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October 1, 2012 / 74

And Then There Were 14 Guineas!

Remember the “stray” guinea that wandered in? Well… yesterday she wandered in – with NINE chicks!!!

First – the literature on guineas says that they have a hard time hatching chicks in the wild. Our stray didn’t seem to have any trouble at all.

Second – the literature says that they have a hard time keeping the chicks alive more than a few days. Our strays are small, but feathered out with brown feathers (good camo this time of year).

BUT – that doesn’t mean that they will make it to adult hood. When I locked up the chickens and MY four guineas, the mom and chicks stayed outside and found some good dense weeds to bed down in for the night. (SEE!!! Yet another use for weeds!) We’re thinking that if the crowd survives they might decide to move into the chicken house in the winter – if it’s a hard winter or we get ice storms.

Another interesting aspect of this situation is that WE don’t have any MALE guineas!!! So somewhere out there in the bush is a little guy guinea. He hasn’t showed up here at the farm yet. We are guessing that since we don’t think any of our neighbors have guineas, this would be one of the birds that the dogs chased off and killed a bunch of last year.

Yesterday AM I found a cluster of rabbit fur fluff in the orchard pasture. So I looked for the fluff trail. There’s almost always a trail of fluff (in this case only one piece of fluff) that goes from the initial strike/contact to the final struggle and found it – and looked for the track line that the predator would have made during the rush to the kill. Found it.

Emily and I decided it was a coyote. (Narrow track width determined by deep claw marks close together and only about 1.5″ wide. The deep claw marks indicated traction for rapid acceleration as the animal dug in to make its attack.) I’d have been able to ID the tracks better if there was an actual track in dust or something – but all I had was the claws and the claw pad dents to go on.  🙂

We’re keeping a close eye on predation here on the farm as we learned a couple of months ago that about 2 miles up the bluffs there is a mountain lion den with a mom and three kittens in it. Generally mountain lions will take deer – but they are not so picky that a random opportunistically available cow or calf wouldn’t go down good as change of pace meals. Not long ago a neighbor lost a Mustang to three wandering male mountain lions… so horses are on the menu too. I also understand that a mountain lion likes the occasional rabbit or turkey – both of which are currently plentiful here. (The lions will have to argue with the bobcats over the rabbits, though. There’s some direct competition there.)

And since a mountain lion’s prime hunting time is during early morning and late evening (the “gloaming” time of day) and at night, we’ve taken to carrying a knife or some other weapon if we have a chore to do up the hill.

(Mountain lions do NOT like being poked with sharp things. One little old lady saved her 70+ year old husband’s life by repeatedly poking a mountain lion in the eye with a ball point pen!) So we’re not obsessing about it – but some degree of caution is warranted by our changing environment. If I ever get jumped, it will be the time that my only weapon will be an asthma inhaler and a tube of chapstick! That’d by my luck… ;-D

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