If you have ever been to the historic Bella Vista Farm, you may have seen a small chicken running through the manicured gardens and searching for insects in the lush green lawns of the famous homestead.
Her name is “Phantom the Bantam” and according to The Friends of Bella Vista Farm, the little grey chicken has become “quite the icon” of The Farm.
“She arrived here one day. We spotted her sitting on the grape vine post and that was that. She has never left,” The Friends of Bella Vista Farm member Graham Rawstron said.
“We thought she would fly away, but she didn’t. She came down to the garden to find something to eat and there she has stayed making her home in an old orange packing case in the loft of Fitzgerald’s Cottage. She’s the only “person” to live in the cottage for many a long year.
“She basically has adopted The Farm and The Farm has adopted her,” he said.
Phantom arrived at The Farm more than 18 months ago.
Mr Rawstron believes Phantom could have escaped from a nearby property or was abandoned.
Despite no one claiming the curious chook, Mr Rawstron said the volunteers have grown very fond of her.
“She is a sweet little thing and you can feed her by hand,” he said.
“She talks to you. You can hear her clucking.
“If she hasn’t had enough food, she will come down to the garden and find you. And, while she gets a range of food, her favourite is dried corn.”
The chicken has been given a number of names over the months, including Harold by the Second and Third Age Project students and Chookas by Shakespeare in the Park actors.
Chookas is a nod to the word used in theatre to wish performers luck.
But the name Phantom has really stuck with the farmyard bird.
Mr Rawstron said the name was given to the hen after she disappeared from sight on a number of occasions.
“She was here one day and then she wasn’t. Somebody said she was a bit of a phantom. So she became Phantom,” he said.
Phantom has also become a popular attraction, especially on Open Days at The Farm.
“Everyone asks: ‘Where is the bird?’ ‘Is the bird here?’” he said
“Kids really light up when they see her. They point and say ‘chookie’.
“Like the sheep, she has become a mascot for The Farm.”
You might see Phantom appear during a Bella Vista Farm Open Day on the first Sunday of every month or during Summer Series Open Day on December 3 and February 4.