December 26, 2013

Where Oh Where Did My Guineas Go???

This is the sad story of how we suddenly became guinea-less.

Of all our critters, I think the guineas were my favorite. We got them as keets to clean up our tick problem. What we discovered, is that they are unique and remarkable birds. They have personality, and opinions! Ours came when they were called, ("guineaguineaguinea") and usually spent the night in their guinea house.

The most common question folks ask about them is, are guineas really as noisy as they are reputed to be? The answer is yes. They are loud and noisy sometimes, at other times, they chirp and twitter amongst themselves like songbirds. The other problem is that they roam.

The noise and roaming were always potential problems because we have neighbors near the front of the property. As long as the guineas stayed away from the road, no problem. True, they would often hop the fences to check things out next door, but there had never been complaints. The neighbors on the one side had lots of acreage and likely never noticed. Our neighbors on the other side have chickens, so occasional stray birds on either side of the fence (theirs or ours) is mutually accepted. If only things would have stayed that way.

When the guineas wandered too far we'd go bring them back. They would come for chicken scratch when called, and could usually be distracted by being allowed into the chicken yard. For some reason they loved the chicken yard and would happily spend the afternoon there (much to the indignation of the chickens). Even so, it was a chore to keep retrieving them.

One day the guineas were being particularly naughty. They decided they were going to go across the street. We'd already had several go-rounds with one of our neighbors, about their dog doing its business on our property, and wanted to keep things amicable. Having our 9 guinea fowl continually exploring others' neat, trim, suburban looking yards didn't seem a good way to keep things neighborly.

Anyway, I had to go get the guineas several times. None of the usual distractions worked, and the last time I went to fetch them, they balked when they got into the street. To make matters worse, a pick-up truck came barreling over the hill and had to stop because of them. I'm out there waving my arms and trying to herd them to our side of the road, they're all screaming at the truck, and the driver is making faces and hand gestures to let me know that having to wait 20 seconds for me to get my birds out of the road was not acceptable.

As I herded them toward the back of their property, I debated what to do. As much as we loved and wanted the guineas, the nine noisy wanderers were really too many. Keeping track of them was becoming a full time job. I began to understand why the job of herding animals was often given to youngsters in days gone by. Still, I needed to do something immediately.

In the end, I took them back to their house and used chicken scratch to get most of them to go inside. I closed the door, posted an ad for free guineas on craigslist, and waited by the phone. Seven of them were locked up, two were still on the loose, and I figured two would be a better number for our situation than nine.

The folks who took them were trying to get their own little place together. They didn't live close so there was no chance of the guineas coming home. It was hard for me to watch them go and I kept hoping a few others would get away too. It was amazing how quite the place was after they left.

The interesting thing about the two remaining birds is that they were not only on the bottom of the guinea pecking order, they were guinea rejects. The others would continually chase them away and not let them come in the coop at night. It took forever to get the guineas put up in the evening because the last one was afraid to go in with the others. I'd seen them attack it several times. But it always went in, which I felt was safer than leaving it out all night as easy picking for some predator.

About a week later I went to feed our two guineas and they were gone. Dan had seen them at about 2:30 that afternoon and I discovered they were missing around 5, so they disappeared within a several hour timespan. We'd been outdoors and never heard them holler and fuss, so we have no clue as to what happened. Did something get them? Did they decide to leave? Did a fed up neighbor pick them off? Did someone think they were wild turkeys or oddball pheasants?

The other night Dan woke up and went to look out the window. He thought he saw something run by and went outside to investigate. While he stood there in the dark, something came running across the road. At first he thought it might be a large fox. A second one followed and he shined the flash light on them. It was coyotes, likely the same ones our neighbor told us about last summer. Right now, that seems the most probable reason for the last two guineas' disappearance.

I've not given up on having guineas, but will definitely not mail order them next time. The minimum order of birds was too many for our situation. Maybe next summer, if I get a broody hen, I'll see if I can buy a couple keets locally and graft them onto her.

So that's the tale of our brief career as guinea wranglers.


April Jo said...

We've tried guineas a couple of times. They have always left. :-( We might try again tho. Great for the yard!

Tania said...

We haven't tried different kinds of poultry other than chickens and ducks. My mum used to keep pheasants when we lived on our farm...We have had a lot of trouble with foxes this year, but luckily he only got to one little chick. Just so happened that we were home the day the fox came to visit, otherwise it may have been disastrous...

Sorry to hear about your guinea fowl saga, hope you have more success next time :)

Cat Eye Cottage said...

I'm sorry about your guineas. They sound like more trouble than they were worth, at least they would be to me, but sometimes you don't know until you try.

Willow said...

