Category Archives: guineas

The guinea solution

I’m so pleased to have sorted out the guineas.

I’ve tried so much.  Building them a sky coop

well come to think of it that’s about it.  And giving them roosting apparatuses, like the laundry rack.

They’ve tried lots of things.  Roosting on the sky coop, roosting on top of the greenhouse, roosting in the trees, and roosting on my apparatuses, like the laundry rack.  They are choosy, and illogical, and stubborn.

But I’ve got it.  They are accustomed now to living in the greenhouse all winter, and they have their stick swings where they sleep.  So I’m letting them continue to use the GH in the summer.

In a reversal of form, at night when the chickens get locked up for their safety, the guineas get let into the greenhouse.  The GH which is off limits to all unrestrained chickens, because they would unleash devastation in minutes.  And have.

Not so the guineas.  They’re different.  They don’t do the so entertaining but v. destructive chicken scratch dance.   And they have different tastes.  I wasn’t 100% sure about the guineas around the baby tomato and cucumber plants, but I thought maybe I could just trust them, and cautiously tested my theory.

The guineas use a chicken door that I open at night just as I close the chickens.  The chickens all go to bed before the guineas do.  The guineas hop in, file down the aisle, and fly up to their roost.  They’re very content about it.  I leave the door open and they let themselves out in the morning before I come out for the hens.  It’s working!

The big test was the pepper plants.  I was out early the first morning, crouched watching them secretly through the opposite chicken door.  They flew down from their roost, milled around, gave the peppers a thorough visual inspection (Something new here!), and left, following the leader out their door.  Success!  Awesome.  Before long, the starts will be too big to harm anyway,

This should reduce their mortality rate this summer.  Guineas have a way of kicking the bucket in frequent, creative ways.  They make up for this tendency by producing vast clutches of keets when they reproduce.  It evens out.

I only have three birds now.  I gave half my guineas away some weeks ago, and then a few days ago, I came home late for the magic moment to let them inside.  Finding their door shut, they had resorted to flying up on top of the greenhouse.  It was cute when they did this last year, until the owls discovered the buffet.

I had to throw my hat at them until they flew down and scampered inside.  Oh, door’s open now!  But there were only three.   Was the third lost, bedded down in the field, in some brush?  The light was very dim, and I’m looking around the field, and I see it, like a grey rock as usual, but it’s still… stone dead.  And cold, dead in the afternoon.  No injury.  Another mystery death.  It was one of the cocks.  The remaining three seem perfectly content together.  Any day the hens will fail to show up at bedtime and there will be just the male coming home to roost for a few weeks.

I really threw them for a loop last night.  We got a frost, and anticipating same, I covered the four rows planted in sensitive stuff with row cover.

Wow, the guineas could hardly get down the aisle for staring, tiptoeing along, heads low and necks at full extension, suspicious of the strange white stuff.  And more, they needed herding out in the morning, they were so freaked out by it, not wanting to step on it and flying back and forth across the greenhouse, afraid to land.  Happily for their nerves, the long term forecast is saying a week til the next frost, if that forecast holds.

Sunny bird times

I have a guinea who’s been taking an interest in the former skycoop, now grounded.  I don’t know if she’s the mother who raised a brood in it, or if she was one of the brood.  I was born here.

However, she’s been spending time in this little coop every day, very much making herself at home, like she’s rocking on her front porch watching the world pass by.      And sometimes she has company.  The others hang around near her.Then there’s the Silkies.  They love a good pine tree.  They’re like a pile of pompoms, little fluffies lounging and snuggling in the dappled sun.

evening snacking

Evening is a peaceful time.  Chicken peace ebbs and flows.  Early morning is not peaceful at all.  Afternoon  is a long siesta, usually broken by a period of ruckus, and then late evening is time for some mellow scrounging before bed.A cooptime snack. Here come the guineas.  They get right in there.  So different, yet so accustomed to living with chickens. At this time, the Silkies are all mostly in bed. The guineas are so cute, grazing in the lumpy field in their pair bonds, looking like rocks.

Goodbye guineas

I finally packed up some guineas for life in a new home.  I sewed up a net out of the bird netting and experimentally caught a rooster with it.  That was as easy as lightly dropping the net over the rooster, who just looked around and fell over, confused.

The guineas did not go that easy.  They are fast, smart, twice as strong as chickens, and explosive.  They took ages to snag and then untangle and pop in a box.

The major, major challenge was getting the right guineas.  They’re all paired up now, and I can’t separate any happy couples.  I had to figure out who is with who, so that I could send them away in pairs. So I was out there watching them mill around together, not unlike watching a pack of teenagers at a mall and trying to deduce who likes who.

Even tougher, after figuring out who’s with who, how to tell them apart later when trying to capture them in a shrieking crowd?  So I was out there sketching the fleshy face flaps that they have with unique red and white patterning (not the same on right and left etiher).  In the end, they made it easy by one pair going in the greenhouse before the others, so I shut them in, and the chase ensued.

One catch ended up bagging a Brahma in with the guinea.  She was not amused.  But the guineas have been moved.  The first shipment are reported to have rapidly integrated with the onsite guineas. New girls! :)  The second shipment is going to be fruitful and multiply as the first guineas in a new place, wanted for their tick eating properties.We’re in a milk crate.  Ok, joke’s over.  Ha. Ha.

rain days

We’ve had a bunch of rain.  All the paths are muddy lakes (again).  It’s very tiresome.

Nope, can’t cross without getting our feet wet.

