Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gretta's Guinea Hens

This Thanksgiving I awoke to a new flock of hens here in Big Sandy Mush... Guinea Hens!!! My friend Gretta found this tight group of chirpers running around her Knoxville,TN neighborhood and captured them in a dog crate in her back yard. Gretta's brother Bort picked up the flock late last night and brought them to the old chicken coop & free range area here! YAY!
They were safely shut in the coop when I first saw them and did not seem all that scared of humans. They stayed together, very close - a behavior that is much more extreme then I have seen with domesticated chickens. Their faces look alot like vultures and they tend to put their neck in while resting, in the same position vultures assume while napping on a tree branch. Their feathers though are so vibrant and patterned so beautiful - striped like the back end of a male turkey, but all over their body!
They filed out together into the field to peck around in the grass...
I gave them food scraps but they showed no interest in them (unlike chickens) - if anyone knows about these birds I am open to suggestions on how to care for them.
In the meantime, check out how the flow of their back feathers are so dramatic and gothy. :)


Gretta said...

They really do like to stick together. When Miguel was capturing them (and they were sure they were going to die) some would escape only to come back to suffer their fates as a group. I think they are sweet even though they definitely have little yucky vulture heads :)

Leslie wears organic clothing and plays in dirt said...

Hey Gretta!
I like their vulture head :) - it's a good contrast from the pattern of the feathers (conventionally pretty VS conventionally ugly). That is wild how they will stick together even when they think death is near - chickens are not like that at all!
I would like to know if the males look different, if there is no male we should get one so they can lay fertilized eggs. That would be really neat! said...

They are so beautiful! Thanks for sharing this heartwarming story. Glad they are safe, warm, and well-fed. ;-)

Leslie wears organic clothing and plays in dirt said...

from wiki
"This is a family of insect and seed-eating, ground-nesting birds that resemble partridges, but with featherless heads, though both members of the genus Guttera have a distinctive black crest, and the Vulturine Guineafowl has a downy brown patch on the nape. Most species of guineafowl have a dark grey or blackish plumage with dense white spots, but both members of the genus Agelastes lack the spots (as do some domestic variants of the Helmeted Guineafowl). While several species are relatively well known, the Plumed Guineafowl and the two members of the genus Agelastes remain relatively poorly known.

The species for which the information is known are normally monogamous, mating for life. However, occasional bigamy has been recorded for the Helmeted Guineafowl (Madge and McGowan, p345-352). All guineafowl are social, and typically occur in small groups.

They are large birds which measure from 40-71 cm in length, and weigh 700-1600 g.

The Helmeted and Vulturine Guineafowl generally occur in open or semi-open habitats such as savanna or semi-deserts, while the remaining species of guineafowl mainly occur in forests.

The Helmeted Guineafowl has been domesticated and introduced outside its natural range, for example in southern France (where they are known as Pintade), the West Indies, and the United States."

Susie Collins said...

Beautiful birds! My neighbors on Molokai raised guineas. It's important to get the right food for them right away, esp since they've come to you as a feral flock. I believe they can eat turkey feed that you can get at a feed store. They don't eat kitchen scraps like chickens. Also, they are not necessarily like chickens where they will free range and then just come back to the coop to roost each night, but I believe you can train them to come back. I'm sure you've already found tons of info on the web about how to care for them. Good luck!

Leslie wears organic clothing and plays in dirt said...

Hey Susie!
Thanks for the links, the first one is particularly helpful and sweet to read too. :) They don't seem like a good bird for egg eating since they dont lay consistently or often - i think people mainly eat them (the actual hen).
The website said they could be fed chicken feed, which is what i think they are giving them here now - although the guineas seem more content to peck at grass.
They are very very pretty birds - but them not eating food scraps kinda sucks!

Panne said...

if you don't clip the end of a wing to prevent them from flying when they are a few days old you won't keep them for very long. they will fly off and populate other areas. there are a few places here that people turned them loose to hunt them later and they have run out native species of birds and animals. any little thing moves in the yard, they will let you know about it, for a really long time. they will also let you know about imaginary things in the yard for a really long time. you'll be making stew with them soon if you're a light sleeper.

they are all dark meat and similar in taste to duck or goose. good luck on getting eggs. the female will disappear to lay her eggs and might return when the babies hatch. they weren't bred to be egg production machines like some breeds of chickens. most chicken breeds only lay for reproduction.

you may be able to get most of them to come home at night by feeding them a hen scratch mix. they aren't too fond of pellet type feeds designed for other domesticated birds. if you feed them at a regular time and come up with a noise they can here from far, most of them should come running once they associate the noise with food. if the bugs are more tasty than the hen scratch they could care less.

they really haven't been changed much by any selective breeding. compared to wild specimens in africa there is little difference.

Leslie wears organic clothing and plays in dirt said...

Hey Panne!
Thanks for all the info! From what I read it seems like a bird people keep either to eat or just for fun. I won't be keeping any of these for myself, the other peeps who live here will be caring for them though. Since they don't eat food scraps or corn, like chickens, I am not able to care for them myself - i am allergic to the grains the guineas eat as supplement with free ranging.
I have not heard them make too much noise yet, but also it's very cold and windy here right now- which may be eclipsing noise they make on warmer days. They do chirp alot while putzing around. :)

Panne said...

most people raise them for eating and to help keep the tick population down. they are excellent "buggers". they also won't tear up a garden like chickens will.

Gretta said...

Well that stinks that they won't eat scraps. I hope they decide to stick around the mush but if they don't it has to be better for them than running around Knoxville.