We mentioned the other day that we had a fox around again, and there was a second sighting so the birds are on confinement to their coop and run for a few days. The first day after we’d seen it, we had that fresh snow on the ground, so Luke and I searched for tracks when on our walk in the woods and didn’t find any, nor did we see the fox that day. We were hoping that meant this fox was just passing through. So the next day we decided to let just the guinea hens out. Since they fly better, they can more easily get away from predators. The guinea boys tend to be a little bratty and harass the chickens a lot so we like to give the girls a break from that if we can (they don’t do any damage like we’ve read some guineas do, they are mostly just annoying, but still….). We were hoping it was safe to have them out, but turned out to be wrong.
At least we were right about their ability to get away. We heard the ruckus outside and I saw guineas flying down the driveway and up onto the barn roof and the coop run. They were soon followed by the fox who ran behind the barn and between that and the garage for a second try. By then we were able to make a loud noise to scare him away, though he kept stopping and looking back! Finally he ran off into the woods. Then I panicked when I only counted 8 birds. Dadz went out to check and saw the other two up on the house roof. I knew the fox didn’t have a bird when it ran off, but still I worried, and was quite relieved everyone was accounted for and fine. We stayed outside until we could get the guineas inside for the night (which took some time since they were spooked and didn’t want to come down off the top of the run); and now everyone is being kept inside until things hopefully settle down.
It’s always a tough call having to leave them penned up, but we did learn the hard way that diligence is important for their safety. The fox will try more than once, that’s for sure. Ironically, egg production has been up – usually it goes down when they’re stuck inside. They may still be planning to launch that protest as time goes on, we’ll see! When we feel it’s safe to try again (maybe if we get more snow and it’s harder for wildlife to move around), the guineas will go out first once again. The only time we’ve lost one of them to the foxes has been when they are nesting and not paying attention. On a normal basis, when they are foraging around the yard there is at least one on guard duty, and their excellent flying abilities have helped them out. We still go with the “better safe than sorry” plan though, so we’ll be taking it one day at a time.
Even though the guineas can be bratty, they really love the chickens (and they chase each other too, not just the chickens). Oftentimes when they are out and the chickens are in, they’re hanging out on top of the run anyway! This is another reason that our coop expansion next spring will be good. Even though we’ll probably add to the flock, there will still be more room inside for everyone to hang out when they have to be confined. In the meantime, we’ll continue to hope for that deep snow we had back in November, which seemed to be keeping the unwelcome wildlife away. Hopefully the flock will forgive us for this unexpected, though hopefully temporary, interruption to their freedom.