Sven painted and illustrated all kinds of birds, but cockerels had a special place throughout his life. He would draw the Gypsies’ pet cockerels at Shave Green for the children (such as the pencil drawing below) and also captured this most colourful of creatures in paint. The lively wagtail, also known as the Romani chiricio and adopted by the Gypsy Lore Society as its emblem, is thought to bring good luck.
Even before the Berlins arrived in the New Forest, Sven and Juanita kept hens and cockerels. Once at Home Farm in Emery Down their number grew and grew.
More than fond of her ‘liddle deaurrs’, Juanita wrote in her autobiography of one particularly splendid specimen:
“Lucullus, a magnificent golden-caped cockerel never bothered to race out with the others when the hen house was first opened up in the morning. He would hop down from his perch last, then scuttle across the field, slowing down to a stroll as he approached the ranging cockerels, keeping a low profile so that he was ignored, and darting crafty glances into the nettles.”
In a letter to Robert Graves in 1962, Sven wrote that Juanita “is sending a couple of thousand words of unprintable litt’ on hens.”