Saturday, July 28, 2012

Guinea keets first day outside - the story in pictures

This week our 18 guinea keets were released from the coop for the first time.  We decided they were big enough to defend themselves from the chickens and decided to let them loose in the chicken pen.  If we had a chicken mama taking care of them we would have released them way earlier, as the mama hen would have protected them, but no chickens went broody this year, so the keets were raised without a mama. 

Our chicken pen is a very large enclosed area.  Large enough to have trees inside, but still fully enclosed so that hawks, skunks, raccoons, fox, owls, or any other animals that live in our woods cannot hurt the chickens.  The next step will be to release the keets to the wild, outside the chicken pen, with the other adult guineas.  But, one step at a time...

The day the guinea keets were released from their keet coop was very exciting!  I attempted to capture the events on film.  I apologize that some of my shots were not the most clear; I'm not the best photographer!
The keet coop has a little door going into the chicken pen.  We removed the wood that covered the door and the babies ventured down the ramp for the first time.

They were so scared but excited.  They already learned there's safety in a group.  They stayed in a huddle much of the first day.

The chickens were very interested.  Here's Candy, the cuckoo maran hen, taking a look at them.  Candy doesn't like the keets and doesn't hesitate to take a peck at them when she can.  They quickly learned Candy wasn't very friendly.  I love the keets' long necks!

We fed the keets their fav treat, mealworms, to make them comfortable.  The chickens quickly gobbled up the mealworms, too.

The adult guineas, especially the males, were very interested in the keets.  The gray guinea on the left is putting his wings up, showing he's the boss of the guineas.  He wants the babies to be aware that he's the lead guinea.  If he was able to, he probably would have chased them and pecked at them to prove his dominance.  The keets have a lot to learn.  At this time they were just saying to each other "Look, dirt! Let's dig!" - they were unaware of the dangers around them.  The white guinea male was quickly coming up on the right to see what was going on in the pen.

Meanwhile, inside the keet coop...  The chickens have been locked out of the keet coop for weeks, and were excited to gain entrance to a new area.  Below Lucy, the bantam hen, is checking things out.

Lucy investigates the nest boxes.  I wonder if she remembers last summer when she was broody and sat on eggs for 3 weeks in this very nest box.

Lucy looks around thoroughly, checking it all out.  She's looking around to the right side of the nestbox at the roost.

Now she gives the roost a test run.  Lucy is a smart bird; she's always been my favorite.

Let me introduce Dotti for the next part of this story.  Dotti is a Americauna/Bantam Leghorn mix hen.  She lays green eggs.  Dotti is one of our youngest hens, and is very active.

Dotti decided on that first day that it was her job to look out for the keets.  Most of the time she stayed somewhat nearby them watching over them.  She was very protective.  I bet if she ever went broody she'd make a good mother hen.  You can see her in the middle of the picture below, the keet pack is on the left.

The keets still have those long necks as they look around them, full of wonder.

Uh oh, here come the adult guinea males again!  The keets all huddle against the far fence, afraid of the huge males exerting their dominance.  I'm glad the male guineas cannot get near the babies yet!

And here comes Dotti to the rescue!  Dotti came racing in to save the babies!  Even though she's much smaller than the adult guineas, she stood right up to them, ready to fight for the keets.  Luckily there was a fence between her and the adult guineas, as she would have lost that fight.  You can see that now there was 3 adult male guineas outside the fence; the white one on the left and 2 gray ones on the right.  Dotti didn't hesitate, she didn't care.  She was protecting the keets!  What a spunky little bird!

This photo doesn't show it clearly, but here Dotti was facing off the adult white male guinea.  He was on the other side of the wooden fence post facing her off.  She won, the male guineas eventually left and walked off.

After the fight was over, Dotti checked on the babies to make sure they were ok.  What a great hen she is, and she just met the guinea keets that very day!

Leggy the white Leghorn rooster has always been very close to guineas. He was raised with guinea keets when he was a chick.  Here he is standing close to an adult male guinea, probably having a deep discussion...  Yeah, right, they were probably wishing they could fight, but knew the fence was in the way.

The keets went on with their day, digging in the dirt, while Dotti kept a protective eye over them from a distance.

And that was the first day outside the coop for our 18 keets.

The next story will be about the keets' sleeping arrangements... Stay tuned!


Kessie said...

Look at that hen defending the keets! That is so cute! Probably wouldn't have been so cute without the fence there, though. At least the keets have one chicken advocate. :-)

Do adult guineas beat up new, young guineas when they're introduced to the flock, the way chickens do? Establishing pecking order and all that?

Razzberry Corner said...

Kessie - Yes, adult male guineas like to chase and fight everything to establish their pecking order. They chase each other, they chase my car, they chase the outside cats, if any chickens are outside loose they chase them, they even chase deer and woodchucks. They want to chase me, but instead I chase them back. Once we had 4 roosters in a pen without a roof and the male guineas flew in and pulled out all the rooster's tail feathers in just a few hours! They seem to fight other species in a group effort, but they fight amongst themselves, too. They were very interested in the guinea keets. I need to wait to release the keets until they are big enough to fend off the older boys.


Farm Girl said...

very interesting and I love your nice huge pen. That is a wonderful pen with all of those trees. I had no idea that the males were like that. I just thought they would accept the new flock readily. I know chickens don't but I guess I don't know that much about guineas.
I love how pretty they are too.
I hope you feel lots better soon. :)

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Seeing the keets venture out into the bigger world is fun. But what I really loved about this post is being able to see your beautiful chicken yard with the woods all around. What a pretty place your birds have to call "home!"

Razzberry Corner said...

Farm Girl - Thanks, I am feeling much better today! The chicken pen is nice and big, isn't it? We built it when we first got chickens, wanted it to be roomy enough so they had plenty of space to fly and run, so they would feel like free birds.

I hope you are migraine free today! :)

CA Grammy - yes, the chicken pen is the best ever. And it sits right on the edge of the woods. Our house sits in the woods. The foxes probably sit outside the pen drooling over the chickens. Sometimes deer come up to the pen to look at the birds, too. Our chickens love their home! We tried to let them be truly free, but they continually were killed by foxes, one bird a day died. We had to build the pen right away!


Chai Chai said...

I love the size of your coop! Dotti is a keeper, she will probably train them all to forage in the future.

LindaG said...

Dottie is an awesome hen. I could only hope to be so lucky as to get a hen like her. :o)

And you have an awesome coop!

Have a blessed Sunday!

Razzberry Corner said...

Chai Chai- Yes, Dotti is a keeper! She's one of our younger birds, we need to get some chicks real soon to keep our flock fresh. Hopefully we get some more like her. Dotti is Muffin the rooster's granddaughter.

Linda G - Who would have known, a little mixed breed hen like Dotti would be so good with chicks.