Friday, June 23, 2006

Ten Days and Counting

The keets are now ten days old and about the size of the average day old chick. Their wing feathers are growing longer and they are running and leaping as they flap about, almost reaching to the top third of the bin. A wire cover will soon be in order.
We are making progress with our socialization skills! I can slowly (very important) place my hand down into the bin and rub my fingers together softly without causing a full scale panic fest. The bravest few will come running over and begin scratching and pecking at my palm, climbing right aboard in their enthusiasm. Curiosity and flock mentality dictate that the others must imitate the behavior of their brood mates. Whither one goest, the remainder will soon follow. While my hand is becoming a familiar visitor to their little habitat, they haven't quite seemed to make the connection between it and the rest of my body; if I attempt to make any other movements, they race off squawking to the nearest corner and huddle in mass hysteria as you can see below.
Today I caused quite the stir. A three-ring circus in fact. In the distorted world view of a guinea, any foreign (unfamiliar) object is regarded with immediate suspicion which then progresses to outright fear and ultimately abject terror. All this within the space of a couple seconds. Witness the introduction of a harmless stick innocently inserted into their brooder this morning for a roost. Watch as the keets react as though introduced to a fully grown boa constrictor. See their efforts to meld into the plastic sides of the bin in an attempt to escape. Listen as I groan heavily in disgust. Aaaaaargh.
Alas, we have experienced the tragic side of life with our guineas as well as the comic. We lost one of our frail brood the other day. She was undoubtedly the runt, about half the size of the other keets. Poor thing, she became weaker throughout the evening, so weak that she actually allowed me to pick her up without protesting, and snuggled into my hand to sleep. The next morning she cuddled up with her buddies to nap and never woke up again. I had named her Pipsqueak. Leave it to Anna-Rose to introduce a note of hilarity into the situation, though. When I solemnly explained what had happened, she matter-of-factly pronounced, "It was a dud."
We are now left with fifteen, ten to be sold (if I can find some unsuspecting victims) and thankfully they all appear to be strong and healthy albeit mentally unstable. (Sh! That's our little secret.)
And so our adventures continue. Stay tuned........

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Strange Neuroses of the Guinea Fowl

Or, How to Scare a Guinea Without Even Trying.

Aren't they sweet? Psychotic (see KSMilkmaid's comments in my last post), but utterly adorable! To think that they will grow up to be empty-headed lunatics......well, it's hard to believe at this stage, but I will take Christina's word for it since she has had plenty of experience with them.

It's going to be an uphill battle getting any of them hand-tamed I can tell. Just yesterday I decided that rather than scattering their grain on the paper towels, I would place it in a feeder. Big mistake. Have you seen War of the Worlds? This was the guinea version. They acted like an alien spacecraft had landed in their back yard, and there was panic in the streets as they jammed themselves into the corner of the bin furthest away from the thing. Thankfully they are too small to trample each other to death but there is always the danger of smothering so I had to keep an eye on them for a while. Took them an hour before they would finally go near it, let alone eat out of it.

Comical yet pathetic.

A simple paper change is an exercise in terror for them. When it's time to remove the soiled toweling on the bottom of the bin, I usually start at one end and roll it up, then lift it all out at once. I suppose I can understand their fear. From their diminutive perspective it probably appears as though a gigantic steam roller is about to create hash out of them. The thundering of thirty-two tiny feet as they race away from it to the opposite side of the bin is simply deafening. Remove or replace their water dish and they scatter like billiards. Cough, sneeze, or make a sudden movement and little keet pinballs ricochet around the bin with panic-stricken eyes.

Good. Grief.

I'm starting to think that they don't like me. That we will never establish that special bond that exists between a momma and her babies. I'm trying not to take it personally but....sniff.

At least my chicks still love me. Ain't she purty?

They are now residing on the side porch in a temporary pen that I built. If they happen to catch a glimpse of my face as I walk by a window, the uproar begins. Contented twittering gives way to a racketous din as they clamor for my attention. I feel like the object of a fan club invasion.

We have ten hens and two roosters. One of the roosters I call Mr. Aloof. He is so stand-offish. If a chicken could be considered conceited, the label would suit him entirely. While the other chicks will at least pay attention to me when I beckon, he just tilts a jaundiced eye in my direction and stands his ground. Almost defiantly. And give me a break...he's only five weeks old. I shudder to think what he's going to be like once he has spurs so I'm already taking Mr. Attitude's measurements for the stockpot. I have enough strong-willed personalities to deal with. The other rooster has decided to attach himself to me permanently. I call him Braveheart. He thinks he's my boyfriend. Or maybe not. After all he is a bit young for romantic attachments, so could be it's just good old-fashioned momma love.

