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Part 1: my intro and situation (General Discussion)

by Trillium, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 16:37 (56 days ago)

Hi everyone. First-time guinea owner here, and it surprised me how much I love them. Everything seemed fine at first, but it's all gone crazy recently. I need help! In fact, I need SO much help, that I'm going to write a "part 2" as a comment on my own post, just to break it up.

My family has a few acres in eastern PA, mostly wooded, right next to a nature preserve. We love it, but our tick situation is bad. A neighbor suggested we get some guinea fowl to help keep them off our kids/dog. In March, we bought seven French guinea keets. We loved them! The kids named them and handled them all the time. We built a coop/run in the backyard, and they seemed fine. We started letting them free range for a few hours a day, and it was so fun watching/hearing them around the yard. But after only a couple weeks, they were attacked by a predator. One bird was killed, and the rest disappeared into the woods. We searched, but only found "Bill." He seemed unharmed. They were ~3 months old.

I felt terrible. I knew there was a risk of predators, but I never thought we'd lose so many, so early, and in the middle of the afternoon. I didn't feel ready to start from the beginning again, but there are still ticks, plus we had the coop now, and Bill was alone. So we bought seven more keets. (Not sure if they're the same breed, but they look about the same.)

That's when I decided to join this forum, so I could get advice and run things past you guys. I don't know if I could have prevented what happened. Were they too young to let out yet? Should I never leave the yard while they're outside? I really want to do better with the new batch. They're about 3.5 weeks old now, and the weather is so warm (consistently in the mid to upper 80s) that I've been hoping I could get them into the coop earlier than the last ones. The kids haven't been as attached to the new keets, and they're nowhere near as tame. I don't know if we can fix that at this point, or even if it really matters.

Any advice on what I should have done better with the first guineas? When do you think I can let the next ones outside into the coop/run? I'm sure they couldn't climb the ramp inside yet, but it seems so warm that they'd be all right outside anyway. But maybe not? Nighttime lows are in the mid to upper 60s. We were very careful with the first batch, because the weather was so cold. I feel like I should know now, because I did it before, but the weather is different. What do you think?

Part 2: And now it's worse

by Trillium, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 16:38 (56 days ago) @ Trillium

Okay, so part 1 is what I originally wrote out last night to post today. But just this morning, we let Bill out into the yard as usual. 15 minutes later, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw him lying dead in the grass. There wasn't a mark on him, or a feather out of place. There hadn't been any noise at all. It's like he just laid down and died.

I'm at a complete loss. He was only 4 months old. He had food and water, and he hadn't seemed ill (that I could tell). Last Saturday, he seemed to be favoring one leg, but it only lasted for a few minutes, so we figured he was okay. Could he have choked on something? Can guineas die of loneliness? I found some mold on the dirt floor of the run (last week was wet, and the run is mostly shaded) - did that make him sick?

I just don't get it. In the last four months, all seven of our guineas have gotten lost and/or died. I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, and I must be doing it all wrong. Is the new batch doomed, as well?

So if you need to chew me out for anything irresponsible I'm doing, DO IT. I'd much rather that than have more birds die. I was really fond of Bill, and I just feel sick and confused about all this.

I'm so sorry, Trillium

by Barbara, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 17:25 (56 days ago) @ Trillium

First of all, welcome to the forum. I am very sorry to hear of your troubles, but you've certainly come to the right place if you're hoping for some words of encouragement or consolation. Most of us have experienced heartache with our birds, especially those of us who have had them for a long time. It doesn't sound to me as though you did anything wrong with your keets. Sometimes fate steps in to shake us up a bit, I think. After a couple of months, keets can usually be allowed to roam for a couple of hours. They are more vulnerable than they will be when they are older, but guineas are considered prey by so many different predators that they are never truly "safe" and always face the possibility of being harmed.

Here in New Hampshire where I live hawks are constantly around and we always need to be on the look out for them. If you feel concerned about your predator population, you may want to wait until your keets are closer to 3 months old before allowing them to free range. Our guineas (we no longer have any - most died of old age) were always supervised while they were out of their pen after we had a close call when a hawk pinned down one of our hens and started ripping out her back feathers. I saw the attack and rushed out to chase off the hawk. The hen was injured but she grew her lost feathers back in and lived to to be 9 years old.

It's not very uncommon for a guinea to die suddenly for no apparent cause. That happened to one of our girls when she was about 6 years old. We suspected a heart attack or a stroke. Four months is young to die suddenly without any signs of illness, I think, but I certainly wouldn't rule out stress as a factor. They really don't do well alone, and I'm sure your guinea must have experienced some stress when its flock mate was attacked. I wish I had a definitive answer for you, but I can only speculate. Still, I'm sure you did everything right, and your first guineas received very good, loving care while you had them. I am confident your new little ones will receive the same great care.

As long as the weather is warm and dry, you can let your new keets out into their covered pen soon provided the fencing/screening is small enough so they can't escape through the holes. You should have a heat lamp set up in the coop so they can get under it if the nighttime temperatures get too low.

I know it's hard to have lost Bill, but I also know you will find much enjoyment with your new little ones. It's amazing how therapeutic young keets can be when you need something to smile about.

Great response Barbara,

by ZoeTX, Thursday, June 29, 2017, 16:15 (55 days ago) @ Barbara

I think you covered the topic really well. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Bill and his flock mates.

I confess that when I started out with guineas, I lost a ton of them before I learned to raise them, so please don't beat yourself up about losing the sweet babies.

I think that you will need to assess your predators and probably not let the next bunch free range alone so early. I have a heavy population of coyotes, bobcats and hawks. After the guineas are about 6 months old, the hawks don't usually try to get them. Coyotes and bobcat never back off. We have a livestock guard dog (a Great Pyr) and he has REALLY helped with saving guineas. So, you might consider that.

Hang in there and let us help and support you. We have lots of experience when it is all combined around here. LOL

GOOD LUCK

Avatar

Great response Barbara,

by service1010, Tucson AZ, Thursday, June 29, 2017, 16:59 (55 days ago) @ ZoeTX

Several years ago, when my guineas were about 3 years old, one keeled over. Dead. I had been enjoying his antics just a few moments prior. Not a scratch on him. I assumed a heart attack, but who knows. I am glad he died in the yard, so I didn't worry what had happened.

So weird

by Trillium, Monday, July 03, 2017, 23:00 (51 days ago) @ service1010

That just seems bizarre. I never really thought of that kind of thing happening before it happened to Bill. I didn't see him die, but we'd just let him out minutes before, and he seemed totally normal. Thank you for sharing. It's good not to be alone!

Thank you

by Trillium, Monday, July 03, 2017, 22:53 (51 days ago) @ ZoeTX

Thanks, ZoeTX. I've been feeling like I must be the worst guinea owner of all time. I'm sorry you lost your birds in the beginning too, but I'm so glad not to be the only one!

As long as we learn something from an experience, it isn't a total loss

by ZoeTX, Wednesday, July 05, 2017, 00:40 (50 days ago) @ Trillium

Keep your chin up and keep trying. We are here to help you as best as we can.

GOOD LUCK!

Thank you

by Trillium, Monday, July 03, 2017, 22:51 (51 days ago) @ Barbara

Thanks, Barbara. The new little ones are out in the coop now, and doing fine so far. I can't quite shake the fear that we're going to go out and find them all dead of....something unexpected, I guess. But they seem quite happy to be out in the fresh air, enjoying so much more space. Thanks again for your kind words and advice.

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