the shelf. It only controls roundworms. And there's about four different worms that attack birds, roundworms is only one of them. If you believe you have worms and you give them Wazine, you may not be hitting the right worm. And certainly not all of them die. But there's Panacur, Valbazen, Safe-Guard. One of my favorites is ivermectin because Ivermectin, again, you can get one of its lower cost generics at Tractor Supply.
Douglas: But you mix three CCs to a gallon of water and for three days. And it will take care of absolutely every kind of worm. Plus if you have lice, or ticks, or mites, or anything else, it gets the external parasites too. It just wipes the slate clean. It's a good one, and it's easy to deliver. But again, your bird has to be drinking normally to benefit from it.
Nicole: With your worming regimen, do you recommend the ivermectin or doing the 5 in 1 and just kind of knocking anything else out that they might have?
Douglas: Well, I'll tell you what I do because I don't have chickens or any other poultry. And my birds have an area. They're not tightly controlled, tightly confined. They stay healthier, so I only have to give them medications twice a year. So about a month before the laying season starts, I give them a treatment of the 5 in 1 or, in my case, All in One. I give them a five-day treatment of it, and this cleans out the worms. And it knocks down the levels of infections, protozoans. And the Tylan will take care of any residual infection that they might have, which is what they call subclinical. They're not exhibiting symptoms, but they may have some level of it.
Douglas: Because you don't want them to go into laying season with any kind of bacteria in your hens because it's transmitted to the egg, some of it, vertically to the egg, and then to the embryo. And sometimes the eggs don't hatch, and if they do hatch, they'll die within two, three days after hatching because they're infected. So I give it to them a month before, and I give it to them when the season is over in September to clean them out again for the winter.
Douglas: I want to tell you that when you use that All in One or 5 in 1, it has Levamisol worm medication in it. But you always worm your bird twice because when you give them the worm medication once, you haven't killed the eggs, so about 10 days later you're going to have a lot of juvenile worms that are hatching. And you want to come back and you want to kill those too. So when you give them anything with a worm medication, 10 to 12 days later you give them another worm medication, preferably a different kind so you're not building resistance and you catch what's hatched since the first time. And then they'll slowly reinfect over the year, but it's at low levels.
Nicole: So after your first five-day 5 in 1 treatment, do you follow up then with something else in another five days?
Douglas: In 10 days, 10 to 12 days.
Nicole: Oh, okay.
Douglas: Yeah, you give them like I said, one of those that I mentioned, Safe-Guard, Valbazen, ivermectin, Oxfendazol, any number of them. But I use the ones you put in the water because they're easier to give, and you give them for like three days, then you're okay. You follow up the only one treatment of 10 to 12 days later you give that other medication for three days. And then you're finished for a while.
Nicole: And then these medications, I assume, would be more appropriate for peafowl, again, like we talked because they're not a bird that's going to end up being consumed later by humans. Some of these medications that you talk about probably shouldn't be used for other poultry.
Douglas: Some of them don't have what they call an egg withdrawal where a period of time after the medication where you have to wait for the residuals to reduce in the chicken and the egg. Some of them don't have one. Ivermectin and Safe-Guard is one of them. And some of them like Ronidazole or metronidazole, if you're concerned about that you can wait five days. And Ronidazole I know especially, I've read within five days the levels of Ronidazole are reduced to where they're undetectable. If you're worried about residuals in other poultry, a five-day withdrawal is okay. You can hard boil the eggs and feed them to your cats or just mix it in with their feed.
Nicole: So is it safe to say that if you have a bird that's sick, within reason it doesn't really matter, and that might not be the best phrase to put it, but if your bird is sick, that they should just get the 5 in 1 right off the bat?
Douglas: If they're drinking normally, yeah. If they're drinking normally enough to take it up. Now, one thing you can do if they're not drinking normally, you can mix an eighth of a teaspoon of powder with five CCs of water. And mix that up and use a syringe without a needle, of course, and inject it down the throat. And there's some syringes really that are very suitable for that. But you just do it without a needle, and you go off to the trachea. You want to make sure you don't shoot it down the trachea, and that's going to be the opening in the middle with a flap on it. You want to go off to the side and make sure you get it down the throat. One treatment of that, that's usually enough to get them.
Douglas: If they're still eating, you can also dust a scrambled egg with some of that 5 in 1 along with whatever else you're doing. And a bird can hardly resist a scrambled egg. They'll eat that when they don't eat anything else. But where the real trouble comes is if your bird has stopped eating and drinking. They're harder to treat. You can inject that medication like I told you with a syringe, or you can start shoving that metronidazole down them. If they've stopped eating and drinking because of a respiratory infection, then you give them some antibiotic right away, that LA200, three-quarter CC.
Douglas: A lot of people use Tylan 200, and I've recommended that in the past, two CCs of Tylan 200. But I recommend three-quarter CC of LA200 because it stays at a therapeutic level in the blood for three days. So it's like you give one injection and it's working for three days. Where the Tylan may be 24 hours or less.
Nicole: For those that haven't given a bird an injection, that therapeutic level for three days sounds much better than trying to do it every 24 hours because it's such a pain.
Douglas: Yeah, it's better than trying to catch them and give three shots, that's for sure. Let me tell you something about peacock feed. If you ask 100 people what they feed, they'll come up with 100 cockamamie home blends. It drives me nuts. And somehow they think what they're blending up, this and that at home, is somehow better nutritionally than what you get at the feed mill. Although, they don't have a clue what the nutritional makeup of their blend is, and theirs is superior to what the Ph.D. has formulated for the feed mill. Somehow they think that they're better than the nutritional experts at the feed mills. And I'm sure that places like Purina, they play plenty to have them do a lot of research. They're just not mixing this and that together and see how it works.
Douglas: Peacocks will do just fine on laying pellets. And a lot of people say, "Oh, it's a lot of calcium for those birds, and it's hard on the kidneys." Well, you can feed them something in the offseason, and just feed them the laying pellets during the laying months. You get it started about a month before you expect the first egg. But they're so protein-driven they want to give high protein game bird feeds, 30%, 28%. They're so protein-driven. And what none of them understand is protein is hard on the kidneys as calcium is. Protein is equally hard in the kidneys because their kidneys have to work to expel the excess protein that's in their system.
Douglas: Those game bird feeds, let me tell you what they're for, and Purina makes about four of them for different stages of a pheasant's life cycle. They're for the release and shoot pheasants. Up north, they've got probably 5,000, 6,000 Ring-necked pheasants that they're raising. And they throw them out, then people come with their dogs and shotguns and shoot them. And so they naturally want to rush them through as fast as possible.
