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    Saturday, July 20, 2024

    A ‘palace’ for a peacock: Waterford school raising money to build new home for bird

    “Paulie the Peacock” in the enclosure that now has six peacocks Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at Waterford Country School. The school is raising money for a larger enclosure. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    The two-section peacock enclosure Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at Waterford Country School. The school now has six peacocks and is raising money for a larger enclosure. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    “Paulie the Peacock” on second level, on right, of one of the areas of the peacock enclosure Tuesday, April 23, 2024, and another peacock, lower left section at Waterford Country School. The school now has six peacocks and is raising money for a larger enclosure. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Waterford ― Paulie, a flighty peacock once known for running amok across town roads, perching atop cars and evading net-brandishing authorities out for his capture, is now the patriarch of a growing family at Waterford Country School.

    Standing in a two-room outdoor enclosure Tuesday with Paulie and five other peacocks, Tina Cote, a 28-year animal rehabilitator at the school, pointed to and described each member of the family.

    “The other one with the blue neck is a male, so that’s his son,” she said. “This is his mom ― the white one is his mom. And then that’s his daughter.”

    The offspring were born last year, according to Elena French, the school’s assistant director of development. With the peacock family getting bigger, the private special education school at 78 Hunts Brook Road in Quaker Hill is raising money to build a “palace” for the birds to give them more space.

    The current 11-year-old enclosure ― which is about 120 square feet ― is getting too small for them and is the subject of frequent repairs.

    “There’s more of them, and this enclosure is just, you know ― there’s only so long that you’re going to keep repairing something before you say we probably should stop repairing and start over, right?” French said. “... And so that’s when we started looking for a better site that would make that happen.”

    She said the new enclosure would be closer to the entrance to the farm and animal enclosures from Hunts Brook Road.

    “I like the idea because I love that it’s at the entrance, where there would be more visibility. So even if you’re coming for a training or you aren’t even coming all the way in, the first thing you’re going to see is the happy peacock family,” she added.

    But while the school, which combines numerous special education and foster care programs with therapeutic animal and farming activities, applies for a few state education grants to fund classes, the farm and animal enclosures are not funded.

    “That comes out of our overhead,” French said.

    So the school launched a GoFundMe campaign on March 14 with a goal of raising $11,500. It has raised a little over $1,500.

    “It is pretty high, and if we don’t meet that goal we’ll still be able to build it,” French said, adding the school has a pretty creative team of volunteers who can manage building a enclosure on a tight budget.

    “But any of the funds we raise will go towards the animals,” she said.

    French said because she does not know how much money they will raise, design plans for the enclosure have not been finalized.

    But, the length of the outdoor pen she said will be about 16 feet, plus an indoor shelter area to protect the birds from the elements. The length of the current enclosure, with shelter and outdoor pen combined, is about 12 feet.

    French said they hope to finish the new enclosure by July.

    Starting a peacock family

    It was Cote who had inadvertently started the peacock family years ago by moving the flighty peacock into the enclosure with three of the school’s female peahens that share no blood relation to Paulie.

    “We don’t always know their whole story or how old they are,” she said. “So, I offered that Paulie needed company and maybe he’d be happy and not run away on them. We put the girls in with him and he’s happy as can be.”

    Cote said she did not know they would mate in captivity.

    French said they noticed the females were not moving, and that’s when they realized the female peahens were sitting on eggs.

    Peacocks are polygynous, meaning they breed with more than one female. Cote said she knows the white peahen is one of the mothers of Paulie’s children, but couldn’t tell who gave birth to the other.

    Meanwhile, she said, being a family man has made Paulie less flighty.

    “He’s gotten out a couple of times ...” she said. “It takes a while but we’ve gotten him. I think he’s happy though, he has his family now.”

    d.drainville@theday.com

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