The chickens have made it over to the house.  They are happily rummaging around in our “front yard”, outside the window.  Still sharing space with the wild birds.In this dull brown picture, there are two doves, a chipmunk, a chickadee, a blue jay, and some goldfinches.  Oh, and a chicken.  But really, I see you’re going to have to take my word for it.

Guinea on the loose

Not too long after I let all the birds loose into their fenced enclosure, I’m outside and I hear a godawful clamor go up from the guineas.  Which isn’t by itself at all unusual.  But I knew right away it meant one or more was out.  OMG, we’re not TOGETHER!

Sure enough, there’s a lone guinea circling the fence, looking forlorn, and furtive, at the same time.I opened the fence, started chasing her/him around the GH to go back in.They never want my help though, and always go streaking off into the woods as soon as they get close to the opening welcoming them back in.

This one ended up pushing its way back in where the fence meets the GH, probably just like it got out.  It seemed to remember.

The most accomplished flyers, the guineas are always able to escape the fence and mesh tent intended to protect them.  I know they’ll at least return at night, and don’t worry about them.  But they do make an unholy racket when separated.

Stewie and Perchick, sitting in the coop…

These two were hanging out in the small coop together, which is unusual.  They looked at me like I just busted them smoking behind the school, which was funny.  Then they shot out of there like they were on fire, not acting guilty at all.  We weren’t doing anything!  Nothing at all!

There’s a guinea in that coop.  They go in there every day, sometimes lingering, and I wonder.  Are they considering laying a few eggs?  (They don’t).  Are they just inspecting all the areas of their territory?

Or are they nostalgic?  This used to be the skycoop, and some of these birds were either born in it, or the hen who raised a brood in it.  This used to be my house.  Or, This was my chickhood home.  Guineas are funny.  In a weird, furtively darting way.  When they aren’t just yelling.  WIND, WIND, WIND!!!  VISITOR, VISITOR, VISITOR!Cheeks REALLY REALLY wants that food.  Because the grass is always greener.  It probably drives her nuts that they don’t eat it all at once. Hey, if you’re not going finish that- Then she gets her head stuck.  Cheeks has turned into a no-nonsense, bossy chicken.  She gets huffy and indignant easily.   And is a loner, like other chickens are beneath her.

New dirt bath

Credit to the Chicken Chick – a recent post said to give hens a wading pool in the winter with peat moss.  I thought Hey, I have one of those!

First step, introduction of the pool:Some curiosity.  Then, the potting soil.  All the hens did ring a rosy around it- What’s this? I’ll let them take that apart themselves. I have to say, I thought there’d be a hen on top of that in seconds, but interest was muted. I expect the top of that will get hollowed out until there’s a chicken wallowing in the top of the bag and the pool is full of chickens.

Stay tuned.  Hilarity may ensue.

Meanwhile, back in the old dust bath...The hens are getting worked up about another hot bath.And then, a surprise.  First one claiming space, is the keet (it’s in there, but hard to see).What!?  How does the keet pull rank?  Dibs dirt bath!   The keet was the first one in, with a hen, and then pretty much the whole room cycled through it.

The hens and guineas hardly interact…until there’s a dirt bath!Later, when the queue got shorter….

Real snow, and one lucky keet

Last evening was windy, and the guineas were twitchy, and several of them escaped.  They flew up into the mesh and scrambled against it to find a gap and then got out.  I was watching them, and I didn’t think they could get out, right up until they did.  Then it was a long round of persuading them back into the area of the opening in the fence (they wanted to go back in), until they darted back in one by one.

The only keet is now at that stage where they think they’re all grown up and are paling around with the big birds, but they are still little.  So the keet was out with the other escapees, but instead of staying with them, it ran straight into the big brush pile, waited for the coast to clear (of us), and then peeped a little, calling out for the others, and then sprinted back out to rejoin them.

After a long patient wait, finally all the birds were back enclosed.  Until an hour later, just before dark, when I went in the yard to close the greenhouse door, disturbed them, and three guineas escaped again!  And the keet.  Good grief.

This time I propped the fence open, waited until I saw the keet make its run out of the brush pile to reunite with the others, and they were all milling around by the open gate.  I left them to it, confident they were fine.

After dark  I closed all the coops, and all the guineas were back in the greenhouse.  No keet.  You’re kidding me.  I rarely do see the keet at night, it tucks itself away somewhere, so I told myself it may be in there but it’s hiding.  Worst case scenario  it didn’t find its way back in, it’s in the brush pile, but it will most likely be able to survive the night, since it’s got a full suit of feathers now.

The night started with hard blowing snow pellets and froze, with our first lasting accumulation of snow.

This morning I open up and feed the hens (the guineas are always already up and about), and there’s no keet.  I look around the edges of the brush pile but see nothing.  I hear nothing.

I’m sick about it.

I carry on taking care of the chickens, back and forth, and then I see what I’ve been hoping to – little bird prints walking out of the brush pile.  I almost miss the little brown bird huddled, still, in one of my footprints.

It was on its way, struggling back to the greenhouse, but it did survive the night!

I shoved it in my shirt, hastened back to the house and transferred the patient to under HW’s shirt, and went back to work.

I came back in to find the chick bedded in a bowl, clearly labeled:)

They have eyelashes!

Sleepy and not out of the woods, but will likely be fine.I put a towel over her later in case she got ideas about hopping out. And HW uncovered her later to peek.  A transformation!  Up pops the head.  Yes, I am feeling better. Oh, maybe I still am a little sleepy.