All Good Things. . .

Guineas are better than any insecticide.
Early morning is the best time to be in the garden. I often step out of the house before 7 with my camera just to check out the garden. Its pleasant, much cooler and the light is not so intense. Even at this early hour, I was not the first to visit the garden. Hank and Edna our resident guinea fowl were already on the job. Walking slowly, heads bobbing, they were searching for insects. You go, guineas! 

Edna sets on eggs under the mulberry tree. Don't mess with her.
This summer, Edna, our female guinea, successfully hatched a nest full of eggs after many unsuccessful tries. She located her nest under the mulberry tree not far from the vegetable garden. It seemed like an ideal location. To offer her a measure of protection (she sat of the nest all night when who knows what might be prowling around) we thought we might fence in the area around the nest. Guineas can easily fly over a fence, but predators would stay out. That was the idea anyway. Mike placed a fence around three sides with the idea of giving her time to adjust. She did not. She paced the sides of the fence unable to figure out how to go in the open side. Flying over didn't seem to occur to her either. The fence was removed and she was on her own.

Well, not completely on her own. During the day, Hank, the male guinea didn't get very far away. He would listlessly look for insects and then sit and soberly wait a few feet from the nest. "I guess this waiting for babies thing is hard on the guys, too," I remarked to Mike one day. "Yes, it is," he said, his voice heavy with experience.

If you look closely, you can see the first hatched keet.
Day after day she sat on those eggs, coming off the nest just briefly to eat a bit or get a drink. As the days progressed she left the eggs less and less. Four weeks is a long time and a lot could go wrong, but this time, nothing did. And finally, success!!  There was much jubilation among both humans and guineas.
A proud mama and her scurrying keets.Baby guineas are called keets.

 All was not well, though. We had been told that guineas are not very good parents. That seems rather harsh, I know, but the truth is that a suburban yard and eleven tiny keets who cannot keep up with their parents wandering is not an ideal combination. Especially if you factor in neighborhood cats. Mike has raised many chicks and several keets in our garage. He knows how to take care of them. We knew they would be safer there. "Let her keep a few," I protested. He left her two. By the end of the day, there was only one. 

The next morning we were disappointed  to see Hank and Edna out on their morning scavenging without any trailing keet. Then several hours later, I saw them again and this time, the keet was with them. They were near the chicken pen and the tiny keet walked through the fence and tumbled down a few inches into chicken pen. Chickens ignored her and I rescued her, returning her to her parents. When I told Mike, he said, "I think I need to get that keet, too." 

"You let that mama keep her baby!," I hollered from the house as Mike walked across the yard. But what he found was the tiny keet sitting by itself in the middle of grass between the chicken pen and the garden. Hank and Edna were nowhere to be found. Even I couldn't argue with him then. That keet joined her siblings in the garage.

The keets are an interesting genetic combination. The top half have the pearl feathers like their father, but on their breasts, they have white feathers like their mother. The keets have been sold and have a new home.
"What shall we do next, Hank?"
 Hank and Edna didn't seem to miss a beat. They resumed their happy wandering, looking for bugs in the garden, stopping by the glass doors to admire their reflection and never getting very far apart from each other. Each night they roosted in the cedar tree over the chicken pen. 

Wednesday morning I was out early, before 7, and there they were, already on the job. After a pass through the garden, they headed towards the front of the house and I headed inside. "Have you seen Hank?," asked Mike, minutes later. "Edna keeps calling for him and he doesn't answer."  Yes, she certainly was. Her two syllable screech was repeated over and over. There was no responding one syllable call. Over and over, throughout the day she continued to call. Hank, it seemed, had disappeared. Looking around, we could find no evidence of what might have happened, not even a stray feather. 

I'm sure you've guessed that there is no happy ending to this story. It took a few days, but eventually we learned what we already knew. Hank was dead. He had evidently been hit by a car on the road near our house and was thrown under a evergreen tree. I had never seen them on the road before, but I guess it only takes once. 

Edna continues her lonely patrol. She still stops once in a while to call, but not so often as before. Oh, look, there's a bug! She scurries after it. 

Hank, our guinea 2010-2012

More blogs about our guineas:
It's a Bird, It's a Pain
Parenting Problems
Lonely No Longer



  1. I'm sorry about Hank. :(
    I love your photography and writing.

  2. sorry that Hank got hit...
    great blog though! Nathan


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