May 05 2008

Peacocks Make Beautiful Pests

Published by at 4:05 pm under Tidings from Gabriola Island

Some tips to keep peacocks away.

peacock on display on Gabriola Island BCDuring the past few years, we’ve become increasingly fascinated by the peacocks who have taken up residence in our one-acre yard. We’ve seen them mourn for days over a flock member, killed by a careless motorist. We’ve observed them closely through two moulting seasons, as they lay in our yard, forlorn and lethargic, their plumage spread out on the lawn to dry after a rainstorm. They peer into our windows and peck at them to get our attention. They clomp like elephants on our roof, and sometimes fall off their high perches with a “THUMP” during the night. They can fly, but not far. Their flying style is sprinter-like, with bursts of energy that quickly peter out, no doubt due to their size, which is why they fly from level to level, using our house and garage roofs as jumping off points to the surrounding cedars. Yes, they are dirty and noisy, but we’ve begun to appreciate their amusing, if annoying personalities. We are learning to adapt.

Mule deer and peacocks feeding togetherEven our deer have lost their fear and feed companionably with the peacocks at the same feeding stations where we spread out “Cob” for the ungulates. Our approach now is to contain our “adopted” peacocks (to keep them off our decks and out of our garden) rather than rid ourselves of them. However, not everyone shares our philosophical attitude to a peacock invasion and so here are…

Some proven strategies to keep peacocks away from your property:

  • Do not feed the birds or any other animals outdoors. Peacocks will eat anything edible — wet and dry cat and dog food, bird seed, even fresh vegetable scraps in an uncovered compost heap — so be sure there is no food source to attract them. If you have dogs or cats, feed them only indoors.

  • Train your dog to run and bark at peacocks whenever they show up. If your dog is initially frightened by them, give him courage by running along with him, screaming and waving your arms to shoo the peacocks away. Make this your dog’s job: to keep peacocks out of his territory. They don’t hang around yards with aggressive dogs, at least not in our neighborhood.
  • Spray them with a high-pressure water hose, the kind you use to wash your car or the siding on your house, every time they turn up. They will squawk in annoyance, but they will soon learn to stay away.
  • Protecting your vegetable patch from these omnivorous marauders is a continuous battle. They will eat every green shoot and bud as it emerges, leaving your newly planted garden a wasteland. Netting, properly installed, will help. We’ve strung parallel lines of twine above our garden fence, which prevents them from resting on the fence before jumping into the garden. This strategy makes use of their tendency to fly in short hops, and their reluctance to fly from the ground over our seven-foot-high fence to the garden. Occasionally, they still get into the garden so our only defense is continuous vigilance and scaring them away with a hose or broom. If you intend to harvest any vegetables from your garden, don’t ever leave your garden unattended during the growing season. When you garden, with peacocks around, you had better cancel those summer travel plans.
  • If some of your neighbors love peacocks and don’t sympathize with your desire to get rid of them, encourage those neighbors to feed your peacocks every day with good quality pet food: cat kibble, poultry feed, etc. When the neighbors start feeding…and you stop, the birds will quickly abandon your property for greener pastures on someone else’s property.
  • As a last resort, you can always kill and eat them (if you can catch them!). In jurisdictions where it is illegal to shoot them (in residential areas, for example), you will have to hire someone to trap them.
  • Peacock feather bouquetIf none of the above works for you, we recommend that you gather their gorgeous tail feathers when they moult (in July, in our area). You can use their feathers to make exquisite bouquets to display in your home, give away as gifts, or sell at your local craft fair and on eBay.

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