Wednesday, June 14, 2006

strange birds

This afternoon I looked down the hill and there, right over the by the hot spring pool is the peacock.

His tail feathers all spread out as wide as can be.

And at the end of each feather is what looks like an eye. Dozens, if not hundreds of eyes.

All of them shimmering and clicking.

And behind the fan feathers, sort of underneath, are these orange/reddish tail feathers.

And these he's intently shaking as though his very existence depended on it.

Watching all of this, one standing on the rock wall, the other casually nibbling on some grass, are the two peahens.

One the old woman, twice, or maybe three time's the age of the peacock and the other just born this time last year, the daughter.

The peacock has been courting, without apparent success, both hens since early April.

Up until now, neither have shown any interest at all. But something, this last week has changed...

But more about that later. What I really want to know, there's actually a little wager going on this one, is what sort of birds are those four little chicks we found running around in the garlic today.

They couldn't have been a week old.

Sort of the size of a tennis ball. But weighing more like a ping pong ball.

Orange in color, with dark stripes down their backs.

Everyone thought they were baby chickens. Everyone, I might add, everyone but me.

That means I have six people wagering against my position.

They all say the chicks are chickens.

"What else could they be?" Adrina says.

"They look like chicks to me." adds Wenonah.

Rangal just shakes his head when I tell him what I think.

"They are guineas," I said. "I know a guinea chick when I see one and those things are guineas."

Little does it matter that we haven't had a domesticated guinea hen on the farm for at least half a dozen years.

"One of those dumb birds we had could have flown off into the forest. Her or her decedents could be living out there, avoiding the various predators for all these years. And sometime this spring the hen laid eggs underneath the garlic and that's where they came from."

No one thinks my version is likely.

"That's one of the sillier things I've heard lately." Wenonah said.

But my answer is simple.

"How else would you account for four guinea chicks?"

Which gets us to the wager.

"They're not guineas. They're chickens."

And the next day, the day after I strung the fence and hooked up the charger no more groundhog damage. They stopped eating the broccoli. They left the squash plants alone.

You might ask, how do I know it's the fence that's caused the change in behavior. That's easy. The other evening I was over in the cemetery field moving water pipe. And right there by the varmint fence I reached down to see how wet the ground actually was. As I stuck my finger into the wet ground the leg of my blue jeans just barely brushed against the fence.

The next thing I know I've been knocked to the ground.

I'm sitting there on my hind-parts. Shaking my head.

What a shock.

I'm sure it doesn't take too many of those to convince a groundhog that he really, really doesn't like broccoli anymore.

The wonders of modern technology.

And since we're on the subject of technology I want to know what technology is going to determine what variety of bird those four, very noisy chicks down in our living room are?

After discovering the chicks in the garlic (Rangal had put them in a box) I thought it was the best idea to put them back out in the field and hope their mother would take them back under her wing.

Wenonah, though, thought that wasn't the best idea. "What if one of the cats eats them. THey are soooo small and cute."

Instead of just letting the chicks go under the garlic, I moved the box (this time a box with low sides) and water and special chick feed back in the garlic. The idea being the mother, once she saw no one was around, would come back, get her chicks and take them back to wherever they were before, before they'd been chicknapped.

No luck.

At the end of the day there were still the chicks. Loudly squawking without a mother.

So, what was I to do? I picked up the box and moved them in the house where they are now. Squawking.

Squawking like I know only a baby guinea can.

Is anyone out there expert enough to tell what sort of chicks they are? Can you tell the difference between a guinea and a chicken? or for that matter a baby chicken and any other semi-wild variety. A friendly wager depends on the answer.

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