Friday, January 7, 2011


Last spring we had a guinea fowl, Newt Guinea, drop by the pastured poultry pen for a few weeks.  He came and went as he pleased and eventually moved on for good.

We learned Newt came from a neighbor's about a mile down the road.  They had stopped by a few times over the last couple of years to check out our movable chicken pen and eventually gotten chickens of their own.  Plus a few guineas including one hen that's turned out to be a good guinea mama.

This past summer and fall, those same neighbors hired DS to care for their poultry and dogs while they were away from home a few days.  The last time, in addition to paying him in cash, they offered him half of the latest guinea hatch.  So in early November, DS and DH brought home 6 little guinea keets.

We set up the tallest chain-link dog run we had, put in a small house with a red-bulb heat lamp (these guys were only a week or two old) and the usual accompaniments.  I asked DH to put flight netting over the top of the pen, but because it was 6-feet high, he thought it could wait till the keets were older.  The first full day they were here, a Cooper's hawk scared the keets causing one to fly up and out of the pen.  It roosted about 15 feet off the ground in an arborvitae, too high for DS or me to reach even with our ladder, and DH couldn't spot it late that night when he got home from work.  No sign of what had happened to it when we searched the next morning.

So DH put flight netting over the top of the pen.  And a piece of chicken wire between the top of the pen and the top of the door where there was a large gap that another keet managed to escape through when the Cooper's hawk returned later that week.  That keet was luckier than the first as he managed to hide under the deck with the backyard chickens, finally emerging with them after the hawk took off in search of easier prey.

We used the heat lamp for the first couple of months.  The nighttime temperatures were pretty low for November and December here in Virginia. Some nights saw single digit temps which we don't usually experience till later in the winter.  After last week's more moderate temperatures, they've weaned themselves from the heat lamp.  It's still in place in case we head towards 0º again but their body heat in the small house,  insulated by straw bales along three of the outside walls, seems to be plenty for now.
Fed on turkey starter, the guinea keets grew fast.  With the excitement of getting them settled, safely, in their new home, plus the usual holiday activities and the bitterly cold daytime weather (and snow!), we didn't even get a picture of them till New Year's Eve.  Which is a real shame because when they're little, the shape of their heads combined with the feather coloring makes me think of little snakeheads slithering to-and-fro.  (Guineas always stay close and seem to move as one.)  Of course, that's another reason they didn't have their photograph taken sooner -- every time I did go outside with the camera, they promptly hid in the far corner of their house.  They aren't as sociable as chickens.

For Christmas, I received a book about guineas by Jeannette Ferguson titled "Gardening with Guineas: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Guinea Fowl." Ferguson's book discusses a few things that set guineas apart from other poultry but I wish it went a little further in the details.  For now I guess we'll learn as we often do -- on the go.

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