A Guinea Disaster
In my last post, I recounted how I kept two of the guineas in the coop for the time being because one seemed intimidated by the others, and I had found his companion bloodied and hiding in a corner. Once the others were out they did much better, ranging all over the coop and eating normally. The only problem was, when I had released the chicks from the cage and brought more chicks in from the house, the formerly timid guinea cock took to chasing them all over, sending them into a panic!
After a couple of days the injured guinea seemed to be healing nicely, so I called on Jean and Jake again to help me move them. Meanwhile, one day after entering the guinea shelter I had forgotten to close the door behind me, and next thing I knew the three of them were outside! I tried tempting them with millet and other futile attempts to get them back in, but to no avail. Fortunately, in a way, they took to roosting on a metal box behind the shelter, so when Jean and Jake came to move the others in, Jake caught them and put them in too.
During the three days that the two groups were separated I discovered something interesting: The two that were left behind in the coop were both males. I knew this because the usual egg or two a day were all being laid in the shelter, and none in the coop. I concluded that the source of the trouble was a super-aggressive alpha cock asserting his dominance over the others.
Unfortunately, the day after they were all settled in their new home I discovered the injured male hiding in the corner again, with his head bloodied. So I put him in a cat carrier and kept him in there for a couple of days with food and water. I tried letting him out again and the same thing happened, so at that point I took him around to the front porch.
Possibly because I was distracted by all of that, I again forgot to close the door behind me, and this time the other four all got out. They made their way up the slopes into the woods, which I had seen them do before, but this time they didn’t return in the evening. By morning, two of them had returned and were foraging on the grass in front of the shelter. Then I found them in the shelter, where they remained for the rest of the day — possibly because of the high winds.
That evening I shut them in, and let them out again in the morning, thinking they would return. Bad idea. They took off again and I haven’t seen them since! Meanwhile, the previously injured one was getting restless in the carrier, and when I went to check on him he bolted right out of there. He spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around the house and exploring the yard a bit. This is good, I thought — maybe he’s actually going to stick around. At least I’ll have one guinea!
Just before dark I saw he had settled down to roost at the top of the steps in front of the house. I didn’t think that was such a good idea, but couldn’t think what to do about it right then. With hindsight I wish I had put him back in the coop, since he wasn’t the one chasing the chickens. In any case, when I went out in the morning he was nowhere to be found. I’m afraid something got him, because there were several guinea feathers at the bottom of the steps.
I may try raising another batch, though I’m not sure what I can do differently to make them stay around. Maybe giving them more attention when they’re young and trying to train them with millet, as Jeannette Ferguson recommends in Gardening with Guineas. Or, if I start putting them outside in their cage when they’re young — as I’m doing with the chickens now — maybe they’ll get acclimated to the garden area and want to stay there, rather than roaming through the woods. They’re supposed to be eating bugs around the house and garden, guarding the chicken flock and keeping snakes at bay. Even if they had come in to roost, they wouldn’t have done me any good spending all their time in the woods!
Part 1: Guinea Problem
Part 3: Chickens Disappearing
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