Thursday, October 14, 2010

Training a Guinea Hen to Fly

Guinea flock with Girl Guinea in front.
We have 10 guinea fowl.  Two of them are older, they were born exactly a year ago.  The male is pearl gray, which is dark gray with white dots. The female is royal purple in color.  Eight of them were born in the beginning of June this year.  These eight are coral blue, white, and lavender in color.  All the guineas were raised along side with or by chicken hens.  We originally got the guineas so they could free-range all over the property and eat bugs.  Because we have so many deer and other animals around, we had a tick problem and wanted the guineas to assist us with this issue.  Plus guineas are good guard animals, alerting on anything strange or new.

The guineas were raised in the chicken coop and chicken pen.  The two older guineas were raised beside chicks; they are the only two surviving from a group of guinea keets purchased at the same time.  One is a male, one female.  The male flew away last winter and was gone for three months.  We thought he had died, but amazingly, he returned to us after the very cold, snowy, harsh winter.  We have no idea where he went during the winter.  We named him Boy Guinea, and the girl is Girl Guinea.  Not original names, I know!
Girl Guinea thought she was a chicken and wouldn't fly like a guinea fowl should.  She just hung with the chickens and did as chickens did.  She came running when the roosters clucked about food, she roosted in the evenings besides the hens in the coop.  She laid eggs in the coop just like the chicken hens.  She thought she was a funny-looking chicken. 

Then we got the batch of guinea keets in June this year, and they quickly grew big.  Boy Guinea became the guinea flock leader; he is a very good leader.  Boy Guinea showed the guinea flock how to fly out of the chicken pen and walk around the yard eating bugs.  Girl Guinea wanted to go, but refused to fly away from her chicken family.  When she was forced out of the chicken pen by human intervention, she sat right outside the gate begging to be let back in all day long.  The guinea flock begged for her to go with them and be a guinea, but she refused.  She was a chicken after all, wasn't she?  This went on for weeks.  During this time, the guineas continually flew in and out of the the chicken pen, begging her to fly with them.  But Girl Guinea couldn't fly.  The guinea flock would never go far away from the chicken pen.  They knew one was left behind and refused to leave without her.

It was then that Randy started giving Girl Guinea flying lessons.  Every day he would throw her up into the air, forcing her to use her wings to fly back down.  After weeks of flying lessons, one evening Girl Guinea flew by herself.  All the Guineas were preparing to fly up into their night sleeping spot: a tall pine tree which is in the chicken pen.  The guineas were all flying up the tree and back down again, trying to encourage Girl Guinea to come up with them.  They all were screaming loudly ~ guineas are not quiet birds, you know.  Finally, as Randy and I watched, Girl Guinea tried to fly by herself for the first time!  She finally decided maybe she was a guinea after all!  She didn't make it up the tree that night, her wings just couldn't take her, despite her attempts.  But she did fly again the next night, and she made it up the tree and slept beside the guineas, who welcomed her into their flock with open wings.  And she's been flying ever since.

Girl Guinea now has become a guinea and no longer is a chicken.  The chickens really don't miss her, anyway.  The guinea flock is now complete, with their female leader right beside the male leader.  All the guineas now wander the fields and yards daily, happily eating bugs and talking as only guineas can talk.  They wander quite a distance, but always return to the chicken pen to roost in their pine tree at night.  If one of them is inside the chicken pen during the day for any reason the entire flock stays near until that one flies out to join them.

Guinea flock walking down the road.  Girl Guinea is the third from the right.  Boy Guinea is on the right.

Guine flock wanting a treat from me

Here's a short video of the guineas:



Gail said...

Beautiful guineas, all we ever had were the speckled ones.

I must say I don't miss them, I do not like the pot rack sound they make. They do make wonderful watch dogs.

CeeCee said...

I'm so glad she's a guinea now. Nothing like being the only foreigner amongst the locals. :)

Verde Farm said...

How cute are they?? I so love my guineas. Thanks for sharing this :)

John Gray said...

memories of my group I let go last autumn.....
my adolescents get into the trees very quickly after being released but several just didnt go high enough at night not to be picked off my predators!
boy I bet yourlot are bloody noisey when they roost eh???
absolutely GREAT photos!!!!

Terry said...

That's a beautiful story! It would make a great children's book - you should write it.

