A persistent pigeon feeder who tormented neighbours by attracting hundreds of feral birds to her home has avoided jail for breaching her antisocial behaviour order (Asbo).

Christine Foreman claimed attracting huge flocks of the birds to her home in Wickham Road, Shirley, had become an addiction and compared giving it up to trying to stop smoking.

The 55-year-old was handed an Asbo banning her from feeding wild birds in her back garden last October, but was arrested for a breach in April after being shopped by a neighbour.

She was ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Monday, but lead magistrate Rose Thorn said she would not be jailed because of her mental state.

She said: “There’s a lot of stress caused to your neighbours and other people in the area and this can’t go on.

“You have total disregard for any court orders made and also I don’t think you actually realise how serious this is.”

She added if Foreman breached her order again the bench would have no option but to jail her.

The sentence was met with disgust by several of Foreman’s neighbours, who turned up at the court to hear the magistrates’ verdict.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “I’m spitting feathers.

“We’re completely fed up – that [sentence] is outrageous.

“We’re very disappointed because we have put up with this for a very long time, for years.

“The filth is absolutely disgraceful.”

Stephan Black, defending, told the court Foreman fed the pigeons because she thought it would make them go away.

He said: “She is by nature an animal lover and keeps pigeons in the back of her garden.

“While feeding them she started feeding feral pigeons –it just escalated.

“She’s remorseful and knows she needs to stop, but she’s finding it very difficult.”

Foreman was also ordered to pay the court costs of £85.

Neighbours first complained of Mrs Foreman’s behaviour in 2007 after swarms of pigeons prevented them using their gardens.

She signed an “acceptable behaviour agreement” in June 2009 promising to stop feeding the birds, but later admitted she had continued to put out seed for the wild pigeons every day.