Category Archives: guineas

Epic pig move

We moved the pigs a fair distance, from where they were recovering the field from the alder and buckthorn, to beside the greenhouse.  They must till up the ground where I’m about to move the greenhouse to.  It involved setting up the fence a couple of times in long corridors.  The pigs were cooperative.Now they’re back in the sun, and practically  on lawn, which they are making short work of.  It’s kind of strange to have them (back) in the middle of everything, smack between the chicken tribes.

—-

Something has been snatching guineas.  A couple of adults are missing, and now there’s only one chick:(But gosh, it’s cute. A pile of bumps in the food dish: The guineas are not exactly “mine”; they’re very much their own, unlike the other obedient farm animals.  They don’t mind eating the food, but they are cunning and very hard to trick or contain, even for their protection.  They’ve been sleeping in the trees, and I’m racking my brain for how I can get them into someplace safe.  I don’t even know what’s getting them.  Nor do I have “someplace safe” in mind.  I’ll get them all into the greenhouse for the winter, but it’s another week+ before that’s ready.  What to do?

I love the outrageous purple of scarlet runner beans.  It’s like the fake colouring of grape candy.  And they are preposterously large beans, too – the plant, the pods, and the beans.  Jack and the beanstalk beans.

Nuts and more nuts

We’re real birds!  The Blondies in a rare moment of repose:It’s funny; all the birds that grew up here, and then some,  are into perching.  They love the tangled alder brush. There’s the baby guineas.  Nice to get a sighting.  All mixed up in the flock of young adults.Time to groom like everyone else! Surprise!  The second, smaller walnut tree is bearing.  They come later, and they are a different kind of walnut.  This kind is nice.  The husks are round and super easy to shuck off the shell (on the right), and the nut is round, exactly like ye old familiar walnut.On the left, the pear shaped walnuts (from the big tree) have flat, pointy shells, and stubborn husks.I’m starting to get a respectable haul, for the first walnut harvest ever.  Nice.

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.

Back down to two

Only two guinea chicks running around today.  Life is brutal for latecomers.

They’re so funny!  Little bitty chicks, the size of ping pong balls, scuttling around on their orange legs right in the middle of the big flock, like they belong there.  They’re hard to even find in my pictures.

It’s a big rain day.  The rain is thundering down; I caught 300 gallons of water in an hour off two roofs.  Everything is puddled and the hens are mostly huddling under their new tents.

Wet chicken

New additions!

Already!  Two little guinea chicks showed up at feeding time in the middle of the guinea herd!

Only two?  She had about ten eggs in her nest even after the close call with the tractor, but I checked it out, and there were two empty shells, and four intact eggs.  Maybe something happened, she rolled out a few eggs or something stole a few.

Then HW came home, discovered the new additions, and said “did you see the three new chicks?”

Three!?  Sure enough, there was a latecomer.  Easy to tell which one.  Just a few hours made the original two old hands at life.  The late arrival was shaky and slow and having a hard time navigating uneven terrain and obstacles.

Mama isn’t as crazy as she used to be either.  She let me pick one up.

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.

Guinea crisis II

She’s on her nest alright, but the mystery of why I hadn’t missed her is solved: she can’t resist dinner.

The other guineas hang out right on top of her most of the day, sunning, and grooming, and chatting.  Literally, even.  The “chicks”, little butterballs now half the size of full grown birds, hop over and on top of her, hunkered down in her nest.    I don’t know what she thinks of this; she always looks angry, flattened out on her eggs, but she is easy to check in on now, with the weeds trampled around her.  In fact, I went and clustered some cut weeds around her to help her out.

The whole group of guineas hovers around her like she’s the kitchen stove, generally blowing up her spot.

But when the rest of the flock left to visit the trough, she went running along behind!  I’ll eat too!  Then I swooped in to make adjustments, but she hawk-eyed my every move from the food dish.  She didn’t run me though, just watched, neck long.

I moved the pigs in another direction, after a long and laborious session cutting out alders and buckthorn.  Then, of course, a pig slips out, right by the nest!  The pig fence is about four feet from where she decided to brood.

