Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.


Posted on | November 5, 2009 | No Comments

There’s no remedy for stupid.  You can’t change it, you just have to work around it.  If you’re lucky you will have one smarty pants in the flock that all the numbnuts will follow.  If you’re unlucky you will have one numbnuts and all the smarty pants will be blinded by his charisma and will follow him to their doom.  Kind of like political campaigns.

In this particular instance of stupidity, a guinea decided the best place to sleep was on top of the duck barn.  Not inside the barn—that combination of wood, tin, and hardware cloth that forms an impenetrable barrier to the various guinea-eating  ghouls of the night.  No, right on top, over the door, in plain view and climbing distance of everything with claws and sharp teeth.  I scolded him vigorously,

“Do you know how much this barn cost?  Well, neither do I because I started burning the receipts before I ever got up the nerve to total them, but I believe it was a pretty penny.  All of it spent to protect your ignorant, ungrateful feathered butt.  So get down here and get in the barn.”

Ever notice that stupid and stubborn go hand in hand?  He never came down and I left him to his inevitable end.  If you’re gonna lose any member of the flock, let it be the numbnuts.  But he was still alive in the morning and by the next night I discovered his magnetic charm had lured three more guineas onto the roof.  Either that or stupidity is contagious.  (This is actually a workable theory.  Less than five years ago the Japanese population was happily feeding and brushing their digital pets on their phones and watches.  Today America’s school children rush home to walk their Webkinz online while their dogs waits patiently by the door for an outing.  If that’s not a pandemic of stupidity, what is?)

Anyway, something had to be done before the entire flock was on the roof.  I gathered my farm catalogs and perused the choices.  Surely, I could buy something that would solve all my problems.  I just needed the right product.  Bird spikes were out.  The roof was too large to cover.  Also I could not stand on the roof as it is made of wire and only supported every 3 feet by 2X4s.  Any barn roof tasks like tying down tarps and removing broken tree branches are delegated to the children who weigh under 40 pounds.  The last time I put Little up there to feed me some rope for a hanging waterer he had the treachery to draw a picture of the act in preschool and tell the teacher how I had him pretend to be Curious George when he got scared and wanted down.   Just imagine what the picture would look like if it involved foot long metal spikes.

I considered that plastic malevolent owl used to scare birds away from areas where they are not wanted.  This may be good for parks and playgrounds but I raise poultry and waterfowl.  I want the birds to go into the barn.  An owl staring down from the rooftop may keep the guineas from roosting there, but facing one of their biggest predators is also likely to convince the ducks and chickens that the pond is a safer option for the night.  Nothing like a messenger of death at the doorway as a Welcome mat.  Besides, the birds might start to talk amongst themselves:

“See that owl.  Hasn’t blinked in two weeks.  I don’t think he can see us. ”

“Maybe owls aren’t as dangerous as we’ve heard.  That owl doesn’t even squawk when the farmer puts the littlest kid up there to move him around.”

“Bet you’re right.  We could probably stay out all night and have nothing to worry about…”

“Right on!”  “Let’s do it!”

No, the owl definitely isn’t the right fit for this problem.  Also, I think I can feel his eyes following me around the room from the catalog page.  Ugh.  Creepy.

I settled for a low tech solution.  Each night after dark I used a hoe to drag the guineas squealing and flapping off the roof.  Then I chased them around the barn yard, through the pasture, and in and out of the lettuce garden until they finally went into the barn.  That lasted for several weeks.  Or at least for three nights that felt like several weeks.  On the fourth day I abandoned them to their fate.  In three more days their numbers swelled to 12 guineas chuckling at me from their lofty perch each night.  Two days after that, fate arrived as a black silhouette on silent wings.

Morning light revealed one headless guinea on the roof and several others standing in the corner of the pasture mumbling to themselves.  Still others paced and shook their heads as if to clear them from the night’s violent images.  The ones smeared with blood could only sway unsteadily on their feet with clouded eyes.   I left that headless body right there, with one wing hanging off the edge of the roof and fluttering in the breeze.  The best deterrent for stupid guineas that has ever been made.  And the sounds of other murderous visitors coming to finish it off over the next few nights was enough to fix the lesson in even the dullest memory.  Ah, the crickets chirping,  cicadas calling, and a raccoon crunching on the leftover bones of a numbnuts.  Country living at it’s finest.

© Stevie Taylor 2010. All Rights Reserved.


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