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Guineas are a wonderment.
They are beautifully shaped,
beautifully feathered in polka dots.
Their voices are loud
and insistent;
their message
indecipherable.
They nest
and move about
in family groups.
They mate;
the male tends to the female
while she sits on the nest of eggs.
Wandering the farm,
they are scrupulous
about eating grasshoppers and ticks.
They do things that seem irrational
to us:
fly over a fence,
then pace the length of the fence
(for hours)
trying to find a way to get back through the fence,
rather than fly back over it.
They will fly up to the barn roof
and pace back and forth across it,
the whole gang—
feet clicking noisily on metal roof,
squawking—
before finally flying down from it.
They can be shepherded
into the barn at night;
but they will not go in the door
without considerable training—
and scrupulous patience
on the part of the shepherd.
They are fun to watch,
their tiny legs scurrying
beneath their bulbous bodies.
They sometimes take up
with chickens;
ne who was raised with chickens
as babes
stayed with the rooster and four hens
for months
before finally moving into a guinea flock.
A friend has a flock of four guineas
that follow a rooster about
all day long.
They evidently
can’t defend themselves very well.
We have lost many a guinea.
Another friend recently
lost five guineas to a snake
who strangled them (and left them, dead)
while other guineas looked on.
Native to the African savannah,
they have trouble raising their keets
here.
Keets succumb
to taller, damper grasses
and predators of all kinds.
A few days ago,
a guinea hen hatched
six eggs,
and left six others in the nest.
Ann rescued the six eggs
and put them in the incubator;
but they were cold too long
and most did not survive.
The guinea hen trots around the barn
all day,
her keets trying to keep up with her,
but they get tired
and lost.
We have rescued four,
left behind
and cold.
She still has one
very hardy one
shadowing her
in the barn.
Keeping guineas
of all sizes
alive
is a great challenge.
And it’s a pleasure
to live alongside
beings
whose ways
are a mystery,
who don’t respond to life
the way we do.
It is not possible
to project human ways
onto Guinea fowl—
which means we
have a better chance
of getting to know them
as they really are.