Tag Archives: guinea chicks

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.

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

 

 

 

Windstorm

The day after the greenhouse move, with the baseboard incompletely secured, I went pressing apples for the day, feeling pleasantly assured that the worst was all done, and that I could get to the finishing touches the next day.

At night I got a phone call: “Have you heard that we’re supposed to get 90km/h winds tomorrow?  I was thinking of you and your greenhouse….”  Closely followed by, “Should I come and help you?” because this friend is that thoughtful and kind.

The winds rose in the night, and by first light, the endwalls were already pushed off the base, framing pulled apart, the bottom edges of all the plastic were free, and losing the greenhouse completely seemed rather imminent.

In the next two hours, the winds rose further, the rain started sheeting down, one of the corners tore completely loose, our friend showed up at the perfect time, and we gained the structure back, securing it bit by bit to get through the storm.

I don’t think we ever did get 90kmh gusts, although parts of NS got up to 130.  In the moment it was a panic action, doing what most needs to be done.  We were soaked and struggling with everything wet and muddy and fighting against us.  In retrospect, if the wind had continued to go up instead of pausing and then abating, as it did, or if help had not come, the whole thing could very easily have tugged itself free and gone for a sail.

In the midst of it all, chicks!

The telltale shell!  She’s got a chick in there:)

And outside, I discovered the squad of guineas huddled around the base of the walnut tree.  Among them, three tiny chicks!

I discovered the hen setting, with a couple hatchlings, a few days ago (Yay, I thought she was dead!).  They stay on the nest a couple days before the mom and chicks rejoin the flock.  But what a day to join the flock!

I kidnapped her chicks.  She was soaked and looked miserable, and didn’t have much fight in her when I snatched them up.Then I brought them inside and used them to bait their mother into the greenhouse.  It took a little bit.  The chicks were just fine with being held – cozy! so I had to massage them to make them cheep, and then mom would bristle up, try to locate them, and charge.

Once she was in, she was like hmm, ok, it’s dry in here.  Perhaps I’ll stay. There’s food.

The little brown chicks are so small and brown they are hard to see in the mud.

Family portrait!  All the Silkie chicks and the Chanticleer chicks, and a hen, all in the dismal mud hole of the greenhouse.  With the multipurpose clothes rack.All of them are checking out the newcomer.  Who’s that!? Happily, all the rest of the guineas came into the greenhouse voluntarily at night, because mom was in there.   Well, sort of.They’re on the boards nailed up to keep the doors on. I had to tap a couple on the tail to make them jump down.  I need to close the door now guys. 

There’s 16!

I haven’t managed to get any good pictures of the pile of guinea chicks.

What I have is a rolls worth of pictures of guinea butts disappearing into the grass, maybe a glimpse of keets following behind.

 

I’ve seen them!  I’ve surprised them, walking out with a bucket of food (no camera), and the guineas will be in town.  One hen rises to her feet and all the little keets tumble around her legs, like someone dumped out a salad bowl of chicks, and then they scramble into the grass or bushes.

It’s easy to watch them as a group – the adults stick out, but the chicks themselves are still so tiny they vanish in the weeds and can best be perceived by the grass rustling above them.

They’re amazing parents.  Now we’re not sorry to have so many cocks.  They seem to be paired up (one cock went out to get the Lady of the Woods, one coaxed coop mama out), so one cock still needs a lady, but all five travel in a tight bunch, all obviously involved in chickcare – education, herding, and retrieval.

The keets don’t distinguish between mothers.  They move in one crowd, and all go under one hen for warming and nighttime.  16 of them!  I can’t tell the hens apart to look at them, so we don’t know if it’s always the same hen settling on them, but my guess is that they share the job.  The keets and hen settle down in the grass at night, and until last night, the rest of the flock stayed with her.  Last night, the others all got up on the coop.  Which raises a problem:  What happens when 16 chicks are capable of flying up to roost on the coop!?

HW calls the one hen Mama Missile Launcher.  She’s a grass torpedo.  It may be either hen any given time, but it’s always a hen that launches an attack if you get too close.  Charge!  Very scary.  I had picked up the little spinaround keet that got left behind and brought it closer to the group, when the mom charged me, flying right at my face.  I blocked with my arms, and she went over my head, thumping me on the noggin with her feet as she went.  Whapwhapwhap!  I hope the little dizzy chick made it, because I haven’t been involved since.

I’m watching you!

 

Out they come

Time to release the guineas!

I made a big ramp with a board, not that I really expect them to come walking down the ramp, and more importantly, piled hay all over the ground and especially over the feet of the coop, where I expect the chicks to all plummet to earth.

