Monday, September 17, 2007

Coming in Out of the Rain

Last week it rained for days, poured really, a cold early fall shiver of a storm. And of course, our four guinea fowl steadfastly refused to enter the coop. Instead they sat on the fence rail BESIDE their designated shelter and cried. I could hear them from the house chirp chirp cheeping away as day turned to dusk turned to utter dark downpour. I finally felt so sorry for the forlorn birds, I went out to try to rescue them. Picking them off the fence didn’t work. Unlike chickens, who go into a sort of “poultry coma” in the dark, the guineas were aware enough to plop down onto the ground and lurch away from me. I tried herding them with two sticks (as was once recommended to me by a guinea aficionado). No dice. Joe came out, shoeless, of course and with just a sweat shirt and shorts, to “help”. After much running, slipping and general cold muddiness, we got TWO of the birds into the coop. But they immediately came trotting back out again.

Some creatures just cannot be helped.

A word about guinea fowl: I was really excited to add them to our farm this year. I’d heard they are terrific at eating ticks and other pests and very self sufficient. So back in April, twelve little guinea chicks came home from the farm co-op with us and took up temporary residence in the kitchen. Unlike baby chickens, who quickly learn to come peeping over to be fed by hand, these little buggers hurled themselves against the side of the brooder box whenever I added more feed or water. They eventually graduated to a brooder box in the barn, and although I’d read that guinea chicks were not very hardy and had low survival rates. All twelve did just fine….. that is until I let them explore the woven-wire fenced pasture beside the barn. They wandered out into the grass, saw the sheep and panicked. As they’d done in the kitchen brooder box, they hurled themselves against a wall (in this case the wire fencing) in total terror. One of them wedged itself in so tightly, I had to track down the wire cutters to free it! The rest plunged into deep brush. I spent a good chunk of that Sunday trying to track them down and found just 4 or 5. It was hard to track them, and I asked Maggie (Our border collie and farm namesake) to help. “Find it, Maggie! Find it!” Though not much of a bird dog, Maggie gave it a pretty good try. Like any bc, she has a knack for language and seems to know what I want instantly. (Seems being the operative word here, as it turned out) Help or not, after a while I gave up. Unbeknownst to me, Maggie did NOT give up. A few hours later we found a couple of dead guineas, laid neatly beside the barn door. She’d brought them back for us after all.

Well, to make an already long story shorter. We collected a few more lost guineas the next morning only to let them out again and have some more disappear on us. Maggie, unfortunately, had gotten the idea that I wanted her to catch the birds and she’d run right by the flock of chickens to grab an unfortunate guinea fowl. It took us a while to get the point across to her that this was not what we had in mind by “help”.

So guineas—there are just four now. Like the Gashlycrumb Tinies, they seem hellbent on their fates. And no, I can’t get them to come in out of the rain. Dan thinks we should put those little umbrella hats on them, the kind folks sometimes wear to sports events. Not a bad idea really. And goofy hats would certainly suit them.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Too funny! I know a few people just like that! :)