Saturday, January 08, 2011

How Patti is Like a Magpie, OR The Great Escape

A few things you need to know about me....

~ I like to encourage my children to help with farm chores young
~ I'm sometimes impulsive
~ I am as easily distracted by pretty things as a magpie

Okay, you already figured the second one out from the guinea story.  Add in the other two and we've set the scene for the exciting sequel (um, conclusion?) to that very story.

The guineas were 3 or 4 weeks old, and had been quite manageable.  So I hadn't screened the top of the brooder.  Because really, the tyranny of the urgent seems to drive me when it comes to the farm.  And things hadn't felt urgent.  For you literary types, this writing technique is called foreshadowing.

It was a gorgeous fall day, the children and I were outside, and I was feeding and watering the guineas.  The brooder lid was propped open, but I was right there.  I walked away from the brooder for a minute to bring the waterer to the hose.  No problem.  All was peaceful as the guineas hungrily huddled around their newly freshened feeder.

Little Warrior came running over to me as I rinsed out the waterer, and asked if he could fill it.  Well, of course he could... sure it meant he would end up soaked, but he's four and I'm trying to give him as many big-boy jobs as I can.  You know, hard work builds character and all that.

While he held the hose, I walked back over to check on the guineas, who were starting to look pretty with their brand new grown-up feathers.  They calmly munched their grain as we waited for hose-aiming-challenged Little Warrior to finish filling up the waterer. 

Pretty birds. 

A squawk from the direction of the chicken yard turned my head.  More pretty birds.  I grabbed my camera off the brooder porch roof and meandered toward the chickens.  The light was so pretty.  The chickens were so pretty.  The roosters were especially pretty.

I started taking pictures.

I knelt down and took more pictures.

Lots of pictures.

Preeeeeetty birrrrrrds.....


I turned around to see a guinea fly up.  Suddenly, like popcorn in a pan, guineas were popping up and out of the brooder every which way.  The first guinea or two had hit the brooder lamp which fell off its hook and onto the brooder floor, terrifying all the rest.  And if you're a guinea, terrified = fly.  

The closer I got, the more guineas flew out of that brooder.  I froze and did the only sensible thing a calm mother such as myself would do - shouted "HELP! I don't know what to do!" to my teenager. 

By the time we made it to the brooder and got the lid closed, there was one guinea left in it.  The fields and trees looked like ice cream with guinea sprinkles shaken on it.  They were everywhere.

We tried to herd them like ducks.  Um, no.  

We tried to lure them with food like chickens.  NOT!

We tried to catch them.  As if.

Three of them flew in with the chickens.  That was nice.   Farmer Boy finally managed to catch one that was on the ground, and put it in with the other three.

I heard squawking, and followed the sounds to the big pond.   Peeked through the trees hopefully, but found these guys...

Pretty, aren't they?  They were swimming, a happy wild duck family, just peacefully swimming...

Preeeeeeetty birrrrrrrrrds...

DOH!  Guineas, guineas, focus on the guineas!  

But I couldn't find any more.  {sigh}

So here are a few of the things I have learned about guinea raising:

~ guineas really CAN fly very young
~ guineas can fly very high on their first flight (20 feet up into a tree)
~ an open brooder should be treated like a hot stove... never left unattended
~ if guineas escape their brooder young they have no memory of your property and do not yet consider it home
~ young guineas make good breakfast for coyotes
~ I am too distractable to brood guineas the same way we brood chickens

We had four guineas in with the chickens the first night after the Great Escape.  Within a week we had no guineas.

And would you believe that despite all that mad distractability my husband gave me an even nicer camera for Christmas?  If you hear me talking guineas again before I get that roofed pen built, talk me down, would you?  And keep my camera hostage.  There's no telling what pretty birds might lure me in to a photo shoot.


Benjamin Rosenbaum said...

This entry is hilarious (and so well told! "like popcorn in a pan" -- "ice cream with guinea sprinkles".. :-) ).

I'm sorry about your guineas! The coyotes around your part of Texas are certainly grateful, though. They may get you a plaque or something... :-)

Patti said...

Seriously. We are like superstars. Or famous chefs. Ugh.

Abigail said...

Oh Patti! I never imagined it that way! So sorry!

Mel said...

Those are great pictures! Loved looking through all of them and reading!

Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

Rev Colin said...

Hi Patti,
Love the cockerel pictures. For a cockerel story that I posted a little while ago take a look on my Blog at: