August 3, 2013

Moving Day For Guinea Keets

At last, the day arrived to move the Guinea keets from their brooder box on the back porch to their permanent home. They had just turned two weeks old and had started running sprint races around their box. It was time to give them a little more room.

I moved them in their familiar box, opening one end into larger territory.

Those of you who have Guinea fowl are familiar with their permanent, seemingly indelible homing instinct; in order for them to stay put, they must establish where home is. This is one of the things stressed in every Guinea how-to I've read. Because of that we carefully considered where we wanted to put our Guinea fowl.

Ft. William, the buck barn Dan made. After losing all those baby chicks, he
covered the windows with hardware cloth and made a tight fitting screen door. 

We started them right off in their permanent home, the buck barn. It's farther away from the house than the chicken coop, which is a concern. However, this is the area where we've had trouble with ticks, so this is where they need to be.

The keets have one corner to start, enclosed in a cardboard wall.

The bucks are in the front pasture for the summer, while we grow our field corn in the buck pasture this year. I'm not sure how well the guineas will like it when the goats move back in.

These are a very cautious species. They didn't venture out of their corner until
nightfall, when they came out for water, food, & the warmth of the heat lamp. 

I enclosed a corner for them with cardboard, which I can expand as they grow until eventually they can have the entire "barn" and beyond.

I started with 17 keets but lost 6. I found a few of them, just, dead. They looked as though they'd been trampled, which seems to be a problem because the keets tend to pile up. They bunch up and even run as a unit when they're uncertain about something.  I also had a few with persistent pasty butt. Some say this is stress related, which makes sense considering what they've been through. What I experienced was that it only happened to the very littlest keets. No matter how diligent I was to keep them clean, none of these made it.

That leaves us with 11, all of which seem to be healthy. I have to say that they are fascinating birds, different from chicks. They run like the dickens if I reach in to add food or a clean water bottle. But I've learned that if I announce myself by softly calling, "Guineaguineaguinas," they don't panic when they first see me.

I'm not planning to "tame" them; they have an important job to do. What I do plan to do, is begin millet training. Guineas apparently love white millet (the kind fed to parakeets), and it can be used as a reward for desired behavior. I'm just going to get started on that and will let you know how it turns out. For those interested, here are a couple of links about that:

Moving Day For Guinea Keets © August 2013 


Anonymous said...

Are they as noisy as I have heard about?

Leslie Kimel said...

What an interesting post. I dream about having guineas someday. When I was growing up, our neighbors had some and it was so neat to see them strolling about the neighborhood. They're such beautiful birds!

DFW said...

Thanks for the links Leigh. I hope to have some guineas some day. My grandmother always had them near where our Country House is. Looking forward to following your progress, especially with putting them up for the night.

Frank and Fern said...

Hi Leigh,

We learned the hard way with baby chicks that pasty butt is caused from high temperatures and dehydration. We brood our baby chicks in a cardboard box like you do. Once we started lowering the temperature in the box, the chicks quit having pasty butt.

In our reading we found that the feces will collect around the vent, block it off and cause secondary problems. The excessive feces is caused by being too hot, which leads to dehydration. We didn't have this problem until we moved here, which is farther south and more humid than where we had raised chicks before. There is always something new to learn, isn't there?

Your birds and their 'barn' look great!


Renee Nefe said...

I was hoping for a guinea update. Thanks! Their new home looks lovely, kind of like a cabin at camp! :D I'm sure they'll love it, especially when they start finding all the treats.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

They will be good sized by winter, mine used to roost in trees except in the worst icy weather when they would stoop to roosting with chickens.

Leigh said...

Stephanie, right now they sound like little birds, twittering and chirping. I reckon when they get their adult voices they'll sound a whole lot noisier!

Leslie, thanks! I have to say I find them fascinating. So much more interesting than chickens (don't get me wrong, I love chickens:) And, yes, I'll keep you updated on our homing progress!

DFW, check out my original keet post too, here. I had a few more links on that one.

Fern, thanks! Your information is basically what I found, with the addition of some folks believing the blocked vents cause them to poison themselves on their own waste. We do always allow enough room in the brooder box for them to move to a cooler area if need be. It's odd that only the littlest keets had the problem. The bigger ones never developed pasty butt at all.

Renee, I appreciate your interest! The best part about their new quarters is, bugs! So nice to see them doing their "job" from the get-go. :)

Sunnybrook, I tried to time them to be ready for winter! I didn't expect July to be so cool though. My goal is to get them to roost indoors, but you and others have pointed out that this isn't always their perference. I'm curious as to what ours will do once grown.

