Our first batch of guineas escaped from the garden and disappeared into the creek, presumably never to be seen or heard from again. We shopped around a bit and found another breeder in New Mexico with some young keets that we could buy and we got another 15 baby birds to try and convince that this was their home.
Four died. They may have been too small and gotten cold or (more likely) were picked on by the other, larger keets.
So about a week and a half ago, the 11 survivors moved out to the abandoned guinea coop and enjoyed a slightly different view. I did not let them free range at all, not even into their small enclosure, mostly because I’m terrified that they’ll hear the wild turkeys gossiping in the creek and decide that flash floods and raccoons are worth risking for a little more freedom and super fresh water. Meanwhile, we found an older guinea, about half grown, dead in the driveway. I have no idea why it died – it didn’t look chewed up at all – but that meant that pretty recently there was at least one surviving guinea from our original batch.
I’ve been watering and feeding my hungry keets in their safe coop with closed doors every day and watching my acorn squash plants get decimated by our incredibly prolific squash bugs. I’ve also been struggling with a reasonable timeline for free-ranging these guineas. Then, four days ago, I heard the awful racquet of a lonely guinea and saw one of the original guineas land on the top of the coop and cry for company. He was alone and clearly missed the cushy life of daily food and water and no flash floods or raccoons. I opened the doors to the coop and walked away. Twenty minutes later, I came back and had 12 guineas in my coop. I guess the new guineas welcomed him into their flock.
Yesterday we opened the doors and let our new guineas (and one original) out. They went back into the coop at night and got a scoop of food and safe doors shut behind them. Somehow when I closed the coop up this evening we had gained another guinea and our flock now stands at 13. I’m very hopeful that we’ll have 14 or 15 after a few more days, but that might not be a reasonable expectation. Every extra one is a guinea that I have counted as “lost” to the claws and teeth of hungry predators, so they are all a bonus at this point. I’m glad that they seem content to keep roosting in their coop and while I know that might not last forever, I’d like to get them a little wiser before they wander off into the trees.
When I see them darting through the pumpkins and squash it makes my heart happy. Their voices are about the most annoying sounds ever, but I hate squash bugs a lot more than well-meaning guinea chatter and alarm calls.