Category Archives: guineas

cool days, cool Moms

It’s chilly in the mornings.  The chicks are around with their shoulders shrugged up.  The leghorn twins went back in the box.  The cardboard is warmer on the tiny naked feet.

You know what’s really warm on the feet?  Mom. Until she starts walking away – whoa!

Ursa Minor surprised me with chicks this morning.  She had that I’ve got chicks, ya know face.  And then there was all the peeping.Oh!  there’s a little leg, and it’s attached to some black feathers!  Yay, another black one.  Oh, there’s a a whole little butt, already dry and fluffy.

Ursa’s so chill.  She’s all confident.  This is my second brood, you know.  I’m kind of a pro at this. (She is).And there’s a whole chick popped out.  I didn’t disturb them much in the cold morning, but in the afternoon she was trying to start their education in the dark cave of the broodery, so – into the chickery with them.  There are two black ones, and two “spider” marked – that’s how Brown Silkies look when they hatch.  But… I can’t remember if she was on Silkie eggs or full size?  Those chicks look pretty big.  So they might be crosses.  Who knows!  It’s all exciting.

Cream Puff slid into the greenhouse with Galahad last night, and I was chasing her around with a rake, which G was surprisingly unconcerned about.    She knew she wasn’t supposed to be in there, and Galahad knew  that he was.  It didn’t take her long to figure out that she should stick right next to him to not fear the rake, which she did, like glue.  Smart move.  I chased them both out, and she ran squawking back to her boyfriend, while Galahad made a lap of the hen tent and glided back in before she’d hardly turned the corner.   Very smooth.  The keets mostly ignored all of this.

Tonight I comprehended another maneuver of his.  I’ve seen it before and thought he was just being fussy: I come to open the door to admit the keet family to the GH (Galahad periscoping, doesn’t miss anything).  I step back.  G runs up, jumps onto the doorstep looking into the GH.  Keets gather.  I lean or step forward, ready to shut the door behind them as soon as they all…. but no!  He doesn’t  jump in.  Nope. He pops back out, makes a wide meandering lap, though rather fast and urgently, like he’s frustrated, pauses somewhere (today it was under the hen tent), then rushes out and deliberately charges into the GH.  I have been frustrated with this extra phase of bedtime procedures.  Just go to bed!  It’s the same greenhouse it was last night, just go in!

That’s not it though.

I figured it out tonight.  He’s collecting all the keets!  They don’t flow everywhere together like a school of fish, like they used to, these days as they mature and get more independent.  Some are lingering at the grub box, the feed dishes, the water fount.  First he confirms the door is open, and then he does his lap to get their attention.  They snap to and fall in.  Then he pauses for muster – all present?  Then they storm the castle.

He’s the best guinea mom I’ve ever had.  He does everything almost completely silently.  Amazing.  And I hardly see them all day, but they know when mealtime and bedtime is.

Oh, and I shifted the coop drama dynamic in Silkieland.  For two nights, I picked up the two little bitches that want to play bouncer at the top of the ramp, and I held them.  All the other birds went gratefully and peacefully to bed, while I just stood there, holding two hens.  I even walked around and did stuff with one hand, holding them.  They were pretty ok with it (it’s warm; birds usually like being held, they just don’t like the transition- being grabbed).  Then, dead last, I dropped them into the doorway, and shut the gate.  Only problem was the rooster, who was very reluctant to get aboard the ark because he knew these two weren’t in yet.  His job, and therefore identity, is to be last in, first out.  Tonight I had visitors distract me from interfering, and yet, something had shifted over there!  It was quiet and quick, and there were no sentries atop the ramp!  We’ll see if the lesson sticks.  You be good or I’ll hold you!

 

 

dirt bath and other shenanigans

Chocolate’s out of the chickery now too.This is great.  All the small chicks with moms are at large, meaning I don’t have to constantly monitor do they have shade, do they have water?  Their moms take care of that now (lots of water options).   Soon enough there will be another round of chicks hatching.She’s diving right into the dirt bath.  There’s two popular spots at the moment, an old pig wallow, and this one under the corner of the hen rain tent, which is a bit of a sauna in the sunshine.   The dirt she’s spraying  is sticking to the condensation on the roof.Guineas  when they’re not aware they’re being watched.

Oh, last night! I went to open the door for guinea bedtime, and I didn’t see them so I hollered Galahad’s name.  I saw him pop out of the woods by the pig fence, quite far away, periscoping.  I’m like “Hello!  Over here!  Yoohoo, I’m here to open the door”, waving,  like over a crowd at an airport.

