September 17 – Some years ago I thought I’d like to try raising guinea fowl. Growing up in Zimbabwe as a boy, I saw wild guineas quite often, and thought it would be fun to have some domesticated ones over here. In nearby Pleasant Hill there is a store where one can buy animal feed and supplies, and also baby chickens and turkeys and guineas. I ordered six guinea chicks and when they arrived I brought them home and found housing for them.
They were soon following me around as if I were their mother, and did this for a number of weeks until they were old enough to be independent. I bought them chicken feed and they found a lot of their own food in the grass and bushes, for they loved grasshoppers and crickets. They would chase after a flying grasshopper until it tired and one of the birds would gobble it up. We had a small shed with a screen door and I put perches inside and kept the guineas there at night and let them run free by day. They sure could run!
They matured in a few months and in the spring the hens sneaked off into pastures and brush and made nests, and some of them shared the same nest and laid their eggs there. As a result some of those nests had large amounts of eggs, and when they hatched the poor hen who was in charge had a big following and a lot of responsibility. The mother hen was protective and I recall once when I was trying to move a brood to some safe spot, the hen attacked me and flew up at me angrily. Our flock grew to well over 20 birds, and roamed all over our property.
One of the birds was white, and the neighbor’s dog came over one day and grabbed that white one and took it home. The dog’s owner was puzzled over what it was and whose it was. He eventually offered to pay us for our lost guinea but I declined, saying the dog was only acting natural. Articles on guineas say that they are good watchdogs and will issue alarm calls when strangers appear, but ours didn’t seem to do that. They could be noisy but not when strangers came along.
Among the guineas there was a constant effort to be top bird and often a guinea would dart at its nearest neighbor and give it a few pecks. The pecked would flee but would soon attack another neighbor, and maybe even attack the one who had just attacked it. The males provided a lot of enjoyment to us owners, by chasing each other around the place at high speeds but the chaser would usually stay back a bit and not actually catch up to the chasee. I have counted up to twenty runs around the house, and then the one being chased might turn around and start to chase its pursuer for another twenty rounds.
The guineas seemed to enjoy walking on the road in front of our house, and as a result their numbers were lessened by passing motor traffic. More than once we lost two at once. They were quite alert to some dangers, though, and I recall once when they spied a coyote peering out of the bushes in the back yard. The whole flock rushed over at it and it quickly withdrew and disappeared.
The flock gradually shrank as predators took one now and then. I kept them in their shed at night for a time and let them out in the morning but still they disappeared. Finally the flock was down to just two cocks and they perched in the elm tree in front of our house at night. One morning there was only one guinea, and a pile of feathers on the lawn beneath the tree. An owl had found a meal. A few days later there was another pile of feathers under the tree, and no guinea. And so ended my guinea fowl endeavor.
One reminder of our guineas was a boxful of their feathers that I collected after they shed them while molting. Another reminder was a couple of their eggs that I kept as curios on top of our piano. Guinea eggs are quite thick shelled and last well. These curio eggs lasted well until one day I found a smelly mess on the walls and ceiling around the piano. An egg had finally exploded – the guinea fowl’s last blast from the past! – DALE