Rocky's Tale

We got Rocky from Marci Clark, who had put an ad in the Gamebird Gazette. Marci didn't know his age, but Rocky was probably pretty old already. My husband brought him and three others home in burlap bags arranged in a neat line in the car trunk, with the seat pass-thru and all the windows open, to provide plenty of fresh air. Joe also played soothing music and talked to the birds whenever they got restless during the 5-hour drive. This was July, 2005.

I noticed that there was something wrong with one of Rocky's feet as soon as we unloaded him from the trunk. He didn't walk very well, never fully straightened his knees, and was unwilling or unable to fly into the trees that evening. We decided to always keep him in the garage at night, for his own safety.

Within the first week, we bundled Rocky off to the vet and had his foot X-rayed. His big middle toe had been broken at some point and had never healed properly. It was swollen, infected, flopped around loosely, and was obviously painful. We had the vet amputate it. Back at home, we had to give Rocky antibiotic pills (hidden inside a grape) twice a day for 10 days, and also had to change his bandage every 2 or 3 days, which meant he had to get caught and handled a lot.

What impressed us right away about Rocky was that he was so nice, and easy to handle. He didn't try to peck or scratch or hit us with his wings, like a bad-tempered bird would have done. Nor was he excessively timid. And we gradually realized that despite his tiny head and brain, Rocky was smart.

It soon became apparent that Rocky needed help getting up and down from the perch hanging below the rafters in the garage. It was too high up for us to just grab him and put him there, plus he would get upset by manhandling and not stay where he was put. He could fly up and down, but sometimes missed the perch, and all his landings looked painful.

So I set up a stepping-stone arrangement of furniture that could get Rocky up onto a bench, then the (covered) car hood, to the car roof, and finally up onto the perch. I gestured with my hands, making progressively higher hopping motions. He watched, but didn't understand. So I said, "bloop, Bloop, BLOOP!" with rising notes to match my hand movements as I touched the rising steps he should use. Finally, I climbed on the bench to show Rocky what he should do. Then I retreated out of his way.

Rocky using ramp
Rocky using ramp
Rocky stood on the floor and looked at the perch and the steps leading up to it in 18" increments. I could see his head and eyes following the intended path. I could sense his mental wheels turning. After a long pause, Rocky waddled over to the bench, studied it's height and distance, then jumped up! I praised him in a high, excited voice like I would use on a puppy. He hopped onto the car hood. I had to pretend to reach for his tail to give him the incentive to scramble up the steeply slanted windshield. Finally, he jumped from the car roof onto the perch. Success!

I don't know who was more happy or proud - me or Rocky!

And Rocky remembered, too, and kept using the steps up to the perch for the rest of his life, no matter how we re-arranged the garage or what he needed to climb on. At first he jumped down, but his arthritic knees sometimes toppled him onto his face, or made him limp. So to ease him down, I used a similar teaching method and Rocky learned another trick: to walk down ramps (wood boards).

Rocky grew beautiful tail feathers with huge eyespots. The hens loved him because he was gentle with them, even during mating. One old hen, Daisy, who had run away from Terry's rape-like mating two years earlier, and had lived alone with our neighbors half a mile away since then, came flying over the river to rejoin our flock as soon as she heard Rocky's mating calls. She became our most-prolific mother for the next five years.

Rocky spent his days outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and the company of his hens. Those with babies also shared the garage with him at night over their first winter, until the babies were old enough to endure the cold and wet of sleeping in the trees. You could tell that Rocky was amused by the youngsters and comforted when the females groomed his face. He was very patient and tolerant of his young. No matter how loud or rowdy they got, he hardly ever pecked or jumped at them, even when they snatched food from right in front of his face.

Peafowl in Love
Rocky in Love
Rocky's Family
Rocky surprised us by fathering not only India Blue peafowl like himself and his hens, but also Black Shoulder children and (surprise!) White grandchildren! We didn't know he had it in him.

When Rocky's sons reached two years old, they started competing with him for the hens' attention. As the years went by, Rocky was less and less able to defend himself with his stiff, arthritic knees, crippled feet, and a missing spur. So he ran away and hid from his own sons' aggression.

We couldn't sell peacocks as fast as Rocky sired them, so we were forced to train him to take refuge in a fenced "hidey hole" next to the house. We had to escort Rocky in and out in the summer, with broomsticks to keep the other adult males at bay.

In 2010 and 2011, Rocky's mobility steadily deteriorated, until we were often forced to carry him in and out of the garage. He no longer used the perch, staying instead on top of a tarped boat or hay bales. The cold in winter bothered him more, and he shivered. The vet couldn't do anything to help. Rocky spent more and more time in the garage, and ate less and less. He didn't preen his feathers any more, and didn't move enough to avoid his own droppings. He could barely walk.

We loved and respected Rocky, but we couldn't stand to see him suffer any more. We finally took pity on this brave, kind, smart, wonderful bird and had him mercifully and speedily put into his final sleep on March 15, 2011. (It made me cry to write this.)

Rocky, we salute you!

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