While we never kept chickens when we lived in town, our neighbor did. She had 3 blue lace wyandottes named Mary, Kate and Ashley (don’t you just love my neighbor already). Unfortunately, Ashley would always go broody – staying in the nesting box all day, getting aggressive when you’d try and collect eggs, you get the idea. Eventually our neighbor could always break her of the habit, but it cut into egg production and was an added level of ugh when it came to tending city chickens.
Since we were looking to start hatching our own chicks, we offered to take in Ashley as our surrogate hen. Will had found a clutch of guinea eggs and thought they would make a great first experiment in incubating au natural. We set her up in the old chicken coop in the lower yard.
Ashley took to sitting like a champ… she’d lay herself out as flat as a pancake to try and cover all the eggs, and get this distant look about her – you could enter the house and she wouldn’t even look up. Exactly what we hoped for.
I did a bit of googling and found that guinea eggs incubate 26-28 days. I put a note on the calendar of this here blog with the expected due date for 26 days… Sunday, 5/22. By that Wednesday we were at day 29 and none of the eggs showed any signed of pipping. I decided to check one to see if it was a lost cause. Sure enough, the moment I cracked the egg, blood oozed out. There was a nearly full grown guinea keat inside, now dead thanks to my curiosity. Either I had my dates wrong or the internet was lying. I sulked back to the house, so frustrated that I’d just murdered what may have been our only viable hatchling and vowed not to check again for another seven days.
On Saturday (day 32 if you’re counting), Will checked on Ashley and said that the eggs were beginning to hatch. He checked again later and found two dead guinea keats at the waterer, aparently drowned. The waterer was promptly relocated further away from the nest and we assumed all was likely lost.
On Sunday morning, I checked Ashley to find her sitting more upright, and much more alert… she was distinctly unhappy to see me, and didn’t hesitate to peck at me as a means of expressing said displeasure.
I could hear peeping, so I used my Birkenstock (I know, you are so not surprised by my choice of footwear) to nudge her away and as she stood slightly I could see four or maybe even five guinea keats, looking all wonderfully fluffed up! I felt redeemed.
On Monday morning I checked in on Ashley again and it turns out there are actually ten keats in her surrogate brood.
As much as I complain about the guineas, I think we have to keep these birds. Will felt this was a milestone, proof we didn’t need an incubator, another object to plug in and circumvent how centuries of farmers grew their flocks. These small victories are the sustenance of our vastly over-reaching experiment in farming.