I spent a great day working outside in the yard, hacking down an old grapevine that I hope to rehabilitate. I opened the guinea coop and a few birds spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the newly green grass. It rained off and on throughout the afternoon, and I left their coop door open. Yet they didn’t rejoin their flock.
Around sundown there were about seven birds still outside the coop, circling madly but not jumping inside. I think they were still traumatized from their last foray out, which ended in a panicked flock right at the door of the coop. I curse myself for allowing that to happen, as I think it undid months of conditioning them to calmly return to their coop.
As it got dark I turned on their coop light, as well as the garage floodlight, hoping that the birds could see their way in and put themselves to bed. I sat on the front porch and watched as the sky filled with deep blue clouds out of the west.
All of a sudden the wind began to blow like the proverbial freight train, sending leaves tumbling across the driveway and causing the floodlights to do a wild shadow dance. It was dark now, and I could barely see the pale bobbing heads of several guineas still outside of the coop. I went inside for my boots, and the wind was blowing so hard it ripped the door from my hands. The power cut off just as I was stepping off the porch.
As huge raindrops began to assault me I approached the coop to find four birds huddled in a mass outside of an open door leading to food and water and the rest of their flock lit up in vital detail by a warm lamp. And yet these birds were camped out together in the dark and pelting rain.
I tried to herd them into the coop. Despite my warnings that, “If you don’t get inside right now you are dinner for the fox!,” they weren’t falling into line. In the dark, and with soaking feathers, they were moving unusually slow. So I did something I’d not done since they were tiny babies. I grabbed one. And, surprisingly, it ended up in my hands. I took it to the coop and threw it inside, setting off a flurry of dust and feathers inside. Pleased with my success, I went back for more.
I grabbed a second bird. It felt substantial. Meaty. I know to admit such brands me a horrible caretaker, but it was the dinner hour and thoughts of fricassee flashed through my head.
I overcame my base impulse and tossed the bird inside with his flock.
The remaining two guineas must have gotten wise to the farmer/predator in their midst. I chased one a bit, in and out of pale light and dark shadows, tripping over tractor implements (which cost me half my big toenail on my right foot) and made my strike. The bird screamed and burst away, leaving me with a handful of feathers. I gave up on that one, and approached the other, able to see only its bright frantic eyes in the flashes of lightning. When this bird headed into the pasture I gave up the chase. My jeans were soaked and made it hard to move my legs. My hair was dripping water, plastered to my skull. The thunder boomed again. Screw these birds.
I closed up the coop, and dashed inside to peel off wet clothes directly into the dryer.
Upstairs I turned on the shower. Nice and hot and sane. I teased grapevine buds out of my hair, and a lone guinea feather slowly swirled down the drain.