Guess what! The guineas had babies! Lots of babies...
On Friday morning it was cool and misty, and I was outside in my pajamas and raincoat tending the flock, when the two guinea hens, who have been absent for nearly a month, brought their entire brood into the open for me to see. Oh my goodness, look at all those babies! They look like tiny brown chipmunks swarming behind their mothers, peeping and crawling through the grass. The wet grass. Wet grass is not good for babies.
If you want to annoy your office mates, watch the video above of the keets following their mothers.
With encouragement from mom, I gathered up some gear, locked up the dogs, and went out to capture some of the babies. I needed the encouragement because even though I've been told many times that guineas hatched in the wild rarely survive, I wasn't sure I wanted to take on guinea parenting again. If I save the babies, then I would have more guineas! I like my guineas. All four of them. There were more than thirty babies! Mom suggested I sell them on Craigslist, and reluctantly said she would take them if I couldn't sell them. Uh huh.
To prepare for capturing the keets, mom and I searched the interweb, and found reassuring posts from people saying that they weren't hard to catch during their first day, since they can't fly yet. Someone else said they post people around the edges of the field, and work together to make sure none of them escape. Someone else even said the keets were so dumb, they would hide in tin cans and you could scoop them up. Since I was hunting keets solo, and couldn't imagine how to entice them into enough tin cans, I came up with my own technique, and as a public service to anyone else who finds themselves tramping through the wet weeds in their PJ's trying to find helpful advice from google on their smart phones, I will describe my experience.
I put a small carboard box inside a pillow case. I wasn't sure if I could close a box fast enough to keep the captured ones inside, so the soft pillow case functioned as a lid that I could easily stick my hand into without worrying about escapes.
I brought my butterfly net, and used it to place over the keets at the back of the flock, since the parents kept the keets out of my reach. The hens and the males worked together to keep the flock of keets moving away from me, but as long as I moved slow and didn't get too close, they didn't attack me and I was able to pick off the keets in the back of the flock without scattering everyone into the weeds. The parents had so many to keep up with, they focused on keeping the keets on the ground moving and didn't try to recapture those I picked up. The net would scare some of them into the weeds, and I could listen for their peeps and find them while the parents gathered the rest of the brood back together.
Aren't their little orange feet adorable? I stopped collecting after I had gathered up about thirteen. The parents were getting more and more worked up the louder my box of keets got. Besides, thirteen extra guineas is plenty - what if no one wants to buy them?! I left the parents with more than twenty, but it rained for a long time on Friday night, and by Saturday morning they had only five left. Brandon and I decided to collect the remaining five and put them in the brooder box. I didn't put the dogs up that time, and when the parents heard their keets give cries of distress, they attacked Wendigo and pulled her hair and flogged her with their wings! We quickly gave two of the keets back, and the parents calmed down and herded them away.
Guinea pie? I put the keets in a small brooder in the house, and they enjoyed cuddling inside the pie plate I put their food in. They really like to eat chopped boiled egg, and they like their brooder really warm. Before I figured out how to get their box above ninety-five degrees, they made so much noise! They have a musical, high pitched call, and have the ability to harmonize. The pulsing sound is so intense that I could feel it in my eardrums and chest, and sometimes couldn't tell if it was my heart beat. I've experienced the same overwhelming sensation at ponds in the spring, when the frogs are calling so loud that you can feel the pulse of their call more than you can hear it. With a heat lamp and a thermometer I got them toasty warm, and then they were content and quiet.
I listed them on Craigslist on Friday, and by Saturday morning was getting calls! Thank goodness there are
crazies people who want guineas! I told someone that if they would take them all on Sunday, they could have all sixteen guineas for fifty dollars. He seemed happy with that, and he and his young daughter showed up right on time. I already spent the money on goat supplies. Yes - I said goat!