Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guinea Fowl Sleeping Locations

Let's talk about guinea fowl sleeping arrangements for a second.

If you have guinea fowl, where do they sleep at night?

My guineas always have roosted outside in a tree.

The guineas were raised in a coop, some of them were raised by chickens, some raised by humans, but all lived in chicken coops when they were keets.  All keets were released to the chicken pen when they were big enough to survive random pecks by curious chickens.  And all keets wanted to sleep outside in the trees in the chicken pen.  The ones that were raised by a mama (chicken) hen waited until the mama stopped mothering them and they stopped sleeping under her wings, then decided to sleep outside in the trees.  The keets raised by us humans, with no mama hen's help, decided to sleep in the trees on the very first night they were released outside into the chicken pen (versus being locked up in the chicken coop).  

It seems to be natural for guineas to want to sleep in trees.  
At least that's my opinion.

I want the guineas to sleep inside the guinea coop, but we have 5 adults guineas who sleep out in the trees and there's no telling them that they're going to sleep anywhere other than where they want.  They are free birds and do what they please.  They are fully free - no fences contain them.  It seems that predators attack at nighttime or in the late evening after the guineas have gone to roost in the tree or in the early dawn before the sun is fully up.  The guineas are blind when it's dark, they are easy prey.  

My idea is if I could make them sleep in the coop, I could close them in and keep them safe overnight, then let them free in the morning.  But that means someone would have to be home when the sun set every night to close the guinea coop door, locking the birds into the safety of the coop overnight, and open it in the morning.  The coop would have to be checked every eve to ensure no predators were waiting inside or got locked inside.  We have lots of random animals very closeby on our farm that may enter into the guinea coop, from opossums, woodchucks, raccoons, and fox to curious stray cats.  We've also seen mink less than a mile away.  If I put up a timer mechanism that closed the guinea door automatically at nighttime and opened it in the morning, my belief if that the coop still needs to be checked for safety before being closed.

And I don't want to make it impossible to go on vacation and don't want to bring additional work on us.

My husband's idea is that the birds should be free.  Let them sleep in trees.  That's what they want, that's how God made birds, to roost in trees.

What do you think?


So, lets discuss my current guinea keet flock.  I have 18 young keets who were released into the chicken pen last week.  On their first evening outside they all roosted in one of the trees inside the chicken pen, even though every other night of their life they roosted in the guinea coop (they had always been locked in the coop).  And so, at 8pm, as the sun set, I went out there and chased and caught all the keets and put them into the guinea coop.  It took an hour, maybe more.  I was frustrated.  The keets all made it in and were locked in the guinea coop till morning.  

The next morning their little guinea door going from their coop into the chicken pen was opened and they walked out into the chicken pen themselves like grown-up birds.  That second night they all roosted in the tree in the pen, and I again worked hard and got them all locked up in the guinea coop.  Do you know what it takes to catch 18 birds that can fly in a HUGE pen?  It's not easy.  But they were locked up for the night.

The third evening I went out to the chicken pen, ready for my evening job, and wonder of wonders, all the keets had put themselves away into the guinea coop themselves! Yeah!  I locked them in and gave them treats in the coop.  I was so happy.  I also had a very bad cold at that time and was a walking, coughing, miserable zombie, so let me tell you, I was happy they put themselves away.

And for the next 4 nights the keets mostly put themselves away into their coop, but every now and then a few would have to be caught.  Then last night, after one week, they all were out in the tree again.  It was a struggle to coop them.  They really want to roost in the tree.

My husband continues to tell me that nature is nature, let the birds roost in the tree.  He tells me that once the keets are adults, and we release them into the wild with the 5 other adults guineas, that the keets will roost in the trees with the other guineas.  Why go through this struggle if they are going to sleep in trees like they want anyway?  I'm starting to agree with him.

Please let me know your opinion.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

What I HATE!

Do you know what I hate???

Yeserday I was in the house and was wearing my good workout sneakers.  These are what I wear in the house, not out hiking, walking in the woods, or certainly not what I wear in the chicken pen.  I have walking boots for the woods, and nice rubber boots for the chicken pen.

And as I was in the house, in my good sneakers, considering doing an Insanity workout (that's another story, the Insanity workout), I heard the guineas screaming outside.

I waited a couple minutes.  The guineas always scream.

But after a few minutes they were still screaming, so I raced out the door, over the hill and down the far side, past the icehouse, following the guinea screams.  I thought maybe a fox was nearby.  The guineas usually stop screaming if it's nothing.  Maybe a fox was attacking them, maybe it was killing one of them right this very minute.  I have to save my birds!  I'll fight a fox off my birds with my bare hands if I have to! 

