The peacocks of Baugher’s Orchard and Farm in Westminster are home safe, sound, a little more free Wednesday after having gone missing Tuesday during the controlled burn of a barn.
A post on the farm’s Facebook page around 6 p.m. Tuesday asked the public for help in finding the colorful birds, but in the end, the peafowl found their own way home.
“You’re not going to catch them,” said Dwight Baugher, co-owner of the farm. “I was happy they were all four sitting there this morning. I was down there feeding them, I wanted to throw some food up on that high roost, and my son was at the school bus blowing my phone up: ‘They’re there! They’re there!’ I’m like, ‘I know!’ ”
The peacocks had to be let out of their cages when the controlled burn of a dilapidated barn near the farm’s petting zoo got out of hand, according to Baugher, who called for fire company assistance in managing the burn around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
While the peacocks were housed in a block building, the heat from the fire was beginning to char that structure as well.
“They are the only animals there that are caged, so if it were to catch fire, they would be done,” Baugher said. “I opened the cage, turned ’em loose, and then the fire engines came in with all the noise and they flew into the woods.”
In the end, the peacocks’ structure did not catch fire and their release was probably unnecessary, Baugher said, but given that they returned on their own, he is now considering allowing them a more free-range lifestyle.
“Honestly we’re not going to put them in a cage — they’re domesticated,” he said. “They came back last night, they know where there is food and water. We’re just going to let them roost up on the high stuff at night and see how they do.”
The peacocks have been a feature, if a timid one, at the Baugher’s petting zoo, which lays behind the peacocks’ cage structure, and Baugher hopes that letting them range while interacting and being fed by his family will get them more accustomed to human presence when the petting zoo reopens in the spring.
In fact, the whole petting zoo area, including an old wooden play structure that burned along with the old barn, could be getting a facelift, according to Baugher.
“This strawberry season we’ll have some animals down there. I can’t guarantee my playground and all will be done, but it will be graded up and look a lot better than it did,” he said. “We have some goats; I just bought my daughter a miniature baby donkey.”
The foot traffic at the petting zoo was one of the reasons for the controlled burn of the old barn nearby, Baugher said, which had began to deteriorate and could have become a hazard.
It was not, however, an easy structure to deal with.
“It wasn’t just a regular barn where you could easily knock it over. It had three floors of 6 inches of concrete that my grandfather did to put chickens in it,” Baugher said. “My contractor guy said, ‘Man, I don’t even know how to go about that without having that thing fall on my loader or something or fall over into the other fence.’ He said, ‘just burn that thing.’ ”
When the back wall of the old barn fell, it threw ash on the petting zoo barn where the peacocks were housed, and prompted Baugher to call for assistance.
About 20 firefighters from Pleasant Valley, Westminster and Taneytown fire companies were able to surround the barn and keep the fire from spreading to the adjacent structure, according to Charles Simpson, a public information officer for the Pleasant Valley volunteer fire company.
The fire was placed under control at approximately 8:35 a.m. There were no injuries to any people or animals as a result of the fire.