In the moment, this sort of thing – waving at and calling a bird – feels rather silly.

Galahad launched into the air, as did all the keets behind him, and flew in to me.  A little cloud of keets inbound.  They fluttered down to land at the coop and I stood back for them to scamper through the door of the greenhouse for bedtime.  Thanks, human.  This bird is incredible.  Cotton’s  chicks exploring out of the box.Big pathway pileup.

Perchick became the most recent “wildlife” to hop in the open door of the house, casually jumping up on the doorstep and poking through the screen door to look at me.   Hey.   So, yeah.  Got any snacks?  I was peeling peaches and didn’t get up.    She rummaged through a basket by the door, ignoring my remonstrations, and then casually left.  No snacks.  Chickens haven’t strolled into the house that I know of since the episode with the dried beans last year (maybe they do it all the time when I’m not here).The young teens (the Famous Five/Pufflings) and the tweens have formed an alliance to mount an assault on the bird feeder (there’s nothing in it). Recon complete, moving in.. . ckkk… ground support in place … ckkk… on final approach. .. ckk ….

Keet bedtime

The guinea family is admitted to the greenhouse as early as 6:30, and usually by seven.  They go to bed much earlier than the chickens. Galahad watches for my appearance, and they scamper in as soon as I open the door.Bedtime begins with some last foraging for a snack and a familiarizing walk around the greenhouse.Then they hit the ladder.  They really do use it as a ladder, hopping up a rung at a time, zigzagging, until they get to the top.Then they have to fly to the perch.  Galahad is already up there.It’s tricky, the perches swing.Then they walk along the branch, like getting off the runway.  Wings are good for balancing.      Now the rest are all gathered on the top of the laundry rack, and the ones on the branch need to get themselves organized in the order they want to be, all on the same stick.All done.  This is where we sleep.And I get to enjoy the hooting of owls:)Take a close look at Galahad’s left.  Somebody still feels needy.

Close call and a happy ending

I had a rough-ish day, and came home wanting to just eat and go to bed, but then had unexpected visitors that disrupted my usually smooth bird closing procedures.  With the delay and tumult, Galahad and his keet fleet failed to get back into the greenhouse!

That they spend nights in the greenhouse is the only thing that allows me to sleep – it’s a hard won habit, as guineas usually want to roost outside, and inside is what keeps them safe from owls and foxes.

Galahad is my golden bird.  Not only is he quiet, relaxed around me, and habituated to going inside at night, he’s an incredible step-parent, raising ten adopted keets, and I’m not even sure how rare that is for a cock to devotedly parent baby birds.

Therefore, without question, I had to find him.

I did.  It didn’t take too long, but it was solid dark.  He was in a decent spot (guineas tend to pick better places on the ground than in the trees), but still, on the ground, they’re not safe, period.

Their really weak suit is how they behave at night.  They don’t do dark.  Once flushed, they flop and stumble around, and make noise when disturbed.   I had planned to herd him and entourage back to safety, but he wasn’t capable of it, so I scooped him (violent reaction to being removed from keets) and plopped him in the greenhouse, promising to bring the keets.

Finding all the keets took much, much longer.  They peep, and also stumble around in the dark, but can be quick darters.  I scooped them in warm cuddly pairs and shuttled them to Daddy in the greenhouse.

His volume went down with every pair delivered, although he seemed satisfied after the delivery of six.  Six is enough, really.  Who can keep track after that?

Seven and Eight took a long time, and Nine, wow.  Half an hour at least.   The tenth was not to be found.  I needed one peep, but wasn’t getting it.  I was hungry and tired before this, and after two hours of low sweeping with a flashlight, I was stumbling.  I started to think I was beating bushes for a ghost, that maybe Ten was lost earlier in the day, or that he was somehow already in the greenhouse.  I went to look at Galahad and see if I could count keet heads.  Nine.

I tried a bit longer, but eventually gave up.  This bird got all the quiet guinea genes, may they serve him well.  If he could evade me so well, I figured he had a decent chance of making the night, although I hated the risk and settling for 90%.  I was VERY cranky, mad at myself, and did not sleep well, listening for a cry that I wouldn’t be able to make it out to intervene in.

Early up, it had been a chilly night, an October night, in August!, and that would be hard for a guinea keet alone.  All the cozy guinea keets were in no hurry to get up.  I walked around in the field some more.  No peeps.  Proceeding with chicken opening, I saw a lone keet streak across the yard!  It made it!  I tried to head him off in the woods, but he was elusive (skills).  Seemed fine.

