By David Tomlinson
Sunday, 29 January 2012
Q) I can recall once seeing a photograph of a “phantam” — a cross between a bantam hen and a cock pheasant — on the letters page of Shooting Times. How unusual is this cross-breed, and are the offspring fertile? P. ACTON By email
A) Your query prompted me to try and find out as much as I could about phantams. It is, I discovered, a subject that has long fascinated poultry keepers. Charles Darwin mentions hybrids between domestic fowl and pheasants in his book The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, and a number of 19th century poultry keepers managed to achieve such hybrids. The resulting offspring are described as both wild and sterile.
I’ve kept free-range bantams for several years, and wild cock pheasants feed alongside my hens every day, but I have never seen a pheasant display any interest in the hens. My bantam cockerel ignores the pheasants completely, as there is clearly no rivalry between the two. I suspect that a cock pheasant confi ned in a pen might take more interest in his female companions.
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