Tag 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.

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….

Fowl life in the Greenhouse

The Silkie chicks are in their semi-independent stage (now they have pants).  They aren’t always with Mom, but they are always together.  The Chanticleer teenagers are now very large, still growing every day, and coming into their gender.  White one on the left is the fastest developing roo, and he is refining his crow.   So far he sounds like Frankenstein laughing with marbles in his mouth.  The guineas on the header. And experimenting with their special sticks (they do roost on their sticks most nights.   The Silkie pre-teens sunbathing. The hens are enjoying their designated dust bath.  Note the approaching teenager – Oh, I might get in here… getting rebuffed- Snarl!  No you won’t!  That hen wants it all to herself.She’ll share it with a guinea hen though. It’s so cute when they share. There’s the keet right by the door and plywood, up on the hay bale. Usually all the Brahmas stand on top of the chickery, most of the day.

 

Haybale sunbathe! On the ground sunbathe…What’s in the bucket?There’s the chicks.  Alas, the brown one was lost.  Two healthy white chicks. The Oreo hen chilling under the coop.Guineas chilling behind her. There’s fleece jacket, feathering up magnificently.  She never goes outside, preferring to stay warm.  Her fleece jacket must agree with her.  But the black really shows the dirt!

Guinea roosts

I hung sticks up for the guineas’ roosting pleasure.  They’re tied off to the purlins about 7′ up, and they swing a little.  The guineas seem to love it, but they are exceedingly coy about being captured on film using it.  I can see them through the plastic up on their sticks.  I can sneak up and catch the last two still holding on, just before they fly down.  But they won’t let me see them all roosted up on it, and they aren’t using their sticks to sleep at night yet.  Still sleeping on the header of the door.

The baby guinea has a new talent.  It can hop up on the baseboard now and run along it behind the ribs. It’s a chick sized highway.

Livin’ in the greenhouse

Spent the day redoing the emergency windstorm work to rights (baseboard, bolts, adjusting all plastic- no small job), and installing everyone in the greenhouse.  Alas, one tiny guinea chick was found dead in the morning, possibly of exposure.  It was cold, but still – odd to keel over in the GH, mom right there.

The two broody Silkie hens co-hatched two chicks.  What with all the competition and apartment swapping, there is no apparent parentage of the two new chicks.  Even the hens don’t seem to be clear.  I installed both of them in the chickery with a broody box and new eggs.  This is for their comfort, for protection from the amorous roosters (How I have longed for you!), and the teenagers who pile in at night.  No one wants teenagers around, even your own.

Broody hens are so funny, they act like it’s Christmas when you give them eggs.  Eggs?!  You shouldn’t have!  Cluck cluck cluck, and they settle right on, like they’re slipping into a warm bath.She’s been sitting on eggs more than a month, and she’s still thrilled about it.

The cohabitation seems to be great for the chicks.  One mom seems pretty into mothering, but the chicks can go in the box anytime to second mom for a warming, which they do.   I think I’ll have a nap with you now.Especially when Mom A is getting down in the dirt bath.  We’ll leave you to it.  We’ll be in here.They all pile in the box at night.  TOO cute!

Before I took their box away, the teens were playing house in it:

A box? Let’s all get in!

The guinea chicks are so tiny, smaller than the Silkie chicks, perfectly camouflaged, and slippery.  After the morning death, I was keeping a close eye and an ear open for their car alarm cheeping, and sure enough, one slipped under the baseboard.  There it is outside on the wrong side of the plastic.  Mom tried to give me a good thumping through the plastic.

The greenhouse is chaotic and messy.  I strew hay bales around for them to distribute, make it less of a mud hole.  They love a good hay bale.

Here we have a guinea perching on the chickery, all the teens, Silkies and Chantis, chilling on the hay bales, and the Oreos, now big grown birds, visiting.
From the other direction. One teen perching, and the guineas, Hey, that’s OUR clothesrack.

It was a stressful day, because it was beautiful outside, and all the teens were determined to get outside in it, and were sneaky and extremely clever about slipping out behind me.  I’d herd two back in and three would come shooting out.  But there were no attacks, and I got everyone back in the GH eventually.

Late in the day, Mama got out with her chicks!  I didn’t see how.  The guineas all seemed to be fixing to roost at large, so it was time for another chicknapping.

Now with only two:(
Mom’s stopping for a snack on her way back in

Then all the other guineas trooped in.

Mama found a real nice spot in the corner of the bales to bed down.She has a very interested observer.

Almost all safe now.

worry

Loungey pigs.  They’ve been rooting well, but sort of avoiding the big rooty area in the middle that I need them to work, asap.  She’s digging herself a hole so deep she’s almost below grade now.I closed the small coop a touch too early.  There was a latecomer.