Douglas: So they have something called Flight Conditioner. That's when people say, "Yeah, I give my peacocks, I've got them on Flight Conditioner." Well, flight conditioner is what you give a pheasant just before you're about to release them, and it improves the feathers, makes sure they've got all their feathers for flight. But it also slims them down and reduces their weight so that they can get off the ground fast enough. Is this what you're after with a peacock? So you have to ask yourself.
Douglas: A peacock is not a turkey that you're rushing to the Thanksgiving table. You want that bird to go off at a normal rate, and you don't want them to overgrow their legs and go lame. And you just don't want to puff them up like a turkey. So you really don't need that turkey feed and that high protein game bird feed. I've never had anybody explain to me exactly why you need the protein. A lot of people will say though that, "Well, you have to grow out those feathers." And it's true, peacocks have got a job growing out feathers. But at the same time, I switch my birds to a maintenance pellet at the end of September. At the end of August or the beginning of September. I switch them to a 12%, sometimes 14% maintenance pellet, and they grow that tail out just fine. They do it without being on 28%, 39% protein.
Nicole: And I see a lot of people also ask about feeding them cat food, I think for the higher protein as well.
Douglas: I'm going to tell you that I'm one of those people that do that during the laying season. Okay? I go down to Tractor Supply, and they have a really cheap cat food called Multi-Cat. It's 28% protein. And I buy hundreds of pounds of that stuff and bring it home. It's grain-based because it's a cheap cat food. It's got a lot of grain in it, it's a grain-based cat food. And I found that it will boost the egg production by about 20%. And I've got about 35 hens out here, so I'm naturally interested in maximizing the egg production. It's not like you have two or three hens and you're worried about how many eggs. I've got to have a volume of them to recover my costs. I've got to hatch out a volume of them.
Douglas: I do use that, but what you have to be careful is eventually possums, and coons, and cats in the neighborhood are going to find out what you're doing, and they're going to find their way to your house. They start coming up in broad daylight after a while, and they don't care who sees them.
Nicole: What kind of cages, I guess, since we are, like I said, recording this? I know what you have going on at home because of the Facebook group that I'm on and from talking to you in the past. But can you maybe tell us more about what kind of birds you have and then how do you protect your birds from the possums and stuff that come in to pick up the cat food?
Douglas: Well, this year I fed them something different and it didn't get the same results. I'm going to have to go back to the cat food. And if two or three of the neighborhood cats want to make this their home, I guess I'm going to have to hope they catch enough mice to pay for it.
Douglas: Let me tell you the problem with feeding peacocks, nobody makes a peacock food. And if you call a major food company ... I mention Purina so often because they do a lot of research, and you can call people and you can get answers when you call them. Whereas you won't for a lot of feed brands. They don't make a peacock food, and so you just have to guess at which is going to help your birds the most. Like I said I do feed them that cheap cat food during the laying season because they do so well on it. They do better than they do ...
Douglas: I tell you what, I fed them laying pellets and checked the egg count. I fed them the Purina game bird breeder, which is 20% protein, and they make a whole pocketful of claims like you're going to get more eggs, you're going to get a better egg more chicks are going to hatch, more chicks are going to live. And they go on and on. And I fed them that for a year, and I couldn't tell any difference between that and lay pellets. And then I went to the cat food, and it does the egg count and hatch rate too. And I do better with that, but only because it's a grain-based kind of a food.
Nicole: And you said that was called Multi-Cat?
Douglas: If they make Multi-Cat, yeah. It works out to be about 50 cents a pound. It's higher than feeding chicken feed. But if you don't get the eggs and you don't hatch the chicks, that costs money too. I've got a feed bill that's a pretty good size, and I've got to hatch enough to recover my feed bill.
Nicole: Yeah, I know that struggle.
Douglas: Yeah, I bought my wife three rheas this year. I had ostrich for 30 years, and they all got old and died. And she kept bugging me about getting another one, so I said, "Look, I'm 74 years old, I don't have any business out there trying to manhandle those birds." I said, "I'll mess around out there and get hurt." So I put her off like that for a while. And then finally, I was looking at some rhea. Have you seen a rhea bird?
Nicole: I have.
Douglas: So I told her, I said, "I'm going to get you some miniature ostrich." I showed her a picture of one and said, "I'm going to get you some miniature ostrich." And she loves them. Now they're nasty enough during the mating season, but I had some back in the early 80s. Anyway, I'm just kind of sweating how much they're going to be eating. I know they're going to add to the feed bill.
Nicole: Yeah, a little bit.
Douglas: She got her miniature ostrich out there now.
Nicole: You know, I've never actually seen one in person. Of course, with the internet, you see all kinds of stuff. Are they pretty popular in your area because I don't know of anybody up here in Colorado that has them?
Douglas: I got into ostrich kind of by accident in the 80s. And they were of breeding age right when the bog craze hit in the early 90s. Are you familiar with that breeding craze here in the US with ostrich?
Nicole: Yeah, our neighbors, when I was kid, had ostriches.
Douglas: Oh, they got enormous amounts of money for the eggs at the end. And then when the prices of ostrich got to where the ordinary person couldn't afford it at all, they were more than a car. And, of course, when the market just totally collapsed on ostrich, the emu and rhea did too. But it's coming back for the emu and rhea. And actually, I don't know what anybody does with an ostrich any, but it's coming back. Some interest is coming back in them, but it'll never be like it was.
Douglas: The thing about the rhea is that they're a real hardy bird. And there's a population of them got off a farm in Germany in two or three spots, but particularly in one spot in Germany. And they said there was about 16 of them in the year 2000, and now there's like 200, 300 of them. And they're just multiplying every year because they survive on their own where I don't think an emu will. They survive on their own, and you know how cold it is up there. Germany is kind of up north there. You know, it's parallel with London and maybe New York.
Douglas: So these populations are growing, and the thing about it is, I don't know how or why, but the German government protects them.
Douglas: They said, "Well, you know, they're here. They're indigenous now, and you can't go out and kill them." So I don't know what's going to happen when those populations grow, and grow, and grow, and grow. We've had that happen with peacocks. There's a couple of places, one right here in my little old town of 7,000 people. There's a guy who moved off to Canada and left his peacocks behind. They were out in the woods around his house. He didn't have them penned. And they're still there today. I guess he's been gone at least 20 or 30 years, and the peacocks are still there. And some of the neighbors feed them.
Douglas: It's a feral flock. And there's a couple of them in Houston. And then you read about more of them in California. What you find in some of these places is that half the people in the town are feeding them out the back door and the other half wants to shoot them because yeah they're noisy and they jump on your cars. And they do other things. I've seen them on TV, they go out in the street and stop traffic. So who knows what kind of problem the rhea is going to be?
