Last year I was given a box of baby guineafowl. They were supposed to be banthams. Billy Bantham my adopted, feisty cockerel needed girls. He had adopted the role of deputy to Ronnie roosters flock of Rhode Island hens as Ronnie had an amputated toe and found rounding up the girls at sunset difficult. But that wasnt really much fun. A small and very excitable cockerel just didn’t impress and often Billy was seen tearing across the meadow after a hen who had no intention of getting cosy. Returning unsatisfied to his perch at bedtime, a rather miffed Billy was growing bored.
So off I go to buy banthams, oh and cou-nous hens too as I also have Mr Chicken without girls. Ronnie is worried…too much competition. The two boxes arrive. I unpack and what’s this? My banthams are a noisy, fluffy bunch of striped kids. They scurry to hide behind a straw bale and cry. In fact they scream. Its deafening. Who are these guys? Back in the kitchen Tony and I discuss what to do. Should we return them? Probably end up on a plate. It’s difficult but we decide to keep them and look again for Billy later. I identify the new noise as coming from guineafowl or pintades as the French call them. They love eating ticks….great and acting as alarms for any day time predators….mmmm sounding positive.
The following weeks are spent with earplugs in when feeding the guineas and the poor cou-nous look like they have insomnia and sleep alot during the day. Billy wanders more and decides to try and muscle into Napoleons flock of Marans. One Maran takes a shine to him and for a few weeks the two of them slide off daily to the edge of the field to canoodle and it seems at last we have a happy crew.
Then on a bright afternoon in September last year, around 2pm, I wander out into the poultry field and it seems very quiet. Billy still likes to crow alot even though he now has a girl. I call for him, but no sound. I head to the field edge and spot a huge mass of black, blue feathers. My heart starts racing. Further along, just over the hedge I see a little crumpled body. I push through and there he is. His whole neck and back is bald, his throat ripped. It’s a hawk. The Maran is gone, only feathers remain. It’s likely Billy tackled the hawk and it plucked him live and killed him, then flew off with the maran. I dont blame it but poor Billy. I was hit hard by loosing him but he always took his protection role seriously.
The cou-nous matured and as a rather dishonest sale to us of guineas had been done, my flock of eight hens turned into seven roosters! Mort, Max, Rollo, Rufus, Otto, Rudi, and Ferdinand added to my other three meant not enough hens anywhereand poor Clara wouldnt be parted from Rudi and everyone fought over her. In the end I created a batchelor flock with Clara, Rudi and Otto seperate. Otto had neurological issues and only Rudi wouldnt bully him and somehow Otto left Clara alone, knowing the hierarchy. Ferdinand, my snuggly boy had a sudden accident. Trying to say hello in his over excited way, he jumped the fence, slipped and got his head stuck. The mere minute it took us to run across the field to grab him, was not quick enough. He turned blue in my arms and died. I was heartbroken and as always, it hits me hard for days.
The guineas grew and moved to a new coop. Unlike I hear often on the forums, my gang never had problems coming home to roost at night. My adopted hens decided the new coop was also a great home and moved in on day one, leaving the rest of my two flocks in the main building. The nightly screaming and shouting didn’t seem to bother them either and the guineas got into their daily habits.
These funny, noisy, bouncing guys got me back into sketching. That big clumsy body and little noisy head on a thin neck led to Pipi. She made me smile. I drew more and slowly the little gang appeared. I worked on the drawings a little more and realized, quite unintentionally, I could share my fun sketches and fulfill a dream of designing fabrics and home decor. Pipi Pintade was born, along with Naughty Goose based on my grumpy Tolouse goose, Bumble.
My feathered gang cause me a lot of anxiety. They are a tonne of work too, almost two hours daily feeding, cleaning and dealing with hormones in spring, pecking order fights and the logistics of so many cockerels who sometimes need to have some exploring time beyond their normal runs. They start crowing at 5am and Otto crows all day. He has no concept of time.
My illustrations are of my own birds. I support quite a few rescue charities in the world and proceeds from my sales will in part go to support these. I have big plans for Thistle Cottage Studio and I hope Pipi and co will add some cheer to you too. If your interested in any of my designs, feel free to say hello and I will give you the links to have a Bumble gander.