I have a story to share about a Guinea hen, I call Chick Chick. I’m not quite sure if it is a happy ending or not. Maybe it’s bittersweet. It’s hard to know if animals are happy but sometimes, I guess the best we can do is take clues. I’m not sure if she wanted to be a chicken, but right now “becoming a chicken”seems to be the best option and maybe one that makes he or she happy.
As many of you know, last fall three rogue, wild guinea hens appeared in our yard and garden. They were bedraggled and in need of care. Skittish at first, they slowly warmed up to me and my husband. We provided our small coop for shelter during the snowy New England winter. I wasn’t sure if these African birds would survive, but somehow after roosting in the tree above the chicken coop, they did. They all survived until spring. My neighbor even named them Winken, Blinken and Nod.
In late March, one morning I went out to feed and tend the chickens and I noticed that one Guinea was missing. I was hoping that perhaps she had laid a clutch of eggs in the woods. Perhaps she was merely hatching them during the spring time, as this is what Guineas do. I reasarched “how long it takes to incubate Guinea eggs”. The expectancy date came and passed. She never returned.
The two remaining Guineas seem to have a real bond. Not really knowing quite how to determine males from females, I assumed they were a mated pair. They spent their days shuffling and running and skitting about the yard. Sometimes I would find them on the roof of my house! But at the end of the day, they religiously returned to roost in the cedar tree above the chicken coop. No matter how I tried, I could not convince them to use the smaller coop I had set up for them.
Then one spring day during my morning routine, I called out to the Guineas and only one girl came. My heart sank. Perhaps the other was taken and sure enough, I noticed feathers strewn across the woodland behind the house. I explored deeper into the woods and found his lifeless body. He was mauled.
We had a burial and our one remaining Guinea hen went into mourning. Oh how she cried. She wailed and hollared as if begging for him to return to her. Nothing. No one came. Each night she returned to their tree to roost. She cried for weeks. I was at a loss. She was unconsolable.
As the days passed and spring warmed the earth, the leaves and buds swelled and the grass became a lush green. The perennials awoke from their slumber and I developed a routine with our one sole survivor “Chick Chick”. Some days I would find her peering into my front door on the steps. Other times, she would come down to the car and greet me upon returning from my errands. Each day she enjoyed exploring her surroundings. Slowly, her wandering perimeter grew. I knew this was so because she still came when I called her. I could hear her call out to me from a distance. Her return time to me would vary sometimes taking up to 10 minutes. But she always returned.
Then one day, when I returned from work early evening, I called to her and I didn’t hear her. I kept searching her favorite spots, calling out as my heart began to sink. She didn’t return that evening. It had been two days I had made peace with the fact that she was gone. Then on the third day, a miracle happened. Chick Chick was there, outside the chicken’s chicken coop. Somehow, she had returned. I squealed with delight! I’m not sure if she got lost while wandering or was chased and became disoriented by a predator. I was just glad she was home.
It’s been a few months, and it is rare that I find Chick Chick farther than her tiny coop, the big chicken coop and my garden. After that, it is as if she has settled into staying nearby, spending some of her days now napping outside with the chickens in the run even making a little spot for a dust bath nearby. She seems to be indulging in all things chicken. When the girls lay an egg, she now joins in on singing their egg song. I’m not sure if this is just part of the cacophony or actually the Guinea hen egg song, there has to be one right? She alerts the girls to danger (link to video) and even spends some time free-ranging with them when they are out and about.
We’ve gotten into quite a routine Chick Chick and I. As expected, she greets me every morning- sometimes in the garden, near her coop or even at the door when I am late. We spend time in the garden together and in the afternoon as I write or work, she perches herself adjacent to me on the deck for an afternoon nap. When I arrive home from work, she greets me near the driveway.
She is also extremely protective of me and does not like it when strangers to her enter the yard. I find her alerting me to their presence- sometimes “screaming” at them from the second story of my own home. She is still skittish so I have yet to hold or touch her, but I know that she and I have bonded. I check on her each night as I do the chickens before they go to bed. She still roosts high up in the cedar tree above the chicken coop.