Douglas: I've seen some people where they just keep them on a ranch and they're not fed, they've just got them out there. If you feed them a little better every now and then they're not going to go too far from where you feed them. You feed them a supplement in the winter especially. You've seen that sometimes too where you get an animal that's invasive, and they just kind of take over. But the peacocks are rather harmless as far as an invasive species, but some other animals are not like the pythons down in Florida. Once they get out of control there in that swamp they'll eat everything in sight, birds, bird eggs.
Nicole: Yeah, I know those are becoming a huge problem.
Douglas: Yeah. I don't know what the future of the Everglades are because there's no way to keep them from getting in there and causing lots of trouble in the future.
Nicole: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I know that they've started doing some more eradication, but it might be too little too late.
Douglas: How do you find them? You know? How do you even find those snakes? Do you know how big the Everglades are?
Nicole: Oh, yeah.
Douglas: How do you find them? I don't know what the end of that story is going to be. We're just at the beginning of it.
Nicole: Yep, it'll be an interesting one to watch, that's for sure.
Douglas: Well, I told you I think earlier that there's 125 different colors in the color patterns of peacocks. And then there's the Java Green from Indian and Salon and that part of the world. The greenest one is the Java Green, and that's the one that people keep here in the US. You mix those. A lot of people breed those in, but they don't breed true. You've got a hybrid, and they can reproduce, but you can't reproduce the same things as the parents. If you cross a Java Green with an India Blue, the chicks will be one thing but then when those chicks are bred, they won't look 100% like their parents. They get diluted down each generation.
Douglas: Let me tell you about the Java Green. I talked to a guy one time, I think he was in Indonesia. I was sending exchanging messages with him, and it came up that you could get a Java Green egg for $5.00. I said, "Oh, wow. You really wouldn't get that here, this Java Green egg." He said, "Oh well, they're so common up here." And then he made the remark that they were protected up there by the government, and so you really couldn't keep them in captivity. But he said you can hear them calling from all over their neighborhood. Everybody has got one.
Douglas: The good thing about peacocks are there are probably more in captivity than there are in the wild for the simple fact that they reproduce so well in captivity. And sadly though, you can say the same thing about the big cats like the Bengal. There's definitely more of them in captivity than there are in the wild. We're down to 500 or less in the wild, but anybody that wants Bengals and you've got an enclosure, you can buy some and start raising them.
Nicole: Yes, you can. Maybe I'm in the wrong line of work with peafowl. Maybe Bengals are where it's at.
Douglas: Yeah. I was reading about some kind of house cat the other day from, I think it was Indonesia. They've got some kind of house cat that gave $1,000.00 apiece for, and you could tell it was a different kind of cat. But the only problem with those kinds, and especially with what they call Bengal ... They call them Bengal too, but they're a spotted cat, and they're mixed in with big cats. You don't want to turn one of them loose in your house.
Nicole: Oh, no.
Douglas: Because that thing would be all over the place. They're never really 100% domesticated. And you've got to run them through about three generations before they settle down and act like a normal. You've got to keep breeding them with house cats for about three generations before they settle down. Why people want those things, gosh, I don't know.
Nicole: I knew somebody with one, and it was an adventure, to say the least.
Douglas: Oh, I'll bet. I'm just not a big fan of keeping things in cages, and that's what you have to do when you raise those kind of cats. You have to build pens outside, and I'm just not a big fan of penning animals up for life. The way I keep peacocks here is I've got a two-acre pen with a five-foot fence and the barns, the barns are inside of it. If you raise your peacocks inside of the fence, especially if it's a lot of space like a couple of acres, they don't have a sense of confinement and they have very little desire to get out. And so as a result, two, or three, or four, or five of mine may get out and walk around in the yard during the day. But I've got 80 of them out here, and they all stay inside the fence.
Douglas: What I'm saying is that they're not really penned because they have so much space, but I'm not just a big fan of just building a great bog cage and keeping animals in it. I told my wife I just don't want to be the warden of a little tiny prison.
Nicole: Yeah. I know I've seen your pictures on the group, and I was going to ask you that, but you alluded to it earlier. Even if they were to get outside of the fence, I guess because you take such good care of them and they know that there's food and stuff there, they don't just take off and disappear?
Douglas: No, they used to lay outside the fence a lot, but I had two egg eating dogs many years ago and I found out when they all got old and died that the peacocks started laying inside the fence again. So they lay in the barns and inside the fence. And they just don't go outside the fence to lay. And they stay inside the fence real good for me. And it helps that I don't have any close neighbors. They don't get under their window at night and scream and jump on their cars and that kind of thing. They stay here. If there's a god that ever comes in the neighborhood, they go flying back in the pen if they're outside. They know. And if they're too far from the pen, they get up on the roof of the house or in the trees. They know what to do.
Nicole: So do you have 80 birds total, or 80 makes because I remember you said you had 35 or so females?
Douglas: No, I've got 80 total, and I keep adding hens, but somehow it always works out to be a split about 50/50 hens and males. I make sure that I add hens to the flock every year. I don't know for whatever reason, but hens just don't seem to last as long as the males. Their lifespan doesn't seem to be as long. And I hear people say, they ask, "Well, how long does a peacock live?" And it gets unbelievable when I read the responses. Some of them say, "Oh, well, they heard of somebody having one over 50 years old." I'm going to tell you, 20 years is a long time for any kind of barnyard bird, a goose, a chicken, or anything else, a chicken especially. But a goose can live 20, 21 years, but I just don't see a peacock living 30, 40, 50 years. The longest mine have lived has been about 20 to 21 years.
Nicole: Oh, wow!
Douglas: Like I said, that's a long time for a bird.
Nicole: Yeah, especially like you said, an outdoor barnyard bird. Do you have any issues with the males? I mean two acres is a large area, but at the same time, having that many males, do they tend to get along pretty well?
Douglas: Let me tell you, this year I really didn't notice them fighting at all. My wife said they did but see, in the spring for a couple of weeks some of them will fire up at each other. I guess they're testing the order of dominance to see if it changed since last season. But some of them will flare up at each other, and after a couple of weeks it's all over and they're okay. But they don't roost together. I noticed that during the season they'll scatter out and roost. They're not really buddies during the season when it comes roosting time. They scatter out.
Douglas: Let me tell you another thing that's helped me. I can't keep a dog back there with them because those birds are just deathly afraid of a dog. But I took a hot wire and connected it to a fence charger, and I ran that wire about eight inches off the ground all the way around the whole two acres. And I'm going to tell you, it worked like magic. I was having a plague of coons coming in here and possum. And dogs started digging under. I never had those troubles in the old days. I've been right here on this place raising peacocks for 45 years. And I imagine I went 30 of it with no trouble at all.
