Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fowl Rescue

Why is that things seem to go wrong the most when you’re short on time? I’ve got more company than I expected coming this weekend, the house is a wreck, and I needed to get some groceries. But I haven’t been sleeping well, so after the guys went off to work this morning, I laid down for a quick nap figuring I’d be more energetic after a little rest.

I was dreaming about catching chicks, and that there were all kinds all over the house. Little did I realize when I woke up almost two hours later that was a prophetic dream. Two hours! Oh man! I didn’t have that kind of time to waste today! But okay, I feel better, so time to get moving, and fast.

My one little injured chick was peeping. I figured she was lonely. I kept wishing for something else to hatch out soon so she’d have a buddy. I held her a while and talked to her, then zipped outside to do the morning chores.

The wound is healing, even though it still looks pretty yuck.

The animals were all giving me the hairy eyeball, like, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” I was mobbed by chickens and guineas looking for some scratch grain, peafowl screeching for their morning chow, and indignant goats butting my legs because they hadn’t got their morning treat of animal crackers yet. Okay, okay! I’m moving as fast as I can.

Then I heard it.

If you’ve ever had guineas with keets, you know this sound. It’s that high-pitched locater cheep that means, “Help me, I’m lost!” One little keet was running around in the back yard screaming at the top of its little lungs. At first I figured it got separated from the group we saw last night, and when the guineas all came in for food, it’d find its mama. No such luck.

Instead, the older guineas were pecking at it, so I figured I’d better go to the rescue. I got out my trusty net, waded through the other critters, and went after it.

Now if you’ve ever chased a guinea keet you’re probably already laughing, because you know those short little legs move like they’re jet-propelled. It’s really too bad no one had a camera, cause I’m sure this would have qualified for a winner on “Funniest Home Videos.”

After much running around in the 90 degree heat, I finally captured the little twerp, took it inside, and put it in the brooder box with the injured chick. Finally! Now back out to finish my chores.

I wasn’t out there for very long until I heard that sound again. Uh-oh, there’s another keet somewhere! I grabbed my trusty net again, and went off to hunt it down. This one was in the weeds along the driveway. Those weeds include poison ivy.

We went around in circles, I slipped on some rocks and skinned my leg up a little, and about that time I was thinking, “I sure hope you appreciate me saving your life little keet, cause if I get poison ivy for the first time in MY life, I ain’t gonna be happy.” After a whole lot of tries, I finally netted the little speedball, put it in a bucket in the feed room and figured I’d finish my chores, then take it inside.

Only once it shut-up, I heard that sound again. HOW MANY OF THESE KEETS ARE RUNNING LOOSE!?! I’m sure about that time I heard God laughing and saying, “You’d think by now you’d be careful what you wish for! Now you’ve got some little cheeps to keep your lonesome chick company.”

The trouble is, this one was down in the bottom pasture. Now keets are nigh impossible to see in grass, let alone tall weeds like’s in that pasture. The only way you can find one is to home in on the cheeps, and then you still have to extremely lucky to locate it.

I went to look at a known nest site there, and discovered a mass of adult guinea feathers. Hmmmm, so that’s probably why these are running loose on their own – someone had mama for a midnight snack. But where is this little cheeper?

Feathers to the left, two nests of eggs to the right.

I waded through a whole lot of weeds, and probably still wouldn’t have found it except for one thing. This one doesn’t blend in. It’s a light gray. I’ve never seen a keet this color. We had some white guineas way back when we first got some, but I don’t remember them hatching out any gray keets. What I do remember is white guineas are the first to go when the predators come looking for food. They stand out, unlike the regular colored ones, so get picked off quickly.

At any rate, I captured that chick, and thankfully didn’t hear any more cheeps, so took them inside. Unfortunately, I just thought I was done chasing keets, cause when I got in the house I heard the sound again, and it wasn’t coming from the brooder box.

Oh no! The first little cheep had jumped out of the box and was running around all over the house. I headed towards the sound and stepped in something squishy. “Oh crap!” Yep, that’s what it was alright. Guess the little fink’s digestive system is working fine.

