Great Aunt Daisy kept Guineas. This was back in the 1970s, and up until this spring, most everything I knew about domesticated fowl- I learned from her guineas. The finer points of guinea behavior I picked up more recently from watching the “Jurassic Park” movies with my son.
It goes without saying that Michael Crichton never had an opportunity to study a velociraptor, but personal experience suggests that the most likely descendant of the velociraptor is the Guinea hen and Crichton must’ve had some experience with them as a young man.
Any soul brave enough to step foot onto Aunt Daisy’s lawn was met with a rolling, terrifying mass of screeching feathers and nails. In truth, I don’t recall having seen them actually devour anybody but I also remember reading that a school of piranha could strip a cow down in under four minutes. An absence of physical evidence just means that a flock of Guineas are more efficient than the average school of piranha. Wading in the Cuiaba River will give you about two or three minutes and that’s enough for a “Hail Mary” or two- if you’re quick about it. Walking on Aunt Daisy’s grass? Instant death!
Early in our college days, my wife Nancy rescued a cockatiel and I’d like to say that the diminutive parrot improved my opinion of all things feathered. That was not to be. My eldest daughter’s first complete sentence was “bird bites”. “Sunny” would happily sit on a shoulder and whistle “you are my sunshine” all-the-while carefully judging the victim’s potential reaction time and the gristle to meat ratio in the closest earlobe. He spent about a year with us before the cat finally got thoroughly tired of him and let him out of his cage (honest!) and he headed for the nearest open window. I imagine he settled someplace down south where he’s happily perforating unwary senior citizens on park benches. It’s the sort of thing I think he’d enjoy.
I felt fairly confident, that I’d finally attained enough body mass, and therefore might actually have a fighting chance, when my son declared we were buying some “Banties” last fall. Worse case scenario, I figured I’d had a couple of decades of practice and I could manage at least one “Hail Mary” before they dragged me under the chicken coop.
The result of adding Bantams to the “zoo” turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic as we spent the winter trying to keep them warm enough to survive until the spring.
What we finally settled on was a “ceramic reptile heater” with a wire “trouble light” cage installed over it in a porcelain base. And it worked! Not only did it keep them warm in subzero temperatures, it doesn’t throw any light, and it didn’t burn the entire township to the ground in the process. My elderly neighbor seemed a little put out about that as he had spent a fair portion of the winter reminding me to donate to the volunteer fire department. Nancy reminded him that “there’s always next year” and he seemed to brighten up a bit.
And without loss of life or limb, we were rewarded with three eggs last weekend. My son brought them triumphantly into the house and we were rather surprised over the size of them. Even my wife commented on how large they were compared to the size of the hens. That was unfortunate as my mouth opened, before my brain kicked in, and it managed to utter something about my wife’s oft repeated comments concerning the size of my son’s head at birth. It’s two days later and I’m pleased to report that I haven’t been fed to the chickens yet. And yes, Nancy keeps reminding me that the week is still young.