Douglas: But I put that wire up there and connected it to a fence charger, and it worked like magic to keep everything out of here. And the dogs don't even ... I live on a little short dead-end road, and the dongs don't even come down my street anymore. I guess one or two of them got into it and decided that wasn't for them. But the fence charger, they're not expensive to run or expensive to buy. I thought there was going to be a lot of maintenance to it, but there's not. That's the way I deal with stuff digging in. I haven't had anything dig in since I put it up years ago.
Nicole: That's a good idea. I live on two acres, and so our back is probably about an acre that I have or the birds. And I keep my chickens, and my peafowl, and my ducks and everybody separate in their own, so I have multiple little pens. But we have a big issue with coyotes and stuff, and I like that idea of the hot wire because it's so expensive to try to fence such a large area in a way that can keep out predators. But that sounds like it's a pretty effective and cost-effective method as well.
Douglas: Yeah. I've got the five-foot chain link nailed onto wooden posts. It's hard to keep anything from digging under. Like I said, if you put that about eight inches off the ground, and there's no way they can start digging without getting their face in it, without sticking their nose in that wire.
Douglas: It'll sure make them jump back, I'm sure.
Nicole: Oh, yeah.
Douglas: I've got into it two or three times myself while I was working on it, and it made me jump back. If it's a 30 or 40-pound dog, I imagine it'll really go through them pretty good, pretty strong.
Nicole: Sure. Yeah, I bet.
Douglas: Yeah. If you get into it, you let go of it right away.
Nicole: Oh, yeah, yeah. Do you have any advice from your years of experience if somebody wanted to get into peafowl and they don't really have a lot of experience, what would you tell somebody that wants to get started?
Douglas: Well, first of all, you've got to have a good enclosure or a pen. Just don't bring them home. I used to have people call me. I'd advertise, not on Facebook, just in the local advertiser. And people had the impression that ... They live up in the city, and you know it's illegal to keep poultry in a city, especially one that screams six months out of the year like a peacock does. And they've got a four-foot chain link fence, and they think they can just bring it home, throw it out in the backyard. They don't have any shelter for it. They don't have adequate fencing. A four-foot fence, even a dog can jump over that, a good sized dog. They don't have a good setup to bring one home too.
Douglas: And then once they get home, they're not well versed in peacock problems. They're not well versed in the medications you need to keep on hand. Here's the thing about it, every animal on a farm has to be medicated. I don't care if it's a goat, pig, a horse, a cow, or what it is. But somehow they think that peacocks don't need anything, so they don't keep worm medications or antibiotics like the 5 in 1 or All in One. They don't keep medications. And a lot of times, they only contact me when the bird is laying comatose on the pen floor and want to know what to do. They don't have any medications, and especially if the medication, some of them have to be ordered online, that bird is to going to be able to wait on the mail. They're just not set up for them. If you don't have a coop, and you don't have a pen, and you're not versed at all with medications, you need to do a little research before you bring something home.
Nicole: And which medications do you recommend having on hand?
Douglas: At a minimum, you've got to have that All in One, that pigeon medication. You've got to have a good worm medication. And you have to have a bottle of antibiotics because when your bird starts going down, you have to treat them right now. Because a bird is only going to die of about two or three things, they're going to have a respiratory infection, they're going to have a protozoan infection, and it's going to be compounded by an overload of worms. There's only about three different things that'll kill a bird, and that's them. You have to have something for those.
Douglas: Now, let me tell you about chickens. Chickens are more resistant to coccidiosis and blackhead and can carry a whole lot of worms without any problem. So chickens kind of thrive on neglect. A lot of people keep chickens. They don't do anything for them, and the chickens survive. So when they get peacocks, they think well, they're not really impressed for what they need to do for peacocks. So they think they can just keep them like chickens.
Douglas: But chickens are worm and germ factories. When it comes to peacock and turkey, they carry a lot of stuff that's very harmful to peacocks and turkeys. But they're resistant to it, so they go around shedding worms, carrying protozoans, especially blackhead, which is a parasite on a worm. And then they want to know, "Why are my birds dying? I just can't keep my birds alive." I said, "Well, you got any worm medication? Do you worm them?" Or they say, "Well, my bird, he's just really gargling when he breathes." I said, "Okay, what kind of antibiotic do you have?" You can use different antibiotics. There's penicillin as well as Tylan, and LA200, and maybe one or two more. They're different dosages.
Douglas: Sometimes they'll say, "I've got penicillin I keep for my goat." "Well, you give them this much." Some of them say, "Well, no, I don't have any, but when the store opens Monday, I'll go down to the feed store." And this is Friday night. Well, that bird won't be alive on Monday because once a bird gets sick, he's dying a little bit every hour. So you've got to turn that clock back.
Douglas: A lot of times, let me tell what I'm feeding the peacock. I'll find out their bird is egg bound. A bird is egg bound that they have an egg they can't lay. They're egg bound because they're feeding a diet which lacks calcium because believe it or not, calcium, if your calcium level gets too low, the muscles of a bird will lose strength and they can't expel the egg. So they're stuck there with it, and the eggs are backing up. So you know what you tell them? You tell them, "Go get some Tums. Break them out and poke a couple of Tums down their throat, and they'll lay that egg anywhere from one to two, to three hours. And it'll all be over because the Tums are loaded with calcium."
Douglas: But I said, "What are you feeding?" Well, mostly you come up with they're feeding scratch grain. And scratch grain is just about like it has the nutritional value of pea gravel. It just doesn't have the vitamins and especially the calcium that a bird needs to function normally. So people bring these birds home, but they want to feet them that scratch grain because it's grain and it seems like it's wholesome, and it's natural, and it's grain. It's depleted grain. It just doesn't really have any nutritional value, and it tells you on the bag it shouldn't be considered a complete diet for anything.
Douglas: A lot of people, they're just not versed in how to care for a bird and their enclosures are not real good, especially to keep predators out. And they're not well versed on how to feed them.
Nicole: I was kind of in that new person scenario that you described there. We have a family friend that has the peafowl, and my husband, as an anniversary gift one day came home with some peafowl eggs. And I was not ready for that at all. So I had about a month or however long that they were in the incubator, therefore, to panic and get everything set up. And I've been through a lot of those challenges that you mentioned because I'm used to chickens and so I figured they're going to be pretty hardy. And it's pretty easy to take care of them. All you need to do is feed them and water them, right? And they'll be good to go.
Nicole: But fortunately, I haven't had too many health concerns because I was able to find your group early and take the proper care of them and do the homework. But yeah, I think a lot of people just assume it's just like anything else or just like a chicken. And they're definitely a little bit more labor-intensive, but it's certainly worth it.
