I love my birds. Each one has its own specific character and its own unique traits. Gertrude is definitely unique. Gertrude is a guinea. Guineas aren't known for being especially tame or cuddly. I wouldn't say that Gertrude is really tame, she is just familiar with me and she trusts me. That being said, here is a glimpse into how I ended up with a guinea bird for a pet, and how she and her fellow compadres fit into our little farm and my heart.
"How about we get some guineas?" Somehow this wasn't what I was expecting to come out of my husband's mouth. I looked at him quizzically. "Guineas? Um, well I guess they eat ticks... What made you think about wanting guineas?" I asked, still trying to process this new thought. My parents have some of these odd-looking creatures on their little farm, so I knew just a few things about them: They go where they please when they please. They are pretty good watch-dogs, making a racket if they see something or someone out of the ordinary. They tend to hide their eggs in remote places, so although their eggs are delicious, you can't always find them. They are capable of hatching out babies, but often make completely terrible parents, sometimes leaving their young behind to get lost or eaten by predators. They also prefer to roost in trees. Since they often behave like they are only half domesticated I guess the fact that they would rather find their own spot to sleep shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to us. Anyway, the hubs had been talking with a friend of ours, a fellow animal lover and outdoor enthusiast, who was thinking about getting some guinea keets himself. Chris already knew where he could get some, and knew there would be enough for us to be able to get some too, if we wanted them. As fortune would have it, after we had already ordered half a dozen, a friend of ours happened upon some fertile guinea eggs and gave me some. I hatched those out in our little incubator, and soon after, our ordered keets came in as well. All the babies were only about a week apart in age, so they grew up together quite nicely. Soon we had a flock of 12 guineas.
When young male birds start to mature, sometimes they can act a little crazy, silly, or even obnoxious. Many times you just can't keep too many male birds in a flock in general, or they can start to fight. The guineas were, as they are now, sleeping in a tree right outside the hen house, and sharing the food with the chickens, ducks and geese. This seemed to be working out pretty well until the young male guineas, for whatever reason, formed a rogue and villainous gang. They began to bully the other birds and even got into a couple of fights with Juan Carlos the rooster. They beat up on Giselle, my beautiful Maran hen, pretty badly. It took her a while to recover. Something had to be done. We decided the hubs would go out and butcher 5 of the most aggressive acting ones he could find. It's very difficult to tell the males from the females, so our idea was to reduce the population somewhat and hopefully be rid of the offending behaviors. His aim is pretty good. Now we don't have a cock, but we did have some delicious guinea pot pie! Peace was restored in the barnyard.
The guineas wander all over and across the fields, chasing bugs and eating the seeds that form on the tops of the grasses. Their favorite food however is scratch. Scratch grains, for those that don't know, are a mix of grains that are designed to throw out on the ground by small hand fulls and let the chickens have fun scratching for as treats. The mix we get has cracked corn, oats, and wheat in it. Gertrude was the first one to figure out that the scratch was kept in my little red wagon. I use the red wagon to hold all the animal feed and hay, and then I pull it around behind me as I visit all the fields and feed all the animals. Since guineas don't care a thing about fences and can't be contained by them anyway, I now have a flock of 7 guineas that follow me everywhere, talking and carrying on the whole way, and jumping up into my little red wagon and eating the scratch! This I find entertaining.
After I've finally made it to the last field and am headed into the chicken yard, I pick up the bucket of chicken feed in one hand and Gertrude in the other. We make our way past the horses and through a flock of quacking ducks, excited hens, and honking geese. I set her down in the yard and she joins the rest of the birds scurrying after the scratch. You'd think she'd be full already! Nope, she is still as excited as everyone else to make haste for the tasty treats. Ah well, the life of a guinea!
Gertrude has won a place in my heart. She has a gentle way about her and she has chosen to trust me. I've grown to love her polka-dotted feathers and her little silly looking head. An unlikely pet indeed but nonetheless. This is Gertrude, my pet guinea.
I'm Debbie. I love listening to chickens cackle and sing. I love Lindt chocolate truffles, a good cup of coffee, and a good book.