Life with chickens and guineas
is rich.
Everyday
there are eggs:
four chicken eggs
and one or two guinea eggs—
chicken eggs in various nests
in the barn;
a guinea egg somewhere outside,
or sometimes in the barn.
At the moment,
we don’t know where the guinea
nest is. The guinea hen collects a nest full
and then sits. She isn’t sitting now.
We sometimes rob
her nest of some of the eggs,
to put in the incubator.
We’d like to increase the guinea flock.
For one thing, we lose one every once in awhile,
despite our careful watch over them.
And the more guineas,
the fewer grasshoppers and ticks.
Last week,
from more than 20 chicken and guinea eggs,
hatched three chicks
and two keets.
So now, they are growing
in a box in the pond house.

The oldest chickens are at the barn
and the younger chickens,
almost old enough to start laying,
are in the garden at the pond house.
Ann has just finished building them
an enlarged two-story house
with a fine roost
next to the east end of the high tunnel.


Two young guineas
that were hatched in the incubator
earlier in the spring
are now too big
and fiesty
to live in the small holding pen at the barn,
where they’ve been growing alongside young Silkies,
so we let them out into the barn with the older guineas
a few days ago.
One immediately ran out the barn door
into the alpaca pen
and wouldn’t come in at night.
Next morning it was no where to be found
and we thought it lost,
but it showed up two mornings later.
That has never happened before;
usually if they disappear
we never see them again.
We put it back in the barn,
welcomed by its pen mate,
but now we don’t see it anywhere.
We try to round up the guineas every night
and herd them safely into the barn
but the older ones usually fare well
even if they stay out all night,
roosting on the fence.

The beautiful red rooster
has continued to harass us
and the hens.
We have to carry a bucket of water
or, better, a stick,
to fend him off.
And while we can withstand
his attacks,
all the hens have bands of rawness
across their backs
from his sharp talons.
Recently, when a young guest
tried to protect a hen
from the rooster
(both outside the fenced area)
our dog Maizey
took after the rooster
and chomped off his beautiful
black-green tail feathers.
Rooster didn’t go after us for a week or so
after that,
but of course the hens
got no reprieve.
And we knew that the little Silkies
wouldn’t survive life with red rooster
when it’s time for them
to move into the larger chicken and guinea
community.
So last night,
Frank, who is a vet,
attempted a neutering—
his first,
knowing they are rarely successful.

A younger rooster lives at the pond house
and we’re hoping
he isn’t as aggressive,
because he will be the one now
to fertilize chicken eggs.
It was a difficult decision.
We will miss red rooster’s beauty.
But not his aggressive behavior.
Of course we’ll never know
what the hens think;
whether they’ll miss his presence
or appreciate his absence.
At least,
their backs will heal.