Douglas: Anything, I don't care if it's a plant or an animal, anything that's beautiful is not going to reproduce well, and it's harder to make it live, whether it's a peacock or an orchid or anything else. Have you ever thought about that? Anything really, it's like when you grow vegetables, the weeds don't need any help at all.
Douglas: Anything that's special is going to require something.
Nicole: It's funny you should say that because I grew orchids. Oh, I still do grow orchids too, and that's a great analogy because they are impossibly difficult sometimes. But again, it's very much worth it.
Douglas: Yeah. Yeah, but you have to sit around for a long time and wait on them though, don't you?
Nicole: Yes, you do.
Douglas: And wonder if they're ever going to bloom again because once you get them out of that greenhouse, they're reluctant to put on as many blooms as they did inside the greenhouse,
Nicole: Of course.
Douglas: Once you bring them home, you really have to coax them to bloom.
Douglas: I don't know how modest this is of me, I'm sure it's immodest to say, but I swear, I don't know how people kept their peacocks alive before I opened the group up and started telling people what they're going to have to do. Because peacocks are just, again, like turkeys, they're not unique in themselves in this regard that they just will drop dead on you if you're not careful with them. I had to do research that went back way to the darkest corners of the internet, get bits and pieces and put it together like you would a mosaic. It's kind of like one of those thousand piece puzzles where at least 600 of the pieces look the same.
Douglas: Somehow they all fit together. And so I had to go back and get all the old, old, old information from way back and piece it together to figure out what used to be done at one time. But nowadays if you look on the internet and they'll say, "Well, you know turkeys get blackhead. Sometimes 90% of the flock die from blackhead." And it said there's no treatment for blackhead. Well, that's not true. There's no government approved treatment for blackhead, but there is a treatment. Metronidazole is one of them and Ronidazole and a couple of others. But their vets cannot prescribe that for you for an animal that's going to be part of the food supply.
Douglas: But those same medications, they treat dogs and cats with them. And even humans take them. You get protozoans in your system, sometimes a doctor will prescribe metronidazole for you. But it just built up too much in the food supply, and like I told you earlier it's coming at you every day, every meal, from all directions. And they decided that wasn't the healthiest thing in the world.
Nicole: In regards to your previous topic, I don't think that that's un-modest of you at all because I've had my peafowl now for I guess three years. And I've seen you have saved so many lives of so many birds. And again, you've helped me. And I know I'm personally grateful for you. And I know that there's hundreds of people, if not more, thousands that you truly have saved their birds' lives. And I think what your group and what you have going on, and you're sharing ut knowledge, and I don't know how you keep up with all of the people that have questions for you. But you have been instrumental.
Douglas: Like I said I'm an old man with too much time and too little to do. If I didn't have the group, I don't know what I'd be doing. But you're right, some of these group members, they'll contact me and their bird is dying. And I'll give them something to do, and they sound so relieved that now they can do something besides just sit there and stare at their bird that's dying every hour. And we don't save all the birds, but we save a lot of them. It's just hard to figure out.
Douglas: If you go on the internet and try to do research, you're not going to be able to sort it all out. Like I said, it took you don't know how many hours, and hours, and hours, and hours. One time I spent three days straight all day long, three days at one particular sitting trying to sort out all the information. The ordinary person is not going to be able to find it and to piece it all together. But at the same time, I tell people it's like riding a bike. Once you learn what to do, you wonder how it could have been so hard. Isn't that the way it is with a bike? Once you learn how, you wonder how it could have been so hard. And it's that way with learning how to take care of a peacock. Once you learn a few basic things, you wonder why it seemed so hard.
Nicole: Yeah, you look back and think it's so silly, and all you've got to do is this, this, and this, and then they'll be just fine.
Douglas: The methods that we practice in the group, I'm beginning to gain some traction because fewer people are contacting me and saying, "Well, the bird is passed out in the pen floor. What do I do?" I don't get so many of those anymore. People are learning to get medications, keep medications. And I'll tell you, peacocks are not sickly. They don't stay sick all the time. But when they do have something, you've got to be ready to go.
Nicole: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What would you say is the most common question that you're asked on the group?
Douglas: Well, a lot of them want to talk to me about sinus infections that their bird's eye is all swelled up. Or they've got this puffy place right below the beak that's swelling up on them. And when they get that big swelling under the eye, sometimes you let that go, that's a real problem because it's hard to describe without seeing a picture or video. But you've got to do a little bit of surgery on cutting. It builds up a mass there that has to be cut. And the antibiotics will get rid of the sinus, but that lump that's under the eye, you've got to take an X-acto knife and make you a semicircle under there and push that lump out. Now, it heals up real quick. You don't have to stitch it or anything, but you do have to give some antibiotics along with it.
Douglas: The swelling in the face is pretty common, especially in the late summer when it's really dry. One of the larger breeders that's pretty knowledgeable about this, he says that it comes from dust, the dust bathing and scattering dust. And he thinks the infections get started that way.
Douglas: And then a lot of them will tell you, "My bird has got diarrhea." I said, "Okay, does it have red or yellow in it?" Because if you have a bird with red in their diarrhea, it's blood and they've got coccidiosis. And if it's yellow in the diarrhea, they've got blackhead. And so most cases of diarrhea is going to be worms or going to be evidence of a protozoan infection, maybe symptomatic of it. The respiratory infections and not breathing right, the head swelling, or some treatment for protozoan infections are pretty common, ongoing.
Nicole: It seems like we've talked a lot about the protozoan infections. How do they become infected?
Douglas: I believe that they've been here with us for so long, way more than 100 years. And who knows how far in the past, coccidiosis especially, who knows how many centuries or thousands of years that it's been carried forward? But I'm with the thinking that every barnyard bird in America has got some level of coccidiosis, and blackhead, and worms because there's just no way to escape it. Some people will say, "Well, I've got new ground. My birds are not pecking it up." There's bird poop on the ground and those cysts from the blackhead especially have been in the soil, it can stay two or three years in the soil. So when a chicken comes along pecking scratch grain or whatever off the ground, they'll pick it up.
Douglas: They'll say, "Well, you know, I'm on new ground. I don't have any of that in my soil." Well, but it's in the birds that you're in to that new ground. So the new ground doesn't stay new very long. I'm with the thinking I don't know how any bird ... You know a chick picks that up so quick when they're born. I don't know how any adult bird could not have some level of protozoans or worms in it.
Nicole: So it's mostly from the soil then?
Douglas: Well, there's intermediary hosts too for blackhead and coccidiosis, blackhead especially if they poop and then an earthworm gets into it and digests some of it, then these protozoans stay alive inside the earthworm. And then the bird will come along and eat the earthworm. And it gets in insects, slugs especially. So there's intermediate hosts, or else they can transfer it directly from one to the other.
