Young Keet outdoors with Mama




The door the chickens and guineas
use to get out of the barn
is a half-door
rather than a full door.
They have to fly up onto
a four-foot-high ledge,
then step into the doorway
and down the other side
onto straw bales
which we put there
to make it easy for them.
So, for a guinea
to get out of the barn
they have to fly up
about four feet onto the ledge.
Imagine our surprise
one evening when
Mama Guinea was outside
with her two-week-old keet in tow!
How could that tiny keet
get out the barn door?
We let them back into the barn
through a floor-level door.
Then, yesterday morning,
there were mom and babe
out and about the farm
pecking through the grass.
The keet is now three weeks old,
but still not able to fly up four feet—
at least, we don’t think it can.
We have no idea
how mama gets the keet outside.
They searched for insects
all morning,
mom keeping an eye
on a half-grown kitten
who seemed to be on the verge
of stalking young keet.
By afternoon, I was feeling sorry
for the little one,
who had to take about ten steps
for everyone its mama took.
And by mid-afternoon,
they were both, mysteriously,
back in the barn—
though not resting.
At dusk,
we found the keet
on the inside of an outdoor barn pen
and mom on the outside of the pen.
Both were pacing the wire fence,
keet tweeting
and mom squawking.
When we opened the door,
in mom went and they both
tootled into the safety of the barn,
settling into their corner
for the night.

Soon after hatching,
we removed five of the newborns
from the barn
to be kept in an indoor pen
at the pond house.
Mom had abandoned them;
we rescued two,
shaking in the cold
in the alpaca pen. We still
have no idea how they got there.
Ann nursed them all back to health,
only to have a house cat
steal its way into the pen,
kill one
and cripple another.
Frank put a split on the injured leg
and that keet is adapting
to its life with one functioning leg.
(We have a crippled adult too
and she, with her wobble-walk,
manages fine.)
The keets living in the house
are twice the size
of the lone keet in the barn—
we think because little keet
has to run after mom
all day long.

I hope life in their native Africa savannah
is easier.
But here they are,
out here on a western mixed grass prairie,
and besides their gift
for epic insect control,
they teach us
and compassion
and wonder.