Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chickens And Guineas And Eggs, Oh, My.

I  do have a life outside of fretting about Fukushima, really I do.  Older readers here will remember I started a series of posts way back there when I launched a guinea fowl keeping project in 2008, the Guinea Saga; with a Part 2, and a Part Trois a year later.  I think that was about the last update.  Sorry about that!

I've been intending to take up the topic again for months now; the primary reason I haven't being - it's turned into a big topic.  I've learned a lot.  And as always happens, much of what I've learned is how much there is to learn, and how much of it not only I don't know; but nobody knows.  Tackling all that has kind of intimidated me.

Today has provided the key bit to kick me over edge though; I mentioned my chickens over on the NYT, and thought you might enjoy seeing that.  It's in a Green Blogs post on water.  Do take a look; it'll bring you up to date on what we're doing here just a bit; besides being highly educational on the water thing.

The article states that "It takes 52 gallons of water to produce one egg" - and that stimulated my response. Sure, I'll easily believe industrial eggs use that much; but - any version of home/local/free range certainly won't be even close to that.  I'm guessing I pump and carry about a tablespoon of water per egg.  Putting those calculations on an honest comparison basis is beyond me, of course; but the basic facts have to be pretty obvious; industrial production is going to use way more.

To re-launch the topic, I think it will make sense for me to just list and outline where we are now.  We started with 30+ guinea keets, in 2008.  Six of those birds are still alive.  They're our wise old survivors.  All together, we now have about 55 birds; about 34 of them guineas.  Three roosters, and about 16 hens of 3 breeds.  I have a database.  Most of the birds have numbered aluminum leg bands; and about twice a year they get weighed, as a measure of basic health.  The uncertainty in the numbers comes because a few are "missing in action" at the moment; I suspect they are sitting on stolen eggs somewhere.

The majority of the birds are "out", divided between two chicken tractors which are about 1/4 mile apart.  Every morning, they are let out of the tractor, and are absolutely free to roam.  Boy, do they roam.  We see them 200 yards away, and more, daily.  Just before sunset; I go out and call them to me- using a half cup of white millet and about a quart of layer crumble per tractor as training bait, to get them back into the tractors for the night.  The main reason for that is - foxes etc. for the chickens, some of whom don't fly much; and owls for the guineas, which will roost high in the trees if you're 10 minutes too late.  A few birds remain in the big permanent chicken coop, built to winter the birds.  The idea of building a soddy coop definitely did not work out; but at least it's semi-earth sheltered; making it cooler in the warming summers, and warmer in the winter.

We do collect the eggs.  We have way more than we can eat, but not really enough to make sense to try to sell.  And of course, both chickens and guineas frequently hide their eggs, and I definitely don't find them all.  Working on that; I'd rather harvest that resource, and the hidden eggs are also an encouragement to predators to hang around.

The bottom line- it's worth while; we intend to continue, and even expand.  The details on why and how though, are complex.  I'll be writing more, very soon.


crowson2000 said...

I got my guineas back a couple of months after you did. I started with 22 and am down to 6 as well. I had 9 for over a year until I tried caging them up to collect their eggs for incubating when a fox tore into the cage and killed all the hens that were left. They are interesting birds for sure.

Lauren said...

I luckily got one of my older hens to hatch out 7 guinea eggs for me. I had inadvertently left 2 hen eggs under her as well. When the chicks hatched first, I took them from the hen & brooded them until keets hatched. The hen took back her chicks and she is now a very proud momma of 9, taking good care of them all. And this should bring my guinea numbers back to the original 23.