The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Update on Farming Friends’ and Cottage Smallholder’s interblog guinea fowl breeding event

Mrs Boss sitting happily on the nestMrs Boss is a bantam that is extremely prone to broodiness. She is also bottom of the pecking order, so her days are lonely. She spends her time running away from Carol, our Maran hen, or spending long sojourns in the anti broody coop. Both of which she hates.

When Sara at Farming Friends offered to send some guinea fowl eggs for a broody Mrs Boss we jumped at the chance. This could be the break that Mrs Boss would enjoy. She would be allowed to be broody, and hopefully have some keets (guinea fowl chicks) to care for. If some keets do hatch out I have no idea what sort of mother she will be.

Guinea fowl eggs take 28 days to develop and hatch. This is day 14 and all is going well. Mrs Boss is living like a queen in a separate apartment with its own handkerchief garden. This tiny castle is within the main chicken run but she is totally protected from Carol’s sharp beak. The castle garden has a small gauge wire fencing from ground to roof. When the keets hatch out they will have a separate secure place for the first few weeks.

Every morning and evening, I give a large handful of wild bird seed to the rest of the flock to distract them while I attend to Mrs Boss. I put a little of the seed in her run and gently lift her off the nest. This can be a bit tricky for me as sometimes she looks quite aggressive. Like Mrs Boss, I don’t like being pecked so I gently touch her far side to distract her and this gives me a few seconds to lift and propel her through the castle door towards the corn.

nest with guinea fowl eggsI check that the nest and eggs are clean while she scratches about. I wipe the eggs quickly with a piece of damp kitchen roll if they are dirty and remove any fouled hay. Mrs Boss doesn’t linger in her garden. She is back sitting on the eggs within a couple of minutes. She does a sort of shimmy to get the eggs in the right position underneath her breast and watches me with an unblinking stare as I give her fresh water and top up her feed. This continues until I replace the side of her castle wall.

Although we have a wire screen underneath the castle, I check all wooden bits for signs of rat attack. Developing eggs are caviar for rats and they could chew through the wooden walls within a few days.

The reaction from the rest of the flock to Mrs Boss’ rise to glory is marked. They seem to be less of a gang now. No chicken has been demoted to be The Bullied One. I am on tenterhooks to see what happens when the keets hatch out.

I was working on an estate a few years ago and heard small, piercing bird like screams from the loose box that had been converted into a hen house. Every one was out and I carried on working. The volume intensified to an unbelievable level.

After about half an hour, I climbed down from my ladder to investigate. A tiny keet had hatched out in a nest of eggs. The mother hen was nowhere to be seen. When the frightened keet spied me it took off and flew around the loose box. It was a strange wild bird to me.

Chicken chicks don’t fly. I need to devise a method of attending to the keets in the castle without removing an entire wall of the nesting box. They could easily fly out into the run.

Meanwhile Farming Friends is teaching me how to tame guinea fowl keets and essential life saving care for keets. Farming Friends is a great resource, the guinea fowl cateogry can be viewed here. The information in this blog is really accesible. Gently, I have been taught so many things about guinea fowl and a lot more besides, such as the ideal spot for my composter. Thank you so much Sara.


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6 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for your good wishes. Mrs Boss would be so tickled if she knew that she was being discussed internationally!

    Hi Lynn,

    I am not a shallot growing expert, I’m afraid. I only grow shallots from sets.
    I’ve had a sniff on the internet and opinions seem to be divided on growing shallots from seed. The Royal Horticultural Society (http://www.rhs.org.uk/vegetables/crops/onion.asp) states that shallots are never grown from seed and the National Vegetable Society encourages readers to try growing them from seed (http://www.nvsuk.org.uk/growing_show_vegetables_1/grow-shallot-seed-creation.php).

    If I was you I would give the seeds a go, if you have the space. It would be fun to see how they go.

    I hope that this is useful. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Hi ~ You came up on a search I did of growing shallots. I am hoping you’ve learned more about them than I have!! I’ve grown them for the first time this year. I planted in fall of “06” and will harvest when the leaves die back.

    One of them has a beautiful seed head and I was considering saving the seed and starting my own. I read where they are more suseptable to disease
    and it was suggested to not bother. What is your opinion on the subject?

  3. Michelle

    How exciting and you do a wonderful job describing Mrs. Boss and her eggs.

    Best of luck to all!

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for dropping by. I’m hoping that some of the eggs are fertile too. But if not Mrs Boss has had a lovely holiday away from the flock and we can try again. Thanks for the tip about the hatching period.

    Hi Mike,

    I have no idea how good a Mum Mrs Boss will be as this is the first time that we have let her sit on eggs.

    Let’s hope that, when the time comes, she will rise to the occasion. Other wise, we will be raising the keets. Sara, at Framing Friends has lots of tips on how to do this but it would be hard.

    I like the idea of swapping eggs with your neighbour to widen the gene pool.

    How many chickens to you have and where are you based?

  5. Just curious: How good a Mommy is Mrs Boss?

    Our black hens are mostly so-so Moms, the one red is superb. But the white hens are the most brainless Moms of the lot. They’ll abandon babies, drag them on long hikes, trample them,… all manner of idiocies.

    I think that the white hens are mostly descended from battery hens. A friend down the road periodically rescues hens from local chicken “farms”, and we have swapped eggs quite a bit to keep the genes shuffling.

  6. Hi Fiona,
    I was wondering how Mrs Boss was getting on. I am so glad that she is still sitting on the guinea fowl eggs. I do hope that some of them are fertile. The next batch in my incubator are starting to hatch so I do get fertile eggs. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Mrs Boss I do hope that she will have some keets to look after.
    Just to say that generally my eggs hatch at day 28 although they can hatch between day 26-28.
    Kind regards to you and Mrs Boss.
    Sara from farmingfriends

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