I stopped by my parents’ house right after work today to go over some of the final billing for the house. The whole time I wanted to get home because I was worried about the guineas in the garage. It was 93 degrees here today and they’ve outgrown their waterers, which are usually empty when I get to them each morning and when I return from work each night.
It was after nine and dark when I got home, and before I changed clothes, I stopped by the garage to flip on the outside light. I opened the garage door, called out my usual, “Hereee chick, chick, chick,” and listened for the soft guinea peeps in return. They were there, so good, the birds weren’t dead of heat exhaustion or dehydration. But then I flipped on the light, and when I looked toward their box I saw a cracked door and a seething grey mass peppered with 32 bright blinking eyes. “Hereee, chick, chick, chick, oh shit, oh chick, chick, crap.”
I quickly flipped the light off and shut the door, figuring that in the dark they’d at least stay calm. Then I headed into the house to pull off my daily Superman routine, changing from my work dress and dainty sandals into grubby pants, a long shirt, and chore boots. I grabbed my leather gloves, figuring I’d need all the protection I could get from those prehistoric beaks and claws when I went in for the Great Guinea Roundup.
When I returned to the garage and approached the birds, they dove for cover. And not in the direction of their half-open box:
So this wasn’t going to be easy. I was worried about causing group panic, because my garage is a pretty hazardous place for a young, dumb bird stupefied by groupthink and high on the instantaneous discovery of their powerful new wings. It’s still full of left over construction supplies—lots of sharp metal and plate glass and rolls of insulation and about a million places to get trapped or squished or beheaded or eviscerated. But while I was formulating my strategy, I did as any parent must and flew through the window of opportunity amidst potential misfortune. While the guineas huddled and scrabbled and cried in the corner of the garage, I cleaned out their box. Which is much easier without the birds in it!
With a nice, freshly papered box at the ready, I set up an elaborate system of other boxes and scrap lumber and grabbed an old garden stake in each hand. Like a conductor of the world’s most ridiculous orchestra, I herded the birds this way and that across the end of the garage, tweaking my maze as I tried to sweep the birds back in the direction of their open box. I wanted them to go as calmly as possible because I knew they were already stressed from the heat and being without food or water for who knows how long, and I didn’t want to imprint them with terror at the sight of me, any more than I already do each morning when I change their water upon first waking up.
Eventually I got the setup just right and the majority hopped back in the box. Once the two stragglers realized they’d missed the boat, groupthink worked to my advantage and a few more sweeps was all it took to get them to rejoin the flock. With all accounted for, I gave them a full feeder and some nice cold water. I know they were hungry because they actually approached me and ate even with my gigantic camera right in their faces—something they’d never done before.
So everyone’s safely home and tucked in for the night. And now their box has a marginally more secure door:
I got the idea from my classy crawlspace door. ‘Cause if it’s good enough for the guineas, it’s good enough for me!