Monday, June 28, 2010

Guinea Babies!

June has always been the most popular month for birthdays in my family. It seems the Guineas on our farm have followed tradition! Yesterday, while chatting with my sister on the phone, I glanced out the window and saw this...
Of course, this is a shot from our side of the screen window. Go outside, and one gets a clearer view...

Well, by golly! Imagine my surprise, and delight, to see these little ones hopping around in the grass. If you've been following the Guinea saga, you know that this Guinea hen has been disappearing frequently for a few weeks now. I assumed there might be a nest, but I never suspected she'd succeed in hatching her own little brood. Way to go girl!

Mom & Dad are so proud. The keets (guinea babies) are 1 or 2 days old. There are a total of nine little balls of fluff, each small enough to fit into a tiny teacup. Too cute!!!

Both parents are involved in caring for the keets during the day. Even Daddy is sooo gentle with his babies. However, at night he returns to the barn to roost, and Momma and chicks go back to their nest. They are so well-hidden from view that I can't find them, even by flashlight at 1:30 am! I was up anyway, and I thought I might see them better by flashlight. Nope. Well, nature's doing just fine without my help so far. So, we'll just see how it goes. I'll be impressed if all babies make it to adulthood, but that is the natural course of survival. If they do all make it, it's surely going to be one noisy farm! We thought 3 adults Guineas were loud. Ha!

Does anyone out there know anything about Guinea genetics? It looks as though we have Royal Purple keets (same as parents in pic), Pearl keets (same as the first brooding hen who disappeared, permanently), and maybe one chick that could be Bronze or Chocolate (which would be rare), or just a faded Pearl. I'm wondering if two Royal Purple parents can make a Pearl? Or, is it possible the Pearl keets are actually babies from our lost Pearl hen? That would be neat, passing on her legacy.

We humans, so sentimental!

Do you know what it is?

She knows.  :)

Go on, I dare you to guess what kind of fowl's in the first pic!

All will be revealed in time...
tee hee hee, snicker snicker

Friday, June 25, 2010

Unexpected Visitor

Wednesday was our oldest daughter's fourth birthday. At 8:00 am our dogs started to bark at the patio window. I thought maybe a lamb had squeezed through the fencing, or maybe chicken had found her way over the gate. When I looked out the window, this is who I saw...

"Hello, little lady." She was covered in tics, maybe a few days worth. She looked slightly underweight, maybe just by a few days as well. She was scared. Somehow, this tiny little thing found her way past all of the other critters, into the backyard and around to our patio. Hmm.

Currently, we are looking for her owners. However, as each day goes by with no word, the outlook is not favorable. We are very rural, and we all usually know everyone else's business, err pets - uh hum. Anyhow, nobody recognizes her, and I've posted info. regarding a found dog in all of the usual channels. Chances are good she was "dumped" by heartless humans.

If no home is found soon, we will adopt her out. Ashlyn has dubbed her "Barky", although she hasn't uttered a peep yet. She takes to a dog kennel with ease. She has no idea what to do on a leash, but she is starting to get the idea. She is very calm, very quiet, timid, and she would gladly sit on our laps all day long. She is either a toy fox terrier or a miniature rat terrier, and she probably weighs about 5 or 6 pounds. She will make a lovely lap dog. It looks like she might be in heat, or at least coming/going. If I'm right, she will need to be spayed, vaccinated, etc. Her skin is dry and slightly irritated, which could be from the ticks, outside heat, malnutrition, worms, hormones, or white dog/sensitive skin. She's not shown any aggression, even in fear. She's now been exposed to the kids, dogs, cat, chickens and sheep. Her submissive nature should fit easily into an already established pet household.

If anyone is interested in fostering her or adopting her, please let me know.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Growing Lambs

Time goes by so quickly, like a snowball rolling down a hill, getting bigger and bigger and bigger...

Such is the case with our four beautiful ram lambs, born less than two months ago. I have to make decisions on whether any of them are sire quality. This is a hard thing for a new shepardess. However, decide I must! They will all be for sale soon, and it's been such a ram lamb season for most of the shepardesses out there this year. I have to ask myself, "Am I ready to house extra ram(s) for the winter if they are not sold?" Most likely not.

From what I've read, looked at, listened to and learned so far, I think our lambs this year have very nice structure. Their sire, Fairlight Conway, has awesome body structure that he's passed on to all of them. Their wool varies in crimp, length (intermediate and primitive), color (as they mature), and genetics. They are all moorit right now, but one is an Ag musket, who will turn Brownie's lovely oatmeal color. They all carry spotting genetics. Their horns look different from each other, and I'm having a hard time guessing who's horns will turn and clear appropriately. Overall, there are one or two that stand out with the most "ramly" presence.

