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Four in the barn

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In the indoor coop

We so enjoy our Guinea Fowl
companions.
For one thing,
they are beautiful.
Their bulbous bodies
are covered in polka dotted feathers;
their unfeathered heads
are colorful;
their short legs
move quickly
without their body moving much at all.
They are raucous,
males vocalizing loudly in one syllable;
females, two.
They feast on ticks, grasshoppers
and other insects.
And, unlike domesticated chicken breeds,
they are great parents.
Away from their native savannas,
these parents have a daunting task
successfully parenting their young ones
to autonomy.
After last year’s tragedy—
in one day, they lost all the baby keets—
mamma chose an in-the-barn nest
this year,
and hatched five little ones.
She would have hatched more
but we put some of the eggs
into an incubator,
where they hatched and are living
in an indoor coop.
(We hope mom and dad are successful this year
and next time we won’t have to rob the nest.)
It is a thrill to watch the five babes
in the barn
race alongside mamma and pappa
all around the barn.
At night, mamma finds a corner in the barn
and they nestle safely under her,
while pappa roosts close by.
But during the day,
we have to check on them:
the tiny ones have a propensity for exploring
and repeatedly find their way out of the barn,
underneath a wire gate.
Sometimes they get caught in the wire gate
and one suffered a damaged wing.
Yesterday, we found the damaged-wing-one
upside down in the dirt barn floor,
trying to right itself,
unsuccessfully.
We set it on its feet
and it ran to pappa guinea,
who pecked at it several times.
Fearful that pappa thinks the little keet
doesn’t stand a chance of survival
with the broken wing,
we caught it—Pappa was not happy
about that!—
and took it to join those in the indoor coop.
Now there are four tiny keets
in the barn,
negotiating rabbits,
adult guineas
chicken hens and a rooster—
and that wire gate
(in spite of our efforts to secure it.)
Its not their native African savanna,
and dangers still exist,
but they are a week old now!