Thursday, September 25, 2014

After a (mostly) successful summer of hatching guineas last year we had high hopes for our flock this year. Clay spent some long and tedious hours in the dark, echoing cement silo to turn it into a -hopefully- predator proof guinea roosting spot.

 He even rigged up a doorway so we could lock them in there for the prescribed 8 weeks so they would fully consider this their new home base.

Spring arrived and we decided that we had way too many guineas for our purposes (of cleaning ticks & bugs from the yard and providing entertainment), so we sold 10. I felt like a true crazy farm lady driving to the appointed rendezvous spot in the Sam's parking lot in a big farm truck with 10 squawking guineas in a dog crate in the back. Using team work and quick reflexes we successfully transferred all of the guineas to the dog crate in the back seat of their new owner's car. I even got to display some of my guinea-netting skills (using a large fishing net) when one escaped and had a brief foray in the parking lot. That was a close one. Phew.

This put us down to somewhere in the 20-or-so flock size at home.

A few of the guineas started finding their way out of the top of the silo to freedom. It was almost time.

Then the old oak barn got torn down, leaving the silo exposed and the little screen door ripped off. It was go time.

Four of the guineas, the remnants of our original flock, decided that they were just too rooted to the chicken coop. Couldn't break the habit. So they started roosting on top of the chicken coop again, despite our best efforts. Two other guineas decided they liked to roost in the walnut tree over the milk barn. Most followed protocol and roosted in the silo.

Then, giving in to peer pressure from the old cronies, the flock started drifting over to the chicken coop. A few more every night. Until only 7 or 8 remained true to the silo.

We tried to warn them. But they wouldn't listen.

A couple weeks later we were down to those wise 7 or 8 silo guineas.

They have made it all summer.

So I had my hopes in them that they might be wise enough to hatch out some chicks for us. We started finding random guinea eggs scattered across the yard. To humor the kids we placed those ones in the incubator, but none hatched. Then, just when I had given up hope, one set of guineas showed up under the pergola with three chicks. !!

Due to the past record of excellent guinea parenting technique (or lack thereof) that we had observed, we immediately confiscated the chicks and set up a makeshift brooder in the mud room. The kids were thrilled.

A few days later I almost mowed over another chick from another set of parents. I stopped the mower and confiscated that chick as well. The parents ran off, leaving their only child to its fate without a backward glance. 

Then we located the last set of guineas sitting on an enormous batch of eggs right under our very noses. A cozy little spot next to the milk barn. They successfully hatched one, which I confiscated, but this time with a fight. I proudly bore a large red scratch on my neck from the father's flying assault as I fish netted his pride & joy. The mother went back to sitting on her eggs.

For another month.

No reward for her amazing devotion. Even her fiercely protective partner abandoned hope and went to hang out with the other guineas. I eventually removed her eggs and freed her from her hopeless task. She took the discharge with an air of quiet acceptance and immediately began to forage ravenously.

Our five little fluff balls grew quickly with lots of loving from the kids. Their smell began to pervade our entire home. Chicks in the house are so cute....

So, when they were outgrowing their little indoor brooder, Clay built a lovely, sturdy big brooder for them and we placed it in the hay barn with Athos stationed nearby to keep them safe on their first night. Living up to his name, he did his guard dog duties well, but then we let him loose while we left to attend church the next morning. Chicks were happy and exploring their new domain when we left. Carnage greeted us when we got back. Apparently chicks aren't smart enough to stay away from the edge where a fierce predator is beheading all their buddies. Who would've known.

One traumatized little chick survived and was brought back inside. Amelia gave it all the love it could possibly want.

Holding it multiple times a day, cuddling, rocking, singing sweet lullabies to it....
 Lots of love.

So, in summary.... Starting out with 40+ guineas.
Sold 10.
20+ guineas not smart enough to stay in the safety of the silo.
7 guineas live, fat & happy, all summer, roosting in the silo. (Good job, guys)
50-100 eggs layed all over the fields (estimating numbers here).
5 chicks hatched (Good job, guys??)
4 chicks who like to face danger by sticking their heads through their cage wire.
1 chick remaining.

Praying this little guy makes it to adulthood. The kids have gotten pretty attached.

Lessons learned:
Guineas are not known for intelligence.
Silo roosting - a success! (so far....)
Cover outdoor brooders with hardware cloth instead of chicken wire.
Keep a pair of guineas in an enclosure during nesting season so I can use the incubator again if I actually want any chicks to hatch out.

More trouble than they are worth? Most definitely. Am I still in love with having a flock of ridiculous guineas cavorting around the farm (while ridding it of pests)? Yes.

Better luck next year??


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