Tag Archives: guinea

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.

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.

 

Movin’ on up, up, up

The guineas are at this age where they just get into trouble all day.

They’re falling in the drink, getting stuck in or under stuff, and practicing perching anywhere they can.  I get called outside frequently by the panicked shrieks of the mortally assailed, and I find chicks…

How did it get in there?  Last year I planted a highbush blueberry and set a cage over it so the chickens didn´t uproot it through their vigourous appreciation of mulch.

I routinely found wailing chicks “trapped” in the chickery until I set it up on its side.  Now it´s a perch.They’ve got that guinea vase shape and they´re starting to turn speckled from striped, but they’re still brown.

Then I was brought outside at dusk by some particularly sustained alarm calling.

To find this:

The chicks were getting up on the greenhouse.  And they were really nervous about it, making  a lot of consternation noises.It started with the grownups.  They started inching up onto the greenhouse from the sky coop while mama was sitting with her brood on the perches.

A couple of days ago, they started roosting on the peak.

Not to be outdone, the chicks just decided that’s the place to sleep now.

First they flap up to the arch from the coop Then they scoot up until they gain the peak

A few of them are content to stay on the coop, which I think is smart, but I’m sure they’ll be leveled up in no time.

I have a theory that this started with the weather vane.  If that bird can get up there, then so can we.

Their additions are not very attractive.  They’re adding a lot of nitrogen now to the water I’m catching off the greenhouse.

No, they don’t puncture the plastic.  It’s tight at night in the cold.  It makes loud rumbling as they all scurry back and forth across it.

What’s funny, is that there’s not much space at the top.  It´s kind of a one way street.  Yet they insist on going back and forth, and when they pass each other….

If anyone gets more than a few inches from the center, they start to slip, then run in place, flapping, and either they regain the summit or abort, and push off to fly to the ground and then begin the quest again.

Eventually they line up like beads for the night.  It looks like an owl buffet to me, but I don’t have any ideas how to stop them.

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!

 

Worldwash

The world got a thorough washing yesterday, with spectacular lightning and thundering, and possibly 90mm of rain here.

I filled every vessel I had; the wheelbarrow filled in about 10 seconds it was coming so hard.  The paths were all rivers during the worst of it.

All the chickens were hiding under their tents, even the guinea chicks. 

In the greenhouse, new mama has a little entourage of chicks in the tomato forest.  One had a beakful of tomato, quite proud of itself.  I know they are going to taste test all the ripe tomatoes they can reach.  Oh well.

Later on, the sun came out.  The guinea chicks are growing by the day and getting tamer, slowly.  They learned to fly up onto the hen coop, and were practicing that, flying up, jumping off.

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!

 

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.

Oreos and the Cobra mom

The only time to see the wild Oreos up close is evening time in the coop.  They are handsome looking now, and not so much filling as cookie these days – they´re turning out raven black, with the blackest glossy legs.

 

 

 

The guinea hen is definitely setting.

This is early on – is she or isn´t she?

Later on she scraped up all the hay in the coop, and made a lovely, perfectly round nest with high walls.  When she flattens out and dozes, you can barely see comb over the sides of her nest.

No idea how many eggs she´s got.  Easily 20.  Perhaps a chicken egg got in there too.  In fact, she could be due any day.  I don´t know about guinea terms, but she´s got to be close.

And since there´s only three birds walking about yet, I suspect those three are the boys, and the other hen has found her own nest site somewhere in the woods. May she walk out healthy one day with a trail of chicks.

While I´m delighted that she´s pleased enough with the coop I made them to brood in it, there are some things that I did not consider.  Such as, what happens when they hatch?

She hasn´t lifted off that nest for a moment, so I´m thinking as soon as they hatch she´ll be ready for a snack.  And then day old guinea chicks will start pouring out of the coop, six feet off the ground?  If they do bounce, then, how about when mom goes back to bed?  If I lift in the chicks, she´ll come blazing out, the chicks will follow her out…this is a circular vision.

I decided to put a screen door on the coop so I can keep them all in there a couple of days, or something.

Applying the screen door was fine.  When I set a dish of food and water inside the door, however, whoooweee!

She is terrifying!  She opens her mouth like a cobra, spreads her wings wide and full, so she looks like a flat feather wall, and stares.  Then one piercing squawk, and wham! cobra strike.  She gave me a good chomp.  Same when I refilled the water, after she tugged the dishes in close to the circle around her nest.  Then I had to reach in even closer to her.  I didn´t risk the food dish.

Yikes.

And then four hens decided to hang out in the woodshed, even though it wasn´t raining.

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!

 

Guinea on the loose

img_0117
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.