The routine has been nice and as I always say, some friendships are unexpected. Life is funny that way. If we open our hearts to the world around us with out any expectations or preconceived notions, its really quite a beautiful thing. Even if my neighbor says she looks like an animal put together with spare parts by God, I do love her with all my heart. And you know what, I think the chickens have gotten used to her too. Chick Chick is an honorary member of our flock.
34 thoughts on “Chick Chick: Becoming a Chicken”
I’m so sad about the other Guinea hens. I’m glad that you and Chick Chick have developed a bond. I have 35 hens and 4 roosters, who rarely free range, and only if I’m outside with them.
For the past couple of months, our neighbor’s chickens, who free range all day, come to see me several times a day. I give them food or treats. I told my husband that we need to keep a path shoveled in the woods between our houses
Oh this is so sweet. A shoveled path sounds like a must. I love that they come to visit you and you get to spoil them and care for them.
That is a very touching story. I loved it, not so much for the outcomes or the events (sniff sniff) but the way a human heart and guinea heart found each other and bonded.
I know, bittersweet for sure. I’ll do my best to be supportive of her and try my best. I still have never been able to catch her or handle her because she has been feral for so long. I’m glad knowing that at least she finds comfort with me.
What a beautiful story!! Thank you so much for sharing! It warmed my heart so much!!
Thanks Laura. Its all we can do for now and keep trying to be positive about things.
Please lock your animals up at night to keep them safe. It’s irresponsible otherwise. Especially after the first loss. I would expect more from one who calls themselves an “expert”. Sad that the guineas paid with their lives.
Thanks Maria for your comment. Gosh, I can’t help be feel a little attacked by your comment. I could not agree with you more about animal ownership and responsibility and ensuring their safety, but she was never my animal. These guineas wandered into my yard on their own as adult birds last fall. (I hope you read the original post to have some insight and background on the situation. I shared the link in this post.)
Believe you me, since then that we have tried absolutely everything to try and keep them safe from predators. They do have their own little coop and run. We’ve also tried to integrate them into the chickens’ coop and run, in addition to help from the neighbors too. This flock we think started out about 3 miles from my place. Someone dumped them. They wandered down the railroad tracks that run across Cape Cod. They have been feral for about a year and a half is what we believe. So many have been trying to do what is best for them. I do agree that it is very sad and if I had raised them as my own from the beginning, they would be safe and protected. Unfortunately, I did best to support them in ways that they allowed. The person who dumped them, that is where the responsibility lies in my opinion. All we can do is keep trying. It is sad that they paid with their lives, but I think your are placing blame on the wrong person.
Lastly, I also wanted to add that I am not an expert in dealing with feral animals. I have never personally called myself an expert. Others in the chicken world do call me an expert, but I do believe we are always learning new things everyday. Do I know a lot about certain areas? Yes! But, I more like to think that we are lifelong learners and I am always open to sharing and learning new things. I think that is a big part about what life is about.
My brother got some guinneas and I read up on them. They prefer trees to a coop and have a mind of their own. They wonder great distances to find a place THEY like , not necessarily where you want them. Also they are very much flock oriented so a single would be uncomfortable.
Thank you for this. Yes, I have pretty much come to the same conclusion. Good to know that your brother found this out too. I am thinking of getting some guineas in the future. Let’s see what spring brings.
Have you tried to get close to, touch, or hold Chick Chick at night time when while they are sleeping? That is when I have to pet some of my chickens that are hard to hold or pet. I love your chicken stories and your book ” How To Speak Chicken”. It has so many interesting facts about chickens that I didn’t know before.
Hi there! Great idea and I thought of that too but she sleeps very high up in the cedar tree over 30 feet above the ground. She doesn’t nap much and always knows when I am near. The closest she will come to me is about 3 feet away. I’m so happy you enjoy my chicken stories.
Your reply is wonderful
You rock in my opinion. Thanks for the sweet-sad story.
Ohh my!! I agree with how how you feel. I felt attacked and the message was not addressed to me.
What puzzles, is that you spent so much time responding and defending yourself.
I would not have given that person the time of day.
Your story, if they read it in detail clearly states the birds did not use the small coop you provided for them and nested in the tree at night. Are you to capture them with a net and torture them by forcing them in coop when they are use to being free?
It’s sad that they died but that’s the course of nature. The wild bigger animals have to eat too.
Chick Chick seem to learn over time to stay safe she/has to stay close to group and not wonder off.
