My prediction that having our guinea hens finally allowed to free range would up the drama factor around here has turned out to be mostly true. So far, they are not any more dramatic than the chickens, they’ve just increased the volume around here.
They’ve also increased the entertainment factor. I don’t have to look far to figure out why I don’t get much done some days. I spend a lot of time bird watching, and we’re not talking wild birds!
It was a process to get them out of their separate cage inside the coop and integrated with the chickens so they could be outside their cage freely. We tried one time, and one of the chickens was pecking at them, so we decided it was too soon. We waited another week and it went better. We left their cage inside the coop and open for a time, until we knew they weren’t using it anymore. It gave them a place to feel safe, but eventually they decided they preferred to roost in the coop.
The next step was that we left both doors of the coop open and let them decide when they wanted to come out. It took some time. The first time they finally came out was a rainy day and they looked so wet and miserable we herded them back inside the coop and waited for a sunny day to try again.
Making the decision to have them in the coop to start with was perfect. They still consider it their safe place and sometimes go back in during the day. Most importantly, they go inside in the evenings. There was only one night that they didn’t, and we have learned how to herd them, which is fun, and we can mostly get them to go where we want them to (it does take some time though!). We started the herding technique to get them back in their cage inside the coop and I’m so glad we did!
They stayed close to the coop for the first few days, and in time started to wander further and further away, sometimes following the chickens to find new places to explore. They aren’t flying a lot yet, though one did find its way into the dog pen the other morning! Luckily Cricket was the only one outside and though she’s interested in them, she doesn’t bother them.
Luke is a bit too interested in them, so we need to be careful now. In time he seems to be getting more used to them, like he did the chickens, and he may just be having some fun with them too. It’s giving me good opportunities to work with him on some of his cues, and he’s been doing very well at leaving them alone when he’s told.
In many ways, the guineas are like the chickens. They enjoy taking dust baths, and just cruising around the yard pecking at the ground and eating bugs. They don’t seem to like the fruits and veggies as much as the chickens though (we’ve found the chickens are crazy for melons and tomatoes). As far as we know, they won’t be laying eggs until next spring possibly, and they won’t do it in the coop like the chickens (who still occasionally lay one elsewhere too). Though they’d been mostly skittish of us so far, they now come running towards us sometimes along with the chickens, so I think we’re growing on them.
We don’t even know which sex some of them are! We have now figured out that the lavender one who we call “Violet”, is a female, along with one of the pearl gray ones (Harriet). Females supposedly are the only ones who can do a two-syllable call that many people equate to “buck-wheat”, though initially we found it a stretch to interpret it to those two words. Judge for yourself in the video below. This video was shot one of the first times they were out and about. At that time, Violet was the only one doing the “buck-wheat” call, and she seemed to be leading the pack. More recently, she and Harriet had been squabbling and I think they were having a power struggle.
So far, the guineas stick quite close together for the most part, as seen in the videos (other than the first ones, where “Betty White” got left behind in the coop). The chickens did at first too, but they are often now spread far and wide and often alone. I have a feeling the guineas will always stick together though. In this final video, you get to hear some of their sweeter songs.