Since the moment we started farming, we have cheerfully and gratefully taken in rescues and castaways of all descriptions.
We started with a flock of Rhode Island Reds we found on Craigslist. Driving almost an hour to collect them, we didn’t realize what we would encounter when we got there. The asking price ($2/bird) seemed a little to good to be true, but we wanted to start somewhere. It turned out that these birds had been slated for factory farming and had already had their beaks clipped.
At first, this made me really sad. Then, after about a week of having them on the farm, I saw what it really meant to give a creature a second chance. Despite the beaks being clipped, they were able to peck and eat and forage; the free-ranging and organic feed turned their eggs from anemic and watery to rich and deeply colored; even their feathers seemed to brighten and shine.
Then, when we started to think about keeping goats, we heard from a woman who was going through a divorce and couldn’t keep her beloved doe, who happened to be pregnant. We happily adopted her (the goat, not the divorcee) and eagerly awaited her babes. Of course, not long after her kids were born, another local friend wondered if we’d like to take in her doe as well.
Of course we would.
Somewhere in there, yet another friend was having a bullying problem with her ducks and roosters. One poor duck was the victim of vicious roostering shenanigans and something had to give. Until this point, I had been vehemently anti-waterfowl. After all, we don’t really have a consistent source of natural water on our farm, and ducks are obnoxiously noisy, and I don’t even like duck eggs.
None of that got in the way of us taking two ducks on as well.
So, when I got a text last weekend that said simply, “Hey Laura! Would you like guinea hens?” I knew what was next for us on applewood farm.
They move like mini vultures, hunched and graceful, and their feathers are a speckled grey-purple that any fly-fisherman worth his or her salt would pay good money to use for tying flies.
Watch them for any amount of time and you just KNOW that Jim Henson must have encountered some of these birds in his travels.
They are quirky and odd; they are majestic and weird. I was instantly in love.
The very best part? A group of guinea fowl is called a confusion.
I’m a big fan of collective nouns. There are so many wonderful ones. It started when I learned that a group of crows was called a murder and went on from there.
Among my favorites are an exaltation of larks and an unkindness of ravens–now I get to add a confusion of guinea fowl to the list.
A few people warned me that guinea fowl are cacophonous creatures whose nonstop, discordant crying would make me wish I’d stopped at ducks. The truth, however, is that they are absolutely lovely. They are no noisier than any of our hens, quieter for sure than our roosters, and considerably less annoying than the horrible geese who live two houses over and honk like the world’s worst car alarm, day and night.
The calls of the Italians vary depending on the time of day and, seemingly, their state of mind. If it is daytime and they are calm, they can sound like mewing cats. If they become agitated, the calls morph into the sound of dogs chewing squeaky toys. At night, they are almost entirely silent except for the occasional conversation that best mimics a group of rocking chairs creaking in unison.
But, mostly, they move quietly through the day eating ticks and spiders and anything else that comes their way.
Maybe we can get them to eat the neighbors’ geese.