The other day we told you that our cat Sam’s new job was watching over guinea fowl eggs in an incubator. We thought we’d tell you a bit more about what was behind our decision to do this (other than the fact that it will be fun to watch eggs hatching!).
Something happened on what I think was literally the same date that I had just scheduled my post “Pets, Farm, Home, Work…A Good Kind of Busy” where I talked about the guinea hens starting to lay eggs, and how excited we were about it. That evening, we had a visit from the fox and this time one of the guineas disappeared (the chickens were in the run). It was our favorite little female Violet. I went ahead and published my post because at first, we had hope she might come back. We had heard a ruckus and guineas were flying everywhere, a couple went up onto the garage roof, and another was hiding in the trees. We hoped that Violet was hiding as well. We could not find any feathers anywhere, or any sign that she’d been taken, but we have to assume that’s what happened when she never returned.
We were heartbroken. She and Harry were the cutest little couple, and we were looking forward to seeing what happened with the eggs. I couldn’t even write about it, and barely told anyone even close to us. I just couldn’t bear to share any more sadness after losing our beagle Cricket and two of our chickens this spring. We have always felt the guineas were safer from the fox because they stuck close together (we’ve had more than one visit from the fox, and the guineas always were able to fly away from it). But Harry and Violet often went off by themselves, since she was laying eggs. He usually protected her when she was in the nest though. We don’t know what happened but going off on their own seemed to be their downfall.
We still had the other female, Henrietta. She had been laying eggs too, but hadn’t really paired off with any of the males that we could see. Though we kept them in the coop and run for a few days after that happened, when we let them out again, Henrietta went back to the same nest and continued to lay eggs there. She and Pumpkin Pied then became the new couple (after many scuffles between him and the two white males), but this time the others seem to stick closer to them.
We worried about her being on the nest, but they all seemed to be guarding her well. However, we weren’t sure about the safety of it should she decide to sit on the nest long-term, so we collected the eggs, bought an incubator, and decided to try to hatch them ourselves. When we first collected the eggs, we thought she might abandon the nest, but she didn’t. We kept those in the house and once she laid enough more to fill the incubator, we set it up. We have no idea if the eggs that we think were Violet’s will still be good or not, but we wanted to try.
Henrietta continued to lay an egg every day, with the guinea boys keeping a close eye on her. Sometimes they made a racket and we’d always be running over there to check on them. Then one day she stopped laying more (just when I was getting ready to start collecting the new ones for eating!), and with only 9 eggs in there she started to spend more time on the nest. It was stressful for everyone. The nesting area is out of our sight behind the barn and garage, and the boys were constantly over there making a ruckus. We were continually running over to check on them. But on other occasions they’d be off somewhere else while she was on the nest!
We then got concerned she’d try to stay on there overnight and trying to keep an eye on them in that location was just too much. So, we again collected the eggs and this time put them in one of the chicken nesting boxes. We hoped someone might try to sit on them there, even though we had already tried that once to no avail, but again no one has. So eventually we’ll just throw them out (they’ve been out in the weather too much for us to be sure they’re safe to eat).
Now there are 22 eggs in the incubator and they’ll be in there for almost a month before they might hatch, and we don’t know how many actually will. Our plan is to keep a few if they do and hopefully sell some of the “keets” (that’s what the babies are called). I’m not sure what we’ll do if we can’t sell any, so we might be kind of crazy! But when we were looking for keets last summer, they were hard to find, so we hope there will be interest in them.
Depending on the timing, the keets may have to be kept in the house for a bit, until the other chicks are fully integrated into the rest of the flock. What a zoo! It looks like Samantha might have some more bird watching duties coming up!
We were afraid of upsetting Henrietta by taking her eggs, but she seems to be adjusting fine now. I think the guinea boys are relieved to be off guard duty. The next day after we did that, they seemed to be enjoying some relaxing time! They’ve also been spending a lot of time hanging out in the garden and tall weeds, making funny little singing noises and sometimes squawking. They all seem pretty happy.
This is all new to us and trying to find out clear information about guinea hens and their mating habits is nearly impossible. We’re pretty much “winging it” (excuse the pun) and learning as we go. Apparently, they only lay eggs for a month or so, which we’re bummed about. I wanted more guinea eggs for eating! Hopefully we get some hatched that we can keep, and we’ll have more females next spring. Everything we’ve read does say that they are not very good mothers (she certainly didn’t stay on the nest all the time), and it can be better to just raise them yourselves. That factored into our decision to get the incubator as well, but mostly we did it to keep Henrietta safe from that darn fox (who still keeps coming around), and with the hope we might get some little Violets as well.
Learning as we go is fun and these birds are so interesting and entertaining. I never would have thought I’d be so fascinated with birds. I think it’s a good distraction as our cat and dog numbers have dwindled so greatly here over the last few years, and with all of Luke’s issues, it just doesn’t seem like the right time to add any cats or dogs to our family. Hopefully that will change, but in the meantime we’ll enjoy learning and growing our bird family instead.