But once I made it to the guineas in the back field, they stopped screaming and all got long necks, looking at me like I was a crazy woman as I ran to their rescue.  And then they shut up and cooed happily as they made their way into the deeper woods, not a worry in their minds.  No fox, no nothing.  The guineas probably saw a leaf blow in the wind and started screaming over nothing.

Silly birds.
So I turned back and headed to the house. 
But wait, I should check on the guinea keets and chickens since I'm outside.  I haven't checked on them all day.

So I walk to the chicken pen, where all the chickens come running to greet me and get hugs.  I pick up Dotti, carry her in my arms as I look for the guinea keets.  The keets are all roosting in the tall bushes in the chicken pen. 

Lucy and Cinnamon run my my feet, trying to be the next bird to get picked up.  Chloe and Charlotte also fight for my attention.  I love these birds, and they love me.  Does everyone love their chickens as much as I do mine?  I hope so.  I guess I love all animals, not just chickens.  Who would have known that chickens have such personalities?  You don't know this until you've owned a chicken.  I think all animals, even deer and wild animals, have personalities, but humans don't know them. 


Muffin the rooster stays close, crowing the entire time I'm out there, making sure I know he's the boss.  He's very territorial and doesn't like me cuddling with his hens.  I pick a few leaves out of a tree and toss them to the ground, making Muffin forget about being annoyed by my presence.  He quickly accepts my offering, clucks to the hens, and they all come running to munch down the leaves.  I put Dotti in the tree where she eats some leaves.

All is good in the chicken world, so I make my way towards the gate.  Lucy requests some time out in the yard to dig for bugs, I deny her request, I tell her I'll bring her a treat later and leave the chicken pen.  She clucks her disappointment.  Jade is clucking loudly in the coop, probably laying an egg.


I go back in the house, go to the office, where I start to sort through papers, and ugh, what a horrible smell!  Oh no!


I check my feet. 

I still have on my good workout sneakers.

And on the bottom and sides of both of them is fresh chicken poop.

I hate that!!!!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Guinea keets first day outside - the story in pictures

This week our 18 guinea keets were released from the coop for the first time.  We decided they were big enough to defend themselves from the chickens and decided to let them loose in the chicken pen.  If we had a chicken mama taking care of them we would have released them way earlier, as the mama hen would have protected them, but no chickens went broody this year, so the keets were raised without a mama. 

Our chicken pen is a very large enclosed area.  Large enough to have trees inside, but still fully enclosed so that hawks, skunks, raccoons, fox, owls, or any other animals that live in our woods cannot hurt the chickens.  The next step will be to release the keets to the wild, outside the chicken pen, with the other adult guineas.  But, one step at a time...

The day the guinea keets were released from their keet coop was very exciting!  I attempted to capture the events on film.  I apologize that some of my shots were not the most clear; I'm not the best photographer!
The keet coop has a little door going into the chicken pen.  We removed the wood that covered the door and the babies ventured down the ramp for the first time.

They were so scared but excited.  They already learned there's safety in a group.  They stayed in a huddle much of the first day.

The chickens were very interested.  Here's Candy, the cuckoo maran hen, taking a look at them.  Candy doesn't like the keets and doesn't hesitate to take a peck at them when she can.  They quickly learned Candy wasn't very friendly.  I love the keets' long necks!

We fed the keets their fav treat, mealworms, to make them comfortable.  The chickens quickly gobbled up the mealworms, too.

The adult guineas, especially the males, were very interested in the keets.  The gray guinea on the left is putting his wings up, showing he's the boss of the guineas.  He wants the babies to be aware that he's the lead guinea.  If he was able to, he probably would have chased them and pecked at them to prove his dominance.  The keets have a lot to learn.  At this time they were just saying to each other "Look, dirt! Let's dig!" - they were unaware of the dangers around them.  The white guinea male was quickly coming up on the right to see what was going on in the pen.

Meanwhile, inside the keet coop...  The chickens have been locked out of the keet coop for weeks, and were excited to gain entrance to a new area.  Below Lucy, the bantam hen, is checking things out.

Lucy investigates the nest boxes.  I wonder if she remembers last summer when she was broody and sat on eggs for 3 weeks in this very nest box.

Lucy looks around thoroughly, checking it all out.  She's looking around to the right side of the nestbox at the roost.

Now she gives the roost a test run.  Lucy is a smart bird; she's always been my favorite.

Let me introduce Dotti for the next part of this story.  Dotti is a Americauna/Bantam Leghorn mix hen.  She lays green eggs.  Dotti is one of our youngest hens, and is very active.

Dotti decided on that first day that it was her job to look out for the keets.  Most of the time she stayed somewhat nearby them watching over them.  She was very protective.  I bet if she ever went broody she'd make a good mother hen.  You can see her in the middle of the picture below, the keet pack is on the left.