Then I carefully removed the screen door, slowly backed away, and plunk!  A chick fell out.  It bounced and rolled in the hay and got stuck face down.  I set it on its feet and Oh no! Another neurological disorder.  Its head was all floppy and it couldn’t stand right.  I snatched it up and held it, and carried it around for a bit.

It wobbled around a bit and then seemed to figure out which way was up and how to stand.    I set up camp to watch the rest exit the coop, wanting to be on hand for any rescues. The chick in my lap turned into a ball of energy, scampering up my arms, down my shirt, so I set it on the ground, and it ran around in tight circles.  Very quickly.  What is wrong with these chicks? 

It ran in circles like it was on a three inch picket, zoom zoom zoom, until it fell over, then got up and did it again.  Circles, circles, circles, peeping.  Then it ran a little bit in a straight line (phew!)  Circle, circle circle…straight line! Like it had to get wound up and then shot out of the centrifugal force.  Fall over, repeat.  The cocks came running over to the chick, and the chick tried to respond, running into their feet, and finding comfort in them, ceasing to peep for its mother, and following them around.  In circles.

Meanwhile, I waited for the hen and her chicks to come out of the coop.  And waited.  And waited and waited.  And some more.

One of the cocks started jumping up on the coop, and going into it, then coming out, jumping down, and doing it again.  He was pretty obviously trying to talk her out.

He’d jump up, stand by the door, look or go in, linger, jump down, and immediately start long necking up at the coop before jumping back up.  Repeat.

He’s using the ramp

Sometimes she would come to the door, sometimes chicks would come to the door, but they weren’t uncoordinated enough to fall out.

Dozens of times he did this trip, up and down, up and down.  Come on out of there!

Ultimately she came out when I wasn’t looking and left the chicks behind, huddled and peeping in the far corner.  I went to scoop them out and she flew at me like a launched missile.  I put on Carhartts and safety glasses and tried again.  There were five little chicks in the coop, plus the dizzy one, and two lay dead among the 14 unhatched eggs (wow, she was sitting on 23 eggs!).

I can’t tell how many chicks in total from both hens, because the chicks tumble around in the grass.  There’s a lot! Vertigo chick integrated into the group even before its mom emerged, but it was always getting left behind.  The others would drift off, and it would look up, find itself alone, and then peep!  zoom around  in circle, and then shoot out straight for a few feet, trying to catch up.  I felt sorry for it, running 3x as far as any of the others and always a bit behind.  But it was managing.

The orphaned guinea chick in the infirmary is possibly improving. It’s gained enough motor skills to control its head and it comes out from under the wing on its own and toddles around. 

It has the strength to struggle against being held, but can barely walk. 

It’s  also very good at getting into scrapes, finding somewhere to get stuck upside down or jammed into, shivering.  I’ve rescued it from the edge of death a few times, forcing it to have a sip of water and then tucking it back under a wing.  The Silkies are so tolerant.  She’s on her eggs, she doesn’t care about any additions.   Funny that one of the Silkie hens was once a  resigned warming oven to the guineas that are adult now.

It’s so cute! I’m caring for it, making it drink and trying to make it eat baby mash of ground up seeds and applesauce, but there’s really no endgame for this chick.  It won’t make it without parenting, and it’s highly unlikely to catch up to be able to keep up with all of its siblings as they travel along.  Maybe though; I’m surprised every time I find it still alive.

Hates it!

The Lady of the Woods

Paranoid about the tragic  loss of Blondie mom, I got downright defeatist over the disappearance in the morning of a guinea cock.  What the?  A guinea cock?  It must be a raptor, snatched him off the coop.  What am I going to do, sit out there all day with a rifle?  Predator problems, just as the guineas are hatching!?

Inside the sky coop, there are chicks.  I can’t tell how many!  Five?

Psycho cobra mom hurls herself at the screen, and the little chicks who sometimes peek out the screen door scurry to the back of the coop, so I don’t know how many there are.

I’ve been nudging bowls of food and water inside the door, and mom doesn’t care why I’m reaching in, she means to take my arm off for it.  Beak to arm: whackwhackwhackwhackwhackwhack! 

Three times a day, so no one gets dehydrated. When they’re empty, I hear her pecking and clanking the dishes together in there.  Sounds like a busy diner.

I quickly learned to tie a string onto the bowls so I can pull them back out instead of reaching in for them.

She’s got no problem eating the food, once I back off, but cut me a break for the delivery?  No way! 

Definitely five

The guinea cocks gave away the hatching.  When we first saw the telltale eggshell, we both said “I knew something was up!” For the previous two days, the three guinea cocks were extra attached to the coop.  Sitting on the roof, looking in, even in the middle of the day.  I think they were excited.  They haven’t stopped, they are animated and keeping close to the new mom.

 

Gazing through the screen door.

