My experiment in raising guineas has not been successful. As I mentioned in past articles, a black snake killed three of the guinea keets when they were babies, and another one hung himself, accidentally, on a protruding nail inside the guinea house. We got them because we wanted them to provide natural pest control in the garden.
The remaining two guineas, The Pearl (a male), and Mr. Cuteypants (a female, named by my 6-year-old daughter, Ella), survived and went to live with the chickens. They refused to live in the guinea palace my husband, Scott, built for them, and they could not figure out how to fly into and out of the chicken pen to roam the yard to eat insects, so most of the time they stayed in the pen with the chickens.
The Pearl decided he was king of all of the birds and spent most of his time chasing the other birds away from the feeder. Before the guineas arrived, my chickens had no apparent pecking order and were content with each other. Afterwards, three of my Americana hens spent their days hiding from him, and I fed them in a different spot from The Pearl. The Pearl chased Mr. Cuteypants too, but not as consistently as he chased the other birds. When the guineas flew out of the pen, the chickens seemed much more at peace; they could eat and move around without worrying about an attack from The Pearl.
Scott told me to leave the guineas outside and they would eventually figure out how to get back inside the pen. Although they spent many nights outside because they were too wild and too stupid to cooperate with my efforts to get them back inside the pen, I always tried to get them back inside the fence. Unlike the chickens, I could not pick up a sleeping guinea and move it to a new location. Guineas sleep with one eye open, I believe, and they are as frantic if caught, as would any other wild bird.
A month or so ago I decided to leave the guineas on their own outside the pen. I was afraid The Pearl’s constant harassment of the chickens would keep them from laying eggs, and I felt sorry for the chicken’s loss of a peaceful existence. I planned to put food and water outside the pen, but to let them find their own bed, whether they figured out how to get back inside the pen, slept on the ground, or found a pine tree in which to roost.
The next morning, The Pearl was gone. Even though he chased the other birds, he would defend them from predators, and I imagine he probably sacrificed himself to save Mr. Cuteypants. Mr. Cuteypants behaves himself around the chickens, and so I put her to bed with the chickens. With The Pearl gone, the chickens have been much happier and at peace, and have started laying eggs again. The increasing day length tells their bodies it is time to lay eggs again, but the lack of stress probably helps too.
One night I heard Mr. Cuteypants calling through the darkness and found her roosting on top of the permanent chicken pen at the opposite end of the yard from the chickens. I left her there for the night, and said a prayer for her safety. The next morning, she was gone. I saw some feathers around the chicken pen containing the chickens, and I thought she might have come to the chicken pen in the early morning hours and been taken by an owl. I waited all morning for her return, and did not tell my daughter that she was missing.
Just as I accepted her loss, and went to find my daughter to tell her about the loss, Mr. Cuteypants walked across the yard toward the pen. Although she was hungry and did not squawk quite as loudly as she did before, she was not harmed. By the end of the day, Mr. Cuteypants found her voice, and since then has been living peacefully with the chickens. I removed Mr. Cuteypants from the mouth of a blacksnake when he was a keet, and he has survived predator attacks and other adventures. Apparently, he is supposed to live here with us, and his antics entertain us.
|The Pearl and Mr. Cuteypants|
A couple of weeks after I originally wrote this article, we were walking in the woods near the creek and found a pile of Pearl feathers. Rest in peace, Pearl. Mr. Cuteypants makes enough noise for the both of you.