I have a Tupperware full of crickets in my refrigerator right now.
This is one of those moments where you picture your life a few years ago, then picture your life now, and go… well, this is surprising. Kind of like the part of my life where I catch myself napping with Nugs in my yard…
So, let me tell you a story. This is, by far, the most random chicken-related thing that has happened to me yet…
A few weeks ago, one of my older Nugs went broody (meaning she started sitting in the nesting box 24 hours a day, trying to hatch unfertilized eggs. It doesn’t work.) This isn’t the first time, and one night I was like, shit, she wants to hatch some eggs so badly, why don’t I just let her hatch something? Like guinea hens, maybe.
I’ve heard mixed reviews on guinea fowl, but my main interest is that they eat ticks. A lot of them. So I decided (maybe after a bottle of wine) to by some fertilized guinea fowl eggs online and let her hatch them.
I bought them. My hen remained broody.
I waited. My hen remained broody.
Two weeks later I had no word on my guinea eggs, and was concerned that my hen might night be eating or drinking, so I put her in a separate pen for 24 hours (I call it Chicken Jail) just to make sure she was getting some nourishment. I use this pen to break her of the broodies, and it usually takes about a week of being in jail for her to go back to normal. In this case 24 hours later… no longer broody.
You know what happened next… I get a call that the guinea eggs are on their way.
Sooooo… now I have a dozen guinea hen eggs about to show up at my house and zero hens who would like to sit on and hatch them? That’s nice.
The eggs show up on a Thursday.
I consider buying an incubator at $100 or so, but the fact that I could have bought pre-hatched guinea keets for $5/apiece and I already spent $50 on the eggs made me very frowny about spending more money on this endeavor.. I happen to talk to my dude about this as he’s on his way to a bachelor party downtown.
I decide to abandon my plan of hatching the guinea eggs.
Two hours later, I get a text from my dude: “So. I was talking to this girl at the bar… SHE HAS BROODY HENS THAT WILL HATCH THE EGGS!”
I’m all… “You’re kidding, right? You went out for a bachelor party, ended up talking to a girl who happens to have broody hens that will hatch my eggs?? Did you at least buy her a drink first?!”
That’s my guy.
So I took the eggs over to these super-awesome people the next day, and they did, in fact, have two broody hens that were more than happy to sit on my guinea hens.
Totally random, right?
The timing of it all could not have been better. Now I’m expecting guinea keets in the next 20 days or so, which means I need to have a new coop built soon-ish. (Totally cool, it’s not like I have one or two hundred other projects going on around here.)
So… that’s the story of my guinea hens, for now.
A less awesome story is that last week I also lost one of my older Nugs to a neighbors dog. Not my awesome neighbors, but someone down the street who thought it was a good idea to walk their dog off the leash. The dog attacked this girl, and after some hasty first-aid we had high-hopes she’d pull through…
She made it through to the morning, but not much after. And while I completely accept that losing a Nug or two to natural predators is a way of life, it kind of pisses me off that this could have been prevented if those people had their dog on a leash.
To make matters worse, it just so happens that when I checked on the rest of the Nugs in the morning there were a couple dead barn swallows on the barn floor as well, and I was like WTF? WHY DOES EVERYTHING KEEP DYING?
Which probably explains what happened next.
Two days later I found this little guy (still alive, obviously) on the barn floor.
I put him back in the nest, and he stayed there for the rest of the day. But the next morning?
The problem is… the Nugs will happily eat baby birds. I was hesitant to put him back in the nest where he could fall into their clutches, so we did a lot of this…
(Yeah. It only opened it’s mouth if I made that ridiculous chirping noise first.)
Then I put it back in the nest with its siblings at night. I went to a wedding, and when I got back… and not one but two little guys were sitting freezing on my barn floor when I got home around 2 AM.
I know it looks like I’m holding a limp little bird in this picture, but he was actually gripping my hand with both feet and wings at this point. The little guy was so cold, I think he was trying to get the heat lamp on as much surface area as possible.
I haven’t seen the mom or other babies all day, the local bird shelter won’t take them, and I just don’t have it in me to have more things effing die on me this week.
So that’s why I have a Tupperware of crickets in my fridge.
