Peafowl are among the most beautiful and independent animals cared for by people. Their independence sometimes makes it difficult to recognize when they are sick and to diagnose their ailment. By becoming familiar with how to determine the symptoms a peacock or peahen may present, you will better be able to recognize an ailment and know when to treat it.
Recognizing an Unhealthy Peacock or Peahen
Peafowl (pavo cristatus) are very far on the evolutionary tree from humans, so it's sometimes difficult for us to recognize an unhealthy bird. Whereas with most pets or farm animals, the signs of disease or injury are more familiar to us as fellow mammals, with peafowl, you must be more vigilant for unfamiliar signals. If you have spent some time observing the peafowl in your care, you should be familiar with common peafowl behavior. An unhealthy peacock will display uncommon behavior that should stick out to you, even if it’s not a clear signal such as an open wound or limp. A drooping head or wing may be a sign of something wrong. If a peacock or peahen stops eating or drinking, seems to have trouble breathing, or stops socializing with the other birds in its ostentation out of season, it may warrant further attention.
You must determine specific symptoms before you can diagnose peafowl. Initially, you may be able to check its feces for internal parasites or get a better view of the bird by tempting it close to you with food pieces. However, examining peafowl is nearly impossible to do without physically catching the bird. If the sick peacock is still mobile, catch it with a minimum amount of stress to the bird by grasping its feet very firmly from its roost while it’s sleeping. Immediately calm the bird by restraining its wings close to its body. Examine the bird for any external injuries, infected wounds, parasites or lesions.
If the symptoms you discover are obvious, such as an infected wound or other external malady, the diagnosis should be easy. To identify specific parasites or other externally-presented ailments, use reference materials written for the commercial management of turkeys, which are genetically similar to peacocks. If you can't find external symptoms, the diagnosis for your peacock or peahen may require a blood test to determine the viral or bacterial cause behind your peacock's malaise.
Unless your veterinarian is accustomed to working with commercial poultry production or exotic animals, it may be difficult or costly to get veterinary care for your peafowl. However, if you need help making a diagnosis, especially if a blood test needs to be performed on your peafowl, it will be necessary for you to seek help from a veterinarian. Place the peacock in a small but appropriately-sized carrier to transport it to a veterinarian for further diagnosis. This may be especially good for an injured peacock that will need to be immobilized for convalescence.