Nicole: So really, I mean the only way to keep them from a protozoan infection would be to keep them in a concrete barn completely secluded from every trace of dirt and any other potentially infected bird it sounds like.
Douglas: Yeah. And who does that?
Douglas: Yeah. Like I said, luckily they can tolerate all three of those worms and protozoans, blackhead and coccidiosis, they can tolerate those at low levels. But some birds in the flock will get down with it, and some won't because somehow are overwhelmed, their systems are overwhelmed with it for one reason or another. Especially if they get a respiratory infection and the next thing you know their immune system is compromised and everything has free rein to multiply and increase, everything bad in their system.
Douglas: But you need to feed medicated feed. I hear the craziest things. People tell me, "We don't feed medicated feed." I think some of that, I think what that comes from was many years ago some of the feed companies experimented with putting a trace element of arsenic in the starter feeds to kill some of the protozoans in gut bacteria. I'll tell you about the gut bacteria in a minute. But some of that would kill ... They said it especially, the arsenic was hard on ducks.
Douglas: So they got the idea that starter feeds kill chicks. But you need a medicated starter feed, and the easiest one to get depends on what part of the country you're in. But the one that you can get access to everywhere is the Purina medicated, now they make an unmedicated, but you want the medicated Start and Grow in the red bag. And you've got to feed them that until they're about four months old because it takes 12 to 14 weeks for their immune system to get their full resistance to coccidiosis, which is what they're medicated against in the starter. And it takes that long for blackhead too, that's why I tell them you've got to keep them up on wire in a coop until they're three to four months old before you let them out.
Douglas: And a peacock's resistance is never going to be as good as chickens, their immune resistance. I call it resistance rather than immunity because they're not immune, they just have a resistance. You're going to have to keep feeding them that medicated food and keep them off the ... I have people tell me, "Oh, yeah, I raise mine with chickens, and my momma hen raises the peachicks just fine right there on the ground running around in the yard."
Douglas: But what I've found is, my personal experience, which I had other people tell me this, whenever you leave a half dozen chicks with a hen, one by one you're going to find there's one missing, or one's drowned in the water container, in the water bucket, or something has happened to them one by one until they're all gone. So I never think it's a good idea just to leave them with the hens out there on that ground, which has got to be infected with something in a barnyard and living with a hen among chicken snakes and everything else. If you start out with a half a dozen chicks, don't expect to half a dozen adult birds one day.
Nicole: Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. I was going to ask you that too. That's one thing I've always wondered about. I've heard and when I hatched mine I kept them off the ground, but like you talked about, the peachicks that hatch under momma, they're out running around. But yeah, that makes sense.
Douglas: Yeah, they're just not going to do as well, and they just need protection from predators and parasites and everything else. Like I said, they're just a little more delicate than chickens or guinea. I had some guinea one year many years ago back in the 70s. Now, they just start running. I mean you can hardly catch them little rascals. They're slow to come along.
Nicole: Yep. So I'm not sure. You totally have the floor, and I'm not trying to change the subject at all, and if you have more to talk about with the peafowl, I'm absolutely more than open with that. But I know that when we talked earlier you also mentioned that you had some of your thoughts about education and debt and stuff. And I didn't know if maybe you wanted to talk about that any.
Douglas: Oh, yeah. Let me tell you about that. You know, I went to college in the 50s, and I borrowed money to do it. And it was uncommon back in that time to borrow money that I felt like I was the only one doing it. Everybody else's parents somehow had money to pay, and I qualified as an indigent adult. I trained down here at Lamar University in Beaumont. They have a vocational section, a trade school, and I had trained down there to be a diesel mechanic. And it didn't take me long to figure out that that's not where I needed to be because one thing is you just couldn't make any money. You know?
Douglas: I lived, while I was going down there for two years, it was a two-year program, I lived in the crew quarters of a funeral home. And, of course, I'd make ambulance calls and work funerals with him. And the guy wasn't doing enough business to pay me anything, but he let me live there for free, so I thought that was good. So I worked for him for free. So I thought, "Well, maybe I don't want to be a mechanic. Maybe I'll be a mortician.
Douglas: So I went to this mortician school and there was a guy who had a well-known reputation. He had that private school there, and he was also a lawyer. And I don't know how those go together, a mortician and a lawyer. It kind of reminds me of a story of how a man was going through the cemetery with his son. And he was just learning how to read, the boy was. So he was reading tombstones. So he asked his daddy, he said, "Daddy, what does this one say here?" And he says, "Here lies a lawyer and an honest man." And the boy very pensively looked at that for a minute and said, "Don't look like there's room enough for two people down there."
Douglas: Anyway, when we showed up in September, he was in a wheelchair and he had cancer. So he wasn't able to do any teaching. He died right after that. It wasn't too many months later until the school burned down. There were some suspicious circumstances under which it burnt down.
Nicole: Oh, no.
Douglas: They thought it was arson, and they thought one of the students did it. But who knows? And so there I was, I was a decent mechanic. I didn't want to be a decent mechanic. I literally got burned out of being a mortician. So I came back and started at the University of Lamar, and but that time I was over 21, so I qualified for the loan as an indigent adult. And because I didn't make hardly any money the year before and they didn't use my dad's income. So I borrowed the maximum that they would loan me every year, and I went to school. Believe it or not, I went to school 12 months out of the year at Lamar University for 63 months. That's five years and three months.
Douglas: I had a pretty good bill by the time I got out of there. It was around $6,000.00, which was when I started teaching school, and that was one year's beginning teacher pay in this little rural area I lived in. And now, one year's beginning teacher pay, I'm sure it's better other places, it's about $32,000.00. And that's about what you'd need to get through college again. But here's the thing about it, I worked and my wife worked the whole time. You know? And we borrowed money, and we tried to put down a limit on our living expenses.
Douglas: But what happens today is people get those college loans, and they get sucked into these for-profit institutions like Kaplan, or ITT, or some of the others. And I think they've gone broke since then. And then they get sucked in there. They charge a lot of tuition. They think somehow there's a shortcut to education, so they blow them up about they're going to train them and all the money they're going to get when they get out of there. And what they find out is if they do finish they can't get a job in their field. And a lot of the times, they'll drop out and then they find out they can't get a job and they owe lots of money.
Douglas: Others that go off to a four-year institution like a university, they don't make any effort to limit their expenses. They'll go off, they'll stay in the dorms. They don't do any work. They don't try to work and make any kind of money. And they allow them to borrow so much now, and so when they get out they owe $50,000.00, $60,000.00 in debt. And you have to borrow money to go, but do you have to borrow so much that it's crippling.
