Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Damp weather kills guineafowl

The guineafowl family at roost

Tuesday 16th October 2012

Wednesday 17th October 2012
Just a couple of days ago I was telling a friend how it looked as if all eleven guineafowl keets would survive to adulthood, now that they are past the vulnerable little chick stage. In fact they are looking more grey than brown now and have begun to develop the wonderful spotty and barred plumage of adult birds. But one bird is about half the size of the others. Up until now it's been doing fine, but it was certainly the most vulnerable of the troupe.

Well, as you can see by the last two sunrise photos, we've had two wet, grey days here. Most of the rainfall has been at night and the guineas have looked a bit bedraggled by the morning, since they've taken to roosting exposed to all the elements on top of the fence, all in a line squashed together for warmth, comfort and security. Four lucky youngsters get the protection of a parental wing to form an umbrella over them.

During the day, the guineafowl gang roam freely around the smallholding, though they don't often wander far from the chicken pens. In fact, they regularly hop in and out of the pens. And odds are there will always be one or two on the wrong side of the fence, running up and down the fenceline in a panic, for they regularly forget that they can now get over. Not clever.

All this preamble leads me to the point of today's post. For this evening, at feeding time, I turned round from feeding the pigs and almost stood on the smallest guineafowl, all alone by my feet looking all forlorn. Hunched over with its wings drooping, things did not look good. This had come right out of the blue. All I could think was that it had suffered from two days of murky, damp weather and had maybe got separated from the others and not managed to get enough food during the day to keep its energy up.

Did Minifowl get separated from the rest?
Jostling for position dislodged
Minifowl three times.
All the more alarming was that it happily let me pick it up and nestled into my warm jumper. On the whole the guineas always stay at arm's length. I placed it up on the fence to roost with the others, but three times it fluttered back to the floor. Eventually I decided to put it in the hay-filled laying house, alongside one white hen who had decided to spend the night there.

But I knew this was one last throw of the dice. Surely in the morning I would find it quietly passed away.

I must admit, I trudged back up the garden with a slightly heavy heart. Life and death are part of the countryside but that doesn't mean that we lack compassion. We have just had to harden up to it a bit.

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