The keets still have those long necks as they look around them, full of wonder.

Uh oh, here come the adult guinea males again!  The keets all huddle against the far fence, afraid of the huge males exerting their dominance.  I'm glad the male guineas cannot get near the babies yet!

And here comes Dotti to the rescue!  Dotti came racing in to save the babies!  Even though she's much smaller than the adult guineas, she stood right up to them, ready to fight for the keets.  Luckily there was a fence between her and the adult guineas, as she would have lost that fight.  You can see that now there was 3 adult male guineas outside the fence; the white one on the left and 2 gray ones on the right.  Dotti didn't hesitate, she didn't care.  She was protecting the keets!  What a spunky little bird!

This photo doesn't show it clearly, but here Dotti was facing off the adult white male guinea.  He was on the other side of the wooden fence post facing her off.  She won, the male guineas eventually left and walked off.

After the fight was over, Dotti checked on the babies to make sure they were ok.  What a great hen she is, and she just met the guinea keets that very day!

Leggy the white Leghorn rooster has always been very close to guineas. He was raised with guinea keets when he was a chick.  Here he is standing close to an adult male guinea, probably having a deep discussion...  Yeah, right, they were probably wishing they could fight, but knew the fence was in the way.

The keets went on with their day, digging in the dirt, while Dotti kept a protective eye over them from a distance.

And that was the first day outside the coop for our 18 keets.

The next story will be about the keets' sleeping arrangements... Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Guinea update

We have 18 guinea keets which are growing up fast!

Aren't they all so cute! The colors range from pure white, grey with spots, dark brown with spots, and mixed.

This picture shows a white keet jumping off the roost!

Here's our adult guineas - one female and 4 males.  The female is the dark one with spots.  The males all wait on her hand and and foot.  Or is it wing and foot?

Here's a week's worth of guinea eggs.  It's been raining a lot here, so they're good and dirty.

The adult guineas will be so excited when the babies are set free!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

We're back online!

We're back!  After the powerful storm hit us overnight on 29Jun12, we lost power and water.  5 days later the power was restored, 3 weeks and 3 days later the phone service and internet service was restored at our house. 

The power was restored on the 4th of July in the morning.  That gave us something to celebrate!  In the afternoon on the 4th the power trucks all came ambling down my dirt driveway.  I ran out and told them power was restored, all was good in the world again.  However, they informed me that our electricity had been routed over power lines that could not hold the load for long, that we had power lines down which serviced our property that had to be repaired.  They wanted to attempt to drive some dirt roads on our property to get to the scene of the downed lines.

I gave them permission to drive on our property and followed them about a mile down the road to the scene.

In no time they had numerous crews out there removing the trees and replacing the electric lines.  They worked until late in the day on the 4th of July in 100 degree temperatures.  No celebrating for them!  One of their trucks got stuck in the mud on our property and they found another way to get out to the scene without driving through our woods.   

In addition to those power lines that were down, the electric and phone cables that directly service just our house were down.  They ran through deep woods and often we lost electric and phones in the past when a branch fell in the woods.  Once the woods even caught on fire from downed power lines.  And so we got new telephone poles with all new power cable.  This time the poles ran beside our driveway, avoiding the deep woods.

previous power lines running thru deep woods

new telephone pole

The phone cable was previously strung up on those same old poles in the deep woods, and eventually, 3 weeks later, new phone cable was run on the new power poles beside the driveway.

My thanks to the dedicated men who work behind the scenes doing thankless jobs like recabling power and phone lines! 


Both our house and the other house which we rent out sustained much damage from the storm.  Below is a photo of the driveway of the other house after the storm.

A huge tree hit the roof - you can see the roof is buckled and punctured.

Let the house repairs begin!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guinea keet update

Life goes on quickly even though we don't have phones or internet access.  Our phone line issue is scheduled to be looked at in a week. 

The guinea keets are now over 2 weeks old. Three days ago they discovered they can fly!  Their little wings are fully developed.  It must be very exciting to realize you can fly!  There's an entirely new world available to them off the ground now.  They fly onto the roosts that we have in the coop, they fly into the nest boxes, and they fly into the rafters. 

The biggest of the babies are the size of doves, the smallest are the size of sparrows.  The mixed color keets are the smallest, next come the white/whitish color, then the largest are the dark brown keets.  The eggs evidently all came from different nests.

We lost one dark brown keet the day after we bought them.  I had purchased all the dark brown and mixed color keets from a man I have come to know who sells birds at the local farmer's market, and then I purchased the remaining white keets from an amish boy, who I also have come to know, who also sells at the same farmer's market.  I noticed that two keets the man had were not up to par, but I didn't feel right purchasing all but two keets that he had.  I couldn't leave those two tired little keets all alone.  And so I had purchased two tired, worn out, very little keets, hoping I could nurse them back to health.  One of the two was dark brown, the other mixed.

