Saturday, September 8, 2012

Guinea Keets are Free!

On Labor Day Monday we released our 18 young guineas into the wilds.

Young Guinea Flock

Previously the young guinea keets were penned with the chickens, where they were raised.  The 5 adult guineas roamed free.  It was time for the baby guineas to roam free and eat bugs, too.  The adult guineas had been spending a lot of time at the chicken pen fences watching the babies.  The babies are teenagers now.  Some of them are pretty large, and some are pretty small in size still.  We noticed the adult guineas and the babies were talking back and forth through the fence; they all seemed to get along.

This sounded really simple.  We opened the chicken pen gate and let the young guineas walk out.  The adult guineas were there to greet them.  However, it wasn't a happy greeting.  The adults chased and attacked the babies and bit them.  Quickly they separated, babies on one side of the yard, adults on the other.  The adults males kept running to the baby guinea side and randomly attacking babies.  The adult guineas wouldn't let the young guineas anywhere near the guinea feeding/watering area. 

The young guineas were very excited to roam free and attempted to ignore the adults.  They mostly stayed in a flock of 18, all walking around as one, in a tight group.  Sometimes a few would wander from the flock as they ate bugs, and as soon as they realized they were separated they would scream and the other young guineas in the flock returned their screams and they found each other.  They will not leave even one guinea behind, away from the flock of 18.  I like how they look out for each other.

The baby guineas scream all the time.  A guinea scream is loud and annoying.  The babies scream at everything, as they are learning what is safe and what is not.  Our property is very loud now.  I have no idea if a fox is out attacking them, because it always sounds like a fox is out there, with all the screaming.  Maybe the noise has kept away predators, as we have not lost any guineas this week!

The first night the guinea babies were free we herded them into the chicken pen in the evening and all was quiet.  On the second night it was pure chaos at nighttime.  I rushed home from work a little late, and when I got here the adult guineas were chasing the babies all over the yard, running like crazy.  The sun was setting, I didn't have any time to waste, I had less than 30 minutes.  Once it got dark I'd never find the babies and they'd spend the night in the woods on the ground, very easy prey for night monsters.  I had assumed the babies would fly into a tree to roost, but I guess they didn't get that message.  They forgot they can fly.

The babies were all separated, two here in front of the chicken coop, three there beside the chicken pen, a few way behind the chicken pen, a few in random bushes around the yard, and the rest running like cheetahs as an adult guinea chased them back and forth across the yard and down the street.  Everyone was screaming as loud as they could.  As it got darker and darker out the guinea babies got more and more hysterical.  They were scared, panic-stricken, out of control.  I caught a few guinea babies by hand, which is very hard to do, and threw them in the chicken pen.  One of them bit me.  Hard.  He was hysterical, thought I was killing him, I guess.  It was getting dark and they are blind in darkness.  Some of them who were near the chicken pen gate I herded into the chicken pen.  I climbed through heavy vines in my work clothes and shoes and gathered up the keets who were lost in the thick woods and herded them up to the chicken pen gate and got them in.  And then I had to ambush the ones that were being chased by adult guineas.  I had to wait until they were dashing by at a million miles an hour, dive out from behind a bush between the adult and the baby, separating them and distracting them from their concentrated chase.  And then I'd herd the hysterical baby guinea into the chicken pen.  The babies lost their minds, they thought they were going to die, they were running head-first into fences, not doing anything rationally.  If only they knew they could fly, but they forgot, it seemed.  Finally I got all the babies into the chicken pen shortly after it got super dark outside.  I was using a flashlight.  Chaos.  The adult guineas quickly flew up into their roosting tree all happy.  Damn birds!  I was not happy.  I was sweating like a pig underneath my business suit, which was covered in mud and spiders (spiders make their webs in the evenings in the woods) and my work shoes were covered in mud.

The next night and all subsequent nights the baby guineas were all waiting calmly nearby the chicken pen gate, and it was easy to herd them in.  One of us makes sure we are home before it gets too dark, before chaos begins.  Now the guinea babies spend nights in the chicken pen and days as free birds in a flock of 18.  Slowly it seems the adult guineas are accepting the babies more.  One of the male adult guineas stays with the baby flock much of the time, only chasing occasionally.  If only everyone can get along!    


Carolyn Renee said...

I'm exhausted just reading your guinea roundup! Glad they finally "got it" and have realized where they have to go at night.

Kessie said...

Gosh, getting one flock of guineas to accept the other is even more maddening than chickens! I'm glad they're adjusting. Your poor clothes after chasing all those guineas down!

CaliforniaGrammy said...

I, too, am exhausted (but not sweating like a pig)! What a great accounting of your ordeal. I wonder how long it will take for them to get the message to fly to their safe roost in the trees. You must let us know when you discover them in the trees for the first time. Great story, have a good "restful" weekend!

LindaG said...

Wow. Glad everyone is okay so far. Good luck!

Susan said...

I am so glad to have read this post. I am a new guinea owner and thought I was losing my mind. I don't have adults - just a small 'wad' of six teenagers. Your description is so spot-on, I had to laugh out loud. Mine, however, refuse to roost in their coop. They know where it is, and that it's theirs, but I think the inside roost isn't high enough. I will be checking back to learn more!

Country Girl said...

What a sight this must have been! You need a guinea herding sheep dog!

Chai Chai said...

Great story. Too bad one of the hens didn't adopt them guineas and forage outside with them - they would have taught those mean boys a lesson!

Knatolee said...

Never a dull moment with your guineas!!!

Anonymous said...

You guys did a great job spending your time to create this article! If I had to explain my emotions about your website in only one word ? it would be WOW! Thank you! P.S. Subscribed for updates!