Roving Rabble Of Ring-Ins

Guinea Fowl on the move

Guinea Fowl on the Move

For many years now we’ve had a gang of rebels making noise in the neighbourhood, but these aren’t your usual crew of troublemakers. Yes, they’re noisy. Yes, they go around in large groups. And yes, their appearance often frightens small children (their small, wrinkly, bald heads can be a little scary on first introduction), but they have so many positive qualities.

They’re the first to announce visitors, spot snakes, goannas and birds of prey and they do a great job of pest management. Guinea Fowl are insect and seedeaters, so they make the most of such things like wasps, termites, snails, ticks, spiders, lice and other bugs; all of which are beneficial for the plant, human and animal populations on The Ridge.

Originally natives of Africa, the black and white spotted Guinea Fowl can be found throughout Australia in both domestic and wild flocks. The flock on our ridge seems to take a little from column A and a little from column B here. We’re not sure who they originally belonged to or how long ago they were classed as domestic, but we do know they have been roaming freely for many generations.

Although I’m yet to spot any little brown keets (the babies) there are many juveniles that have a lighter, less spotted plumage, so it would appear that even though they are ground-nesters, they are pretty good at hiding their eggs and managing predators as we often see in excess of 20 birds at once.

Over the years I’ve really come to enjoy and appreciate these visitors. They’ve saved several chickens by raising the “snake alarm”, and their flighty antics always raise a smile.

Life And Death On A Better Ridge

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 184

Life on a Better Ridge Life and Death on a Better Ridge

 

Nature’s remarkable cycles have given me much to write about in the past. I have pondered the wondrous renewal evident in the botanical world, the passing of seasons and the plethora of changes these bring, but until now I’ve not spent a lot of time writing about the quieter side of this cycle.

For new growth to burst out of bare branches and long, warm days to replace the harsh cold, we need the bareness, dark and cold to be felt and recognised.

Today it is my hope that I can pay respect to the ‘other side’ of the new life, fresh growth and renewal that is the main focus of much that is written about spring; after all, it’s not as though things only die off in winter.

In the natural world, as well as the human realm, death and change are an ever-present aspect. Perhaps turning our attention to them more often will allow us to better appreciate the whole cycle.

Death is not a subject that is off-limits in my household. Having fairly recently lost the great-grandfather figure in our lives, my children understand that sometimes bodies wear out or don’t work as well anymore, and also that people and things eventually die. While this concept seems to be pretty well understood, what about the lives that are just beginning that don’t make it? Well, this week, I had the opportunity to find out just how best to explain this.

Amid the excitement of new chicks hatching out of their eggs, there was a tinge of sadness, out of the seven eggs nestled under our clucky girl we welcomed three little fluff balls, full of chirpy sweetness. The fourth egg had started to crack, and you could see where the bird’s little egg tooth had made its initial hole, but alas, no amount of waiting and wishing could bring this life further out of its egg and into the world.

After a day and a half of this wait, the broody hen was up off her nest, indoctrinating her three hatchlings in the ways of chicken-hood, leaving behind the three eggs that showed no signs of cracks, and the fourth, with its little hole.

Seeing that the hen had abandoned these eggs, we pulled the cracked on a little further open to find that the chick inside was no longer living.

Did the mother hen know that the other eggs were not viable? Given the intuitive understandings other species seem to have concerning their young, my guess would be yes. She knew that there was no longer any use sitting on the other eggs and concentrated her energy on teaching her three living chicks how to survive.

In the manner of all farm kids before them, my children were told simply and truthfully about this natural occurrence and, although saddened by the news, they too have focused their attention on providing their loving energy on the remainder of the flock.

This simple fact of nature serves to remind us all that there is a full cycle in life and, seeing as though neither man nor beast can avoid death, the best outcome is that it is lovingly understood, accepted and celebrated for the role it plays in our lives.