It was a fabulous weekend on the homestead this week folks! Not only did I get three volunteers (or “volunteered”) loved ones helping me scrap and de-fur a cow hide, but a quartet of guineas arrived on the homestead!
Guinea Carol was overjoyed – and vocal about the new arrivals, to say the least.
Photo above: Guinea Carol was teaching some recently released 3-month old guineas the barnyard ropes.
We had 26 guineas late last summer through early last fall, but guinea Carol was the only one left until Saturday afternoon. We named her Carol because we kept referring to her as “a survivor” for so long. Any Walking Dead fans here in our New Life on a Homestead community will surely get the reference.
Everyday it made us sad that a cool tough gal like guinea Carol was living among the chicken and duck flocks, fluctuating back and forth between each, with none of her own kind to commune with. Not only is guinea Carol a survivor, but she is a great watchdog and momma hen too.
When the latest batch of chicks were released from the outdoor brooder and allowed to free range with the flock, it was guinea Carol who followed them about to protect them, nudged them away from the woods if they got too close, and slept with them every night.
When Rooster the goat was born in December, it was once again guinea Carol who hovered above him and watched him as he slept and coerced the ducks to waddle along next to her to patrol around him in the barnyard when he was recently released to roam about during daylight hours.
Guinea Carol has more than earned her place her on our Appalachian homestead – and a trip out of the county to get her some friends.
Photo: The guineas often hung out with the ducks, which suited me just fine. The ducks cannot protect themselves as much as the chickens and roosters because they a domesticated and cannot fly and do not have feet they can use as weapons.
If you have never raised guineas, you must be warned right now they are FRAGILE little things. Baby guineas are called keets, They are not only smaller than baby chicks, but grow a whole lot more slowly. They drown easily and sometimes accidentally kill each other in their nightly “cuddle puddles” or at least that is what we call them.
The keets group together in a pile to stay warm (even when their habitat is now cold) and to feel safe. A keet or two on the bottom almost always winds up getting smothered to death. You can put out as many little huts as you want for the keets to split up and get into, but they are just not going to do it.
Guineas protect the flocks, killing snakes, attacking mink and fighting to the death, and using their loud shrieking voices to warn the entire barnyard that a threat is near. Their protective nature is why farmers and homesteaders want to keep them. They also make great free entertainment and can really liven up a Saturday night down on the farm when they find something they want to kill.
Every day when I did beak and bill counts on the flock, I always crossed my fingers that the guinea count would not be off. Some days it was, some days it wasn’t. Their willingness to protect the flock eventually cost us all but Guinea Carol. One hen went off to make a nest in the woods to lay her eggs, as guineas will often do, and would frequently answer Carol’s “come back, come back” sounding call that female guineas made – until the one day when she didn’t.
Photo: The quartet of new guineas. I am not sure if we are going to give them names yet. I absolutely cannot tell the hens apart. I can tell my ducks and chickens apart, but that is by personality. Time will tell, I guess. If they do get names, I think I am going to go with “Rick” for the male!
My Bobby wanted to get keets and try again and was keeping his eye out for them. Everyone in the area who has a farm or homestead wants guineas, but they are so difficult to find.
Keep breeding guineas in mind if you are looking for a way to earn extra money from your homestead! But, I told him no more keets, it would be like throwing good money after bad and was just too heartbreaking for me. I said I only wanted mature guineas and would keep looking and put back the money to buy about a 12 – it usually costs about $25 each for mature guineas in our area and at hatcheries that ship nationwide.
Well, as fate would have it, Bobby was out on a work appointment and the lady of the house had guineas she no longer wanted! One male and three gals. She had to keep them penned up because they would go into her neighbor’s yard and attack her chickens – they must have viewed them as a threat to the chickens they were tasked with protecting. The kind lady said she couldn’t stand to keep them penned up because it was cruel and made them have no value at all around her homestead – they weren’t protecting anything nor were they eating ticks (another great reason to have guineas) or other bugs.
So, we threw a cage in the back of the truck and off we went to get guineas on Saturday. The catching them went far better than I expected. They didn’t care much for the 30 mile or so ride home, or our blue heelers the first time they all met. But, now, the quartet of guineas are getting used to the barnyard and getting to know guinea Carol through the confines of the chicken run.
I am going to keep them in the run for about two weeks to quarantine them to make sure they are healthy – and it looks and seems like they are, and so they get used to thinking of the barnyard as home and learn who they are supposed to be protecting…and that guinea Carol is their leader!