Wanderers they are indeed , and noisy in a large bunch ~ but oh so interesting aren't they.
Yes we had them at our last farm and they constantly got themselves in trouble and got picked off one by one ...Owls, coyotes , foxes, cars . I keep thinking we would like them at this farm but Mountain man says no , he isn't found of all the noise and I know that id they don't go in by dusk they get picked off fast :.
The chickens will have to do I guess as they all know to go in at night.. BUT another note our friend a town over has them in large groups and even video taped a noisy group of them chasing a coyote off one morning safety in noisy numbers during the day lol

Mama Pea said...

It doesn't seem right that you wouldn't be able to easily keep your guineas since most people who have them end up deciding they wish they hadn't gotten them. Here you are very happy with them (not to mention downright fond of them!) but finding problems keeping them. At least this time around. I know you and Dan will figure out a way to successfully have them and have better luck next time.

Thanks for sharing this not-so-happy part of homesteading life. It happens, and we can all learn from it.

Farmer Barb said...

I completely understand. The Nature Center has to hatch out their eggs (when they find them) because they just keep going missing. Our keets just keep to the edges of the flock. The neighbors don't get to do anything but complain because the farm was there first. We, however, have hawks. They are a quick, silent predator.

The raccoon made it a much longer and more tragic even. If you see me with a raccoon hat, it will purely be an act of revenge!

DebbieB said...

So sorry about the guineas, Leigh. I can relate to the "annoying but we love them anyway" - one of our kitties is a talker and a whiner, she meows and complains all the live long day, and drives us crazy sometimes. But goodness, how we will miss her when she's gone. I hope you can fill that guinea-shaped void in your homestead life.

Renee Nefe said...

Sorry that didn't work out. I'm wondering if there is any kind of barrier you could get to keep them contained? probably not since they fly. silly birds.

oh how are you dealing with the coyotes?

Woolly Bits said...

what a pity, I liked the guinea stories! but I can understand that you value peace with your neighbours more than running after them all the time. I wouldn't mind a few stray birds in my garden, but then I don't have the average tidy "lawn and borders" garden anyway:) better luck next time!

Laura said...

They will wander, and fences have no meaning for them. Tick clearing aside, they are difficult birds to keep "down on the farm", so to speak. I have a pair of peafowl (down from a quad). They have never been allowed to roam, as they will, and quite far. Unlike guineas, my peafowl are relatively quiet, but, though I've had them for a number of years, they are not tame, and absolutely will NOT come when called!! In theory, guineas are a great addition to a homestead. But if you have to build Fort Knox to keep them in, it's probably not an achievable goal (or gaol!). They also don't produce much meat (not even as much as a chicken, so they're not very dual purpose.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas - it was quiet here, and not too cold. Perfect!!

Sandy Livesay said...


I'm sorry to hear about having to give up your Guineas. Remember, if you didn't give it an attempt you would have never known what to expect and how to raise them. Now you have experience and know what to expect the next time you purchase these little critters. Life on the homestead is always a learning experience.

Unknown said...

Ah...the case of the disappearing guineas. I think that's what became of our first group. We couldn't corral them up that evening and left them out but woke to 1 lone guinea screaming at the top of her lungs. No idea where the other 5 disappeared to. But the group of 18 we have now (17 from a local breeder plus the 1 left behind) are so easy to work with. We have 10 acres and our closest neighbor is 2+ miles away. They seem pretty content to stick to our property and wander the confines of our perimeter. Sorry they didn't work out for you. Maybe we've just been lucky with ours.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about the guineas. It is hard figuring out what animals will work on the farm, what with their different personalities and management needs. The learning curve can be quite difficult, and expensive to boot.

Happy Holidays to you and Dan!

Michelle said...

What a bummer! I'm so sorry you had to give up your guineas. I hope you will get to have them again in the future.

Susan said...

Cripes, Leigh. I should have shipped mine to you. They wouldn't leave the backyard - which was not helpful in ridding the environment of ticks. They are tricky to keep alive - if they don't dart out in the road, they roost in the trees and become predator snacks.

Madness, Trouble, Squish and Milkbone said...

Oh, it's sad that you had to give them away, but they are probably more suited to a large place without neighbors. :-) Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but they don't make easy prey for coyotes since they tend to roost out of reach at night. Who knows, maybe they will show up again.

Lady Hawke said...

I can understand about having to give up an animal for peace and quiet. We had to find a home for Ms. Pinkie, our mini-wienie. She was constantly keeping everybody else stirred up and yapping all the time. When she left it was as if the other dogs did not exist, they were so quiet. But I still miss her.

John on a bike said...

Don't feel bad. We got 5 guineas for insect control about the same time you did. And we have a busy road and suburban neighbors to tend with. We love those dang birds, but they can be annoying. We're down to three now, two were taken by an owl or hawk during a -10F cold snap where they decided a tree was better for sleeping than the barn. Grrr. We're hoping for keets this summer, if not they will slowly disappear. We did turkeys this summer and probably won't do that again, they were much more annoying than the guineas at their worst.

Leigh said...

April Jo, that's so sad. :(

Tania, foxes are a problem here too. It's hard to lose them that way, or any way for that matter.

