Every farm needs a flock of guinea fowl, or two…
When we moved to the farm six months ago, we inherited a mostly wild flock of five adult guinea fowl. A couple of months ago we lost one when it was hit by a car. Then a month ago our fourth guinea fowl vanished. Our neighbour found her sitting on a nest of eggs hidden near his front fence. Since then we’ve seen her a couple of times – no keets in sight. I could be wrong, but I don’t think our nesting guinea fowl has had any luck hatching and raising her keets. From what I’ve read, guinea fowl are terrible mothers with a very low success rate of raising their own young. So, given all that drama and complication, we decided it was time to increase the guinea fowl population on the farm ourselves. Answer: six guinea fowl keets.
Not long after deciding to expand the flock, I saw an advertisement online for ‘Pearl Pied’ guinea fowl keets and sent off an enquiry. The response came back: “How many do you want? Where are you located?” A few messages back and forth and we had a drop off arranged – the local grocery store carpark, Saturday morning. I’d bring the cash, they’d bring the birds. “Look for us. We’ll be driving a dark X-trail.” It felt like a drug bust operation scene out of some low budget cop movie.
We pulled up at the carpark Saturday morning, and there was the car, boot open with boxes of birds inside. A few other people were already standing around, waiting for their order to be handed out. A couple of Australorps for one guy in a ute. A pair of guinea fowl for a nicely dressed woman. And a box of six taped shut for me. “So they don’t escape,” I was told. I could hear shuffling of little birdy feet, a few faint whistling cheeps and see glimpses of tawny feathers through the airholes. Hopefully there were six healthy guinea fowl inside and not just a few sparrows they’d shoved in a box! Guess I’d have to wait till we got home to find out!
Once back at the farm, we put the box inside the cage and released the guinea fowl into their new (temporary) home – a cage with one end enclosed for the keets to shelter. Adding a drown-proof water container, a tip-proof feeder filled with turkey crumble and the keets were all set:
Today the keets are still quite nervous, darting around as a flock to avoid us if we open a door to change the water or feed. I’m hoping that will improve a bit as they get more used to us. Already this morning they were happy to come out and eat while I sat and watched them, as long as I didn’t open the cage. So there’s hope they’ll become more tame – but I’m not kidding myself they’ll ever be as tame as the chickens.
We’re keeping the cage outside on the grass by day, covering the house section with an old towel to take some of the heat off. At night we bring the cage in and place it on cardboard on our back deck, covering with bird mesh to keep out pythons. Later this week we’ll be putting together a chicken tractor with rodent and snake-proof steel mesh so that the keets can move into this once they’re too big for the cage. Eventually, once we’re confident they’re not going to fly away forever, we’ll start free-ranging them.
It’s a long journey, but I’m looking forward to watching their antics as they wander about the farm as a fully grown flock. Then there’s the possibility of getting an incubator and raising our own keets…
Maybe, one day, the people doing shady bird-deals in the car park on a Saturday morning could be….us!