Saturday, 25 August 2012

Seventeen Keets!



Friday 24th August 2012
Saturday 25th August 2012


 
 
 









For a couple of days now G'nea G'nea's behaviour has been different. All the while that Lady Guinea has been dutifully sat on her seventeen eggs, he has pretty much got on with life as normal. Maybe a few times a day he might hop the fence and have a cautious peek, and without his spouse he has taken to roosting inside the huts with the other chickens, but apart from that he has been really rather subdued.

But this last couple of days he has been in close attendance to the nest, up to his old macho tricks whenever anyone approaches the nest, squawking and charging with raised wings.

For a moment Sue and I thought we may even be able to hear young birds cheeping under Lady Guinea, but when she went for one of her short excursions back to the chicken pen for food and drink, there were the seventeen eggs still.

But just look what met my eyes this morning.
























 
Amazingly Lady Guinea has managed to hatch all SEVENTEEN eggs!!!
Her timing could not have been more perfect, as some sort of fence just had to be built today for the imminent departure of Gerald, and it needed to go virtually through her nest site. In fact, it was as I was wheeling the fencing equipment down that I clapped eyes on the chicks.
The male was in surprisingly close attendance and clearly intends to be the doting father. This is good as it will need the pair of them to be at their most alert and bravest if they are to successfully raise the chicks.
Before I continue, I should tell you that guineafowl chicks are known as keets. Guineafowl are not known as the best of parents and they certainly can't count to seventeen! With a cat, stoats, weasels and probably rats around, as well as the aerial threat from flying predators, we really have never expected more than a couple of the keets to make it to maturity. On top of that, conditions in blustery Lincolnshire do not quite match the more tropical conditions of native fowl. In fact, the primary killer of young keets is the wet, and Sod's Law says that our spell of fine weather is about to come to an end.
 

Read on to find out the fate of this lonesome straggler.
 
The two parents led their quite sizeable family of fluffballs through the grass and around the edge of the chicken pen as if they already had a plan. Unfortunately, one poor keet was unable to keep up and persistently got left behind. I tried not to intervene, but I did twice pick it up and place it back with it's family, but the same happened each time. In the end I decided to leave it be. That's the way nature works and the weakest would never survive anyway. Indeed it would be unwise for the parents to expend their efforts trying to save it. So, unfortunately, it's keep up or be left behind to fend for yourself...
 
That is, until the holy intervention of Sue, who some time later appeared with cute fluffball cupped in her hands!! We now have a second brood box set up in the hall.
 
All this meant that I had a day of great physical exertion driving in fenceposts and hanging gates. But of course I took plenty of breaks and guess which of our many animals got most of my attention! Though of course I did keep a respectable distance.
 
I daren't get my hopes up too much, but at the moment the future looks quite healthy for all sixteen keets. Lady Guinea seems to know what she is doing and both parents seem to be doing a good job. They have abandoned the nest site (a natural defence against predators) and set up camp in the orchard on the other side of the chicken pen.
 
The straggler now inside is still alive, but it is touch and go. It needs to get up and start eating and drinking soon.

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