Hannah said...

I don't know if keets are susceptible to coccidiosis, or if you have it there. I didn't have trouble with it in San Diego but do up here in the PNW. I lost a couple of chicks in my first batch to it then started using medicated food. My DIL is opposed to medicated food, which is probably wise since antibiotics have their own problems, and gives chicks kefir for good bacteria, and hasn't lost chicks to coccidiosis. I switched to ducks, they are hardier than chickens, don't dig holes, don't get coccidiosis, lay better, etc.

Good information, I would probably consider keets if I had a farm.

Su Ba said...

Oh my, your keets looks so nice! It's been a long time since I've had guinea hens, but seeing pictures of yours is bringing back the memories. I really enjoyed mine for a numbers years. I can't be sure if they really helped with the ticks, but at least they were great "watchdogs" and plenty of fun.

I lost a number of mine to owls until they were grown enough to sleep high in trees. If I had known that beforehand, I would have conditioned them to sleep inside the barn until they were big enough.

Please keep posting updates. It will be enjoyable to watch them grow up.

...Su Ba

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

They are adorable and they will provide a lot of amusement. Enjoy them.

Michelle said...

I LOVE that your buck barn is called Ft. William. I may just be a copycat when that day comes. :-)

Your keets are so beautiful. I love that their feathers are already showing that beautiful guinea pattern!

Leigh said...

Hannah, I don't know either. It was never mentioned in the information I read. I do know that cocci is species specific, because goats can get it too but it's a different strain than what chickens get. Great tip about the kefir.

Su Ba, ooo, owls. We definitely have those. Another good reason to try and train them to sleep inside at night.

MTS&M, they are terribly amusing! Did you have any growing up?

Michelle, yes, William as in Billy Goat, LOL. I thought it clever but Dan wasn't so impressed :)

vlb5757 said...

I have read all the comments on this post and now I have a few really simple ones. What are you training the quinea hens for and why do you have them. Are they better bugs hunters? Or egg layers? I know nothing about chicken or fowl except from a chef's point of view. I am always curious why people have the breeds they have and if that breed does something special.

Laura said...

Turkeys have the same "piling in the corners and suffocating" problems. I use a stock tank as a brooder - there are no corners to pile up in. In an oval one, you can hang the light at one end, and put food and water at the other end, giving them the option of where to hang out. I start out with a 100 gal. tank, and move them up to a 300 gal. tank (craigslist is wonderfu for finding used stock tanks), and then they're moved to their final home.

Currently, I have hen-hatched turkeys - they're 2 weeks old, and quite the little intrepid explorers. I find them in the garden, in the chicken coop, in the horse pen, and next door. They eventually find their way back to mom, but geez, they give both of us apoplexy!!

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

Yes, as I mentioned they are native where I grew up. We took some eggs from a nest in a field we were harvesting (they would have been destroyed by the harvester) and pup it under a chicken. So they grew up with the chicks, but once they were big enough to fly they roosted in the trees at night (the chickens were put in a coop at night to protect them from predators). We did not really try to tame the guinea fowls and they were not very tame, but they did stay around the house for there entire lives (kinda what I think you want). I always liked them since they were so interesting.
BTW, I didn't comment on you post about the coyotes since I don't have experience with them. However we had plenty of other predators and dogs worked the best for us. We didn't have them living with the flock, they were basically guard dogs, but made such a ruckus whenever anything came close to the flocks around the homestead that it warned us that something was wrong. I know you haven't had much luck with dogs though.

Leigh said...

vlb5757, I'd like to train them to come when called because I'd like to round them up at least once a day, mostly to keep track of them and do a daily head count. I'm also hoping it will encourage them to roost inside at night, something that it seems they can be trained to do, but otherwise wouldn't do naturally.

I got them mainly for ticks, and bugs, which seems to be a common reason for folks to get them. They do lay edible eggs, 2 eggs equaling one chicken egg in size. I've also read they are good eating, although there isn't much out there about that.

Laura, thank you for that. A rounded tank would be ideal; I didn't even think of that. So interesting about your turkeys. They are on our someday list too.

MTS&M, my little guys are already flying up to the roosting perch Dan made, and it's about 3 feet or so off the ground. I agree, they are extremely interesting. And I can see their wild streak, unlike my little chickens. As you say, I just want them to stick around the place and eat bugs!

We're hoping the buck barn is the perfect location for them. It's where the ticks are and far enough off the road so that any ruckus they make won't be right in neighbors' ears. :)