I MADE the mistake of taming this old pheasant. He is Charlie. He has lived in the woods for the past four years and now he lives in the garden.
He is a Southern Caucasian breed with no ring-neck which the Chinese pheasants have.
This year he attracted eight hen pheasants into his harem and has serviced the lot but without any result.
Some of the hens did lay eggs here and there about the garden but they had no shells, and felt like jelly wobbling in my hand. They are a set of mules, hopelessly inbred and infertile.
I thought it would be fun to have Charlie eating out of my hand.
He did not take much persuading. He is cock-sure of himself and very wiley. For the past four shooting seasons he has outwitted the beaters by running in the opposite direction when they appear with their dogs and flags.
Only when the guns have long finished their fusillade does he creep back cautiously into the garden.
Then I tamed him, as you can see from the photograph which I took with the other hand. That wasn’t enough. He wanted more.
He knew the corn was kept inside the kitchen door so he hopped inside and helped himself.
We had only gone ten minutes, leaving the back door open. I had to go elsewhere, and so only my wife returned. She found pandemonium on her return to the kitchen.
Charlie had got in but couldn’t think how to get out. So he had gone into the bathroom and tried to fly out through the closed window.
That didn’t work and after a few smashed bottles in the bath he tried the kitchen. When my wife returned he was perched on the sink staring at her through the window.
She rushed in, he rushed out - into the dining room. The TV looked like a window so he went for that. It didn’t break, just leaned back at a funny angle. Charlie strolled up and down the wide window ledge scattering delicate ornaments like a jewel thief on a smash and grab.
My wife could not get near him for fear of yet more damage. His spurs are an inch long as well, and she didn’t fancy them into her wrists. So she left him alone to quieten down.
After two hours she reappeared with a huge towel, and when he blinked she threw it over his head. He thrashed about but she managed to grasp his legs together and got hold of one wing.
He looked absolutely violent, she said when I eventually returned, and he hissed at her like a snake.
We spent the afternoon, evening and half the next day clearing up the mess.
As for Charlie, you wouldn’t think butter could melt in his mouth.
He was there on the lawn within the hour, asking for more, feeding from the hand again as though nothing had happened.
But the back door is kept locked now at all times. If he falls to the guns next October and someone tries to eat him they’ll find he’s a tough as old boots.