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!