He's a charming little fellow, actually comes when I snap my fingers. Not only that, he runs as though his life depends on it. I keep expecting him to say, "At your service, ma'am!" As I said, charming. The porch was stifling hot today so we had them all outdoors in the back yard. I happened to look out the screen door as I was talking to Dwayne and here comes Braveheart, sprinting up to the patio like a lovesick suitor simply because he heard my voice. Yes, quite charming. I think we'll keep him around. Here he is after practically breaking a leg in his rush to get across the yard to me. Say "hello" to the nice people, Braveheart.

Forgive me if I sound a bit goofy but being around these characters so much has caused me to become a little.........shall we say.......birdbrained?

Saturday, June 17, 2006


What? I didn't mention that I was getting a brood of guineas? Must have slipped my mind in all the excitement! Now that my babies......ahem, chicks.......are well on their way to adult chickenhood, I have again become a proud momma, this time to fifteen itsy bitsy baby pearl guineas, also known as keets.

I had read that they were tiny but was not prepared for the lilliputian little penguin-like faces that gazed up at me when I opened the box they had been shipped in. They are at least half the size of chick.....and twice as loud! It took them several hours to settle down from the stress of their two-day trip from the hatchery in Missouri, and in the meantime we were treated to a relentless high-pitched cacophony of shrieks, squeaks, and whistles. We called Dwayne at his job and held the phone down in the brooder. His description was apt: "Sounds like a jungle!"
Blogger is not allowing me to post photos for some reason so a description will have to suffice for now. They are very pretty with their tortiseshell-like coloring and bright peachy pink beaks and feet. Like chicks, though, not exactly candidates for Mensa. Their main focus when I first put them in the brooder was to scamper around, heads low to the ground, grabbing the exposed toes of their squawking siblings. They do bear a certain resemblance to worms I suppose. Thankfully that behavior stopped when they discovered the feed was something edible. I'm giving them a turkey starter mash since they need a higher protein concentration than chicks. They are eating and drinking (and pooping) with gusto now. They seem quite a bit more skittish than chicks and I understand that it takes hours of consistent handling to tame them. I don't know that I can devote that much time to fifteen keets so we'll probably each choose a couple to train and the rest will just have to be anti-social!
Please comment on your own experiences with guineas.........advice is always welcome!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

You must read this book!

Having long enjoyed Herrick Kimball's blog, and being familiar with his eloquent and heartfelt writing, it was with great pleasure that I received a copy of his newest book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. Although eager to read it, once I began, I knew that this would be one of those choice books which one must savor in small, lingering bites, so forgive me, Herrick, in taking so long to write this review!
Our journey began not when we bought our current home, but months beforehand, when I providentially stumbled across a group of people blogging on the internet. They formed an online community of "Christian Agrarians." I immediately became intrigued by their thoughts and life experiences. God was calling me and challenging my sedentary, system-dependent way of life, and began using these voices to spur me on. And so, in faith, we stepped out and crossed a vast chasm into a new country. When I started my own blog at the beginning of this year to chronicle our agrarian pilgrimage, Herrick was one of the first to respond with a warm welcome, enthusiam, and advice. He is one of many "pioneers" whose online presence has been a source of wisdom and encouragement to me.
In Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, which has almost a devotional feel to it, Herrick offers up a sampling of expressive writings on the life of a Christian agrarian: his own, to be specific. Whether it's sharing his thoughts and observations during a spontaneous lounge among his garden beds, or poking a hard-knuckled finger into the eye of the modern food industry, his words are at times poignant, often profound, and always powerful. These stories made me laugh, cry, and - most importantly - think. I was drawn into Herrick's heart and home, and my appetite was whet to not only know more, but to be a part of this good life, the simpler way.
Read Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian and you will be inspired, enlightened, and perhaps even encouraged to begin an agrarian journey of your own. I can promise that one way or another, you will be impacted by this book. In his Foreword, Herrick describes this collection of essays as "several teaspoon samples of a much larger feast." I agree with the exception that I would deem this book to be a feast with merit of its own. Enjoy the banquet!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Five Things About My Week

Built a chicken pen.
Caught a cold.
Had a coughing spasm.
Acute lumbar strain.
Back soon.