Hold your head up, you did your best and very right by these stray birds. Ignore the haters who have nothing better to do but troll.
Thank you so much. Your support means a lot.
Maria, these were wild birds when they happened upon Melissa’s yard. She did her best to care for them. They even created a coop for them which the guineas could not be lured into. If you knew anything about guineas you would know that they can be difficult to catch even by the people who raise them. How cruel to say what you did to an obvious animal lover. From what I can tell, Melissa did all she could.
Melissa, thank you for being so caring. You may not have been able to save them all, but you made a BIG difference in the life of one!
Thank you. I really appreciate your understanding of the situation. It still is so upsetting.
As I sit here weeping from reading this … It gives me sooo much hope there really are “astonishing human beings” left on this planet. Thank you from the bottom … and top of my heart for sharing this rare and kind story of unconditional love
Thank you for such kind words Tauni. They mean so much to me. Sending you a big hug!
What a beautiful, heart warming story Melissa. I’m so glad you have Chick Chick and she’s becoming such a wonderful companion. I hope she gets to live a long, full life and gets taken into the flock. All the best,
Thanks Sharon, I hope so too.
This is a bittersweet story. I keep both chickens and guineas together in the same coop on my farm. I wonder if as time goes by Chick Chick will bond with your chickens and decide to follow them into the coop. Guineas HATE to be alone! Do you keep a light on in your chicken coop in the evening until the chickens are in? Guineas will not enter into a dark building. They are such funny and quirky birds, so much different from chickens, but with a definite charm all their own. I love mine. Maybe you’ll just have to pick up a few keets at the farm store next spring and get her some friends
Thanks Sarah for your tips. This winter I plan to learn more about the Guineas. I love that you have been able to integrate yours together. I’m glad it is a possibility.
So sorry about losing the two guineas. Sadly we have come to expect it with them, esp the girls. We don’t have any girls at the moment. I have thought about getting babies but I kind of like not having to worry about them running off to lay eggs. We have 8 boys and they get along great but not sure how things will go in the spring. I’m hoping they wont bother the hens (chickens), thankfully they have their own coop. The guineas normally sleep in the coop at night but occasionally get a wild hair and sleep in the trees. I’ve come to except that they are going to do what they do 🙂
Thanks Suzanne, I am learning that these guineas are so different from the chickens and it has been fun. Maybe I’ll get some more this spring and maybe you will too!
I was so thrilled to be alerted, Melissa, about your new Post! I have so missed reading your blog and always thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of your flock….. I too am so sorry to hear about your first guineas but thrilled that You and Chick Chick have so beautifully bonded with each other and I hope that you have her for many more years!! and hope that you will blog often and share your journey and special friendship with Chick Chick !!!!
Thank you Debbi. I have had some significant health issues this year. I am trying to contribute when I can. I’ve had two hand surgeries since last year that have prevented me from typing and doing much hand wise. I guess I should probably write a post and update folks. I’m glad to hear from you.
Beautiful story! If you do decide to get some friends for Chick Chick I found that having a broody hen sit on some guinea eggs and hatch them as her own worked well as they learned to come into the coop and roost with the chickens at night. Maybe once they were grown they might form a flock with chick chick and she would come in at night with them?
Oh thank you! I love this suggestion. I am considering doing Guinea Hens this spring.
Thank you for your kindness, not just for Chick Chick but the other two as well. I’ve done kitten rescue for over a decade and am new to chickens this year, but I’m already doing chicken math and wondering what else my husband can be talked into lol. Sometimes the unexpected and a kind heart are all it takes to make a friend for life, it explains why we have 8 cats (insert eye roll here). I just wish they all lived longer. I guess that’s how nature balances out all the animal lives that need a human.
Oh thank you for all you do too. I hope you enjoy keeping chickens.
Same sad Guinea story here too. We had three and two were bonded and picked on the third. Just went out one morning and he/she happened to have just died.
The other two went everywhere together. They had been a twosome for a long time and low and behold went out one morning and found one in the coop just laying there dead. Only one left. We have consulted with an expert who says adding more would likely not work. I’m right there with you. She hangs out with our goats now. Hang in there!!
Thank you! Hang in there too! They are definitely characters and I’m so glad they are in your life and the goats’.