It ran in the office, where there are far too many places for it to hide. I crawled around on my hands and knees trying to find it. It ran out of there and into another room and under the bed.

Hiding out among some stuff on a shelf in the office.

By this time my legs were really itching and I knew I couldn’t reach the keet, so I figured I’d take a shower and get ready to go to the grocery store and maybe by then it would be out again. About the time I started to step in the shower, I heard cheeping in the hallway.

I headed after the little cheep, and it zipped towards the living room. I was praying, “Please Lord, I don’t care if you laugh, but don’t let anyone come to the door and see me running around the house with no clothes on, trying to catch this little beast. I haven’t got time to explain it the psychiatrist after they take me away in the straight-jacket!”

Lucky for me, when those little keet feet hit the linoleum in front of the door, the keet went sliding and I grabbed it.

That's the little gray one hopping out of the water dish.

Once I got it back in the brooder box, I threw a towel over the box and went looking for a screen to put over it so there’d be no more jailbreaks. I now have 1 chick and 3 keets cheeping away in a hopefully escape proof box.

And I’m NOT going back outside for fear I might hear more cheeps!

Play this movie, and you'll hear a lot of those locator cheeps!

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Guineas Gone Goofy

I looked out in the pasture a while ago, and saw two guineas running round and round the pasture. This is nothing new; they do it all the time. One chases the other, trying to prove dominance I suppose.

Then I remembered I'd taken a short video of their crazy antics back in the spring. I was sitting at the table eating breakfast, and watched those goofballs chase around the pasture for a half hour or more.

Guineas can be awfully mean to each other and any other fowl on the farm. Good thing they have redeeming qualities like being great "watchdogs", and the best critters for cutting down the tick population.
Here's one of the guineas keeping watch from the top of The Farmer's work shed.

Without such redeeming qualities, I doubt if many people would put up with the Guinea Gangsters.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Typical Scene on the Farm

It's a blustery day here on the farm. There's moisture in the air, sometimes just a light mist, other times it's wee little balls of stinging sleet. This is not my favorite time to be out and about, but the animals need hay even more on days they don't go out and graze.

The guineas don't seem to mind a little rain, running around looking for grain or perched on the fence.
I almost chickened out of my morning walk through the woods, but I figured if the guineas could hack the foul weather, so could I.

The wind was making quite a racket as it roared through the trees, and of course the creek was up a little from the bit of rain we had.

On nice days, when I let all the animals out together, it's not unusual to see all kinds of combinations of critters, with the chickens, guineas, dogs, sheep and llama.
This isn't the first time I've seen poultry perching on sheep. I think that nice thick wool must keep their feet warm, or maybe they just like being on top of things.

It's a typical scene on the farm.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Sunny Sunday on the Farm

After record breaking warm temperatures earlier this week, it’s back to cold weather. Yeah, I know “cold” is a relative term, and what’s cold for us is a balmy day further north. There was a hard frost this morning, but the sun came out and it turned into a lovely day.

The return to cold weather hasn't obliterated all signs of a coming spring either. After doing the critter care chores, I went for a short walk in the woods. I noticed the redbud trees have - what else? - red buds appearing.

I noticed other signs of growth in a slue towards the back of our wooded area that is filled with water again, thanks to the recent rains. The algae is bright green there. The moss in the woods also continues to green up, and there are a few plant leaves poking up here and there.

In my flower garden, the plant my Granny used to call "Live Forever" is already showing new growth for this season.
This particular variety is officially known as Sedum 'Matrona'. It has lovely pink flower heads that the butterflies and bees dearly love.

The animals enjoy the sunshine too, and I noticed a bunch of the guineas in the front yard, headed down towards the pond.

All in all, it's just nice to enjoy a sunny Sunday here on the farm.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Corn Crazy

In the mornings when I go out to do chores, the chickens always come running because they love me so much. Okay, maybe it has more to do with the fact I always throw some cracked corn out first thing.
The guineas aren't far behind, and rush in to get their share. It seems every critter on the place loves to munch on cracked corn. Even wonder dog Toby will lick some up now and then.

