Tag Archives: parenting

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!

 

 

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

 

 

 

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!