"Money is the seed of money and the first guinea is sometimes more difficult to acquire than the second million." I think Jean-Jacques Rousseau may have been confusing his guineas.
I really wasn't holding out much hope so I didn't mention this before. The appointed time has been approaching, but I wasn't sure when they started sitting. They just quietly slipped off and were only conspicuous by their absence on the roosting fence at night.
Last year they laid dozens of eggs but we did our best to disrupt them. We didn't want a whole population roaming around the place. We decided that a family of eleven was enough. Eventually some did sneak off and sit, but it all came to nothing.
This year I decided to let them sit, on condition that if any hatch we start eating them! (We will, of course, wait until they are a bit bigger). And so, for a while now, there have only been five guineafowl sitting on the fence at night, presumably the males.
There are three nests: one in the corner of the chicken pen where three fowl have been sitting on 32 eggs; one under the soft fruits, containing maybe 15 or so eggs sat upon by two fowl; the third took some finding. I presume it's the oldest female who has buried herself deep in the grass in the young woodland. I have no idea how many eggs she is sitting on.
A couple of days ago there was a false alarm when all five males were in close attendance of the nest in the chicken pen. I was half expecting to see stripy heads poking out from under the wings of their mothers, but when they moved there were just 32 eggs to be seen.
Anyone with any ability in maths has probably worked out that we could end up with rather a lot of guineafowl! But I've not been optimistic about the chances of any hatching and even if some do, they will run the gauntlet of rats and other predators. Guineafowl are brave and protective parents though. More of a threat will be long, damp grass, for this kills more guineafowl chicks than anything else.
Well, if you've been reading carefully, you've probably guessed that today the hatching has begun! I went to give the chickens their afternoon feed and collect eggs when I noticed that only one guineafowl hen was sitting in the corner. Half the eggs had disappeared and there were eggshell remnants in the grass. Not quite sure what had gone on, I guessed that maybe something (rat?) had disturbed the nest. But as I approached close, the hen got up and there, on top of all the other eggs, were three extremely small guineafowl chicks.
I quickly retreated and left them in peace. Only another 29 to hatch. That's from this nest! Pictures to follow.