Peacocks roam free Friday outside the giraffe cage at the Hillcrest Zoo. (Staff photo: Andy Delisle)
By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
The peacock population at Hillcrest Zoo has dwindled to 40 following a successful sale that drew interest across the state.
Zoo Director Herschel Arnold reported in February that the large, colorful fowls’ numbers had grown to approximately 70, which was posing a problem because of the lack of space for the free-range peacocks to roam.
To alleviate the overcrowding, zoo employees considered keeping the birds from procreating and destroying eggs found in hidden nests located throughout the zoo. Instead, they launched a public peacock sale.
Zoo employee Laura Shepler said the sale was a huge success. “People came from all over,” she said. “We only have 40 peacocks left.”
Curry County resident John Dollins said he purchased six of the zoo’s birds. Dollins is co-owner of Opportunity Dairy and resides on-site with his wife and four children.
The fowl serve many purposes, Dollins said, but he wanted them primarily to beautify his property. “They (peacocks) are absolutely beautiful,” he said, “especially the males when they spread their tails out.”
Dollins said the birds are slightly temperamental but serve as great watchdogs.
“If they don’t recognize someone,” he said, “they (peacocks) will holler.” The raucous yell emitted by the birds is delightful to the Dollins children, who are the primary peacock caretakers. “The kids love the birds,” Dollins said. “They (children) try to imitate the peacocks.”
The dairy owner said the peacocks live in a stall that was turned into a cage specifically for them. He plans to keep the peacocks under lock and key until they become acclimated to their new home. Once they are comfortable in their new surroundings, the birds will be allowed to roam free, Dollins said.
Pest control is also a plus when owning peacocks, according to the animal owner. “We are grain feeding the peacocks we bought,” Dollins said, “but they are definetly bug eaters too.”
Because of the sale’s success, no eggs were destroyed and the peacock pairs will be allowed to mate, Shepler said.
The zoo sold the birds in pairs for $50. Shepler said the money will be put back into the zoo and used for upkeep.