The farm has made me pretty good about letting nature take its course. Sometimes baby birds don’t make it… they become food for bigger birds, and those bigger birds are sometimes food for other things. And I don’t think I’m a legitimately good substitute for a bird-mom… I know there’s no way these guys get the right balance of heat and nutrients and other baby bird-related things. But I also don’t seem to be able to let them just starve or freeze right now.
So every couple of hours they get some mini-crickets I’ve collected from the field, or a mixture of dried meal-worms mixed with electrolytes and water…
And they hang out with me while I do my work for the evening.
I know. I’ve completely gone ’round the bird-lady bend. But we all do what we have to do, I guess.
Loved this post! Hopefully all of your little birds make it, from the guineas to the swallows. 🙂
I follow a few “homesteader” blogs where it annoys the hell out of me when the bloggers get all emotional about dead animals. I read one recently where the blogger said that she had to have someone else kill a fatally wounded bird because she “couldn’t bring herself to do it” and it made me ragey that she would accept the care of these animals but not be able to put them out of their misery when it was called for.
This blog restores my faith in people. I would do everything in my power to sustain life when it could be sustained, just like you’re doing. If that makes me “round the bird lady bend” then .. I’m proud to be there with you.
Knowing when to be merciful and knowing when to give your all is part of the equation. I love that you give your all when you can.
Kit . . . great fowl stories. One one bird woman to another, you are spot on to know when and when you can’t help. Mother nature at times knows when to take over, but she can always use a few extra hands and hearts. Keep up the good work!
From another goddess of feathers and pooh
Of course you did. For all this. Because it’s you. Lol!
If it gets to be too much, I can take them. I’ll even take them to school with me next week.
A nice fowl story Kit. Your doing what you feel will help which is kind-hearted and kewl that you take the time. You love all of nature, I doubt not, all your critters love you. Indeed sounds like the farm will be growing soon.
Crazy bird lady is much more original than crazy cat lady. You do everything with flair!
My friend and sometimes-boss is this awesome teeny blonde lady who doesn’t look or act her age, and swears like a trucker to boot (we’re landscapers, FYI.) Three years ago someone at a job site found a baby bird in the grass with no nest to be seen nearby. The guess was that a predator dropped the little chick. Anyway, she spent the better part of her summer carrying a little baby bird in a basket with a towel and heat packs. She took that bird everywhere- job sites, errand running, plant-pick-ups, client meetings, you name it. She did this because it had to be fed on a regular basis. By the time it had grown up she let it go. It flew away off her back porch and into the woods without looking back. But now every summer a small flock of the same type of bird will pay visits her back porch, when she hadn’t had visitors of that breed before. It makes her unreasonably happy. 🙂
Wow. That’s amazing!
So sorry about your Nug.
I feel for you over the loss of your Nug. I have 15 acres that was just home to my horses and cows until about a year ago when I got to move there (Yay!). We brought all of our birds (peafowl, ducks,a guinea, a turkey and lots and lots of chickens)and turned them out at the barn. The neighbors dogs killed about half of them including Precious, a bantam frizzle cochin, and 11 of her 17 chicks. I had to have a talk with the neighbor and told him I knew he loved his dogs but my birds were pets too and I would defend them when necessary. Luckily he was responsible enough to contain the dogs and I’ve not had any more dead birds. Then new neighbors moved in on the other side and their dog killed a beautiful 2 week old heifer calf…so sad. They moved almost immediately after that.
(Oh and I had a baby goat in the house for a while so baby birds…easy, peasy!)
Someone recently left the door on our coop unlocked and several of my pullets escaped……and that just isn’t good here in the land of free roaming dogs everywhere. The first year we lived here, we had a dog break in our coop yard and kill 70 chickens….it was devastating. We now have an animal “hospital ward” set up for injured animals, both wild and domestic. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t. My boys usually rescue everything from baby robins to baby bunnies to even a young rat once (sorry but I fed the rat to the cats.- they are not an endangered species here nor especially desired:). I love to read your farm adventures. It makes me think I really need to build my fence and get me some milk goats.
It seems that your bearded manhas as much compassion for animals as you do! Good thing ! I think you should have been a Veterinarian who lives to build things !! And yes, never underestimate karma and the timing of events! Things always happen for a reason!! 🙂