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?
Travel
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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence