Finally, the camera-shy Phyllis agreed to stay still for five seconds so I could capture her in a photo, albeit from a distance and in the semi-darkness of her henhouse home. It’s rather pleasing that the bird that came to us via our neighbours as a day-old chick all those weeks ago is growing into such a fine-looking game bird. The fact she’s so reluctant to have her picture taken is actually a comfort, as it means she’s still decidedly feral and we haven’t turned her into a pet…yet. My fear has been that when we release her she won’t have the wherewithal to behave like a normal game bird and she’ll soon come a cropper. For this reason, we’ve piled her chick-crumb bowl high and left numerous drinkers full to the brim so we don’t go into her run too often and inadvertently tame her.
I’m confidently saying ‘her’ and ‘Phyllis’, but after speaking to a gamekeeper’s artist wife the other day I’m a little foxed as to her sex. She could well be a male as, though she has the colours – and prettiness I like to think – of a hen bird, she could turn out to be a cock because pheasants don’t take on their colours till they’re older. Nothing seems to be straightforward in the bird world, particularly when it comes to gender. I could swear our Buff Orpington cockerel turned into a boy but started out promisingly as a pullet who we hoped would eventually lay us the occasional egg and decorate the garden with her fine feminine form. Still, I wouldn’t change the old boy for all the world, it’s always a delight to hear his somewhat croaky crow resounding across the garden in the mornings – and rather amusing to witness his fumbled attempts to court the ladies.