July 28, 2011 by wcobserver
Two roosters, three hens, and the guinea had survived. After I collected the dead and killed the dying, I fed the crew generously and put fresh straw in the chicken house. That night, I went out at dusk to lock the house. Guinea was nowhere to be seen.
I assumed he had moved on to safer territory, not an unreasonable decision all things considered. Next morning, however, he was present and accounted for, chasing the remaining flock away from cantaloupe rind. That evening I found him roosting high in the trees above the chicken yard.
The summer passed with him perched happily in his favored locust. At first light each morning, as he kindly chose a spot just outside my bedroom window for a helpful wake-up chorus of “pot-rack, pot-rack”, I considered trying to catch him. In fact, as the dawn chorus interrupted my best hours of sleep, I seriously considered taking aim with my rifle.
Neighbors advised that guineas choose you, you don’t choose guineas. If I wanted him gone, I would have to resort to murder. Or he would leave as enigmatically as he had arrived. Finally, I accepted his wake-up call and started going to bed earlier. And as the days grew shorter, I worried what winter weather would do to him on his lonely nighttime perch.
Then, in December as cold wind whistled through the trees, I was awakened by the screeches of a guinea in trouble.
Leaping out of bed, I grabbed the flashlight and ran to the porch. The noise stopped. I scanned his perch tree with the flashlight, unable to find any sign, no eyes shining in the dark, no critters. No guinea. Had a large owl carried him off, a raccoon, a ‘possum?
Two hours later, more screeches. Good, I thought in half sleep, at least he survived the first attack. Dread haunted my fitful dreams— what if he hadn’t been so lucky the second time? How far could a guinea fly in the dark? How determined would a hungry varmint be in a renewed attempt, mouth watering for warm poultry and mere inches away before a stealth attack with sharp teeth? And after all, what exactly was my duty in the case of a visiting guinea?
Morning dawned bright and cold accompanied by a familiar “pot rack, pot rack” at my bedroom window. Considering the amazing fortune of this feathered adventurer, I bundled up and strolled down the path to throw out the scraps. Guinea peered at me haughtily from one dark eye, lowered his head, and made a run at the chickens to clear his way to the leftover peas, old bread, and apple peelings. I didn’t scold him, noting the only clue to his night of trouble was one ruffled neck feather which stood out from his smooth coat, twisted on end. While he gobbled up the peas, I cautioned him that they would be back.
That night, the evening lock up trip at dusk revealed Mr. Guinea on the top roost, thank you very much. He stayed there every night afterwards until the spring. Then as mysteriously as he had arrived, he disappeared. I’m rethinking my philosophy about fowl, that their “bird brains” don’t think. He clearly made decisions based on available evidence, which is more than I can say for some of the people I’ve known.