The Guinea Hens 2

The Guinea Hens, Part Two

Read Part One here.

Jim and I finally made it home, three guinea hens richer than when we’d left. We carried the crate to the chicken coop and placed it in the attached run. The guineas, suddenly quiet and apparently all pooped out, piled atop one another at the very back of the crate.

Fine by me.

We headed for the house to lick our wounds and shampoo the stink from our hair.

For the next two weeks we confined the guineas to the run, in hopes they would forget their old home and bond to ours. They passed their time as guineas do, trying to commit suicide by hurling themselves against the wire every time I passed within fifty feet.

Guineas, Google told me, are sexed by their voices. Who knew? Females are identified by a delicate little “Buck-wheat, buck-wheat, buckwheat!” call, while males sound like a lawn tractor that won’t start.

I had the tractor type. Not hens at all.

And I couldn’t tell them apart. One of them did appear to be marginally in charge, so we named him Larry. The other two were Darryl and Darryl. Anyone my age will know why.

Two weeks passed, and on a beautiful autumn morning, I opened the door to the covered run. The guineas launched themselves into the wire. I walked away.

An hour later, they ventured forth. I knew the moment it happened. The din that burst from their throats was worse than anything they’d managed in the car. Everything was new, and everything demanded guinea commentary.

Guinea commentary is deafening.

Unlike my brush-hugging banties, the guineas loved wide open spaces. The nearest open space was my riding ring, so they let themselves inside and ran back and forth, leaping into the air, plunging back to the sand, and hollering their heads off.

The horses ran for the woods.

I followed their progress throughout the day. They hollered from the driveway, and they hollered from the barn. They hollered from the woods, and they hollered from the vegetable garden. They hollered when the horses, tired of the hollering, chased them from the ring. This caused an explosion of guinea screams and horses’ feet. The horses, once again, bolted for the woods.

Finally all was quiet, and I spied all three guineas resting in the grass beneath the apple tree. I avoided that part of the yard for the rest of the day.

I needn’t have bothered. Only an hour later the guineas started screaming as if they were being hung by their feet and used as piñatas. Worse, the sound was coming from the road.

The thought of flattened guineas was not nearly as frightening as the thought of someone driving into a tree to avoid them. So I ran to the road, hoping to herd them home before they caused my insurance rates to spike.

Too late. There was a car stopped in the street, honking its horn, and the three guineas stood inches from the grill, dipping and bobbing and honking back. They showed no fear, and no likelihood of moving. If they could speak, I think they would have said, “Oooohhh!  Shiny!”

With a quick apology to the driver, I tried to herd the guineas back toward the yard. They had other ideas.

They ran.

Three abreast, they passed the end of the driveway faster than a deer outrunning black flies. They ran with their wings hiked up like little fullbacks, legs pumping, screaming louder than my Kubota tractor. I doubt they had any idea where they were going, but they were in a hurry to get there.

For a moment I thought I would never see them again. But I was saved by a gentleman in a red truck, who stopped well beyond the fleeing guineas and herded them back toward me. Together, we chased them into my neighbor’s yard, across the property line and back to my lawn.

The guineas screamed about their adventure for several hours. I imagine it was like a group of friends discussing every scene of a horror movie over a keg of beer.

That evening, it was surprisingly easy to herd the guineas back into the coop. All was well for several days, until I spent an evening away from home. The guineas were far more frightened of Jim than they were of me, and he couldn’t herd them into the coop. Instead they roosted on top of the run-in shed, and when I returned home, I could just make out their ghostly faces dipping and bobbing in the dark.

I weighed my options. If I left them where they were, an owl or a raccoon might find them and might kill them. If I tried to coax them down, they would likely run screaming into the night, and an owl or a raccoon might find them and kill them. I chose door number one, hoping they would go unnoticed for one night.

On the following morning, I knew something was different. I fed the horses and spread hay through the woods. I fed the chickens and let them out for the day. And all was peaceful and quiet and…

Guinea-free.

I searched the yards of the surrounding houses, but I saw no guineas. And though I strained my ears in all directions, I heard no whistles or honks. They were gone. Sadly, I continued my morning chores. Every so often I thought I heard a guinea voice, and I paused to listen. But it was not to be.

Once my work was done, I headed for the house for breakfast, stopping to collect banty eggs along the way. As I left the coop and turned toward home, I thought, once again, I heard a faint honking sound.

I stood perfectly still, not daring to breathe. It was a guinea. And it was very far away.

I headed in the general direction of the sound, climbing through dense brush and tangled mountain laurel, stopping frequently to re-assess my direction. As I got closer, I was certain I heard two guinea voices, and I dared to hope.

I finally found them, perched atop a stone wall on the side of the road, about half a mile away. They were, of course, both hollering and whistling, peering optimistically at passing cars like an abandoned dog hoping for a ride home.

I called to them, “Hey, guys!  Are you OK?”

Astoundingly, both birds became instantly quiet, and they both dipped their heads in my direction. It appeared Larry was gone, and Darryl and Darryl were now without even the barest semblance of leadership. And so they turned to me.

I gently encouraged the guineas from their perch and began herding them toward home. They ran along the top of the wall, occasionally dropping to the ground and traveling a short distance through the brush. In a surprisingly short period of time, we arrived on the manicured lawn of my next door neighbor.

Oops.

“Shhhh! Don’t wake him up!” I pleaded. But the guineas had other ideas. Fascinated by the large expanse of soft green, they orbited the house, screaming like banshees in a B-movie. I tried to push them across the stone wall into my property, but they didn’t understand. Each time they reached the boundary, they ran alongside the wall, turned back, and took another explosive lap around the house.

I ran home for help, quickly returning with Jim, only to find the guineas standing directly under my neighbor’s bedroom window, still honking their approval of the new digs. I was mortified. Head hanging in humiliation, I trudged to the door and rang the bell.

No one answered.

Oh, thank God!

I ran back to the lawn. “Jim! I’ll chase them through the back. When they come around, head them off and send them over the wall.”

I crept toward the guineas, sending them into a honking dead run, across the lawn, around the house, and toward the drive. As they rounded the corner, the sight of Jim sent them scurrying back toward me, and with that escape cut off, they immediately turned and dashed up the wall. Once back on familiar territory, they screamed louder, dipping and bobbing and honking, apparently thrilled to be home.

With the loss of Larry, Darryl and Darryl became model citizens. They learned to stay in the yard, and they put themselves into the coop every night. They ate ticks and warned the chickens of danger. Everything was as it should be, at least for a while.

Six months later, I met one of my neighbors at the grocery store, and knowing she had once owned guineas, I asked her if she still had them.

“Just one,” she said, a little sadly. “We have one lone guinea who showed up in our yard last fall. I think someone must have dumped him.”

I didn’t say a word.

8 thoughts on “The Guinea Hens 2

  1. THIS. WAS. HYSTERICAL. We used to have guinea hens at a barn where I kept Sally, and they were SO FUCKING OBNOXIOUS. And no one believed me! Everyone wanted to get them because they’re like bird alarm systems. Literally the stupidest, most annoying animals that ever lived. But they are kinda cute, in an ugly way. 🙂 (Btw, I read part one just now, but for some reason I didn’t get an email alert about it, so I missed it the first time around. Odd!)

  2. I have 8 guineas to butcher, but I’m afraid to catch them in their pen! They are driving me nuts with their constant chatter. They annoy my horses & terrorize my hens. LOL

    • Hahaha! Never again. 🙂
      I was at the Deerfield Fair on Friday, and there was a pen of quiet guineas. They were smaller than mine – maybe not yet mature. I’m going to assume the girls are not as loud as my boys were. 😀

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