Then Galahad et al exited the greenhouse, and his head shot up, listening.  I couldn’t hear the keet, but he could!  He started running back and forth, then zoomed out for the woods with a tail of keets following. All together again!  What a relief!  They found where I left the feed bucket for me.G was up on the coop.One by one, the keets flew up. Except for two, who looked up at the roof, and then went up the ramp.  Good inference, but flawed.  Hmm, that doesn’t go where we thought it did.They’re clamoring for a warming.  Hey, it’s cold!Time to go down now.

I can tell today is a big teaching day.  Before leaving the greenhouse, Galahad demonstrated the use of the perching rail, which he hasn’t done before.  Flew up, flew down – an obvious show-and-tell.  This is what we’re working up to.   I don’t think the keets can fly that high yet, some had difficulty getting on the coop, but I expect they’ll be on the rail in a few days.Then there was ridgepole walking.  I can tell today will be packed with practice.  Perhaps he’s extra motivated after the night they had, although he’s not holding anything against me.

They are really all there.  It’s hard to get them in one picture, as there are always one or two a little apart, doing something different, or lagging behind.Often eating.


In other news, Feisty, the little demon, has hatched three chicks.  Nothing’s changed.  She doesn’t care she’s in the 0-1 pound weight class and I’m a LightweightI’ll take you!  When I transferred her and chicks out of the dirty, cramped broody kennel into a chickery yesterday, I got her by her feet for everyone’s safety and held her upside down,  maximum 2 seconds, while I whisked out the chicks.  She produced an eruptive, liquid poop in those two seconds so toxic I almost threw up, proving she can attack from both ends.

Do not mess with Feisty.  Those chicks are safe.Arrrrr. 

 

 

 

 

Sir Galahad and the keets of the round table

Galahad and the little guineas went wild today too.  Just like when it was just him, I left the door open and turned my back on it and whoosh- all out.  Little keets flowing through the world like a school of fish.  I don’t know if they’re already familiar with the great outdoors, but they seem pretty comfortable in it.

They promptly disappeared into the weeds, making brief showings at the house, by the pigs, and at mealtimes. The slightest chirp from him and they all hop and gather up to him.  Galahad hasn’t been this happy for months, since before he lost his mate.  Now he has a Very.  Important.  Job.   He’s practically levitating.

Keets piled in the trough.  Cartoon rocks with orange legs
I’ll just be at the next bowl
Same profile, in adult.

They were all very quiet (a content guinea is a quiet guinea) until evening, when one keet got into the GH ahead of schedule, and was anxiously car alarming, making Galahad scamper back and forth on high alert.  I opened the door, and he was hesitant until I walked behind the coop, and then they all shot in in seconds.  We live here.

The sunflowers are blooming

The bees  are feasting.  The goldenrod is out too, so the pollen drive is on.Galahad is ready to be free again, but his little charges are perfectly content and thoroughly entertained.The greenhouse is crowded right now!  I moved Daisy and Cotton back in the greenhouse for rain days, and the door is even blocked by a chickery.  We had a rain day, and then a drizzle day.  Daisy cares not, as long as she can dig.  Cotton wants out, asap.

I harvested a mountain of Tulsi, exposing a lot of ground and the keets were deeply engrossed in scratching it all up.

Mount Tulsi

Uhoh!In the evening, there was a sad keet trapped in with Daisy and  chicks – they were unperturbed.Little cutie.  Not so much of a fighter as the one who fell in a chickery yesterday.   At night Galahad was warming them in the pepper jungle again, doing an umbrella impression to shelter the horde.  The pictures I take at dusk are too dark though.

Cutest keets

I put a chair in the greenhouse for visiting the chicks, and the keets took advantage.It must have been perching hour, because they were all having a little bit of vantage time, Galahad etc perched on the edge of a chickery, one with broody hens in it. SO CUTE! There’s quite a crowd for him to look after now.  He’s busy. What a star.

And of course at night I found him in the peppers, all fanned out over the little crowd, some heads poking out.  So he is sitting on them.

We’re still babies. We’re not too big for warming!

I had to rescue one keet that had dropped down into the chickery (when I caught it, one of the resident broodies came reflexively shooting out at me, Grrrrr! Chick under threat!), and it was soft and not very thickly feathered.  They look like they have lots of feathers and they have these big functional wings, but they are covered only with little short feathers, so they must still need extra warmth.

Galahad is step-fathering the new keets

The bee swarm denouement can wait – this is too cute.

So, also yesterday, I picked up ten beautiful little guinea babies! Keets are crazy cute, with their orange puffin beaks and long necks.  They were almost completely silent on the drive home.  Birds seem to like car rides, if not the transitions and banging doors.

