Thursday, October 23, 2014

Father Goose adopts flock of Guinea Fowl

Junior and Prince
This is the story of an inter-species friendship between Prince the Goose (white bird in photo on the right) and a flock of guineas.  Prince and his son, Junior (grey bird in photo), are the last of a small flock of geese we have had on our hobby farm.  Geese live a long time -- Prince is now 14, Junior 13 -- and I'm not getting any younger, so I have let the flock slowly dwindle from old age. (We are vegetarians.  We eat the eggs but do not slaughter.)

With geese, the ganders help care for the young.  Since Prince no longer has a mate and there are no goslings around, he has turned his affections toward my guineas.  From the moment I brought home four half-grown guineas last fall, he has taken a most paternal instinct toward them.

When they first arrived, I had to keep them in a cage inside the coop for a couple weeks before letting them free range -- otherwise they would try to "home" back to where they came from -- and Prince stood guard by the cage every night.  When I finally did let them loose, he followed them around the yard.  Junior went along, but it was primarily Prince who set the pace.  And he made sure they went back in the coop, too.  If they tried roosting in a tree, he stood at the bottom and raised a ruckus!  By the time the first snow came, they were well trained to go inside.

The guineas turned out to be three males and a female.  I really had no intention of breeding her, but she had other ideas.  Her first nest she built too close to the road for comfort.  Prince was having a fit because the road is his boundary and the males were going across it to my neighbor's yard.  That's how I found the nest.  I took the eggs before she started setting, hoping that would be the end of it.

Can't find Molly?  Click photo to
enlarge and try again!
So what did she do?  She hid her second nest closer to the coop in the tall grass.  I didn't find this one until she was incubating, so I let her be.  If you look really, really closely in the photo, you can see her in there.  That brave bird sat through two very strong rainstorms and held fast to her eggs -- I thought for sure I'd find her drowned the second time, when high winds brought four inches of rain within hours.  But she built well, on top of a little rise, earning her the name "Molly Brown"  (of Titanic fame, since both survived dangerous waters.)  Why didn't I move her inside?  Because moving a guinea nest is very risky.  They are wild, flighty birds who often abandon the eggs if disturbed.  Better to leave nature alone.

Molly's well-hidden nest
There were 15 eggs.  12 hatched but one baby died, leaving 11.  I wasn't sure exactly when she started sitting, so I checked every day.  Luckily I found them right after hatching, because the grass is cold and wet in the morning this late in the year.  That can mean death to new keets. So I caught them all with mother Molly and put them in a large cage inside.

Prince stood by them outside the cage, often not even wanting to come outside the coop.  When they were feathered out and big enough, I turned them loose -- and here you can see both ganders herding the flock around the yard!

Prince herds the flock home toward evening, fall 2014.

Prince and Junior guarding the flock
in the chicken yard, fall 2014. 


wordlings said...

What an amazing thing. The guinea fowl family is wonderful. Thank you for sharing this and the photos too. :-)

Yonassan Gershom said...

Yes, they are wonderful. Now that the ground is covered with snow and the guineas mostly stay inside, the geese don't want to go outside for long, either. I usually put the geese outside while I feed and water the chickens & guineas because otherwise they get feisty and sometimes bite. In the past they would often stay out all day, even sliding in the snow like penguins. (Really! the coop is on a hill and one day a few years ago I came out and saw them coasting down on their thick belly feathers!

But now they go out, run around and flap their wings for a while, then come right back and honk at the coop door to get back in with their adopted guinea family!

Yonassan Gershom said...

Update spring 2017: Sadly, Junior was the victim of a predator attack and died. we lost some guineas then, too, and later gave some away. We still have Prince, Molly, and 4 grown keets. Prince still guards & herds them all.