Douglas: Let me tell you about community colleges, and people may not realize this. Community colleges, you can get a degree at a community college, a two-year associate degree. And you can go on to a four-year institution where you can't do that with these for-profit companies like ITT and Kaplan. And there's others, the names don't come to mind. But there is a progression when you go to an accredited university. And community colleges, I'd say here's the part I don't think really people understand, but tuition is at least 50%. You can go to those places. In two years they'll teach you a skill and put you to work, and you can move on. Or you can go on and finish a four-year degree.
Douglas: But the time you're there, that is $1,000.00, $1,200.00 a semester where it's $5,000.00 for tuition at a state run university. So why everybody doesn't do their first two years at their local community college I don't know.
Nicole: I couldn't agree more.
Douglas: And like I said, you can go onto the main campus of a university and transfer if not all the credits, a huge slug of them. So you have a skill, and you go get you a degree, and you find yourself not only more employable but promotable. And you'll be very successful in whatever your occupation is. But the worst thing you could do is, the very worst thing you could do, go borrow a slug of money. Don't try to minimize your expenses. Go borrow a slug of money, get your degree in English grammar or American history, and then go out and try to get a job. Not too many people need a performing arts major. They don't need somebody to play the guitar or draw them a picture. And they don't need somebody to correct their grammar. They need somebody to put their hands on the work and make it go.
Douglas: But the worst thing you can do is get you a liberal arts degree and owe $50,000.00 at the end of it.
Nicole: Yeah, I feel like a lot of cases that's the case. I'm a paramedic, so that's kind of something that I needed to go to school for. But a lot of those, I never realized until recently actually, when I started listening and following a gentleman by the name of Grant Cardone. And he does some kind of entrepreneurship and finances and just how to get things like that in order. And it just never dawned on me that the education system in a lot of cases really is for profit. It's pushed on you, you have to have a degree, and your parents say you have to go to school. But I'm not so sure that's really a necessity.
Douglas: You can get work, but you just won't be promotable.
Nicole: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Douglas: And let me tell you something else. I taught school for 31 years, so I can tell you about public education. Only about 20% of the people understand what the students in schools, and especially high school, only about 20% of them understand what they're there for. The rest of them are just passing through like an apricot seed. They're completely untouched by it when they get through. And they go from kindergarten to the 12th grade. And when they're at the 12th grade they still can't read and write or multiply single-digit numbers in their head. They've got to scratching for their calculator.
Douglas: And the school systems just keep pushing them on. And as teachers say, "No, this student can't read and write. They didn't do my work." Or, "They didn't come to school. They refused to do the work. They slept every day." Well, it comes graduation time, you've got to sweep them all out the door or else the parent and the principal is going to be all over you.
Douglas: So they graduate. A high school diploma doesn't really mean anything other than you have a pulse. You know? And these tests that they give like in Texas especially, these skills tests that you have to pass in order to graduate, they're really based on about an eighth-grade education. And then a lot of them have a hard time passing that. You just can't make students responsible for anything.
Douglas: In my generation, I came up through school in the 50s and early 60s. Parents expected, they ... My dad never went to high school. At that time, 1960, there was a full 50% of the adult population could not even read and write. Their educations had been disrupted by the great depression and World War II, being raised like my dad out in an area where there was no high school. And good gosh, what did he learn in that elementary school out there stuck in the woods?
Douglas: So parents said to themselves, "I have to work hard. I don't read and write so well. I can't do this, and I can't do that. But my children are going to do better." And they expected better of their children. Now parents have, about 80% of them, no expectation that their child learns anything. They just want them to pass and to graduate, whether they learn anything is another matter.
Nicole: Right, yeah.
Douglas: You know, my wife is a registered nurse, and everybody at the hospital got training in something and has a license. And those people who hold licenses, they're never unemployed. They don't get laid off, and they don't move to a new town and say, "Gee, where am I going to work?" They just go to the local hospital and go to work.
Douglas: There's no more interviews anymore. If you call the hospital and tell them you're a nurse, they'll say, "Okay, when can you come to work?" It's literally like that. What kind of schedule do you want, and when can you get here?
Douglas: Those people don't have a hard time finding jobs. Anybody that has a license of any kind, an electrician, plumber, whatever, you just don't see them unemployed. And you have to get some kind of training in order to get those.
Nicole: Yeah, in the day and age of technology, there's a lot of job positions that are going to go away as technology advance. But things like you said, the electricians, and the plumbers, and the nurses, it doesn't matter how advanced computers are, we're still always going to need those people.
Douglas: Yeah, and they get a little bit harder to find as time goes by too. And your education can wear out. You may graduate when you're 21, 20, 22 today. But you have to learn and train over a lifetime because your education can wear out and become obsolete. It's like tools in a toolbox, education is. You want to pack your toolbox real full because you're not sure what tools you're going to need in the future. And you have to pack your stuff up with plenty of skills. And when you go out to look for a job, you want to have tools in the box to do every kind of job that you can or as many as you can. You go out with an empty toolbox or a toolbox that's half full, you start life like that and you're just going to have problems.
Douglas: I had my college debt, and I paid it every month for 10 years. I don't know if they stretch out longer than 10 years now, but that's the limit they would give you in the old days. It was just about as much as my house payment. I struggled along and I paid it. And there's just a whole bunch of it goes unpaid.
Nicole: Yeah, and there's certainly no shortage of people taking out loans currently.
Douglas: No. And I had some theories about why they're making more use of that now. People just don't go to college anymore without some kind of debt. But they shouldn't be surprised at the other end you have to pay it.
Nicole: Yeah, I think that's the part they don't think about.
Douglas: Debt, in general, I never did like debt. And I paid that loan off, and I paid my house off. And I paid my truck off. I drove that truck for 28 years. And I'm still in the same house that I built in '78. I got rid of the big things that people usually acquire debt over, and I just never got debt again. I just never did like debt. But I even got rid of a credit card. I went 20 years until I had to do some internet buying, you know you buy from Amazon or something, eBay, until I needed a credit card for that, I went without a credit card for 20 years, a solid 20 years. And people don't think anything of just running up just a huge credit card debt and got to have a new car.
Douglas: I was 35 years old before I owned my first new car. I drove old cars, used cars before then. And I don't know how these young people go out and buy these brand new cars, and they've got their college debt, then they've got their rent, and the next thing you know they're just out of money.
Nicole: I feel like it would be great if there was more of an emphasis on young people on learning how to budget and financial control. In our area anyways, they took away home ec. and basic life skills that everybody needs to know, and they're totally pushed by the wayside.
