This morning, we decided to move the ducklings into the duck house and the guineas into the newly predator-proof chicken coop. With all of our energy spent trying to keep dogs, fox and hawks out, we failed to consider keeping the birds in. This was our Achilles heal.
Will dug out a foot deep trench and reinforced the entire enclosure with hog wire earlier this week, so we wouldn’t have to worry about how easily the chicken wire of the original structure seems to tear. Unfortunately, after Will carried down the first half of the birds from the shed, we quickly learned that panicky 3 1/2 week old guineas can push right through old chicken wire and walk through hog wire like it was a doorway. And so began the scramble.
First, we tried chasing and catching the birds that escaped, but for every one we caught, two more would sneak through another hole. Then the efforts turned to catching those left in the enclosure and locking them in the actual coop. The scene was quite ridicules; Will armed with a garden rake hunting through thicket on a mission to find guineas, me half herding guineas and half herding Alston, Alston calling “here peep, here peep.” In the process, I watched four fly across the creek as I attempted to grab them. By the end, we managed to get 11 into the coop, and we had no idea how many were on the lam.
Will promptly headed to the local co-op to purchase railroad ties, which he used to line the outside of the coop. This provides almost a foot tall wall where the chicken wire is most vulnerable. He then tacked the chicken wire to the railroad ties to be sure there were no guinea-sized gaps. We spread hay along the inside perimeter to remove any temptation for the birds to poke their heads out of the holes of the chicken wire and inadvertently find a weak spot.
Then it was off to collect the rest of the guineas. Let me take a moment here and speculate on why guineas are not the new chickens. These birds are impossible to catch. First off, they can fly. Not like a chicken can fly, I mean for real like a sparrow can fly. Second, they are completely skittish. You can hold feed in your hand and chickens will saddle up for dinner. Guineas run and hide, and they are crazy good at it. Once they find a good hiding spot, these otherwise obnoxiously loud birds don’t make a sound and stay perfectly still… for practically a half hour.
So as I was saying, we go back to catch the rest of the birds in the shed, none of whom are in the bedded area we set up. Boxes, paint cans and bookshelves were moved, and Will and I were shouting instructions to one another like we’d just come under fire. After fifteen minutes, we caught 10 more birds, putting us up to 21. Considering we’d had two fatalities, that meant 7 birds were missing.
We dropped off the second batch and watched again how different guineas are from chickens. When we moved the chickens to the enclosure, they happily scratched away at their new, larger space. Instead, the guineas proceeded to run the perimeter and test the fencing the entire way, in search of an escape. So far they haven’t found any. We fed and watered them and headed back to the shed to double-check that we hadn’t missed any – turns out there was one more hiding, meaning we have 6 escapees.
I’m hoping that later tonight at least 1 or 2 of them will come out of hiding now that all their siblings are barking up a storm. Not that we’ll be able to catch them or anything.