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Of Guineas and Guard Dogs

Almost two months ago I posted about the guinea egg mobile that we built and rolled out into the pastures. The purpose of the guinea egg mobile is for pest control, but eventually they'll also lay some might fine eggs. At the same time the egg mobile provides shade and shelter for the goats. The guineas are great foragers, so we feed them a nominal amount of feed in order to keep them coming back to the egg mobile, but other than that they’re on their own.

Guinea keets on their first day out
At first the guinea keets were still quite small (only 6 weeks old), so they remained in the coop, getting accustomed to home for another 3-4 weeks. We laid fresh hay on the floor of the coop and after about a week the keets would eat it and scratch it through the cracks. We would replace with new hay and the process repeats. It worked well, but we were really looking forward to having them out free-ranging.

Voracious forgaing
Once the keets were big enough we opened the trap door on the floor and let them roam. For the first few days it went well. Keets would roam around and at night they would come back into the egg mobile. Then one day I was out in the fields and I came back to see Sheba, our alpha LGD, chasing the keets around in the forest. We had 23 keets in the egg mobile at the time. I could see them dotting the tree line, poor terrified keets up in the cedar branches squawking like crazy.

We felt comfortable with Izzy and Sheba around the birds because the farm they came from had a ton of birds. Chickens and guineas roamed freely, which I witnessed when I went to pick up the dogs. I’ve also seen the dogs near our “house” guineas and chickens and they do fine. I witnessed a guinea crawl over Sheba, actually. So we didn’t hesitate to let the guineas loose. Needless to say, it was a bit of a shock to see Sheba chasing them down one by one.

All told 6 guineas died before I could stop Sheba and round up the others. None of the dead were bloodied or eaten, just maimed enough to be stiff as a board. After that incident it was clear that the guineas would need to stay in the egg mobile until we could trust Sheba, or we’d have to figure out a different plan. The good news was that Sophie and Izzy didn't join in with Sheba, they just sat and watched. I was particularly proud of Sophie because it's not in a puppy'
s nature to watch another dog chasing and 'having fun' without joining in. 

Since then we've been working with Sheba and thus far she's hasn't shown another sign of aggression. My theory is that the guinea keets roamed a little too far away and she no longer associated them with "our" guineas. Instead she saw them as wild birds in the forest, which to her means hunting time. She's accustomed to hunting down turkeys and chasing away hawks and crows. I can't say I blame her for having her way with the keets. Hopefully she continues to play nice.

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