Douglas: You're 100% right that there's a whole bunch of things that young people need to learn even before they get out of high school. But good gosh, I wonder sometime what the heck do they teach at home.
Nicole: Well, yeah.
Douglas: And do the parents really know any better? Do they know something better to teach them? Because they're in a fix of their own, they've got their own problems that they've created over time. But you know some things, they keep teaching well, this ought to be taught in school and that ought to be taught and school. And I'm thinking good gosh, I'm just up here trying to teach my little subject up here at high school. Can't they teach something at home?
Douglas: What are they teaching at home? You have to wonder that sometimes.
Nicole: Yeah, I think parents are too busy working their multiple jobs. And it seems like sometimes parenting falls by the wayside in light of everything else.
Douglas: And home life is such a mess these days anyway without going into great detail.
Douglas: We all know what home life is like. It's such a mess. I had a student, a foreign student, one time living with me for most of a school year. And he was learning English, and he did real good with English. But he didn't read it so fast and so well, so he would want me to sit down with him and read the textbooks to him. And I didn't mind doing that. I didn't have a problem with it because like I said he's struggling with the text material plus the handicap of English being his second language.
Douglas: So I'd sit down there with him, we'd do homework. And I thought oh good gosh, this is exhausting. We're doing this every night and I just don't know that other parents who have a whole bunch of duties, they have to do washing, and ironing, and cooking, and who knows what else, and can they really sit down with their kids for a couple of hours every night like they need to?
Douglas: And like I said, some homes are so chaotic you just wonder. And it's been that way since the 70s I believe, the disruptive chaotic homes often that you find. And so you just don't really see a lot of homework getting done.
Nicole: Yeah, that's kind of tragic. I don't know what the answer is, but hopefully, things can start maybe working their way to a more positive light. And like I said, I don't know how we get there, but I hope that things start to make the uphill turn at least.
Douglas: You have to live life strategically. A strategy is a plan to win. I don't care if you're running a foot race or you're playing basketball or football, everybody's got a plan on how to maximize their particular strength and apply it to that sport to get the best result. When you're running a race, some of them hold back and then they race forward at the end. Some of them get out front and want to stay out front. You just have to take whatever. If you've got that much wind, you can do that.
Douglas: And so you have to have a strategy. And you have to live life strategically. You have to know where the landmines are and walk around them. And a lot of people just go running blindly into the field and then one day they're wondering oh gosh, I got both my legs blown off, what the heck happened?
Nicole: I think that is one of the most accurate representations or analogies of life that I've heard.
Douglas: Yeah, and then when they get over age 50, their world just folds up on them like a house of cards. Their health gets bad, and they run out of money. And they're at their maximum earning power. Whatever they're earning at that moment is as good as it's ever going to get. Yeah, I said that the health goes bad and sometimes the family goes south. And it really can come unwound if you don't have a plan, if you don't have some kind of plan, or goal, or objective and work toward it.
Nicole: Yeah. I think that's the big thing is life takes work. You can't just put on cruise control and hope it all plays out. You've got to actually make the effort, and put in the time, and put in the energy to make it what you want it to be.
Douglas: Right. You've got to make it happen. And what happens in your life is what you make happen or what you let happen. Life is going to happen one way are the other where you're just letting it happen to you, or you can take some control over it.
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. Even on the negative stuff too like you said, within reason, a lot of times it's what people let happen to them. So you can really arrange things to be the way that you want them to be, and you don't always have to be just a victim of fate.
Douglas: You know, your life is the sum of all of your choices that you made, and you have to make good choices every day. Every day we make choices that influence the future and not only the present, that influence the future. And it's the choices that we make and the action that we take every day that determines what our life will be tomorrow. Now, some things are unavoidable. You can't eliminate all the sufferings in your life because some things just happen, what's called the natural friction of life. You can't help it if somebody rear-ends your car, or you have death of relatives nearby that you thought a lot of, or that you have some accident. Or maybe you got laid off from your job. Some things, they're just unavoidable. But you're going to do better if you have a plan and you live life with a plan, and you live life strategically.
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. I could not agree more.
Douglas: If you ask people, if you ask anyone what they're going to be doing three years from now, what will their life be like three years from now, they can't tell you. Maybe some of them can't tell you three months from now. But people just don't think, and it's like Earl Nightingale says people become what they think about most of the time. For better or for worse, people become what they think about most of the time. And a lot of times they just don't think. And so things just happen, and instead of acting, you spend your time reacting.
Nicole: Yeah. I caused a moment of some internal self-reflection there I guess, but yeah, those are incredibly wise words.
Douglas: We really have to go back over that and really visit that again that people become what they think about most of the time. And so it's incumbent on you to have good thoughts, constructive thoughts, healthy thoughts. If you don't, your life is not going to be any of those three.
Nicole: It's amazing how your mindset even just subconsciously will change the outcome of your life.
Douglas: Your subconscious is something that Americans don't really ... I'm not sure if we're so well-versed in it, but your subconscious is something that's working all the time to help you solve problems and always working to your good. Sometimes we pay attention to it, and sometimes we don't. And sometimes we feed it positive thoughts, desires, and often we feed it the wrong things. But your subconscious is always working to help you. It's like a huge filter. It filters out unnecessary things and takes you toward your goals.
Nicole: Yeah. Well, I feel like I need to sit down and do some self-reflection now and think more about where I want my life to be.
Douglas: Yeah, I want you to go on YouTube and look up Earl Nightingale's spelled with an N, Earl Nightingale. He has several recordings. He made the first record ever that sold a million. All he does is talk on these records. What you need to do is to, like I said, listen to his recording called The Strangest Secret. And you need to listen to it four, five, six times, not just once. And then listen to everything he's got to say. But start with the Strangest Secret, and it gives you a lot to think about.
Nicole: I will do that.
Douglas: Well, I hope we covered all your bases.
Nicole: We covered everything and more. And I really from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate you taking the time to, again, to talk and-
Douglas: Oh, you bet.
Nicole: ... share not only about the peafowl but just about life. I love talking to people getting other people's perspective. And there's a lot of lessons that you can take back, not only for your birds but for your own self there.
Douglas: There you go.
Nicole: And I really appreciate your time.
Douglas: Yeah, don't forget about Earl Nightingale, the Strangest Secret, okay?
Nicole: I will absolutely look that up.
Douglas: There you go.
Nicole: And I'll put a link in this for anybody else that would like to look at it too.
Douglas: All right, very good. Well, it's been a pleasure talking to you.
Nicole: I've very much enjoyed it. Thank you, Douglas.
Douglas: Alrighty, we'll talk to you again someday maybe.
Nicole: Yes, sir, I hope so.
Douglas: All right, bye-bye.
Nicole: Bye-bye now.
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