Two days ago I drove down into the wilds of Arkansas and came home with twenty baby guineas. I lovingly placed these tiny fowl in the chick nursery which is a totally enclosed coop and pen next door to the adult bird coop and pen. These babies are so small that a couple have actually escaped through the standard holes in the chicken wire - but they hustle back in when they see me coming!
I have raised guineas from chicks before and have a basic idea what to expect as they mature into nature's finest outdoor alarms and tick-chasers. And for information which I was lacking, I asked the bird breeder who sold me the guineas. My first question was about how she acquired her baby guineas, which were in cages in all through the house. My earlier guineas had babies out in the woods and would bring them by on a tour of the yard after they hatched out. But a few days later the babies would disappear.
The bird lady told me that guineas, especially the females, are notoriously bad parents. A male will usually stand guard close to the nest until the babies hatch, and then the moms take over. When any threats arise, the adults quickly abandon the young and look out for their own safety. And what could be more delicious to a hungry fox, coyote, owl, or snake than a dozen or so warm little guineas. Talk about mouth-watering hors d'oeuvres!
The lady said that she keeps a few adults in pens and then robs their nests as soon as the babies hatch out. She also said that she watches the birds that roam free and tries to find their nests - which she also robs. She sees that as a way of protecting the chicks from the other predators - and she encouraged me to to try and capture any baby guineas that I find at the farm.
The lady also talked about something which I already knew - or at least had a sense about. She said that guineas identify with a home, and if they are unsure where home is, they are likely to move on down the road. I bought my earlier guineas when they were tiny chicks, and as they grew they had an intense loyalty to my little farm. They would walk the yard looking for bugs and ticks almost on a schedule - often being in certain parts of the yard or pasture at a particular time each day. By getting the birds when they are little, and then keeping them in an enclosure until they reach adulthood, they learn to identify with the locale and the individual who brings the feed. An adult bird who is new to the farm might or might not hang around.
My favorite thing about guineas is their quickness to sound the alarm whenever they feel threatened or something disturbs their tranquility. A few distressed guineas with set up a squawk that can be heard throughout the neighborhood. They are great watchdogs! The guineas that I raised previously would roost in the tops of the pine trees at night - forty or fifty feet in the air with a commanding view of everything. Nothing roamed across the farm at night in silence. Here I have tall pines aplenty, so I am hopeful that these new little residents of the farm will avail themselves of the protection and magnificent vistas that the pines have to offer.
After just two days at the farm, the little guineas from Arkansas have become acquainted with their new home and are enjoying being out in the fresh air and sunshine. The young hens in the adjoining pen, although only two-months old themselves, peer through the wire separating the two pens with obvious maternal feelings. Everything is peaceful at Rock's Roost!
And Pa Rock has to go mow.
From break of day to setting sun, a farmer's work is never done!