Sunday, July 30, 2006

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At long last! (~Insert heavy sigh of relief~)
This afternoon I was privileged to assist in the final stages of construction of the interior of the chicken/guinea coop! Though I must say I was a little out of my element. Picture me: long flowing lilac dress fluttering about my ankles, bending laboriously over a sawhorse in the barnyard, and wielding a disc sander on a stack of 2X4's. I was preparing them for their ultimate destiny as rungs for a roost. I'm certain I presented an incongrous spectacle to bemused passers-by! (Aren't you proud of me using a power tool especially when I have a singular fear of anything that plugs into an electrical outlet and goes "buzz"?)
So, praise the Lord.......after many weekends of grueling labor, an abundance of mental as well as muscular exertion (and not a little sweat), and a flurry of industrious activity by Dwayne today, the Taj Mahal of poultry coops was declared inhabitable this evening. Following a burst of initial protests over their sudden eviction from their previous residence, its new tenants are now slumbering contentedly on their freshly-sanded-by-yours-truly perches. And so we are finished. For the time being. Ahem. I'm sure revisions will come along the way. Being a perfectionist means never being completely satisfied!
I'll be posting several before and after pictures to display the extent of the work that Dwayne accomplished, at times with the help of his dad. What we are using as the coop is actually a structure built onto the back of the barn (a shed, if you will) that was divided into two sections. It was in great disrepair but looks completely different now except for the ceiling and rafters. The floor is cement and we're using pine shavings for the bedding. The guineas are blocked off from the chickens with poultry wire in a large holding pen area since they are still getting accustomed to one another. They need to stay in there for the next six weeks to imprint upon their pea-sized brains that this is home. According to what I've researched, they will then return each evening after their daily foraging. Hopefully they've read the same books. I can only imagine the daily antics I will be sharing with these characters. (~Insert happy sigh.~)
At six weeks old, they are getting quite homely with their tiny heads and large bodies, although the spotted feathers are attractive. I've heard of critters being called so ugly they're cute.....well, these beauties are halfway to being ugly and cuteness is long-gone. Once their heads grow bald and white and they develop little cup-shaped wattles and a knobby red growth on their noggins, they almost make you believe in creatures from outer space. I personally think fully grown guineas resemble a Dr. Seuss character gone mad......but they eat ticks, I keep telling myself. (Funny thing about those ticks. I think the word got out about the guineas coming because I have not seen one of those eight-legged creepy-crawlies since springtime. Not one! Someone in the neighborhood is undoubtedly wondering why they have twice as many as usual this year!)
It was quite the exercise in patience and frustration transfering them from the porch to the barn though not as much as I had anticipated. We closed off the porch and opened the pen; they flew out in a screeching, flapping, panic-stricken mass; we chased them down, put them in a covered bin, and carried them over to the shed. Once in their new pen, they at first huddled in speechless horror at the furthest end, then one by one began mincing cautiously around, pecking at the feed, taking a sip of water, glancing up at the rafters, peering suspiciously through the wire at me! Then, with a flap of wings, one bold aviator took flight, and suddenly it became a circus as they all attempted his example simultaneously. Feathers exploding everywhere! They were having the time of their lives. With the heights they're achieving at this tender age, I can just see them roosting in trees and on the rooftops!
The chickens were far from excited; in fact, they were quite put out with me for closing off their harbor of safety on the porch and ushering them into a strange new place with those same psychotic neighbors. Someday they'll forgive me. Have you ever heard a chicken cry? Honestly, when I left them in the barn they were literally weeping. I think I will leave them in there for a day or two to get comfortable with the idea of their new home. Not six weeks though! I have come to believe that chickens are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, although they do occasionally have their functioning-on-limited-brain-cell moments. But then....don't we all?


Blogger Marci said...

I can't wait to see the pictures. My son and I built the chicken coop at the last house. I LOVED it. We painted it and I had sunflowers on it and little sayings. =) Yes, I am a bit eccentric at times.

