There and Back Again

“Not all who wander are lost.”

-J. R. R. Tolkein

About three months ago, Cory and I traveled down to Ludlow, Vermont to pick up a baby beef calf from Cory’s cousin. His name is Triscuit and he smells bad, but more on the cattle next post.

While Triscuit lounged in a calf box in the bed of the pick-up, five guinea fowl squawked and bleated and pissed all over the cab behind our seats. They were tucked into cardboard boxes but the effect was the same as if they had been running free.  After three hours I hated them more than I can say.

It’s just as loud as it looks

We housed them in the old chicken trailer and debated our permanent guinea fowl accommodation options. Guineas are not like chickens, as they don’t easily “home”. While chickens will head into an established coop as soon as it begins to get dark, guinea fowl will venture far afield, roosting in trees despite your best efforts. Sometimes they will just “leave”, never to be seen again.

I tried training ours with millet, a guinea’s favorite treat, and we had just arrived at the stage of, “at least they looked at me when I called,” when Cory’s father, in an effort to move things along, built them a pen and little house near the garden. We sighed and moved them in.

 Here at least they were a bit easier to care for, but try as we might, we still couldn’t get them all to go into the house at the same time each evening. We had originally wanted them to pest patrol the garden. Guinea’s eat bugs and seeds but generally leave plants alone. In their pen, they not only weren’t eating bugs off our cucumbers, but they were living in what amounted to a barely adequate cage. 

I still kind of hated them. They were loud, mean, neurotic, and ugly, but their feathers were beautiful, and I do get attached easily. It was all a bit of a puzzle.

Then, a little over a week ago, Cory discovered that something had squeezed through a hole in the fence and slaughtered four of our five guinea fowl. One hen remained. We named her Juno. 

As she certainly couldn’t stay in the pen amid the scattered feathers of her fallen companions, we put her in with the chickens. We weren’t sure if they would flock together, but we had to try. She needed company. I took Stan the Rooster aside and explained the situation. (I really did this). He cocked his head, looked me straight in the eye and I think, understood every word. 

Juno stayed close that first day and hopped into the coop with the rest of the girls when it got dark. I gave Stan a nod and whisper of thanks and breathed a sigh of relief. 

I was sure we were  in the clear, but it was not to be. The next day while weeding the beans, I watched as Juno traversed the meadow, passed the garden, and slipped into the underbrush at the edge of the woods. I thought about going after her, but stopped. I realized that she had chosen her freedom and I was not going to be the one to take it away again. She had been through so much, watching her friends get ripped apart while somehow managing to escape the same violent fate. She deserved to walk the journey of her life unencumbered by human constraints. Also, it was hot and my shoes were back at the house.  

She stayed away for two days and two nights. I thought about her out in the world, a great big world for a little guinea hen. I worried; I was feeling affectionate. I thought about the creature that had eaten her friends, and the rednecks with their guns and pickup trucks. But Juno was a survivor, I was sure of it. 

And then… 

When I got home today I immediately heard the unmistakable, bleating horn of a guinea hen. Juno was back! I raced around the garage to see her strutting about the yard, pecking the dirt. She had recognized our benevolence and come back! If she could feel at home here, so could I. All my doubts about our farm, our animals, and our vegetables faded. Surely, this was a sign! 

Juno is now roosting with the chickens, calm and happy. Perhaps the world was just a little too big after all. 

Or maybe she just got hungry.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Guineas are loud, mean to the chickens, and not too friendly, but i love them! They are tick eating machines, natural watch dogs, and marvels to watch, and even provide the odd egg for cooking. I am happy for your Juno’s survival.

    Adult guineas are next to impossible to keep at home without confining them for many months. The best thing to do with guineas is to get them while they are young keets and raise them with your chickens. Most of ours nest at night with the chickens – even putting themselves away. Those that don’t end up getting eaten by the many guinea eaters out in the wild.


  2. I do love their eggs! A little smaller than chicken eggs but very tasty, SInce her return, Juno has been heading in with the chickens at night, I think she’s happy for the company, and Cory and I are enjoying getting to know her better!


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