Immigrants to the country must expect cows to bellow, donkeys to bray and chain-saws to scream. But peacocks are something else ...

I do not usually have much time for townspeople who come out to live in villages and then complain about the noise and smells. Immigrants to the country must expect cows to bellow, donkeys to bray, tractors to roar, chain-saws to scream and silage clamps to stink like the effluent from hell.

Peacocks, however, are something else. The aggravation they cause is in a class of its own, and I cannot help feeling sorry for the people of Avebury who are being driven demented by the four birds - property of the National Trust - that roam the Wiltshire village.

A long-term peacock-owner myself, I know how the sufferers feel; and experience has taught me that it is unfair all round to keep such large birds, which are only half-domesticated, in any environment shared by humans.

Once you have seen peacocks in their natural state, you cannot contemplate incarcerating them in any form of cage, however large. Nor can you pinion them, to stop them flying, because they must roost aloft to be safe from foxes. Essentially birds of the jungle, they need a tremendous amount of space to flourish; and if they are allowed to roam free in any village, they are bound to cause intense vexation.

It was trips to India and Nepal that encouraged us to take on peacocks. I shall never forget an afternoon spent darting rhinos in the Terai, the plain south of the Himalayas. As our elephants crunched through the scrub, huge birds exploded in bomb-bursts of five or six, climbing steeply against the dazzling white backdrop of eternal snow peaks on the northern horizon.

In England, our first three birds were two hens and a male whom my wife named Shalimar. We were then living in the Chilterns, and the farm was so isolated that there was nobody in earshot to be tormented by the brazen screeches of "Ay-ORRRR, Ay-ORRR" which Shalimar continually trumpeted out in spring.

We ourselves suffered most from free-lance avian gardening. Pacing the flowerbeds, endlessly inquisitive, the peacocks would nip off bud after bud, eating some but dropping most of them disdainfully to the ground. Whenever they decided to take a dust-bath in the vegetable patch, it was curtains for whole crops, young or old.

Mercifully perhaps, our flock never increased much. The hens nested in the nettles behind the farmyard, but cats or foxes got most of the chicks, and Shalimar - driven, no doubt, by the instinct to preserve his personal supremacy - revealed a distressing propensity for murdering his own offspring.

So it was that when we moved to our present home in 1985 we still had only four birds. Catching them for transportation was a saga in itself, but we managed it by fixing up the door of a stable with a long draw-string, luring the peacocks inside along a trail of corn, and yanking the trap shut from a distance.

After being driven down the M4 in individual hessian sacks, they soon took to their new surroundings. But here, though again out in the sticks, we lack the final degree of isolation. A lane runs past the house, and we have one neighbour, a keen and skilful gardener.

It was one thing for passers-by to gawp in admiration as Shalimar displayed on the terrace, with 100 violet eyes glaring from the iridescent green of his fanned-out tail feathers; quite another when our neighbour's rows of newly-sown carrots were left looking like an exhibit in the Imperial War Museum - a relief model of the battle of the Somme, all mounds and craters.

One spring, our surviving female hatched out three male chicks, and when these all grew into strapping teenagers, we decided that the family must go. They were taken on by kind friends in Oxfordshire - but there they created even worse havoc than with us.

Decamping across country into the nearest village, they took up residence in trees around the graveyard and split the community, exactly as in Avebury. One faction demanded their immediate removal or extermination; the other threatened to prosecute anyone who laid a finger on them.

Here, Shalimar lived on for a year in solitary splendour, sometimes doing no mean damage to visiting cars, in whose gleaming paintwork he discerned phantom rivals.

Eventually, one winter dawn, a fox got him in the orchard; and unless I win the Lottery, so that I can buy a stately home in the middle of a 500-acre park, I do not think we shall ever replace him.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas