Category Archives: guineas

Is she or isn’t she?

The guinea hen was sitting on her eggs!  But was she setting?  Or just laying an egg?

If it´s the former, there might be a couple chicks in there, because of the hen who lays in there (cuckoo, cuckoo!)

The two boys were on the roof, raising hell.  Screaming in a way that drew me to check if anything was wrong.  Crazy raise-the-roof-alarm yelling.

She´s sitting on eggs! She´s sitting on eggs! She´s sitting on eggs! Sitting on eggs! On eggs!  On eggs!  ON EGGS! EGGS! EGGS!

Really, all the yelling about it seems maladaptive.

There she is in there, sitting on some eggs.

(She wasn´t setting, just laying one, probably).

Good, I need time to put a chick fence on the door.  I didn´t think that through – a coop five feet off the ground – what if she hatches her chicks in there?  They´ll fall out.  I´ll have to block them in for a few days until they can do a controlled landing/flutter.

Guinea house finally outside

The guineas are out.  I had to tip their house over and drag it out to fit it out the greenhouse door.

The birds adjusted well.  No problems finding it.

They piled up on the roof per usual, two of them utilizing the perches.

Surely they´ll go in the house when it rains?

No, no they won´t.

They huddle grimly on the top of the house in the wind and rain, only one hen perching up against the entrance, somewhat sheltered by the overhang of the roof.

What a bunch.

Guinea eggs!?

I was working in the greenhouse and a hen started making a big commotion BaBWOCK!  BaBWOCK!! (etc-)

I looked out just in time to see a red hen (chicken) on the perch of the high rise guinea house, just before she took off.  She was most likely shrieking about her imminent long flight, like she was on the high dive board.

I turned back to work, and then it occurred to me – What was she doing up there?  Could she be laying eggs in the guinea house?!

I got a step ladder, climbed up to see, and sure enough, she WAS laying in the guinea house.  For a few days.  Well THAT helps explain the loss in egg production I was troubled by.

But hark.  She´s not the only one laying in there!  There are lovely pale brown pointy guinea eggs in there too!  What a sweet little nest.

Cool.  Guinea eggs!  She´s not laying in the woods after all.

Nice to know at least the guinea hen knows how to go inside her coop, even if she does sleep outside no matter the weather.

As for the chicken hen, what a cuckoo!

 

Spring

Gosh, it´s been too long – I´ve been so busy!  It´s garden and greenhouse time – very busy.  Everyone is well, the piglets are no longer -lets, just pigs, the bees are busy, the hens are entertaining and entertained.  I have lots to share…but for now, a glimpse:

The bunnies are grazing in the field alongside the hens and robins.  They are almost all brown- some have tufts of white fur that haven´t fallen out yet, making them distinguishable.  There´s always a rabbit around with a frond of greenery hanging out of its mouth.  Low-speed chases happen – I suspect they are mating chases.

 

Sometimes I accidentally count the bunnies in with the guinea fowl.

The guineas stick closer to home than I initially expected.

And traveling as a pack, which I love.  They´re all friends.

They can really get into a good dust bath too.

The dust bath is the most popular activity of the season, now that there are warm sunny days to laze around in and  wile away the hours sticking a leg out awkwardly…

This is the guinea spot in the woods, right by our path.  I suspect she´s laying her eggs here.  Can you see all three?

This is the hen who thinks she´s a Silkie, always hangin´ with the fluffballs.

The Silkie tribe is becoming adventuresome (safety in numbers?), and every day venture a little farther into the woods to skritch in the leaves, or come a few feet farther down the path to the house.

Led by their intrepid leader, the Colonel:

The bees are full team ahead hauling in pollen. (I meant “steam”, but that makes more sense)

Returning a soggy bee to the hive, incoming bees use my hand for a landing strip.

Finally finished the Guinea house

There can no longer be more procrastinating;  the guinea house has to be moved out of the greenhouse, so I have to finish it.  It needs a roof.

The guineas have been faithfully roosting on top of it since I built it, and I gave up completely on plan A of training the birds to go in at night.  For them, there is no in, only the highest possible perching point.

Well, that´s over now.  I put a roof on it.  I made an extra door perch, so they hopefully they will learn to creep into the house from the perch.

I had some help from carpenter chicken:

I´m totally helping.  Can I poop on this for you?

Can´t put things down for a second.

Then, dusk fell, and the guineas came home to find that their house had been reno´d while they were gone.  Extreme Makeover:  Guinea Coop.

 

 

They went straight to the top; sat on the roof.

I hope they decide a roof is a pretty great idea once they are outside, and it rains.

Guineas getting along

I thought this hen was about to expire.  She spent a couple days hunched up in the greenhouse (no neck), with her eyes half closed.     When hens get like that they aren´t feeling well.  Sometimes they pull through it, sometimes they die.  This hen is very old.  She could be six or seven years old.  She retired from doing eggs some time ago.  But it seems she´s pulling through, and has decided to camp at a higher altitude today.  Her neck is getting longer too.

I haven´t planted anything out in the GH yet, so the doors are open for the various fowl to come and go.  Mostly they don´t go in there unless it rains; they are reveling in playing outside and have had enough of the greenhouse.

A guinea update – on the first night of freedom the new pair came back to the greenhouse!  The second night, they were all up on the guinea house together- adorable!  They don´t spend the day together – they travel in two separate packs all day, but they´re cool.  They know where they live.  The three-pack has a favorite spot by the trail, where the hen nestles down into the leaves under a little tree.  I think she´s laying eggs, but not yet broody.  She didn´t pick a very secret spot.

 

 

The ticks came marching two by two

There are at least nine ticks in this picture.

I was out in the garden half the day, putting in some starts.  I go back to my pots of broccoli, and I find a mass of competing ticks playing king of the mountain on the popsicle stick (gross!).

Ticks climb up things, and then wait at the very tip of a branch or stick, reaching out their little legs like they want a hug, waiting for a mammal to walk by, and then they will drop  or grab as you go by.   The two on the right hand pot are in position.

Here, the popsicle stick must have been the highest point, so hot property.  They also like to sit in wait on the rim of buckets.  While I was taking the picture, and thinking how long is it going to take me to kill all these ticks?  a couple dropped and set off at a clip straight towards me.  They must have a great sense of smell.

We have lots of ticks.  Stand still anywhere, watch the ground, and you can find a  tick walking toward you.  This is not a fun feeling.

And where there are real ticks, there are phantom ticks.  There´s nothing like the first tick bite of the year to start up that feeling of ticks crawling all over you, all the time, even if it´s actually your hair or the tag in your shirt.  Less than ten percent of the time, it is a real tick, but ´tis the season to be on edge.

I need several platoons of guineas out here to mop them up.  Speaking of which, they all seem to be getting along.  This morning when I opened the greenhouse, the new ones led the charge out the door and flowed straight into the woods. 

I caught sight occasionally of the new ones in the woods, confused, squawking, but at the end of the day they were all together again, and standing around the greenhouse.  Hopefully the new ones will show them around.

 

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.

 

Free chickens

Here they come.

The chickens get some time out almost every day now.  Very soon they will be finished with the greenhouse for the year.

They’re getting tetchy in there.  Starting to hate each other.  They come running to the door when I come, hoping I’ll prop it open.

Although eager to get out, they don’t stay out, unless it’s a sunny day.  There’s still snow on most of the ground, and if it’s grey, they find their way back into the greenhouse pretty quickly.

Guineas in the sun.  They find their way back inside too, when done exploring.

Guinea on the loose

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She’s the little dark lump in the tree just right of center

img_0118 The sun was beating on the greenhouse, so I opened the doors at both ends.  The west door I had to dig the snow out, and it opened on a three foot bank of snow.

I didn’t bother with the screen door; I figured if any birds ventured out, they’d get cold feet, literally.

We left, and came back in the late afternoon, and could hear the guineas shrieking from the driveway.  Not that that’s unusual, but it was unusually sustained.  So I promptly walked out to see what they’d got into now.  There was a guinea, roosted up in a scrappy alder tree.  I called HW to bring his phone and see this.

Her first day out.  Since the guineas were little chicks, they’ve lived in the greenhouse.

She was quite comfortable, settling in for a long stay.  The others in the greenhouse were going off like fire alarms We aren’t together!  WE AREN’T TOGETHER!

I disturbed her out of the tree and herded her along the wall of the greenhouse and she happily darted back inside.  That’s when I noticed, following her and her tracks in the snow, that there weren’t any departing tracks.  She must have flown straight out of the door, and flown without landing anywhere, into the tree.

By Golly, they like it!

Ever since I constructed elaborate toad mansions under my parents’ back deck for the itinerant toads of Ontario as a child, there is little that pleases me more than an animal inspecting something I made for them, deciding This is alright, and using it!  Sometimes there would be a toad using the pool, or the planter pot “cave”.  Yessss.

One night!  And the guineas have decided they live on their coop!  I’m so pleased.  All of them, lined up on the rim.  It’s probably only because it’s about 2 inches higher than the header of the door (by design), but I’ll take it.  On vs in – close enough.  We’ll work up to “in”.

All of them went up there on their own.  They started out on the roof, but after dark, there they were.

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They’re all there.  Facing out.

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Look up, look way up, it’s the new guinea coop

I’m starting to worry about the guineas sleeping out “loose” in the greenhouse.  The hens are all secured at night in their respective coops, but the guineas are not safe, should a weasel come in, and now the GH is breached with multiple tunnels, one easily could.

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@#$% squirrel

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The guineas have a collective mind of their own though, choosing different places to sleep every night.  They used to like snuggling between the hay bales and the plastic, or perching on the top of the open screen door, which is funny.  They’ve just moved up one better though, and are roosting on the top of the door header.

img_4661It’s funny, approaching the GH and seeing their little shadowy silhouettes above the door in the dusk.  There were only four the first night!  I went in to shut the coops wondering if one was lost (a constant fear).  She was fine.  She was pacing along the roof’s edge of the layers’ coop, the nearest high point, trying and failing to muster up the bird courage to flap up and join the others.

I waited awhile, as it got darker, before I intervened.  I walked right up to her, smoothly reached out and grabbed her by the legs.  How well this went surprised both of us.  She eep-ed once and wobbled a little to get her balance as I readjusted her to stand on my palm, and I lifted her up almost level with the others (I’m a bird elevator).  She stood there for many seconds before she took the 6 inch hop.  After that night she’s made it up on her own.  We take the opportunity to pet them at night, which they do not love, shuffling nervously and squeezing together.  But I think it’s good for them.

So I built them a house.

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Hardware cloth floor
Hardware cloth floor

I put it on top of the straw bales for their examination (the layer hens are the most curious and adventurous of the bunch).

And then I put it on legs.

img_4646Knowing they want to be at the highest point in the room, it’s up in the air.  In fact, I won’t be able to take it out of the GH without taking the legs off, so…it’s either going to stay in the GH forever, or dismantling it is, to move their coop outside.

My big idea is to get them to roost IN the coop every night, and then in the summer they will continue to sleep in the coop, instead of the trees, where I can shut the door and they will be safe.

That’s my big idea.  Chances are good that the guineas have other ideas.

The first night, HW moved them from the header to the coop.  They were unimpressed and jumped up to perch on the top edge.  That’s ok with me.  Sleeping on their coop is a good start.  Maybe when it gets colder they’ll have more interest in huddling.

It has a protruding stick so that they can fly to it and then shuffle inside.  The roof is partial because I don’t have a piece of plywood the right size handy, so I set some scrap on it.  No door yet either.  That can come after they sleep in it.