I have always thought it would be wonderful to adopt children. It hurts my heart to think of all the precious babies (and young children) who are out there, in need of a loving home. I once suggested it to The Country Boy, and after much deliberation, we realized that it just wasn’t something that was right for us. So, when he brought the subject up a few days ago, my facial expression perfectly captured that deer-in-the-headlights look. Until he pointed towards the ground with his finger. Ah. Now I understood.
He was trying to mow the ‘prison yard’ (the fenced area where the dogs are kept while we are gone or working cattle), and came across a guinea nest in the tall yard. In the past, we have tried to let the guineas raise their own, but by the time the dust settled, all the babies had been lost or eaten by a predator. We love our guineas and want more, so we decided to scoop up all 42 eggs and put them in the incubator.
Much to our surprise, they were further along than we thought. Within a few days, the first ones started hatching out. Each day we have one to two new keets, so we are having to keep a close eye out. Standing at the incubator, I am amazed to watch from the first crack in the egg to a head poking out of the shell. I also get to listen to the tiny cheeps as they work.
As with all hatched babies, they need to stay warm-around 99 degrees, for the first week or so. After that, you can decrease the heat (or move the lamp further away from them) by 5 degrees every few days until they grow and adjust to ambient temperatures. As with human babies, these little furry creatures are known for waking up in the middle of the night and cheeping for attention or food and water. We make sure their bowls are refreshed before we go to bed each night, so we don’t have to get up for feedings.
Another thing is that they can make a serious mess. Their bedding, whether it be shavings, paper towels or old bath towel will require being changed at least once a day; more often depending on the number of keets or chicks in the brooder. I keep trying to assign that chore to the Country Boy, but he compares it to changing diapers on a human baby-not in his job description. So I get to do it.
Feeding and watering is a snap the first few days. They are just learning how to eat and drink, so there isn’t much of a mess. Let them get a few days older and figure things out, and it looks like a food fight at summer camp. I have even had to ‘bathe’ a chick because it was covered in wet, sticky chick starter. Not a fun job.
Over all though, I like this adoptive parenting thing. It is just so calming to sit down and love on a baby fur ball. Their down is so soft it just makes you want to sit there all day. However, too much handling isn’t good for them, so I force myself to put them back in the brooder. And then sneak out another one.
Adoptive parenting of keets and chicks. This is a part of farming that I could get used to. Until I have to pay the feed bill for the grown birds. Maybe I could train them to go out and get a job…