Friday, July 30, 2010

Guinea Fowl

Pearl Guinea Fowl
When we moved to our farm Kentucky in '03, one of the things I was sure I wanted to get was guineas. As a child growing up I would often visit my mother's family in East Liverpool, Ohio where the family has a gentlemans farm. My grandfather was particularly fond of horses and poultry (as was his father), but by the time I was older had sold most of his birds except the guineas and several mean geese.

I adored the guineas, for their ugly charm and their amazing noise. (The mean geese are worth their own story one day.) My grandmother used to say the sounds they made reminded her of a rusty gate hinge (those are the quiet noises, they make very loud ones too!) But I wanted some, if only to remind my of my grandparents, and the summer of '04 found me looking for guineas of my own.

We found a breeder in Indiana who had some for sale, and drove over there to pick up some young birds (called keets.) We brought them home, and set them up in a chicken tractor to get used to being here. Guineas have to be penned in a new place for at least four to six weeks before you allow them to roam, or they just take off.

Once we set them loose, they adjusted to free ranging and became a constant source of amusement. Guineas are not the smartest creature on the planet, and we joke that they share one brain amongst the entire group, which is why you often see them chasing each other about, for hours at a time!

Our farm has considerable road frontage, and behind our own 45 acres is another 102 which is mostly pasture and woods like ours. Across the road is our neighbor John, who has a dog named Darla. So where did the guineas decide to roam? Not behind the house, where there was freedom and safety aplenty. No. They decided to cross the road, and go play in Darlas' yard. Darla, being a dog after all, decided she found them very tasty indeed, and I could hardly be mad at her for eating them, as they were in her yard!

In the process of their daily jaunt across the road, one day several of the guineas were hit by a car and killed. The girls and I saw their bodies as we were returning from school, and I pulled into the top of the drive and got out to pick up and dispose of the bodies.

Behind us had been a pickup truck with a local hunter driving (we could tell he hunted because he had dog boxes in the back.) He pulled into the drive behind me and got out, and asked "Are those yours?"

"Yes" I replied quizzically.

"What are you going to do with them?" He asked.

"Um, I'm going to throw them away." I responded.

There was a long silence, me standing holding the dead guineas, him looking and them and then back at me. Finally it hit me.

"Do you want them?" I asked.

"Well, they sure do make good eating" he replied, "can I see them please?"

I handed the dead bodies over. Now, this was essentially road kill, right? I know people eat guineas, and their meat is actually a delicacy. But I've never eaten road kill, and wasn't going to start with birds I considered pets.

The hunter said "Yes, I'd like them if you're not going to eat them, they're in ok shape."

I told him he was welcome to them, and he drove off with the dead guineas in his truck. I shook my head, and continued down to the house, smiling to myself, and explaining to the girls what had happened.

Young guineas stuck on the roof.
To this day, we still haven't eaten one of our guineas, I just can't bring myself to do so. We have eaten a number of our chickens, but the guineas just have too much sentimental value to me to try. Whenever I look at them, I feel my grandfather smiling down at me from heaven, laughing at their antics. So from us at least, they're safe. From Darla, well, when it comes to her, they're on their own.


Beth said...

Lovely story.

What's a "gentleman's farm"?

MizGreenJeans said...

Thanks Beth. A gentleman's farm is one generally considered to be a hobby farm, not one on which the owner relies for income.

Christine Heinrichs said...

Guineas do have a mind of their own. Thanks for this story. Keep us posted!

Dianne said...

Charming story! As a kid I was thrilled to be able to go riding with your grandfather. He surely is smiling.


MizGreenJeans said...

He was wonderful to ride with, wasn't he? Always a nature lesson; plants, animals, trees, he was the consummate naturalist.

cgmccary said...

Nice story and timely for me. I have set some Guinea eggs under two of my broody Buckeye hens and my Bantam OEG hen-- looking forward to having Guineas on my place. Everyone says they are good at keeping the place clear of ticks.

Moira said...

I can't wait to get some guineas here on our farm.

I had a neighbor stop once and ask if they could buy one of our bantam chickens, and if we would kill it for her...

I told her that a fully grown bantam didn't have enough meat on it's little self to kill and eat... o_0

Instead I gave her a full sized chicken I had in the freezer, she was thrilled.

Alex said...

This brought a smile to my face while I drank my morning coffee. A good smile indeed!