Guinea Foul

by wjw on May 13, 2013

This anecdote is perhaps best accompanied by the above video, which will give you an idea of the sounds, and the volume, which I regularly endure.

Last night I went out to close the gate leading to our single-lane dirt road, as I do every night, and I saw that one of the neighbor’s guinea fowl had got stuck on our side of the fence.  It was dashing frantically back and forth across the same ten-foot stretch of fence, making its desperate barking cry in hopes that its flock would somehow rescue it.  (I think of this noise as a “bark,” and I described it as “barking” in The Rift, only to be mocked by David Langford in his “Thog’s Master Class.”  So, class, how would you describe these noises?)

The thing is, if the guinea fowl had only dashed another fifteen feet to the left, it would have encountered the gate and simply been able to walk home.

So I tried to encourage it to move in that direction.  This involved me fighting my way through several branches of an apricot tree, only to have the terrified guinea dart around me and return to its original stretch of fence, barking in an ever-more-frenetic way.

Now the thing is, guinea fowl can fly.  Not brilliantly, but well enough.  The guinea could have flown up and over the fence any time it wanted, or rather, any time it remembered, through its terror, that it could actually fly.  Which it didn’t.

I decided to do something else for a while and hope the guinea found the big hole in the fence that I’d left open for it, but it never did, and the noise continued.

So I went out again, and once again thrashed through the apricot tree in hopes of moving the guinea to the gate.  Which I did, only to see the panic-stricken fowl run in panic right past the open gate and to another part of the fence, where it resumed its dashing back-and-forth routine.

By this time I was nearly helpless with laughter, and composing in my head a children’s book called The Guinea Fowl That Forgot to Fly.

My neighbor’s cute little button-eyed dog turned up at this point and stood in front of the gate and started to yap.  Normally it shows up just to chase my cat, but apparently the commotion attracted it.  I don’t know whether it was trying to guide the guinea back home, or just adding noise to the din for its own amusement.

At this point I was thinking that I should just maybe put the guinea fowl out of its misery, pluck it and cook it.  I had curried guinea fowl in London, maybe I could duplicate the recipe.  But if I did that, I know that my neighbor would walk out of his house at an inconvenient moment and see me slaughtering his bird, so I didn’t.

Besides, I was laughing so hard that I doubt I could have managed anything requiring physical coordination. I probably would have cut of my own thumb.

I arranged the leaves of the gate into a kind of chute to guide the guinea in the right direction, and started chasing it again.

The guinea ran frantically, encountered the gate, and was steered into the open road.  At which point it just stood there stunned for a while, staring at its home which was suddenly before it.  It ceased to cry, and its escort the cute button-eyed dog ceased to bark.  Both trotted home.  I closed the gate.

It— and several of its peers— are barking on my front lawn.  I wonder if it will remember the great big hole in the gate that it ran out last night, but somehow I doubt it.

Fly, guinea fowl, fly! You stoopid dinosaur.

Oz May 14, 2013 at 1:17 am

I must admit, peacocks have a more pleasant sound. We have wild ones here in VA, a farm or two over. Never hear them all winter. But all spring, summer and fall? Definitely. I don’t think I would like the sound of guinea fowl as well. And, alas, no wild peacocks on Long Island. Our county, is however, overrun with wild turkeys. And we seem to be on their rounds. Jason is encouraging them by putting out cracked corn. Of course he is. Turkeys also forget that they can fly. Our neighbor in VA had them go walkabout on her, the domestic kind one eats. And, like your guinea fowl, the damned things forgot they could fly over the fences we were trying to get them through to get them back home.

See you soon. I shall stop reading and go back to work now.

Ralf The Dog. May 15, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Brilliant bird. It was making fun of you, the entire time.

Jim Janney May 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm

After the passing of the Third Age, the Balrogs diminished, and went into the West, and eventually became, um, guinea hens? Still forgetting to fly at crucial moments…

David A. W. May 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Two great advantages to having Guineas

Their favorite food are arthropods, especially ticks. Living on Cape Cod they are literally life savers since they eat the ticks that carry Lime Disease. We haven’t seen a tick around the house in the 15 years we’ve had them.

They are also a fantastic early warning system for the chickens. Being nervous nellies the Guineas start making noise when anything disturbs them, such as coyotes (recently returned to the area) or fisher cats. The chickens listen and run and/or hide. Avian Herders.

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