We don’t have television. We have a running joke that the farm animals give us plenty of things to watch and enjoy. Each time we add a new type of livestock, we say “we got a new TV channel!” because we find ourselves constantly wanting to watch them and their antics. It is fun to see how different each type of animal is. Well, this week, with the guinea hens now free-ranging, we have added a new TV channel to the farm. Guinea TV. We are often found plastered to the front windows watching the guineas fight over a lubber, or scratching and dust bathing.
This is our first time raising Guinea fowl. We are raising them to help with bug control and snake patrol. We did not expect to get them as soon as we did, and were planning to wait, but things happened that led us to getting the keets in the middle of our crazy just-moved-to-a-new-farm-summer. We have been attempting to learn what we can about them along the way, squeezing in learning and research as we go. Due to all this, our plans for them have changed about ten times.
As with pretty much any livestock, opinions on the best way to raise them vary widely and often disagree with each other. As of last week, we had planned to keep them in the coop, with a fenced exterior pen for awhile to help them get accustomed to their coop and in hopes they would come home to roost each night. But after doing some more reading, and assessing our time constraints and the cost it would be to build them a temporary exterior pen, we decided to just go for it and let them free range right from their house. Everyone said that you should let them out a couple hours before nightfall the first time so they didn’t wander too far and that would increase your chances of them staying close to home. The question of whether they would choose to use their house to roost at night was anyone’s guess, as, apparently, guineas are known for just heading out and deciding they don’t want their house and they will find a new place to roost and live.
Day 1: We opened their little door at 5pm, 2 hours before sunset. By sunset, they still hadn’t even stuck their little heads out the door. They were cowering on the opposite side of the coop from the door as if the door was dangerous. Sigh.
Day 2: We opened their little door at 3pm. Giving a couple extra hours before sunset so they would hopefully get curious enough to come out. Nope. By sunset, they still were in there, cowering and afraid. At this point I worried maybe keeping them inside for the first 10 weeks of their life had somehow ruined them for living out in nature as intended. Sigh.
Day 3: We decided to open the little door at morning barn chore time, giving them all day to hopefully be curious. Again, they cowered in the corner. We hadn’t told Braveheart the plan and so he went into their house to do their morning water and food. Apparently, fear of humans trumps fear of tiny door in the wall, and they all came rushing out. Once outside, they realized that they were now outdoors and were more scared than ever. They stretched their necks to look back at their little door and into their house, but were so scared that Braveheart might still be in there that they wouldn’t even get closer to it than a few feet. Oh, well, at least now they were outdoors. They started to eat bugs and scratch and occasionally would send up the alarm at seemingly nothing. They learned the beauty of dust bathing. They stayed together as a tight group and didn’t go more than 10 feet from the poultry barn all day, working their way slowly farther and farther around it until they had gone all the way around it. But they continued to avoid their little door. This posed a problem…their water was in their house. There was nowhere else to get water and they refused to go in. We hoped they would go in as night fell and hopefully drinking just once for the day would be enough.
Dark descended and they were not even considering going in. But they were still sticking very close to the poultry barn area. We put a flashlight in their house, hoping if it was lit up in there and they could see if was safe they would go in. Nope. Finally, we decided to try to gently herd and coax them in. Well…herding guineas is definitely harder than herding cats. But do you know what is even harder than herding guineas? Herding just ONE guinea hen. Yup, we finally got the whole group to go in, except one. And once that one was alone she did not decide that going in the door with her friends was the safest option…instead she decided the world was coming to an end and she needed to just freak out and run hither and yon in the dark. Sigh. How do these things survive in the wild? So we gently herded her and coaxed her, and it took forever, but she finally went inside. At least they were all indoors, with the water, and safe for the night. We would just have to see what the next day would bring.
Day 4: We had Braveheart do food and water BEFORE the door was opened so that they could leave of their own accord, in hopes that then they would not view it as an unsafe place. It worked! They left on their own, and went back in several times throughout the day to drink. They slowly expanded how far they were venturing out from the poultry barn, getting farther and farther away, but returning often. They were eating tons of bugs. It was awesome. The question went back to…will they put themselves to bed, or decide that a tree or roof is a better place to be? The answer was…neither. They huddled near their little door as darkness fell, but wouldn’t go in. We had installed a light in there, so it couldn’t be that they didn’t like the dark. But still, they just huddled. So we did the gently herding and got them all in.
The same thing repeated a few days in a row…and then, last night, they put themselves to bed! Success!!!
The problem we keep having with them now, however, is that they have figured out how to fly into the chicken pen, but then can’t get out. They seem to think that the compost in the chicken pen is somehow superior to the huge pile of compost they have access to about 50 yards from their front door. So each day one or two get into the chicken pen and then can’t get out. It wouldn’t be a big issue except we haven’t had time to build the door for humans to get into the chicken pen. Which means as night falls and they still are stuck in there we have to climb a ladder up and then down to get into that pen. Sigh.
If you look on the mid-left side of the photo you can see the huge compost heap in the distance. And yet we have two guineas in with the chickens on their little heap of compost, and the rest of the guineas running around the outside edge trying to figure out how to get in. I guess the saying stands…the compost (grass) is always better (greener) on the other side of the fence.
Overall, we are very pleased with the guinea fowl experience thus far, and look forward to more guinea fowl TV.
I got my quilt “sandwich” pinned together and trimmed the edges.
But I quickly found that my antique treadle machine did not like to work with all the layers. The feed dogs are small and off to one side and getting it moved through easily without puckering the fabric was very challenging. I decided to settle with having pieced it completely on the treadle machine and got out my electric machine and walking foot and have been busy quilting it. Hopefully, I will finish it this week!
This week we were very blessed to be the receivers of an entire flatbed full of building supplies. An older gentleman was cleaning out a shed and said that anyone who could come load on their own and was willing to take everything, not just the parts they wanted, could have it for free. We jumped on the opportunity and ended up with a lot of supplies in very good condition. It included enough metal roofing to finish up the poultry barn roof – which we have been praying for. So that was exciting. And the rest of the stuff is all useful and in good condition as well. Nothing will go to waste as we continue to build our new farm. What a blessing!