However, the top of the food chain here is the goats, and when I let them out, they chase everyone else away.

And just what do you think you're doing, trying to eat MY corn????

For that reason, the goats are always the last critters I let out of the night pens, but I always make sure there's some left for them to have a morning treat also!

It seems the only critter outside that never wants their share is the cat, Spot. I guess he figures that corn isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday on the farm...

It was beautiful out there when I went to do chores this morning. The weather has warmed up again, and I wore a light jacket instead of my heavy winter coat. Even at that, I pulled off the jacket before I was half way finished with the chores. Though the sun was shining, it’s pretty dreary. What colored leaves we had have either turned brown, fallen to the ground, or both. Still, there’s a little color peeking through here and there, like this lovely little violet.Toby was in rare form this morning, galloping all over the place, carrying around a big piece of lumber he found somewhere. He’s got to have a piece of wood in his mouth, whether it’s so tiny you can barely see the end of it sticking out of his mouth, or so large it’s twice his size and he’s dragging it along behind him.

He’s the farm jester, always finding ways to make me laugh, no matter how grumpy I might be. He loves to play in the water. In the original game, he jumped up and bit the water, but later it evolved to him wanting sprayed while he ran around with his lumber stogie in his mouth.

The other animals generally ignore his lunacy, unless he gets too close. Then they’ll scoot out of his way while casting a wary eye in his direction.

Eventually, they’ll go back to munching their hay or grass or whatever they were doing.

It’s another beautiful Friday on the farm.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Morning on the farm...

When I went out this morning to do chores, the little guineas were running around. These are the smallest and youngest of our many guineas.

They ran from the main pasture to the "back yard pasture"... mixing with the sheep and goats.

Everyone's after the same corn I threw out!

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Guineas Galore - The Continuing Population Explosion!

We had another surprise this morning. A couple of guinea hens showed up for the morning feeding with eight new little keets bobbing along behind them. They are obviously recently hatched, and easily lost in the tall grass - which is why I took a picture of them while they were on bare dirt!
This is the fourth batch of keets to hatch out this year. The first two only ended up with two survivors from each group. The third group has three adults watching the keets, instead of the usual pair. They’ve managed to keep all fourteen – so far at least!

They were out in the front yard dust bathing this afternoon.
They have a pretty good system, with two adults watching the little ones all the time, while the third stands guard.
They were enjoying themselves immensely until Spot the cat came too close, then the Guard Guinea screeched it was time to move on out!

At this moment, we have 14 adult guineas, and 26 keets, for a grand total of 40 fowl! Oh my! I don’t think we really need that many. If all these newcomers survive, we may need to sell off a few guineas. They’re great for eating bugs, especially ticks, but 40 guineas???

It might be just a little too much of a good thing.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Fowl Update

We’ve had several little chicks and keets born the last couple of months. It doesn’t take long to go from newly hatched to pretty well grown. Our little chicks are coming close to adult sized, but it’s difficult to know how big they should get exactly, since they are a mixture of breeds.

The 3 chicks pecking at some cracked corn I threw out.
The hen on the right is a Sicilian Buttercup, fully grown.

The picture on the left is a close-up of one the 3 chicks in the first picture. You can see her funny little "top knot." The chick on the right is Peepers. Her mom abandoned her and we raised her in a cage on the front porch until she was big enough to safely let out with the rest of the chickens.

Here’s the oldest bunch of keets, more than half the size as the parents now.

The middle group has grown a lot, but still has quite a ways to go before they are adult-sized.

And the little ones are still running around, so short the only way you can tell they’re in the grass is to see it moving.

We didn’t have any luck with hatching any peachicks this year, not in the incubators nor under the peahens. Breeding season is over and the peacock has moulted. (Why carry around all those heavy tail feathers when the girls are ignoring you?) Maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

And that’s the latest fowl news from the farm…

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Final Fix & New Beginnings

Over the weekend The Farmer worked on the aviary some more. The joints on the back hoop keep popping out of place when we have high winds or little goats that sneak inside and jump against it.

The hoop holding the netting is made of PVC plastic pipe, so he put new glue on the joints.

