I just really needed a day off today – a day off from worrying about the the guinea fowl. They stayed in so that I could stop worrying about them for 24 hours. Yesterday, a beautiful day of sunshine, I went out in the afternoon and heard – nothing. Well, heard some bird-song, some wind moving in the bushes, the odd chicken talking about some tasty insects, a plane coming in to land at Prestwick Airport, and a distant (and highly-regretted) growl of traffic. What I expected to hear was a sort of burbling cheep, a soft, conversational contact-maintaining call. From time to time the burble ought to have been cut into by urgent injunctions to ‘get-back, get-back’ and an instantly-recognisable alarm call. The absence of these things only meant one thing. The guineas were not there.
Gentle reader, I hear you ask: ‘But were they only just round a corner, maybe? Or silent?’ No. they are never silent, even at night they tend to mutter. Also, one can hear them from at least half a mile away. They are birds who are deeply unhappy unless constantly reassured that they are with other guineas, and who are designed to live in places where it is terribly easy to loose sight of each other. If I could not hear them they were probably getting on for a mile away. And I had no idea at all in which direction that might be, or if they still knew the way home. Twice before I have lost an entire batch of guineas, and I never ever know what happened to the first batch.
You are entirely right – by this tie I was panicking almost as much as the guineas do. In then end I located a distant ‘go-back’ which was coming from the nearish-by wood. they were heading home and were now about half a mile away, and down in a crevasse, which swallowed the sound. In a mere half-hour their voices were audible and eventually they made it home, neurotic as ever.
Today, a wild, wet day, they have been in their little shed. It is light and there is enough space to fly and walk. It is about the size of a bathroom in a modern house. I would guess there is about twelve times as much space per bird as in a modern intensive unit. They are not impressed. But I must say, it is a very good feeling knowing where they are.