Okay. You might be wondering what happened in the end to our guinea keets, which were being hatched by two guinea ladies and one chicken all on the same huge nest?
Well. The story is both sad and happy, weird and adorable. I might have to slightly adjust my favourable impression of guinea fowl motherhood. I was anticipating dozens of guinea keets this year, expanding my flock and seeing them travel all over the kibbutz, functioning as a natural pest-killing machine. My first guinea hen hatched out 15 keets last year all by herself and raised them perfectly with the help of her mate. I expected her and her daughters to do the same thing again this year.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way… They were laying eggs just fine and building a huge nest all together under a tree between some rocks. Then two of them started sitting on the eggs. I was pleased. When Zita the white chicken decided to join them, I let her get on with it. The more the merrier, right?
Sadly, no. When the keets started hatching, we soon realised that something was going wrong. When we looked into the nest, we saw half of the keets were dead and squashed. We quickly separated Zita with the remaining live chicks, removed the dead ones and let the guinea hens continue sitting on the nest.
But it still didn’t go well. The eggs kept hatching all right, but something kept killing them off just as quickly. Every morning, I saw a couple of live keets, only to have to remove dead ones in the evening. I did not see the mothers pecking at the chicks. I still don’t believe it was them. I now suspect the peafowl. They are extremely interested in baby chicks and are always standing around them. I’ve seen them try to peck at the ducklings, but muscovy mother Bella went crazy at them and kept them on a distance.
At some point, I decided this wasn’t working. I gathered up the entire nest with eggs, guinea hens and one lone live chick, and put it all in a closed cage, where nothing could get at them. Unfortunately, the guinea ladies went mental. They just wanted to get back to their previous nesting site. The eggs got cold, the chick died and the hens walked back and forth by the fence, trying to get out.
In the end, I gave up and let them out. But I didn’t give them the eggs back. I put them in the incubator and managed to hatch another few keets, which I gave to Zita to look after.
I still had good hope for this beautiful white guinea hen, who was brooding on a nest between the bamboo.
Sadly, this hope was dashed, too, as the lady decided to abandon the nest after a few weeks. When I found the cold nest, I took those eggs too, and crammed as many as I could into my mini-incubators.
Those eggs are hatching now. The only hen who is willing to accept the keets at this moment is Zita. Every morning, I have another few for her, and she doesn’t ask questions. The more chicks, the better, is her motto.
Right now, she has 22 guinea fowl keets and another five chicken chicks from our hatching project at school. She has a heat lamp to help her keep them all warm at night (although it’s been so hot that it is hardly necessary).
Zita is doing an incredible job. I can’t get over the fact that she is a rescued commercial laying hen, who is not supposed to get broody at all. And yet, she is the most dedicated mother hen we have.
Kudos to Zita, raising her interspecies family and saving the day!! ❤