Candace, well, they were a lot of trouble since they wouldn't stay in the yard. But it's true, we wouldn't have known if we hadn't tried.

Willow, I wonder if Dan won't say the same thing if I bring up the subject of getting more. I'll definitely tell him about those coyote chasing guineas!

Mama Pea, funny how things work out, isn't it? Guineas do make for interesting blogging, no matter what they're doing!

Barb, we have hawks too so that may have been what happened. Odd both would disappear in the same afternoon though.

Debbie, thanks. I've had cats like that too! Funny how they find a place in one's heart in spite of being annoying. :)

Renee, that's a good question, but it's doubtful. They easily made it to the tops of our outbuildings and from there, flew up into trees.

We're researching what to do about the coyotes. I now think it was coyotes that have dug up compost buried in the garden including bones. If spring comes and they have pups, it will likely be an ongoing problem.

Bettina, the guineas made for the best stories! Maybe if we only had two it wouldn't be so bad, if they could survive.

Laura, interesting about the pea fowl. I always considered them to be noisy, or at least their call carries quite well. Dan thought about trying guinea meat, but we never got that far.

Yes, it was a lovely Christmas. Just like your's, quiet and not too cold!

Sandy, truer words were never spoken, indeed life on a homestead is always a learning experience. Sadly, losing them is like losing my llama, something I'll always regret.

Pam, it's disappointing! Sounds like you have a much better setup for yours. You're fortunate to be able to enjoy them.

Sue, that is so true. Unfortunately, the learning curve is entirely experiential!

Michelle, thanks!

Susan, that's amazing that yours didn't roam! The irony is that mine went inside at night, but disappeared during the day.

Cecilia, I would love it if they showed up again! I'd be overjoyed! The reason we thought coyotes is because they disappeared during the day. They are such homebodies, if they could, I know they would have come back to the barn to roost at night.

Lady Hawke, isn't it amazing what kinds of personalities animals have? It's true that the ones that are the most work are the ones we miss the most.

John, welcome and thank you for the comment! I sincerely hope you're successful raising keets! I can't believe turkeys would be more annoying than guineas! (Can anything be more annoying than guineas?) But I will certainly take you word on it.

Katy said...

awww Leigh this kinda broke my heart. :/

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear this hun. We have had coyotes around here too lately, we can hear them at night.

Unknown said...

Oh the adventures of homesteading... Not always easy but always good because we can always learn something. I'm sorry it didn't work out this time but have no doubt things will be better with just a few less. Thanks for sharing your journey with them, I have been on the fence with getting some myself because it's really rough out here. We have every kind of chicken/bird/cat killer you can imagine.We do have ticks but Keeping my girls (hens) safe is a full time job as is...

Kev Alviti said...

If you got the same amount next time maybe you could eat a few - they're meant to taste pretty good. I've always fancied having a few of these about the place but I worry that they'd wonder off so I guess reading this as put me off for a little while longer

Anne said...

Often the last ones in are the girls. Guinea hens are low on the pecking order to the boys- always. At night if they don't come in to roost- they'll prefer a spot up in the trees/ off the ground. It's spring where the girls will take off to sit on a nest they've hidden away. Unless you have a pen to keep them in- it will be a constant problem.

They are really really tasty birds.

I hand fed mine daily. They followed 2 roos that were 2 weeks younger than them. They used our dog as a mobile safety shelter when foraging in the fields. They used to follow me to clear the Japanese beetles off the wild grape vines. Because I handled them a lot and hand fed them- I could call the girls in at night. They need routine.

Best of luck with your next Guinea endeavor!

Leigh said...

Katy, it was a heartbreak. :(

Stephanie, yeah, it seems coyotes are making a comeback. Unfortunately for those of us with livestock.

Jen, thanks. It is a job keeping our critters safe, it's true. Guineas are challenging, but I think I've proof that they can be trained to go in at night. The rest of it was unfortunate, but they are noisy!

Kev, as long as you have neighbors who don't mind, get them! Actually they are quite the homebodies, which is why we thing something got the two we didn't give away. They are fascinating birds.

Anne, I hadn't gotten so far as to sex them, but it did seek to me that the reject had smaller combs and I figured was female. Actually, I think I had 7 or 8 males! I felt fortunate that I was able to "train" them to go in at night, which made the daytime loss all the more devastating. Like yours, mine would come when I called them, which truly endeared them to me all the more. Very interesting about the Japanese beetles. Another reason to want more, except for the same reason we had to give most of ours away - the neighbors.

Ed said...

On my way home somewhere in the panhandle of Florida or southern Alabama I came over the crest of a hill and about ran into about ten guineas in the road. I got stopped in time but they sure did scream at me.

Our neighbor's dog is forever in our yard crapping all over the place. It is an old dog with not much longer to live so I haven't said anything about it but if they get another, I may have to say a word or two. I just don't understand why people think that is acceptable?