I was looking forward to Galahad‘s reaction to them, but I got home at bedtime.   G hopped right up to his perch, and I installed the keets in a vacant chickery, slowly tipping their traveling boxes to the side (scuffle scuffle) and opening the ends.  They didn’t come out.

In the morning they were quiet.  Galahad hopped outside as usual.

Then the babies came out of their box and started singing their little car alarm sounds, and he went nuts.  He was streaking around the greenhouse, stopping, listening, peering, running back and forth.   I hear them!  Where are they?!  I was doing all the morning feeding,  shifting, and watering, and I left the door ajar for him to get back in if he wanted.  He did.  It seems louder at this end.Warmer. Warmer…Found’em!They’re a month old, and they are a selection of colours!  “Normals” – pearl grey, white, and buff.

I left him there chatting.  They would car alarm, and he’d talk, and they’d quiet.  I checked on him later- did he want to stay in the greenhouse?  Yes, definitely. 

The keets were cute, relaxed.  A content guinea is a quiet guinea, and they were all piled up roosting on top of their box.

Then came lunch time.  I moved their lid askew to feed them, and left it that way, and when I came back later, uhoh.  Ghost town.What do we have here?

I thought it was extra quiet in here. 

The keets had liberated themselves (should’ve known, guineas are mad escape artists) to get to their new Daddy.  G was struttin’ around, tall and as proud as if he hatched them, and they’re all scuttling along behind him, happy as clams, digging under the vines.  They are used to a jungle.  So adorable!

Lock up time, there was one little keet scurrying around the door.  I don’t know how it leaked out, but I opened the door and it shot inside and showed me where the rest were.  They were buried under a pepper plant, and I could just see Galahad’s black and white speckled wing and hear him cooing.   I can’t be sure if he was sitting on them, but he was settling in on the ground with them.

Wow.

I figured he would assume parenting the little birds, but this exceeds my expectations.  I planned to keep them in the chickery a couple days, then let them stay in the GH with Galahad until they learned they lived there, but this is great!

He’s such a treasure, and since his habits are going to be reproduced 10 times now, it’s a good thing he’s got such great qualities.  He’s unconcerned about me; he lets me get quite close, and doesn’t screech when I show up (my husband is sure to get the treatment though).  He comes in every night, which is keeping him alive.  He’s quiet, not too much of a yeller.  He’s down with the chickens.  When he doesn’t have his own kind, he makes friends.  But he’s sure happy to have his own kind!  Finally, someone who can run just as fast.

I figured they couldn’t do too much damage in the GH now the plants are all too big to kill, seeing as guineas are only moderately destructive.  Chickens are very destructive with all that scratching.   But I did mean to harvest all the low tomatoes and eggplants before letting them out of the chickery, because I imagined eleven taste tests.  As it was, they only broke one young tomatillo (it’s not dead), trampled the lemon balm (so what, it’s a mint) and perhaps have damaged some  watermelon  vines (we’ll see).

Now that I don’t have a shadow of a doubt that he’ll bring them back in every night, I can let them go outside soon, if they don’t handle that liberation themselves too, like one already did.

He’s eying the high hanging fruit

 

 

 

Galahad goes to bed

It’s the last day of July, and I’m noticing the day drift already.  Bedtime is slightly earlier at night.

Before dark, I have to go out and open a door of the greenhouse to let Galahad the guinea in.  The sweet spot is the time the chickens are still milling around but have lost their curiosity and have turned their chickpea sized brains toward their own going to bed, so that they don’t also dart in (because they dream of it all day).

If I’m on time, he’ll be watching for me to open the door and be ready to run right in.  If I’m late, he’ll be up in the walnut tree (always the same place).  He’ll look at me, look at the door, and then fly down, and scuttle in.  He prefers if I stand back a little distance and especially if I look away, but in a pinch I can just hold the door open for him.Then he’ll walk over and jump up on his perching rail.   He’ll usually look in at the broody hens on his way by, too.  He’ll notice if something is different; new broodies, or chicks peeping.   I love this little routine and I adore him.

We’ve done this since the birds all came out of the greenhouse in favour of crops on the 1st of May.  It’s keeping him safe from owls every night.  I thought we had it all sorted with the guineas, and then three of them dropped dead of mysterious causes, alas, and now I’m down to this one. I have to get him a girlfriend he can teach to go in the GH at night.

In the morning he pops out and goes up on the peak of the GH to supervise or sits on top of the Alpha coop waiting for me to let his chicken friends out.  Let my people go!