Phyllis the pheasant

Phyllis the pheasant is three weeks old today and feathering up nicely. Of course that sentence makes two big assumptions: firstly, that our adopted chick is a girl and secondly, that she’s a pheasant. Being no game bird expert and having originally thought this incomer was a baby chicken (!), I’m open to correction. She does bear a striking resemblance to the female pheasant that’s been loitering in the chicken run and helping herself to the Araucana ladies’ pellets (more of this cheeky wild bird behaviour another time). She’s dull in colour: greys, browns, black and white and quite a slender little thing. Largely self-sufficient – which is just as well, as according to our rescue bird adviser we’re not meant to interact with her lest she becomes too human-friendly – the only time I’ve had to assist her is on discovering that she was ‘pasted up’ at the weekend. 

Our freshly hatched chicken brood suffered the same problem last year – effectively, they become a little bunged up with their own droppings so it’s up to their adoptive parents to sort out. If neglected, this condition can be fatal, so with a bowl of warm water and some cotton wool I opened up the brooder to assist the little bird. Naturally enough, as she’s bigger and flightier these days she swoops out of her digs before I can pick her up. This time a ten-minute Tom & Jerry style chase ensued around our dining room floor before I managed to pick her up and clean her bottom. After a bit of wriggling, she rested in my hand and let me perform the undignified task. It took a lot of warm water and patience to very carefully remove the queue of droppings attached to her bottom and surrounding fluff – if you’re not careful you can easily damage her vent, so it’s delicate work. After about half an hour (no joke), she was back in the brooder to warm up and dry off under the lamp. All I can say is I hope she doesn’t turn into an ungrateful teenager after we’ve carried out tasks like this.


The amorous Buff Orpington cockerel and lady friend, Audrey, the white Araucana


Elsewhere on the smallholding, we’ve had to separate our cockerel from his two Araucana ladies as he was proving a little too amorous for his own good. I noticed a bare patch showing on Brownie, the brown bird and the smallest of these two beauties, and decided enough was enough. The little and large nature of the huge Buff Orpington cockerel courting these diminutive birds never seemed quite right anyway. So he’s been banished to the spare chicken run to think it all over – which is a little problematic as this is where Phyllis the pheasant will be heading in a week or two – and those two co-existing in the same run would be a recipe for disaster. Hmm, a plan needs to be hatched.

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