I kept the other pig in, but the free pig, not caring about togetherness for the moment, started romping around the field, and ran right over the nest.  She came bursting out, attacking the pig, as all the other guineas, even the chicks, join the skirmish. I’m chasing the pig with a stick, the birds are all screaming and flapping, together trying to defend against the pig, but a pig is a pig, oblivious, gleefully prancing around.

I’m horrified; I have to get back to the house for the milk- the only sure pig bait, but the birds don’t stand a chance while I’m gone.  This pig is going to stomp in and snarfle up all the eggs in seconds. I run for the milk, hoping only that the pig finds something else to do for the moment.

I get back, the nest is still intact, all the guineas shrieking in phalanx.

I easily catch the pig again with the milk, and I finish moving them, and everything is ok.

The hen’s scowl may have deepened, but she’s back on her eggs, crisis averted.  This hen has had to put up with a lot, and she’s barely started.

Near tragedy

Our wonderful neighbour was over to bush-hog my field last night.  I need to move the greenhouse this year (not looking forward to it, no), and there were some robust shrubs growing right where it needs to go.

Anyhoo, he was driving around, mowing, and once, right when he came to a stop, I saw the weeds rustle directly in front of his front wheel.  As he backed out, I ran to the spot, fearing that a bird had been hit (I’d been paranoid and been tramping through all the weeds in front of him trying to flush out frightened chickens that were used to the tall weeds being a safe zone).

Horrors!  A nest!

A guinea nest.   His front tractor wheel had rolled into it, crushing a half dozen eggs, but not rolled over it, so most of the eggs were intact.  The eggs were kindled, with bloody yolks, but only a few days past.  I quickly scooped out shells and yolks, tossing them out, trying to clean up the mess with my fingers and restore her nest.  It was a nice nest, too, dried grasses lined up in a swirl. 

The hen herself had stayed to the bitter end, jumping out only when that black tire loomed over her, and we had both seen her flee at the last second.  My flushing hadn’t unseated her, only imminent death.

I did not bother her again by “checking on her” that night, hoping she would come back.

I didn’t even know I had a broody guinea!  I hadn’t missed her.

And what is she thinking?  Aren’t there enough brats around?  I’m flattered that she thinks this is a great place to raise children, but how many is enough?  Sheesh.

In the morning she was on her nest.   I can see her scowling in there. 

Hopefully she got back on them promptly; if she returned by nightfall the remaining eggs would be fine.  Now the weeds are gone, she’s far less concealed.  Her nest has a view.

Right there by the pigland too, right where I was planning to shift the oinkers to next.

 

Guinea growth

The guineas are growing up.  There’s fourteen left – two disappeared along the way.  They’re still running along usually like one school of fish behind one hen, but sometimes they break into a couple of groups, and even get caught alone.  Then there is shrieking, when they look up and realize everyone’s gone.  I’m alone!

They’re SO fast, and they can fly quite well.  They’re starting to make their transition from brown stripes to black and white dots, but they still have the bright orange feet.

They’re also lost their “chick immunity”, and can and will get pecked for being rude, especially by the layer hens.  One of the guinea cocks seemed to be being a real jerk, chasing and attacking the chicks all the time.  But I have a theory that that’s a developmental strategy, like play fighting or wrestling, that he’s teaching them the art of escaping attack (try catching one).  Especially since the hen is right there letting him do it.

In the morning the group fills the feed platter, literally.  They eat, get full quickly, and then depart.  I give them a chance and then let the chickens out.  Through the day the guineas spend their time quite far afield (or awoods), sauntering through chicken land at times for a snack.

The adult flock escorts the chick flock less.  One hen has resumed her partnership with a cock and the two of them travel together independently.  The other pair and the bachelor accompany the chicks.

Hey, I wouldn’t mind getting here for some food.

 

 

Guinea sleepover II

The next night was rainy and a bit bleak.  In the morning when I released the sleepover chick, I hadn´t marked it, although we´d talked about banding it, to know which one was “our friend”.

HW did some out loud wondering whether we´d have another visitation.  Jokes about discovering the good life in the house aside,  maybe this little bird had an injury.  A sprain?  Perhaps it was having a hard time and the falling in the tank was a symptom, not cause.

In the evening, he closed the coops again and returned without remark.  He climbed to the loft, where I was, then halted meaningfully at the top of the ladder until I looked up.

No way!  There he was, holding a guinea chick to his chest, chick looking at me with neck stuck out, orange legs dangling.