I am glad you seem to be doing better. Hope your back is holding up and you are still doing your exercises.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Patti said...

What a wonderful post!!! I too am looking forward to the pics!!! Hugs!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Did you keep all the guineas? We've had quite a time lately with our Cornish Cross chickens dying on us. We've changed quite a few things, and hopefully we won't lose any more before butchering time.

Glad you're back to posting!

4:37 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

How exciting! I, too, am anxiously awaiting photographs. The guineas continue to crack me up. How nice to have everyone off your porch. I think I'll start a rumor about getting guineas here; we have been inundated with ticks. Yuck.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

I can't paint the outside front because it's covered with asphalt shingles, but am considering doing something to the boring plywood interior to make it less plain and more "cheerful". (Like the birds will care.) Oh well, I'm pretty much considered the family eccentric in these parts anyway so why not add to my list of peculiarities? :)

Thank you! I'm going to take some more pictures with guys and gals and then I'll get them all posted.

Yes, we do still have all fifteen guineas. ~groan~ I wonder how many we'll lose, though, once they're allowed to free range. I've heard that a guinea may go broody on a nest she's hidden in the woods and then get grabbed by a predator. I'm sorry about your chickens. I know that we've learned the most from our mistakes. I count it a blessing that we've only lost the one keet and no chickens so we have 27 birds altogether. One big happy family!

If you had asked me years ago whether I would be excited about poultry, I would have looked at you cross-eyed. I do love my birds! Some of the guineas actually jumped onto my lap yesterday when I brought them a treat! There's hope for them yet! :)

3:37 PM  
Blogger The Bradshaws said...

Looking forward to the pictures, Emmily!

I wish we could have guineas, but our dogs--one of them, at least--is too self-sufficient; she'll eat any poultry she can get her teeth on. She's the reason we have our layers behind a fence. Even worse, she seems to be teaching her ways to the stray that's adopted us; a few weeks ago, he was unaffected by the kittens, chickens, etc. She has him working with her now, to terrorize (and eat, I'm sure, if allowed) the kittens. And I have no doubt that she'd have him on her team if she gets a chance at anymore chickens (which she's always looking for).

Mary Susan

11:46 PM  
Blogger The Bradshaws said...

Sorry; must have hit m twice on your name!

Mary Susan

11:47 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Mary Susan,
That's a shame that your dogs have become predatorial for your own livestock. We don't have a dog yet but plan on getting yellow lab puppy next spring, Lord willing, and we hope to be able to train it to be a protector. Not that we have experience.....just one more thing to learn!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Hi Emily, I only have 3 guineas at the moment and they are still very young. I have 2 female and one male. Today I brought home year old peacocks! I am so blessed to have a place for and having such sweet loving animals! Can't wait to see photos of yours

6:50 PM  
Anonymous judith said...

Happy birthday Em! We are soooo blessed to have you in our lives... and it seems that God is blessing you with a break from this HEAT, Thank Him for you and this cool,cool RAIN...

8:55 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

I'm interested in how your guineas are getting along with the other birds. I think mine would probably do well together but I'm keeping the guineas separated for their six-week interment simply because it makes it much easier to let the chickens out every morning. Some neighbors up the road have a couple of peacocks. One is white! I'd never seen that breed before.

Thank you for remembering! And for the kind words. It is a blessing for me to be family with you and to have that special kinship in the Lord as well! Who would have thought that I would welcome a rainy birthday but I'm loving it! My new retreat is the chicken coop. So peaceful with all the cheeps, clucks, and contented murmurings while the rain is drumming on the roof. I think I may have finally lost it! :)

9:14 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving such a sweet comment. I know you are an animal lover too and understand

5:49 PM  
Blogger Marci said...

What's going on at your place Emily? We haven't heard from you in awhile. Is your back doing better?

10:09 AM  

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