We never found his body. But of course, when a bird falls victim to a predator, there is rarely any remains to be found, save but for a few feathers. He was not the first.
The deaths began a few nights after the Guineas began operation tick control.
We saw the flock begin to roost in a tree that first evening they were let out. We were worried, but hoped for the best. A few days went by without incident. Then we noticed the numbers starting to drop.
It started slowly. One night one bird would go missing. Then another. Our original flock of 22 slowly was trickling away. We realized we would need reinforcements.
Remember, if your wondering why we would leave them outside on their own, 2 things. First, the only purpose we have on our farm for Guineas is tick control. They are excellent tick assassins. Since the Captain and his pirates were released we have had NO ticks attached! Unfortunately, to effectively eat our tick population, they need to free range our property. The second thing to remember is that Guineas are a more wild bird. They do not naturally return to a coop every night but rather look to roost in trees. And thus the predator attacks.
Kendra’s aunts sent some fertilized guinea eggs to us. But how would we hatch them? We had no incubator. We knew that if we had a broody hen she would sit on the eggs and hatch them, but the only full grown chicken on our farm at the time was Rihannah. If you remember what you read in part 1 of this story, you will recall that Rihannah and the Guineas were not exactly buddies. It was Rihannah who gave Capt. Jack the hole in his head from which he received his name. Would we trust her to hatch our the guinea eggs?
There was no other option. So we placed her in a coop with the guinea eggs, and hoped for the best.
Meanwhile, the deaths continued. Every morning I found fewer and fewer guineas. There were many times we asked ourselves whether we should intervene somehow. But in the end we decided that we would let the animals learn themselves. If even a small group could learn to adapt to the situation, and survive, we would then breed the survivors. This would give us an animal better suited for our needs and situation.
There were 7 left, including Jack, the night of the worst massacre. The morning after there were only 4. Jack wasn’t among them.
This loss hurt the most. The little guy had survived so much. We didn’t think he was going to make it the night after his fight with Rihannah, and yet he had. But he was defenseless to the roving raccoon bandits. We were ready to give up on guineas all together. And then 2 amazing changes took place.
First, the remaining 4 Guineas (from our original 22) learned to go inside the chicken coop at night.
The group, 3 females and one male, realized that every night while they lost more and more of their comrades, the chickens slept soundly and safely inside the chicken coop. So the day after Jack’s death, the last male guinea led the group into the safety of the chicken coop. They had adapted.
To honor this smart guinea we decided to name him. In the same fashion as the Dread Pirate Roberts bequeaths his title to Wesley (name that film!) we decided that this lone male would take the role and title of Captain Jack.
While the new Captain Jack was safely leading his group into the coop every night, Rihannah was itching to leave hers. She had successfully hatched the guinea eggs, and now had 4 baby keets with her in the coop. Having once been a Guinea Killer, she now found herself a guinea foster mother. She was a doting mother to the keets, but when the coop doors were opened, she felt no need to continue the relationship. She abandoned the keets.
This was not a problem. The saying, “birds of a feather flock together” is by no means an exaggeration. The keets found captain Jack right away, and by the evening his group had now doubled in size!
Victory! We had taken a chance. We lost a lot. But in the wake of it all, when the dust settled, we had 8 guineas that adapted to life on Squash Hollow Farm. Captain Jack and his ladies had discovered the safety of the coop, and Rihannah helped double the Guinea flocks numbers by hatching out new recruits. We truly felt victorious.
But remember, as I said in part 1 of this tale; Farm life is filled with ups and downs. Loss leads to victory, but that is just another peak in the roller coasters track. There will be another drop, for that is the nature of the ride that is farm life.
A month will pass with no more deaths. The 8 will fare quite well. And we will find no ticks on us. And then the morning will come when I find this….
To Be Continued….