The bird’s total comfort with the proceedings was the first clue this was the same bird.  And now I will be wrapped in a towel and snuggled.  Yes, please!

Wow!  Night two!  This time it had not gone for a swim and was only wet from the day´s rain, but it had been struggling to get up on the coop, and allowed HW to catch it (I don´t think it tried to get away very hard).

Same procedure:  Wrapped in towel, hugged, pet on the head (same bumps on the head confirmed definitely same bird), encouraged to go to sleep.  The chick was a little bit less tired tonight, keeping eyes open longer, but even more relaxed.  Totally silent.  Lounging.Like the previous night, I fell asleep with it and it woke me later by hopping up, then resisting my hey go back to sleep hand over top of it, and I put it back in the night box.

Now HW´s jokes about having a house guinea seemed a bit more real.  Hmmm.

 

Guinea sleepover!

HW called me to the door with urgency, just while he was doing the coop closing round.

He was holding an exhausted, soaking wet guinea chick!

I´d been worried about that stock tank, sitting practically under the guinea coop, especially when the chicks were first emerging.  Then when they were older they managed to start roosting on the coop together without my supervision, or incident, and it´s been weeks since they were hopping up on the coop, using the rim of the stock tank as a jump off point.  I figured we were well past the risk of someone falling in.

But no. He´d found this baby swimming, exhausted and nearly dead.

I snatched it up in a towel, wrapping it up with just a beak sticking out, and held it to my belly.  It was shivering hard.  I rocked with it in the rocking chair for awhile before remembering it´s mammals that rock, not birds, and then I took it upstairs, as we were headed there, to bed.

It took about an hour to stop shivering, and a couple of re-wraps with a dry part of the towel. 

After it was out of the woods, then it was all fun. It would poke its head out of the towel and then suck it back in, like a turtle.

It was a dream come true, being able to hold and snuggle a little chick!!

I put the swaddled bird in HW´s lap ´”for a minute” to go out and make a last check that there was no one else in trouble outside.  The guineas were really shrieking up a storm.  HW: “Where’s Roberta!”

When I got back, he wouldn’t give it back!  He called me a chick hog and told me to get my own chick.  “Me and Roberta are hanging out.”  Whenever he leaned or reached for something suddenly, the chick would protest with a little trill.  He kept it in his lap until he needed to get up for something, and I got it back! 

Eventually it started to pant, and I loosened the towel, more and more.  It was totally unwrapped at the end, but very, very relaxed.  It was clearly perfectly happy to be where it was.  No designs on escape.  It was very tired, dozing off, sticking its neck out, and then, Awwww!  resting its head on my arm and going to sleep!   Adorable!  I pet its bumpy little head and skinny neck, hugged it.  It was into it. Looking at us.  Making little sounds if someone moved too quick.

HW said “you´ve got a little dinosaur over there” and said it´s not going to want to go outside again, now that it´s experienced the good life.  “You´re going to have a little house guinea!”

I was very tired myself, and I fell asleep with my arm around it.  HW thought I would roll on it and I should put it in the box, but I didn´t.  How often am I going to get to cuddle a little wild chick?  I´m going to get every minute I can.

Sometime in the night, it got restless, and woke me by standing up, hopping on my arm.  So I put it in the box then and it was silent until morning.

I carried it back out, head whizzing around trying to figure out where it was, then getting excited as we neared the group, and voila – back in the flock!

 

I was literally writing about the guinea chicks getting trapped in the greenhouse, at dusk, and I heard some persistent cheeping outside.  I went to check, with a flashlight, and sure enough, there was a keet darting around on the ground.

Why?

I swung up the light and this greeted me. 

She brought them home.  This was the night.  Ok kids.  This is where the grownup guineas sleep.  You aren’t keets any more!

I just about died laughing, while I ran back to get a camera.  Then I tried to round up the loose keets on the ground, hoping to, I don’t know, lift them up into the house?  Obviously there just wasn’t room for all of them.

I couldn’t find the keets, though, they had hidden themselves so well, so I wasn’t terribly worried about them overnight. (They were fine).

I added more perches, so the house is bristling now, and tonight, they looked much more comfortable.  I even saw the last one fly up from the stock tank, climb over some others to burrow down next to mom:)

 

Summer’s turn

So it begins, with the guineas.

