July 22nd, 2010 §
The keets turned eleven weeks old on Tuesday.
Their favorite thing is eating grass—in fact, the only time they will willingly approach me is when I extend a fistful of greenery their way. Things got a little tough during the drought we recently had. All the grass on the farm dried up and blew away with the dust. I haven’t mown for more than a month, and haven’t even assembled the new mower I bought to replace my other that I killed by running over a gnarly big tree root that was hidden in the grass. Back when we had grass! I even saw an ad on CraigsList that a farmer was selling his entire herd of cattle (15 head) because there was nothing for them to eat in the field.
And then last week we got a few storms that dumped a couple of much-needed inches. The pasture greened up, and things started growing again.
The keets continue to exercise their loud new voices, and each time I hear them all launch into a cacophonous chorus, I am glad I built their coop relatively far from the house!
Their wattles continue to grow, and they are sprouting bony protrusions that will become the “helmets” on each bird’s head.
One reason that I am including so many guinea photos, other than that I find them neat, is that I have had such a hard time finding good-quality images of guineas in all stages of their development. I hope that I can do a service to any other birdkeeper who’d like to know what they are getting into!
In other birdwatching news, I have really been enjoying the hummingbirds as they come to feed on the back porch. They never cease to amaze me with their crazy flying and admirable aggressiveness as they chase each another around the sky.
July 13th, 2010 §
So after a late-night finish last Thursday, I spent Friday moving the guineas into their new house. Which was close to the most stressful part of this whole project. I donned safety glasses and a face mask and leather gloves and entered their box in the garage. They, like the wild animals—with WINGS—they are, freaked out. They massed together into an explosive guinea bomb with birds shooting left and right and up and down trying to escape my deerskin clutches. It was all I could do to blindly grab at their body parts, wincing as I felt leg joints pop (forgive me for thinking “Buffalo wings!!”) and soft tissue smash beneath my fingers.
Each bird I managed to extract came out fighting, with me clamping it to my stomach to try to control its wings. My belly is scarred by slashes. I look like I’ve taken part in a bear fight, not moving day for 16 one-pound birds.
But, prevail I did, taking each guinea outside and hurling it into its new palatial estate. I hung around for about a second after each to make sure the poor dears could still hobble, and then I went back for more. Sixteen freaking times.
I am proud to say I had only two escapees within the garage during this process, and by force of rage I soon had those transfered too. We all sat for a while in the coop, all 17 of us animals panting:
And then I got up, went in the house, and took my reward. And yes, it was a double.
July 10th, 2010 §
The hours put into this project have run together just like the sweat and sawdust that mixed on my skin as I worked. But continue we must, as the birds weren’t growing any younger in their garage box. So, we got the siding up and positioned and nailed:
And then cut out the openings for all the doors and windows:
All the siding is on and the roofing as well. I must say, having a tractor to pick some of this stuff up was great.
I spent at least nine hours on July 4 painting circles around the coop. The T1-11 siding really drank up the barn paint I was using. I like white farm buildings, remember, so that was the natural choice for this little house. Plus, I am hoping it will help keep it cool inside.
Then I put 1/4″ hardware cloth inside all the window openings, hammering in poultry staples every few inches for a tight fit. And then I screened in the eave vents, with the idea being to eliminate any access point for predators. And then I installed the windows—storm windows that I put in with their latches facing outside so that I could open and close them without actually going inside the coop—like when I am all dressed up and on my way out to work!
Meanwhile, Dad framed in the wall that will divide the bird area from the storage area, and he built four beautiful custom doors: a front door, a storage/bird area door, a cleanout door for the opening beneath the roosts, and a tiny “chicken” door that will provide the birds access to the wild blue yonder.
Here’s about where the temperature was—in the shade—during this entire construction project. It’s been a beastly slog, up at 7 a.m. and working until 9, 10 at night during a rainless heat wave.
But the good news is that after a few late nights last week, including a Thursday night that ended at 11 p.m., the coop is done! Well, done enough to move the birds in anyway—I still need to trim the doors and windows and put on the roof, which is sporting a space-age silver tarp until I can get that done.
The whole project has been way more involved than I ever thought it would be…but I am happy to say that it is great and I think it will be just perfect for my needs and the birds’ too. If there is one thing I know about keeping animals it is that their enclosures need to be well designed and well built to keep caring for them from being a dreaded chore.
And this coop is built solid as a tank, so if this whole bird thing doesn’t work out, I have a really nice guest cottage!