But now, only two.  The third, gone all morning.

What’s this?  The guineas were hollering, as they do, and it was sustained, long enough for me to check on them, and I go and Oh!  There he is, coming out of the woods.  I count, yep, three… wait… I count again.  Four.   I check that the screen door isn’t breached.  Four!

No way!  The hen that disappeared two months ago is marching out of the woods, just like I hoped!  With her proud and loud escort, klaxoning the whole way.  He was missing half the day because he went to walk her home, and the others stayed with coop mom!  I’m sure that the cocks have always known where she set, and have been regularly visiting her her whole term.

But does she have chicks?

There she is, very furtive, and yes, there are chicks!  At least two!

She spent all that time, all those rainstorms, no shelter. No snack boxes.  She’s not even acting ravenous.

A triumphant homecoming for the Lady of the Woods.  She came right back to the old digs, hanging around under the sky coop.  The guineas are very familial.  The cocks are very much part of the parenting team.

The chicks are so tiny it’s hard to believe they’re making woods treks already.  They tumble out of the grass and then toddle back in, and don’t stay right with mom.  They’re comfortable getting a ways away..  They are very quiet peepers, unlike a chicken chick that will get piercing (they make up for that later in life).

Also, the attack mom is even more terrifying when she’s not in a box.  She charges like a bull, with no fear.  The wings go up in this flat fronted wall of feathers, and then the red mouth open, and worst, the crazy look in her eye, coming at you!

I dared to walk within 8 feet of her brood and got run at.

Tomorrow, I will open the door to the sky coop, and let them all out into the world.

Orphans

Sad.

The Blondies’ Silkie stepmom has disappeared.  There are no signs of foul play.  Not a feather.  I don’t know what happened to her, or exactly when.  I’ve never lost a bird to a predator in the middle of summer.  Now I can be paranoid all the time.

The Blondies have already learned to go in the coop, are hanging around the Silkie flock, are very clever about hiding in the bushes, and are feathered enough to survive, but it is a sad loss, even just to lose a good mothering hen.  They are without a champion to throw elbows in the food dish.  I suppose hunger will overcome timidity.

The guinea hen in the sky coop also rejected one chick.  It was flopping around with a strange inability to stand or to hold its head up, like it has a neurological disease, or a broken back.

The hen rolled it out to let it die, and HW demanded that I do something to save it.  I said “you stick your hand in that coop”.  (He did)

I tucked the little gibbled chick under the brooding Silkie in the Eggery, and it survived the first night.  I’ve seen a chick once with this weird disability, and it made a full recovery.  So there’s hope, but I don’t hold out too much.

It can look all normal for a bit

 

So cute!
And then its head flops back unnaturally
It struggles to move around. The Silkie hen is very indulgent, allowing us to use her as a heat lamp.

Guineas in the greenhouse

The guineas are growing like weeds.

I’ve put them in the greenhouse to run wild, since they outgrew the chickery in about a week.

They let me know they were ready to move up in the world by escaping from the chickery.  How they did so was and remains a complete mystery, because the chickery is covered with a piece of nylon bird mesh tacked down on the four corners.

First, there was one bird walking around on the outside.  Then  there was two.  Three.  Then there were three perching on the top edge, all on the wrong side of the mesh, mesh still intact.  Is mystery!  Like Houdini.

Since this willy-nilly mystery escape is not safe for them – they do not seem as adept at getting back in, and they could get in trouble not being able to reach water or food.

So I set them free in the greenhouse. 864 square feet to play Wild Jungle Fowl in.  When I first released them they were so funny, running with their necks stuck out, all of them chirping excitedly BurBURburBURburBURburBUR!20160926_083921

They travel in a dense little pack, like a school of fish, always tightly together.

They can fly too!  They have big old wings already, and have taken confident flight off of my hand.


At night, I’ve been stowing them in with the broody hen I tried and failed to adopt them to.  She’s boxed up, on her eggs, and at night I bring the guineas, drop them in the box and they snuggle up around her, or hide in the corner of her box under her butt.

Surrogate mom is surprisingly tolerant.  The first couple days she growled at the evening introduction, but in a couple days, it turned to a (resigned?) greeting purr.  The chicks would cheep anxiously about the trip in the box, she’d purr reassuringly, and in less than 20 seconds, silence had fallen.

In the morning she’s ready to get rid of them though.  They are full of beans and sprint around the box shrieking, running laps that run right over her back.  They perch on her back too, sometimes two at a time.  She seems pleased to see them go then.  She never moves off her eggs.

I was plucking birds out from her broody box one morning and one chick ran to her, thrust his head (only his head) under her wing, and froze.  Can’t see me!

Since moving them into the greenhouse from the chickery, the chicks are harder to find at night.