I've put myself on a deadline to make my final decisions this weekend. Anyone checking out this blog, please feel free to give me your input. For now though, I'm just posting some recent pics to show them off. Regardless whether they are better ram or wether material, they're still lambs and still awfully cute, sweet and fun to hang out with! So without further ado, here are the twin ram lambs from Miss Fairlight Pixie and Miss Fairlight Brownie, sired by Mr. Fairlight Conway.

L to R: Pixie's lamb #1, Brownie's lambs #1 & #2 (musket), Pixie,
(in front, on knees) Pixie's lamb #2

L to R: Brownie's lambs #1 & #2 (musket), Brownie

Brownie's lamb #2 (musket)

Brownie's lamb #1


Brownie's lamb #1


Pixie's lamb #2


L to R: Pixie's lamb #2 & #1, Brownie's lambs #1 & #2 (musket)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Guinea Update

What the heck?! Our lavender female just showed up with the male yesterday. She's been missing for over a week! I've yet to hear her call her "buck-whee" sound. In fact, she hasn't uttered a peep. VERY odd for a guinea. They are not known for their quiet dispositions. However, she looks fit, and she's roosting in the barn again. What kind of adventure do you suppose she's been on?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"3 Little, 2 Little, 1 Little Guinea Guy"

In the beginning, there were three. "Fa la la la..."

Then there were two. "I'll watch your back, you watch mine."

"The cheese stands alone..."

Our Guineas are disappearing! Last summer someone traded us three 6-week old Guineas: one pearl hen, one lavender hen and one lavender male. After the initial one month in confinement, to be sure they knew where home was, they have lived free-range with our chickens. Up until now, we've never had a problem. They would roam during the day, and at night they would return to the barn and roost in the rafters with the other chickens.

About three months ago their social structure changed a bit. The male and the pearl hen paired up, and they would take frequent visits across our street into the neighbor's pasture. Our male would charge at cars, even my school bus, when passing by a certain area. I assumed they had started a nest, even though they still returned to the barn at night for some grain and sleep. I searched around the tall prairie grasses, hoping to find a nest full of eggs, but to no avail.

Well, with all of this car-charging behavior I figured it was a matter of time before Mr. Macho bit the dust. But oh no, it was the pretty pearl hen who disappeared first. She was there one day and just gone the next! I had a small hope that she was busy nesting and would show up one day with a little brood following behind her. Really though, that was just a pipe dream, seeing as how the mister was in the barn without his bride. He was so protective of her, even from me, that I just couldn't really imagine him leaving her behind.

So, as the days progressed, no signs of Miss Pearl. Even though the male was hanging out with the remaining hen, it was obvious he was not courting her. He even seemed to be flying to high perches more often than before, searching and calling for his little lost hen. Poor guy.

Well, about a week and a half went by like this. Then I went out to the barn two nights ago, and uh-oh, we're another guinea hen short! No dead bird on the side of the road, no tell-tale feathers from an animal attack. What the heck?! And now, Mr. Macho's no longer so macho. He's even walking around with a mildly injured leg, which from a short distance seems to be healing fine. (They've always been wild, and I've never tried to tame them.)

Here's what I know:
1) These disappearances are happening during the day.
2) The chickens are roaming in the same areas every day and coming home just fine.
3) My guineas are faster on the ground and in the air than the chickens.
4) It's a lot quieter around here without the females calling, "buck-whee, buck-whee" all day long.
5) I haven't seen any stray dogs in the area for a couple months, at least.

My theories:
1) A predator is picking the guineas off.
2) A car has injured them, and they died far off into the grass where I can't find them, possibly scavenged by other critters.
3) A hunter is picking them off, thinking they're wild turkeys... although I don't believe it's turkey season.
4) A neighbor has had it with their obnoxious noise making... although our neighbors are all farmers with high livestock ethics, AND, all live a quarter mile away or more.
5) A drive by Guinea enthusiast is capturing them and taking them home to their evil lair... even too far-fetched for me to believe, not to mention, to catch a wary Guinea they'd have to use one of those fancy nets that is blown out of a gun-like apparatus - like in the movies.

My Questions:
1) What kind of predator is out during the day that's large enough to nab a full grown guinea?
2) Why is it targeting the guineas and not the chickens, at least not yet?
3) Is it possible the male guinea is actually the culprit?

Anyone out there have any thoughts?