Tag Archives: guinea hens

Additions to the farmily

Two new guinea hens!  Delivered in a feed sack.

Birds in a bag

Of my remaining guineas (three died before maturity), I´ve been thinking I have only one hen.  Maybe.  They all have wattles.

I just got it explained to me though, that they do all have wattles, and the gender difference in guineas shows in the SIZE of the wattles.  And their overall size.  So yes, I have one hen (had).

Regardless, I wanted to even out the numbers some by adding a couple of hens.  That would make three hens and two cocks; a better ratio. They arrived this evening.

I carried the sacked birds to the greenhouse in my arms, their little feet holding on to my hands through the bag.

I set them down in the greenhouse.

Do NOT peck that bag, ladies!

My hens immediately showed an interest.

I brought in the chickery and placed it around the bag.

The screen doors are off their hinges at the moment, so I used one of those to rest on top of the chickery cage for a lid.  I tipped it up to reach in and slide them out of the bag.  They were peaceful in the bag, but after being back in the light came on like a couple of jumping beans.

They were not happy about being caged.  Not one bit.  Racing up and down the walls in agitation.

Uh oh.  One´s a guy!  That doesn´t help at all!

He´s quite a bit bigger than her, with much bigger wattles.

It took about a tenth of a second for my original guineas to discover the interlopers. They popped their heads in the GH before I turned around.

And then, sure enough, the males squared up at each other through the screen, vigorously pecking at the barrier.   Back and forth, like a typewriter.

The originals were quite worked up, and there was much scampering in and out of the greenhouse (Did you see them?  Take another look!), but not a lot of noise.

I left them to it.

My big plan was to wait until it got dark enough for the originals to head for bed, whereupon I would shut them in the greenhouse, release the newbies, and they would have overnight to work it out together in the confines of the greenhouse.   I was sorry about the zoo cage, but it was only for about an hour, and I didn´t want to risk the new ones taking off in fright and getting lost.

Maybe I shouldn´t have over thought it.  A little later, a little darker, I shut the greenhouse doors and  lifted the screen door/lid off the new arrivals who were ready to blast out.  Hen first, they burst out, flew across the room and skidded to a stop right into the group.    They came to a halt, silence fell (!), and all of them proceeded to stand there looking around suspiciously, like they always do.

What?  Oh, we know each other.  We´re cool.

In three seconds, the new birds are indistinguishable from the old ones.  They´re just hangin’ out like they´ve never spent a day apart.

I thought they were going to fight.  Maybe they were just excited.

Well, that was easy.

 

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.

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Cornered!

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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.

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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.