20160914_145651
Cornered!

20160914_145648

The greenhouse is a multilevel jungle of tomatoes creeping across the top, and squashes growing in all directions.  At night, they find a big squash leaf on the floor and all pile up under it, totally hidden.

Unlike chickens, they find a new place to sleep every night, so I have to poke around looking under the big umbrella leaves.


It’s like having ghosts in the greenhouse.  When we go in there we might see them at work, but when they see us they all dart away.  One was so busy picking bugs off the underside of a leaf it didn’t see the others depart and I got right up to it.  EEEEEP!  It shrieked and raced away.

If you stay in there longer, you’ll see them slowly work their way through a perimeter sweep, or hopping up to reach the kale leaves.

20160914_145545
Zoom zoom!

You’ll hear them cheeping around, but turn around and you might see a shadow scuttle by behind the tomatoes.  They are so funny!  Always in a little huddle.  SO FAST!  They streak around, their bodies stable and little orange legs ticking like a chihuahua, necks long and bright orange beaks stuck out.

When they get separated from the pack, even a little distance, they make a sound like a very small car alarm, and the pack shouts back a softer sound, until they’re reunited.  I experimented with this.  I was trying to teach them to go in the broody box by themselves at night, so I cut a door in it.  Poked them all out through the door in the morning.

In the evening, but before it was dark enough for them to have settled down completely, I started to encourage them towards the box, or at least that end of the greenhouse.  I grabbed a couple and put them in the box (happy cheeping).  The rest did the car alarm sound, then stopped to listen.  Cozy, subdued response cheeps.  The outside chicks listened to where the others were, then set off at a run, and ran right past the box with the door in it.

Then they stopped, shrieked, listened, and sure they knew now where the others were, ran back the other direction, right past the door in the box.  I caught a couple more and put them in the box (more happy cheeping).  They go right to sleep cuddled up to the big cozy hen.

The back and forth car alarming, listening, and running past the box continued.  They never got it.  I had to catch each one and put them in the box.  They didn’t figure out the door from the inside either.   Although they failed this IQ test,  in other ways they seem very clever.  They are extremely difficult to catch.


HW has taken to calling them the Africans.  To distinguish them from all the other chicks floating around.  The teenagers, the smaller chicks, the new chicks, and the Africans.  There’re several series running around right now.

In the morning they have a favorite spot on the Southeast corner of the greenhouse, and to get there they have to climb up the hay bales and the squash vines climbing up them, and they perch on the vines or cuddle up in a pile in the first sunbeam on top of the hay.  They’re up there, at eye level, when you first come in the door, relaxed in their fort and returning the gaze.

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Guinea Chicks!

I’m so excited!  I’ve got a shipment of little guinea chicks!20160828_112142

They were in a Pepsi box when I picked them up – a loud box, objecting to being moved around.  They settled down on my lap for the ride home, and then I carried them gently to the hen yard.

The guineas are going to get the chickery for the time being.  The former residents got bumped up to Silkieland the night before – their final promotion.  I also moved Silkieland, so that everyone in there would have maximum entertainment on the chicks’ first day. 20160828_112229Inside the box.  Seven little striped brown heads – they look nothing like they will when they grow up.20160828_112322I tore open the box and placed it in the chickery to let them come out on their own time.20160828_112516A half hour later.

There they are, all settled down.

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Another half hour later.

They are approximately one centimeter nearer to the door of their box.

Their own time is never fast enough for me.  I tore the lid further open (alarmed cheeping!) and left them alone again20160828_121606An hour later.

All of them hiding behind the box!

And then, a bit later, busy foraging like normal chicks:

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Adorable.  They have these wide orange beaks, like tiny puffins, except they look mostly like striped chicken chicks.

They happily darted about being chicks all day, and at night we went to box them up and move them into the greenhouse.  This is what we found:20160828_143502

They were all tucked up, nearly invisible, as concealed as they could manage in the short grass.  So clever, already.

I’m going to attempt an adoption.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but these are little African birds that just came out from under a lamp, so they are going to be cold without a heat source.

I took a hen out of the Silkie coop that just went broody, and I’m going to swap out her eggs tonight for a bunch of guineas.

Surprise!  Your eggs hatched super fast!  And the chicks are unusually large. 


The Adoption failed.  I tucked the guineas under the broody hen in the night and slipped out the eggs and no one was very perturbed.

In the morning though, the hen utterly refused to mother them, and completely ignored them when I put them all in the chickery.

She was NOT fooled.

In fact, she was clearly pining, staring through the bars of the cage. To underline her disconsolation, while I was watching her she lifted a leg and wistfully rested her foot on the mesh wall like a hand, in appeal.

I couldn’t resist, I promptly put her back in a box with a set of eggs.