What have we here?  A pile of chicks trying to perch like grownups on the coop, next to mom.

But look closer.  Who’s that IN the greenhouse?  I don’t know how the F they got in there, maybe the gap above the screendoor?, but there were three little guineas on the door header on the wrong side.  Frantic!

I get involved, scare them off the door, thinking they’ll come out the open door after they’re on the ground.  Nyoooo!  Mom is on the ground now too, so they run towards her and out of my sight behind the cucumbers.

Mom can see them running back and forth through the plastic and starts pecking at them.  Naughty!  Get out of there!  Chicks:  We can’t, we can’t! 

The plastic is like the skin of a drum,  and her pecking it is frightening the daylights out of the chicks.  Boom!  Boom!  It’s frightening me too.

HW swings around outside to get Mom to cease and desist, I undo the wiggle wire on that corner, and after rattling the cucumber vines, the chicks come popping out the hole and it’s all over but the storytelling.

The wild Oreos and their fluffy stepmom no longer slip under the fence into Pigland but are content in the partially desertified former Pigland.  They tower over mom now.  One is coming into slate shingle colouring, and the other has developed coppery neck feathers.

The light is shortening, and it’s that glorious time of year when when the chickens feel like going to bed lines up with when I want to go to bed.  Midsummer is awful.  The chickens outlast me every day.  I’ll be so tired I’m struggling to stay awake long enough to close them up, because they’re out there hopping around!  Not a care in the world!  SO not ready for bed.  Today, I’m like, What?  Are you guys seriously all in bed at 8:20!?  I could weep with joy.

Inside the greenhouse Brown Bonnet is proudly bringing up 7 chicks.

These chicks have a different start because instead of chickery time, when they first emerged I lifted her box out of the fence because she was sharing, and trusted mama not to lose any chicks in the jungle.

Funny, the first three days, she barely went two feet from the box.  Now she’s using half of the tomato aisle as the chicks increase in ability.  Soon they will be anywhere, and I’ll think twice about slinging buckets of water.

At night they all go back in the box to sleep, which is adorable.  They are going to be so wild, never getting the daily airlift touching

Someone’s always got to peek out.

Or two someones.

Or three.

Bats back

So many exciting things today!

Mama Silkie I completed hatching out her eggs for a grand total of seven little Silkie chicks, three white and four brown.  They are at liberty in the greenhouse but haven’t gone more than a couple feet from the box.

A restorative friend visit and blueberry pick- 10# of fat blueberries that the piglets and chickens will be ecstatic to have a little taste of.

The promise of rain!  The smell is light relief in the air.

Then the guineas decided to level up.

We win. We’re up higher!

While I was taking pictures of these clowns, a BAT! came flapping around.  100% bat!  It was flying right over my head to hoover up the bugs that I was attracting and I saw the whole bat silhouette against the sky (much clearer than my camera saw it).  It seems like the bats might be on their way back from the brink!

Perching practice

There’s the guinea keets this morning, practicing perching on the feet of the guinea sky-coop.  They grow by the day. 

HW has raised the issue of what happens when all these guineas grow up.  Case in point, when they start hollering about something, it’s “How do you think 20 of those are going to sound?”, and “What happens when all those guineas decide to sleep on top of the coop?” and the most difficult:  “So, if you had two hens this year and they had 16 babies, then what happens next year when all those hens are grown up, and they have….how many babies are they gonna have?”

Finally, a few pictures of the elusive guinea chicks

Over and over, all I get to see is lots of little guineas vanishing into the brush.This morning, they were under the chicken’s coop before I opened it.

They have little wings of their own now, and they are at least doubled in size from when they hatched.  Still with Big Bird orange feet and beaks.

I can’t believe one hen can cover them at night, and I think of her when it pours cats and dogs at night, resolutely making herself into a tent.  In the morning, all the chicks are dry.

They still move en masse, attended constantly by all five adults.  They get superlative parenting.

They aren’t quite as terrified of us, and I got closer today than ever before.  Now they leave when I come around, rather than flee. Not quite as much of a panic.   And the adults show their suspicion but are more tolerant.

I even got a chance to count them! and there are definitely 16, so that means that little spinaround chick made it.  I’m glad:)

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.

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.