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?


Anonymous scott terry said...

Don't waste your time trying to tame them :) Owning them is like trying to "own" a wild animal, just think of them as "staying on your property". They are neat critters though, and good foragers and bug eaters.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Emily!

That was a wonderful and hilarious post!

You paint some incredibly descriptive picture of the contrasting behaviors of your 'babies'.

I enjoyed your immensely!


7:53 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Hi Emily,

We are supposed to be getting some guineas when friends receive their batch, so you can talk us through it. After all you have described, I'm not sure I am looking forward to the experience! My guess is they will bully even our German Shepherd!

10:45 PM  
Blogger Marci said...

Emily, you are so fun. I am glad you are enjoying your babies and getting to know them individually.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

What a thoroughly entertaining post, Emily. I just loved it. I can envision those crazy keets running around as if the sky were falling, too.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Jane said...

Hi Em,
Love the pictures so that we can watch as your extended family grows. Isn't it something about the rooster personalities - just like children,each with their own characteristics.
Are they starting to crow at daybreak yet? That will be something to behold.
Enjoy your keeping us posted!

1:44 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Well, we're going to have a go at it anyway. I'm optimistic! Should be an education at least.

Oh it's not difficult to find something funny to write about with this gang. I'm looking forward to many more amusing escapades as they grow.

So you're going to need therapy, too, hm? Now we can compare notes! I was just reading on another blog about a flock of guineas that were wiped out because they chased a school bus!

I am having fun! First time raising any kind of livestock, though we had millions of pets as kids. I'm loving it!

Now are you sure you don't want to get some keets to keep your chicks company? ~heehee~

"Extended family"....exactly! I feel like I've just adopted a couple dozen extra children! No crowing yet, but a cackle or two here and there. I love my little rooster!

2:15 PM  
Blogger Walter Jeffries said...

Guineas are crazy coots! They have beautiful feathers and ugly faces. The worse part about them is they are dumber than door knobs - they'll get themselves into a situation where they run back and forth along a fence line for hours when they could easily fly over. Their big redeaming quality is they do eat a lot of bugs!

On my blog you asked how our fish winter over. Most years the fish have stayed out under the ice in the pool. The ice only freezes about half way down the pool depth leaving about a foot or so of free cold water below that and they seem to go into suspension. The first year I worried they would suffocate as there is no air hole or open water but they were fine and we never lost any.

One year the ducks got into the pool in the fall and ripped the liner. We brought the fish inside and they over-wintered in an unheated 50 gallon fish tank in the kitchen window. It was fun seeing them all winter.



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