I don't think the two keets were sick, I think they were overheated and they were too small.  It's been so very hot here, with temps in the 100's F every day.  The keets were dehydrated and hungry and exhausted when I brought them home.  The two of them just huddled together, unable to lift their heads.  I gave the sickly keets drops of water mixed with antibiotics in their tiny beak that first day, and also a drop of Vitamin E.  By the second day, the mixed color keet was running around with the rest of the keets, but the dark one was still barely able to lift his tiny head.  He died later that day.  The remaining 18 keets survived and are all growing and doing fine.

The one mixed-colored keet is still the smallest of the entire group, but he is eating and drinking and doing fine.  He's not as aggressive as some the largest dark keets, but he's ok.  They get garlic mixed in their water every day, just like our chickens do.  I bought fresh keet crumbles from the feed store - supposingly keet food is higher in vitamins and protein than chick food, but the vitamins break down quickly in high heat and make the food rancid.  Then the vitamins do no good for the keets, and the keets can have developmental issues.  I have seen the developmental issues first-hand in previous batches of keets which we have raised through the years, back before I understood about the special needs of keets.  If keets ever start developing these issues they need vitamin supplements immediately, especially Vitamin E put directly in the beak, starting on day 1.  Vitamins will stop the developmental issues, but will not reverse the issues that have already taken affect to the birds.  Hence, before we knew all this, we had one "slow" guinea and we had several guineas die from previous flocks.

We watch all the keets closely, looking for any developmental issues in the smaller birds, especially the one mixed colored keet.  Everyone eats, drinks, flies, and seems to think for themselves fine.  No one is stumbling around or bumping into things.  No one walks backwards.  Everyone is attentive to what is going on around them.  Everyone has straight legs and can walk fine.  These are the signs I have come to look out for.  I keep any unopened bags of keet food in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.  I think the keets are now healthy enough that they are past the possibility of getting developmental issues, but I will keep an eye on them. 

I've started the keets on food other than keet crumbles yesterday.  I gave them softly cooked peas to supplement the keet crumbles.  At first they just looked at the food, but within a few hours the peas were all gone.  It's weird not having a mother hen with the keets who tells them when to eat.  They don't dive into strange foods, it takes a while for one to peck it and then all the others follow.  Today I gave them some spaghetti in addition to keet food - it only took about 15 minutes for them to realize they love spaghetti.  If a fly or bug dares enter their coop it is gobbled immediately.

Sorry for no photos.  I'm typing this at a location where I cannot bring my camera, as the internet is down at the house.  I can tell you, the keets have long necks and little bodies and are in a very cute but gangly stage.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Derecho that stopped us in our tracks

Happy Fourth of July!  Belated.

What a crazy past few days it's been!  A bad storm hit the eastern US and damaged our house and also the house we rent out.  We lost power last Friday night until Tuesday overnight.  And when we lose power we also lose water, as we have a well and pump.  Also, just to complete the problem, we lost phone service in our primary house.

Between 9:30 and 11 p.m. last Friday night, one week ago, one of the most destructive complexes of thunderstorms in memory swept through the entire Washington D.C. area. Packing wind gusts of 60-80 mph, the storm produced extensive damage, downing hundreds of trees, and leaving more than 1 million area-residents without power.

It left a massive trail of destruction spanning from northern Illinois to Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. This kind of fast-moving, long-lived, large, and violent thunderstorm complex is known as a derecho.

Derechos typically form when an atmospheric disturbance lifts the warm air in regions experiencing intense heat, causing thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds to develop. Traveling at an average speed of 60 miles per hour, Friday's storm took 12 hours to cover more than 700 miles before reaching the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a rough week after the storm with temps in the 90's and 100s F every day.  We hauled in coolers of water to water all the animals, but everyone was still hot and miserable.

We worked with the insurance company to deal with all the damage to the houses, to get tarps put on roofs for the short term and schedule repairs.  The rental house had a tree impaled into the roof.  There were so many trees down at that house, it was amazing.  It looked as if a hurricane came through.  The old historic house in which we live also had much damage.  I have some amazing pictures of all the storm damage.

And now, almost a week later, we have power to the houses, tarps have been put on roofs, repairmen are scheduled to fix things up, and the phone is still down.  Which means the internet is still down.  Which makes blogging rough.  I'll have to be blogging by alternate means these days.  The phone isn't scheduled to be serviced till next Saturday; not tomorrow, the Saturday after.  And who knows if it will actually be fixed that day, it may just be looked at on that day.  So at some undetermined time in the future I will download my photos from my camera and share the aftermath of this storm.

Stay tuned for more news...and the photos!