To help secure the top hoop, there is a rope from the top of the hoop to a tree. It was anchored in a downward slant. The Farmer decided it would work better at an upward slant.

To accomplish that, he needed a tall ladder and a trip in the treetop. I caught up with him just as he was ready to get back down...

It’s all fixed up and looks good now.

When I went out to take a picture of the finished work, I discovered there was also something new…
A whole bunch of new guinea keets!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Fowl Update

It’s dark out, and almost 9pm, but I can hear the guineas outside making a racket about something. They’re not called the “barnyard watchdogs” for nothing! We have two sets of babies (keets) left. The first batch we so carefully penned up was a disaster. None of those survived. The others that hatched out close to the same time was a smaller group, and there are still two keets running around. I have hope they'll survive, as they are already half grown.

Then last week we noticed a new group of 5 babies. They are still pretty small, and already down to 3 keets. One way or another, something seems to get to the little ones, and the survival rate is pretty low. I think we have too many hawks, owls and 4-legged predators.

Of course, it’s better than the peafowl, which have zip babies right now. I still haven’t had any luck with any eggs hatching in the incubators. My only hope now is one peahen who is sitting on an unknown number of eggs. This is the first year any have tried to nest. I hope she does better hatching eggs than the incubator.

The peahens will probably stop laying soon. The peacock is molting, losing feathers at a rapid rate. That usually signals the end of mating season. It looks like another not-so-successful year with the peafowl. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but the last couple of years have been a bust.

The 3 little chicks of assorted flavors are growing rapidly. In fact, I mistook one the other day for one of the little Golden Sebright hens. They wander further away from Mama Hen these days, and don’t always stick together either. I think they may all be hens, which would be a miracle, but they don’t have much of a comb even yet, and a rooster should be showing a pretty good sized comb by now.

Our last little outside fowl, Peepers, just got moved into a bigger cage on the front porch. After she was abandoned by her mother, and I couldn’t get the other hen to adopt her, I put her in a birdcage on the back porch. She’s about outgrown it, so we put her in a bigger cage. I’m not ready to turn her loose yet, since she’s only half grown. I'm not sure how's she going to do on her own.

She doesn’t look like the other three, so we have 4 chicks that are all different. Nothing like fowl diversity!

Peepers on top of her bird cage.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chicken Littles...

Right now we have some chicks. Only four, but what a varied assortment! We like diversity here. The mother is a Buff Orpington hen, and the father is a mix from a Polish Silver Laced rooster and Sicilian Buttercup hen. Almost sounds more like flowers than chickens, doesn’t it?

Polish Silver Laced + Sicilian Buttercup =

This Rooster + Buff Orpington Hen = Some interesting Little Chicks.

Here's a more recent picture of the fast growing little chicks...

The fourth chick was abandoned in the nest by it's mother. I tried to get the above hen to accept it, but it was a little younger than her chicks, so she figured out it wasn't hers and kept pecking at it. For now it's residing in a bird cage on our back porch.

We also had a bunch of Guinea keets. (Fowl lesson for the day: baby guineas are called “keets”, not chicks.) The guinea hens have been nesting in pairs this year, with double nests containing up to 50 eggs. One pair ended up with about 16 keets out of all those eggs, one set ended up with about 5 keets, and another set abandoned their eggs after a snake kept raiding the nest.

Guineas give new meaning to the phrase "bird brain." They run up and down along a 4-foot high fence, trying to figure out how to get to the other side, when they can fly to the tops of very tall trees with ease. They're also noisy, but they have one important virtue... they eat ticks. We had a real problem with ticks when we first moved here, and now see only one or two a summer.

Guinea hen and keets crossing our driveway.

The only fowl problem is we don't have any peafowl chicks this year. I don't seem to have much luck getting them to hatch out. I have a couple of incubators filled with eggs, but no chicks yet. I keep hoping!

Meanwhile, we'll enjoy watching the fast growing chicks and keets scampering around after their mothers. It's fun to see them hopping around, scratching and trying to do "big chicken" stuff.

Chicken Littles... gotta love 'em!

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