Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ahhh - Peace and Quiet

Oh, how wonderful! A peaceful, quiet start to the day once again. In addition to our chickens, we also have three guinea fowl: Grey, a feral male that just moved in and made himself at home; Missus, a hen needing a home when her owners moved; and Tweedit, their first offspring, hatched in October five years ago then hand-raised inside the house that first winter. The Bachelor, Missus' brother and Tweedit's mate, went missing a couple of years ago - probably fell victim to coyotes while ranging outside the fence.

Tweedit and Missus both hide nests in the summertime, but we don't really want more guineas so we try to find and clean them out before the girls start setting. Tweedit did set a nest earlier this year, but none of her eggs were fertile. After losing her first nest when our neighbor found it in his shed, Missus hid another one deep inside a prickly desert peach thicket where we couldn't reach it. She brought three babies back home a couple of weeks ago (one died a couple of days later).

The dogrun up close to the house is set up as a poultry brood pen, with 1" chicken wire lining the bottom of the chain link fencing and a ground-level lean-to next to the dog house. With the enticement of a bit of birdseed, Missus walked her brood right in. Male guineas are usually pretty good fathers - staying near their mate while she's on the nest (although leaving each night to go back to their roost to sleep), and staying with the family, daytimes, after they've hatched.

In years past, the female in the brood pen will start calling to her mate, sleeping in the chicken coop overnight, at daybreak. Guineas are LOUD!! Both genders will make a one-note AWK! AWK! AWK! alarm call (they make excellent watchdogs). Plus, only the females also make a two-note call: BUCKWHEAT! BUCKWHEAT! (we don't sex the babies - waiting until they start calling is the only way we can tell gender). Either way, a guinea's call sounds like a very loud rusty pump handle screeching - not really the thing you want up near your bedroom as a general rule.

So that means when we have baby guineas (called keets) in the brood pen, we get woke up at the crack of dawn (maybe what she's really saying is "COME HELP! COME HELP!"). So I'll stumble out, trying to not open my eyes too much so I can go back to sleep, and open the chicken coop. In the past, Grey's been a really good mate - as soon as I'd open the coop he'd be first out, fly up onto the gate, jump down, run up to the brood pen, and go right inside to spend the day with Missus. Peace and quiet, and I can go back to bed.

But this year, Tweedit didn't have any babies to tend, so she's been out and fancy-free all summer. She and Grey foraged together whilst Missus sat her nest. And once Missus was up in the brood pen, Grey decided he'd rather hang with Tweedit. That meant, for the past two weeks, Missus starts calling at first light, AND DOESN'T SHUT UP!

I can get cranky if I don't get enough sleep. It was time for the babies to go! So, yesterday, we put a listing for free guinea chicks on Craigslist and gave them away within hours. Once the babies were gone, Missus rejoined Tweedit and Grey, and all were back in the coop last night. And I got to sleep in this morning.

1 comment:

Nancy M. said...

Darn! I wish I lived near you, so I could have got the keets. I hope I can get some more sometime soon. I'm waiting till my hen and biddies get out of the pen we'll keep them in until they know home.

I know what you mean about guineas being loud. I think they know if I try to lay down and take a nap because they alway come hollering at my window. But, I still love them!