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