Oct. 4-10 is National 4-H Week and Iowa youth are demonstrating how 4-H helps them “Meet the Future.” Also see the story about Gov. Culver proclaiming 4-H Week in Iowa.
AMES, Iowa – Colton Anderson hasn’t always been a peafowl enthusiast. One nature show, tons of research, numerous investments, nine peafowl and several record books later, however, have turned a quick interest into a small business.
“I first became interested in peafowl after seeing a nature show about them on TV,” the 12-year-old 4-H’er said. “I found them to be the most beautiful birds I had ever seen and decided I wanted to learn more about them.” So he did.
First step -- research
Anderson researched everything he could about the housing, care, feed and health of peacocks and realized his acreage would be perfect for raising them to start his own business. After creating roosts and nesting boxes in his barn, he ordered his first birds in October 2008 from Nebraska, Indiana and a local farm in eastern Iowa. As he slowly prepared for breeding season in March, he continued to learn about the birds, became his own veterinarian and kept immaculate records of everything.
“There aren’t many veterinarians with a lot of experience with peafowl. Through other members of the UPA (United Peafowl Association), I learned to provide my own health care from worming to preventative measures against illness,” he said. “I also learned that accurate records play a very important part of a business’ success or failure.”
By late May, he had recorded his first eggs. By July 2 they started hatching, and by mid July he had his first batch of peachicks.
What to do with the feathers?
Meanwhile, his male peacocks were losing their feathers rapidly. Intent on finding a way to use them, he decided to put his woodworking skills to use and make wooden replicas. With real feathers fanning out from a wooden head and neck, the replicas he designed and assembled are carefully painted to match the species of peafowl feathers rather than just the usual blue.
“One of the most interesting things I learned while working on this project was about how many different colored peacocks there are,” Anderson said. “The India Blue, the one we usually see at zoos for instance, is only the beginning.”
Soon his wooden peacocks were available online after the couple from whom he bought some of the feathers learned what he was doing, They were thrilled to buy two different replicas and offered him the opportunity to sell his projects on their farm’s Web site. Additionally, the UPA learned of the peafowl and asked him to donate one to the association's annual auction.
Good record keeping is important
Through this multi-faceted 4-H project, Anderson has learned more than just the logistics of buying, raising and crafting peafowl. He has discovered the importance of record keeping, research and small business practices, and like any owner, he has a lot of future goals as he nears the one-year anniversary mark. Continuing to learn more, increasing advertising and purchasing an incubator are all on his list, as is growth in selling chicks, young adults, breeding pairs, eggs and feathers. He also hopes to expand the varieties that he raises and paints, always keeping records as a top priority.
“My ideas for next year, most importantly, are to keep learning throughout the process and continuing to improve not only in the business aspect but in my record keeping. I don’t want to be afraid to try new things, but I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over again either,” he said. “That’s where the need for good records plays a big role.”
A Clinton County 4-H’er, he credits Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development for helping him understand the importance of good records.
“My past 4-H experiences have definitely carried over in this project in regard to record keeping. My first year of 4-H was a mess. When I went about my write-ups, my information was everywhere. The next year I came up with a simple file folder system for each project area,” he said. “I complete a record book each year, which has helped me plan how to keep accurate records of my live birds and my woodcrafts.”
Anderson also is involved in numerous project areas and local club activities. While he doesn’t plan to concentrate only on peacocks, he is excited about the future possibilities for both his birds and crafts.
“What started as a project for myself has turned into a small business,” he said. “While I don’t expect to get rich making (wooden) peacocks, I’ll continue to fill orders as long as people want me to make them because I enjoy it.”
4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. In Iowa the 4-H program is headquartered on the ISU campus in Ames and offered in every county through the local Iowa State University Extension office.
For more information about 4-H, contact any county office of ISU Extension or the state 4-H office at (515) 294-1017.
Hannah McCulloh, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-9915, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, email@example.com