Today I finally managed to clear out and tidy up the little shed at my front door – it was left full of junk by the retreating former occupiers, and has been on my to do list for 18 months.
The need to do it became urgent, because the little guinea fowl have had to move in there. I had intended putting them in with the chicken, but they are much smaller than I had expected, and they still need heat, which is most easily supplied near the house. They also need supervision (ditto). Now they have an open space, made very safe and easy to clean, the size of my bathroom, or bigger.
I am not a fan of rearing little birds away from their mothers. These babies have come from an incubator, and lack the constant care and teaching a mother bird supplies. She would teach them what to eat, and see they did it regularly. She would keep them warm and warn them of danger. She would protect them, and sell her own life dear if that was all she could do to keep them safe – she would indeed brave a cat or a dog or a mink or me, and fierce broody birds are more to be feared than most things around a smallholding. In time they will learn to care for themselves, but it takes longer than you might think, and there is a vulnerable gap. One of them has already tried eating string, and had to be rescued.
And they feel the lack, more than you might suppose. They need a mother-figure and have decided the cat crate in which they travelled is really their Mum. When tired they rest in it or on it. When worried they hurry back to it.
It isn’t eating meat that upsets me most – not providing a swift end to a life – but this wrenching of things from their natural patterns. Though the keets are, in fact, as cheerful as the heat-lamp is long. But I rejoice to think that in future my baby birds will have a loving mother, and grow faster and more healthily for it.