Excuse me!

I dropped the ramp again and du du du – trotted right up!

That’s better!

The guineas are killing me (poor choice of words).  They are getting picked off and I can’t help them.  The downside of being wild and independent.  There was an owl picked one off the GH;  I knew lining up on the GH was a bad idea, but I thought if they slept on the coop, right by the wall of the GH, they’d be ok.  Nope.  And since, they’ve been moving around in the forest, because they don’t return to any roost proven not safe.  They were roosting in a big apple tree, which I thought was a great choice, nice safe spot, and it was for a few days.  But last night there was another event, and I didn’t get a chance to count them today.

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to make a safe spot.  I sewed together two widths of bird netting to make a strip wide enough, and draped a big canopy off the end of the GH.  I set it up with electric fence at the base, they went in, I closed it up, and found that guineas slip handily right through the electric fence.  Then I was after deer fence, and the co-op said they had some, until we went to buy it and they didn’t.  Then I finally get some (very attractive orange) snow fence tonight, get it all set up, feel good about it, and the guineas choose to skip dinner.

T-minus one week to move the GH and get all the birds in for good. 

Goldilocks days

These are my favorite days of fall – not too hot, but not too cold.  The bugs are gone and the ticks are long finished.  We’ve been warned, by the frost, that winter is coming, but then there are lovely “gift” days of perfect, peaceful weather.  It feels like it should be time to rest, peruse, hang out in the hammock and enjoy summer taking her last breaths.  But it never is.  September and October are always the worst months of the year for me, and I’m panicking and faltering under the crush of things that have to get done, so that everyone and everything will be ok for the winter.  I’d like to change that.  Possibly if there was only harvest to be done, it might be manageable.

The chickens don’t have that problem.  It’s not as hot as it was in the summer, but they are still flopped out in their dust baths and sunny patches all afternoon.  HW says “there’s chickens strewn about all along the path.”  They aren’t inclined to move, once they get into their dirt bath doze.  Sitting chicken‘s posture seems to be improving, by the way.  She’s in the pile.

They especially love this spot, because I threw a pile of dead branches there, that just happen to have perfect chicken space underneath, so they feel nice and safe.
Even the nervous Blondies are chilling out by the path.
Can’t see us, we’re under branches!
Even the uptight guineas are unusually…flat.

Guineas in the walnut tree

The guineas love perching in the walnut tree.  There was this one night when they all flew off the greenhouse, after dark ,and tried to land in the top branches of the walnut tree, and some were more successful than others, some falling all the way to the ground, bouncing off branches the whole way.  But usually, they like the long low branches over the feeder and the coop.

Guineas are so funny looking!

It starts with one. Then come some more.

Oh!  Flight!

Then a fourth, tangled in the leaves at the end.

All sorted out.

Fowl weather shelters

Because I want my chickens to be comfortable  at all times (Spoiled Rotten Chicken Club, Ch II), when it rains I run out and drape their coops with plastic to make a tent.

This has drawbacks, not the least of which is that it looks like some old plastic bags blew through the field and got snagged.  It takes time to put them up and tie off the corners, it’s a dirty job, and it makes it a bear to close the ramps at night and nearly impossible to get the eggs.

The hens appreciate it, though, they run and huddle under there when it starts to pour, so I keep doing it (since last year).  And cringing at the visual effect.

Finally, I made the hen rain shelters I dreamed of!  They’re very light (flimsy) frames, that are hinged on the top so I can easily fold them up, and probably store leaning on the back of the greenhouse when it’s not raining.

They’re made from fertilizer bag liners (neighbour), the same bags I was using before.  The plastic breaks down in time in the UV, but the bags are free and abundant, so it’s not a big deal to re-plastic down the road.

The hens like the clear plastic because they can see shapes approaching through it.

Now at least it looks like I mean for them to be there.

And of course, a guinea has to stand on top of it.  That’s what all structures are for.

I made three of them.  Each coop gets a tent adjunct, and the third is for the guineas.  We set it right over top of the broody guinea.  Can’t hurt to keep her dry; all the others will happily stay dry if they can.  She was angry about the installation!  But got right back on her eggs.

The guineas don’t mind if they do.
ALL structures

It all becomes clear

The guineas are building an army.

Now the chicks are all transitioning from their brown juvenile feathers to the polka dot adult feathers (and looking quite scrappy while they’re at it), and they are large.  And loud.  They move like a school of fish still and they’re bold.  Bolder in numbers.

They look like they’re performing maneuvers half the time.  Flank the food dish!  Charge the walnut tree!  Establish defensive positions around Mom!  Recon missions around corner of greenhouse!  Circle back!

I have to get rid of some, I mean, give some away, but I haven’t got any bright ideas how to trap them.