Guineas vs. Silkies - A Nest Comparison

Lady Guinea's newest clutch, this time better hidden

For the past three weeks two of our yard birds have been "gettin' broody". They're both extremely dedicated. The silkie, named Sassafras, or Sassy for short, will go for days without getting off the nest. The guinea, Lady Guinea, gets off everyday to eat and drink. Lady Guinea also stays highly alert and will fly at you if you come near. Sassy enters what I call "monk mode" and does not open her eyes. She just sits there completely still so she can preserve all of her energy. If you try to pick Sassy up she will puff up and make a harmless attempt to peck at you. Lady Guinea, on the other hand, will tear you up. Talons out, flying at your face. Both have lost a lot of weight on their mission to hatch some babies. 

Can't even see the nest unless you pull back the ivy

Each hen has her own little nesting spot. Lady Guinea's previous attempt at getting broody only resulted in three chicks from a nest of 24 eggs. By the end of her 28 day broody period there were only 5 eggs left and she hatched out 3 of them. Her first nest was raided. She now has a different spot. It's on the opposite end of the yard, below a big oak tree. Her nest is neatly hidden beneath a bunch of poison ivy and isn't visible from the outside. Her previous nest was easy to spot. This one is much better. Perhaps she learned. It's only her second nest, after all. I think she picked the perfect spot. It's also sheltered nicely from the prevailing Southern winds. Right now it looks like she has about 24 eggs on there, one more than the last nest (we put a turkey egg underneath her last time). By my guess she should be due to hatch them on Monday or Tuesday, but I could be off a day or two either way.

Sassy in monk mode, holding down the corner of the barnSassafras decided to get broody on her eggs in the "goat barn". This is the area where the goats can lounge while the other goats get milked. It's not really a 'barn' per se, it's an old tool shed that we converted to a barn. There's also a big paddock on the outside so they can be outside and graze while they wait. More frequently, however, they choose to stand near the fence and baaa at the nearby (but out of sight) buck pen. Now that the ladies are all coming into heat the evening milkings can be quite a hollering contest.

Anyway, Sassy's nest is in the corner in the area where the goats lounge. When the goats come in for milking they go check out Sassy as if they hadn't seen her in that corner every single day for the past 3 weeks. They poke their noses down at her and she awakens from monk mode and pecks at their faces until the goats go on about their business (aka take a nap). 

Sassy's eggs. Better make the most of 'em Sass

Sassy's nest, in comparison to Lady Guinea's, has only TWO eggs. We think they're fertile, but we can't be totally sure. She should be due at a similar time to Lady Guinea. Elvis, our silkie rooster (click to view his glorious crow), would be the proud father. He's my favorite (along with everyone else's, come on), so we're really excited for Sassy to hopefully hatch out a couple chicks.

If you're wondering about Lady Guinea's previous gaggle of baby guineas, none of them made it. Two went missing after a few days. One made it a few weeks and was looking great, but then one day it was just gone. It had even gotten to the point where it was roosting in the coop. No idea what happened. This time around, we'll be taking the little baby guinea chicks and raising them up. If it were still summertime I would give her another chance (and she'll have another chance next year), but with the cold, rainy weather I'd rather see to it that the babies are OK. 

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Feeding, or Not Feeding, the House Birds

Winona, the Wyandotte, and Sassafras (aka Sassy), the Silkie, trying to get broody on the same clutch of eggs

We keep three hens, one rooster and five guineas in a chicken coop near our home. We had a question on Facebook a couple days ago about how much we feed the birds. It turns out that the poultry are really the only animals that we don't keep a good track of how much they're eating. I had to answer honestly, "I don't know".

There's a couple good reasons why I don't know. The first is that we don't feed the birds very much if bugs are still around. If I find a tick in the yard chances are pretty good they won't get any feed the next day. The purpose of the chooks is to lay eggs and eat bugs. The guineas are 100% for eating bugs. Notice how both have "eating bugs" in the job description? Gotta make sure they earn their keep.

Elvis, our silkie rooster

The second good reason why I don't know is because our non-LGD yard dog, Ginger, is an avid chicken feed fan. I see her over at their little feeder licking up grain all the time. We correct her frequently and she always stops.... but she also always comes back for more.  

I do, however, try to give the chooks a little bit of feed every morning to make sure they stick around. I fill up about half a quart in a mason jar and screw it on to their little feeder. If Ginger doesn't get to it there will always be some left at the end of the day.

I guess they're just spoiled by the freedom and the apparently great taste of our bugs.

The Case of The Terrified Chooks - Part II

Got your man on camera chooks, now what?

Lady Guinea, bald rump and all, was at least accounted for. All day the chooks had been going about their business, foraging and taking dust baths as usual. Elvis crowed all day, Winona followed us around squawking, just the usual day for a chook on the farm. Or at least we thought.

After wrapping up chores and watching the sunset I went back into the barn only to see ALL of the birds up in the rafters roosting for the night. Crap! After months of them happily living in the coop this one incident terrified them to the point of abandonement. I wasn't about to let them get in that habit, so I took a plastic rake and shooed them out of the barn and rounded 'em up into the coop. They weren't happy about it, but it's better not to get them started on thinking the barn is their new coop.

The next day I went to check the nest boxes for eggs, and to no surprise, no eggs. The hens were either too frightened to lay eggs (which can last for weeks or months), or they were laying elsewhere. This would be harder to crack than the roosting problem. How do you get a hen to start laying in its coop again? No, seriously, how? 

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