There's definitely something strange about focusing on poultry, while the entire world seems to more and more each day be turning into a giant mudslide...
All the huge problems remain, of course. But particularly in the midst of the galaxy-sized noise about the Olympics, and the US elections- very little listening is going on just now.
So, guinea fowl it is. We lost one, yesterday. They were at 5.8 weeks from hatching- and really seemed ready ready to start learning to go out and become free-range critters. Susan, your info came just a tad late for us. I had seen that site, and read much of it, but somehow missed the strong statement about 6 weeks. She does mostly seem to be talking about the training them to come back each night part, too, not just survival. I thought.
What happened was- I let one out in the early morning. He/she was not enthusiastic about going out without the flock; and by noon, had done virtually nothing but butt constantly at the wire, trying to get back into the pen. I did see it peck at the nice lush grass once or twice- but then it would go right back to running around the pen, trying to get in. Much of the time, the flock inside was following it, too.
Obviously it was not in any danger of wandering off. And thinking that perhaps two birds outside would bolster their courage, at noon I bullied another bird into going outside.
Very little effect- now there were two birds desperately trying to get back in.
At 5:30, heading in from the field, they were slightly calmer- sometimes sitting down- but only right next to the pen.
At 7; near sundown, when we feed them (following all the advice that this is the way to get them to come to the pen for the night...) - there was only one bird left outside. Very little sign of anything having happened- no big pile of down or feathers anywhere indicating a struggle.
Bruce- was on the chain all day; not available for guard duty. Punishment- for having chewed an expensive 200' surveyor's tape into trash while he was accompanying us during harvest chores. He also swiped the bag of gorp- which he did not eat, but merely hid, and chewed into trash. All in fun- he thought.
My guess- a coyote or fox zipped in and grabbed a bird, towards evening. The birds' response, when chased a tad around the pen (I was trying to get them to move out, forage, maybe fly up into a tree, etc.) was - to butt the pen harder- not really to try to escape.
I think I will wait another week before trying again. Then release 4 at once- and make sure they do fly up into the apple tree over the pen, one way or another. Catch them, and put them there, if necessary. And we'll make sure we do it when Bruce is not on the chain.
One of my rules: Education is never free.