Kritter Keeper said...

ah, what a sweet post! wish i had some guineas but the husband says no to any fowl...i hope they stay close to the barn and do not fly off...

Chai Chai said...

Great story, maybe you could help me with a few questions? Our 10 guineas are mostly male and they currently share the coop with 8 hens and one rooster. The guineas are mean to the hens, and chase them around the coop. The rooster doesn't do anything to help, in fact outside the coop area the guineas all follow the rooster and he can't get rid of them. Do your guineas pick on your hens? Should we move the guineas to a different shelter? I don't think the hens will ever lay if the guineas keep bothering them.

Poconoangel said...

Loved the guinea story! Good for Randy and the flying lessons!

Knatolee said...

Your guineas are so beautiful! I really want some. And it's very sweet that Randy taught Girl Guinea to fly. :) Gorgeous birds!

Genny said...

Yay!! She did it!! She just had to find her inner bird.

Razzberry Corner said...

Gail - They are loud when they scream that awful high-pitched screaming noise. But other than that, I love them!

CeeCee - She had an identity problem. She was not happy being a chicken, although she tried so hard. Now she is so very happy, she's 2nd in charge of the guinea flock to Guinea Boy.

Amy - They are cute in their own way, aren't they? They do have personality. The flock always runs up to me when I pull up in the car and get out, they are so excited. It's nice to be welcomed every day like that!

John Gray - They really aren't that noisy when they roost unless they hear or see something that gets them startled, and then they start their screaming, which is awful loud. But normally when they roost they sing, and it is the most beautiful sweet song. The 2 adult guineas always sang when they roosted in the coop when they were younger, too. I love their sweet bedtime songs! The other night I was out in the eve watching them in their pine tree singing sleeptime songs, and by mistake I started laughing at them. Boy, did that get them started screaming! Which made me laugh more. I couldn't stop laughing, and they couldn't stop screaming so very loudly! I just had to walk away!


Razzberry Corner said...

Terry - I so want to write a children's book! You are tempting me! Maybe one day, I have so many stories in my mind!!

Kritter Keeper - I was worried about them flying away, too, especially when the wild turkey started moving thru the area. But the guineas always return in the eve to sleep near the coop, no matter how far they wander during the day. Guess they don't get lost!

Chai Chai - I'm sorry it took me so long to answer your question! I'll always try to help!

Boy guinea was mean to our hens and picked on them back when he lived in the chicken pen and coop. He also used to fight with the roosters - mean fights. And the roosters used to start fights with him, too. Often a rooster would chase Boy Guinea around and around the chicken pen, then later we'd see Boy Guinea chasing a rooster around and around. Yes, Randy & I both think you should move your guineas away from the chickens. Once the guineas started going off on their own, once Girl Guinea started flying and they were free to walk the property, the guineas have a whole new personality. They seem to be happier now that they have their freedom, now that they aren't forced to behave like chickens. And now when the guineas fly into the chicken pen in the evenings, Boy Guinea never fights with any chickens. He doesn't care anymore about competing with the roosters or repremanding the hens, he's a guinea and has other things on his mind. The roosters never try to have sex with the guineas now, either, they used to try all the time before. Even the roosters thought they were chickens back then!

Do your guineas free-range? Ours never go into the coop anymore. Please keep me informed how it goes!


Razzberry Corner said...

Barb - I thought Randy was nuts for tossing Girl Guinea into the air every day like he was, but it worked!!!

Knatolee - Thanks! I think the light colored guineas are prettier than the dark ones. One day in the springtime maybe they'll have little keets walking behind them!!!

Genny -I used to think Girl Guinea wasn't that bright. Maybe she was just species-confused. Now she acts much smarter and all the younger guineas follow her lead. I guess if I was confused about my species, I'd be acting strangely, too! Her inner-bird now rules!


Robin said...

I love that picture with them all spread out in a line. Have they helped with the tick and bug problem any?

Razzberry Corner said...

Robin - I think they have helped with the tick problem, but I'm not positive. I'll know better next spring when the ticks are usually worse. I liked that pic of them spread out on the road, too. They often walk in a line like that, picking for bugs as they walk. It reminds me of a "FOD walkdown".


CaliforniaGrammy said...

I'm one of your new fans, and I totally agree this should be made into a children's book. You are a great story-teller and this one has such a happy ending!