Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Strike One-

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.

Easy pickings.

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.


Nancy M. said...

Sorry you lost a guinea. So far mine have done great outside. Mine were about three months old before I let them stay out all the time. They fly up and sleep on top of the chicken run at night. They make the most noise if something different happens. Unfortunately for me, they came to my bedroom window making those sounds this morning. Man,they are loud! Best of luck with the rest of yours!

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to hear that one disappeared, but it may only be temporary. I do not know why you don't have them all go outside together. They like to hang out all together. Just a couple of days ago I was looking at a flock of the grey polka dot ones out in the country. I think you have that kind and some white ones. They were also with a flock of peacocks. Now, if you really like screaming birds, get peacocks. 35 screaming peacocks up in the trees at sunset I think is the same as filing for divorce, but it saves on legal fees.
I don't read any of the guinea web sites, but then again, I think they must behave somewhat differently up north. They really do like togetherness however. They feel that 30 pair of eyes are much better than one. They are onto something. Down here in the tropics we just give the guineas a night time and rain shelter and leave them to make a life, maybe some feed now and then. We don't get all worked up about it. But maybe that is too fatalistic. Oh, I will be so happy when I see your photos of some big fat silly looking guineas eating ticks and chasing each other around. They hold their own Olympics every afternoon. They are very easily entertained. They are bird brains after all.

Anonymous said...

I did visit that guinea site and saw the blue guineas and the crested. I really like the blue ones, I may get some. It's hot here all the time so they will feel at home. The crested guy looks very bizarro, I'll pass on that one, but since they attack, maybe I could get some to go up against the mongeese. Hmmm. I'll be looking at more of that site.

Unknown said...

Your posts make me excited to try guineas in my own backyard (1 acre)!

Anonymous said...

My sympathy! I tried guineas a few years ago. I didn't let them loose until they were over 6 weeks old. Unfortunately, I could never get them to return to their shelter. I lost all six within two weeks! I really wished they had worked out, as I am in tick heaven. One day last month was my record - I found 24 ticks on me in just one day! Ugh! Good luck with your guineas!

EJ said...

I wonder if you could explain your thinking on this: "Bruce- was on the chain all day....Punishment."
My understanding is that you can teach dogs that what they are doing "now" is wrong but that the concept of getting tied up the day after doing something is too abstract/far removed for them to understand.

This is why punishing them when you come home for peeing/chewing in the house if you've left them alone doesn't work. They only learn to associate your return with punishment.

Good luck with your birds - they seem to be quite a challenge!

Anonymous said...

This is off topic of the birds, but I thought you'd want to read this one - not that it's news, but it's well said. http://money.cnn.com/2008/08/18/news/economy/Colvin_next_credit_crunch.fortune/index.htm?

Greenpa said...

Nancy M- 3 months! Nice to have a number there; that's twice as long as others I've seen- but what works, works, yes? Do you have older poultry already running around outside?

RC- nope, that bird is gone. Why not let them all out? Because I have no other poultry for them to stick with- there's a real chance with these birds that they could just leave, the whole flock, if they got disturbed. All the recommendations I can find tell me to be sure the flock is anchored to the site before really allowing them all to be out at the same time. And like you, I think there's a good chance the birds behave differently in different latitudes, and different micro-environments too, for that matter. Lots to sort out.

Anon- I get the definite idea that 6 is probably too small a group for the guineas to be really stable- yours may have left looking for a "real" flock. I'm at 27 now, I think. Kinda hard to count!

Anonymous said...

I continue to check in awaiting the next installment of Guineas Gone Wild.

Greenpa said...

Tori- well, rats, the URL didn't survive, somehow. I'd like to see it. Not worried about "off topic" - :-)