While peafowl phrases pepper the language -- "proud as a peacock," "pretty as a peacock" -- they all pertain to the colorful male of the species. "Plain as a peahen" would be the appropriate term for the female. Peahens lay eggs daily for short periods of time, but not naturally for weeks or months on end like young domestic hens.
Originally from India and other Southeast Asian lands, peafowl are related to pheasants. The two most common colors are the green variety (Pavo muticus) and the blue (Pavo cristatus). They're extremely long-lived birds -- with proper care and the right conditions, domestic peafowl might be around for 40 or 50 years. One caveat: They are noisy. They make good watch-birds if you live in a rural area.
While peahens generally reach maturity at the age of 2, some begin laying fertile eggs after their first birthday. Peacocks don't reach maturity until the age of 3, which is when their tail, or train, also matures. A peacock preens and shows off his splendid tail feathers in order to impress potential mates, but peahens pretty much ignore him except for a short period when they're ready to breed. For best breeding results, allow one peacock for every four or five peahens. By late summer, the peacock's tail feathers fall out because of molting, so no more breeding occurs that season.
After breeding, peahens start laying eggs in early spring. They will lay an egg daily for about six to 10 days, then sit on them to hatch. If the eggs are removed regularly from the nest in order to incubate them, she can continue laying for about a month. While some people do eat the light brown eggs, for the most part the eggs are too valuable and relatively scarce for consumption. Peafowl breeders collect the eggs for artificial incubation, usually hatching about a month later.
If bred in captivity and allowed to raise her young naturally, peahens might raise three clutches annually, although two are more likely. If you let your peahen set on her eggs, chicks hatch in approximately 28 days. A peahen might lay a "decoy" egg out of the nest, presumably to ward predators off her main clutch. Once the chicks arrive, keep the peahens and their babies in a pen until the chicks grow large enough to avoid becoming easy predator pickings.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.