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?


  1. No helpful thoughts, but I would vote for car vs. guinea, and then they drag themselves off or are flung out of sight. I don't know how many guineas I almost hit over the years. They seem to have a death wish when it comes to cars. All over the road, won't move...or if they do move it's right under the wheels. Hope that you resolve the problem and that it doesn't extend to the chickens!

  2. Well.... you do live in Linn county, so who knows what could happen. :)
    I am thinking car vs. guinea also. Or a VERY large snake.

  3. Oh Marie! That'd be some snake! Eek! I think I prefer the car scenario.

    Tammy, you both are probably right. Guineas are just a bit too big for a hawk p/u (the only other daytime predator I can think of), although not impossible - just unlikely. I've lost 2 chickens to the road, but they were both very visible, feathered lumps in the road. Seeing as the guineas have a different pattern of moving, maybe the angle/trejectory was different also. Enough to knock them into the tall grasses of the neighboring pasture?? Morbid thoughts, right? ;)

  4. Sorry to hear about your guinneas. I'm thinking bobcat. Since they wander farther than the chickens, a bobcat will take it's kill away and eat it. I once had a bobcat comeout of a wooded tree line and take a hen no more than 8 feet from me. They are brave and will hunt during the day.

  5. I don't know a lot about Guineas, but what I do know is my grandpa's were avid run-aways and my old Vet boss always kept her's in a pen. Grandpa stopped buying them even though they are so lovely because they made him crazy with their disappearing acts and reappearing at a neighboring farm! THey sure are characters! LOVE your blog! I'm saving it to my favourites and I definitly think the girls and I need to visit your farm!
    Amy Katz

  6. Hi Amy! Thanks for stopping by! You guys DO need to come over. Our girls would love it!