A few morning ago I went out to check on my young guineas. Usually they're happy to see me, knowing that I'm going to feed them and open the gate so they can free range for the day.
That morning was an exception. They seemed nervous and skittish, and were grouped on one side of the chicken coop. No great guinea smiles to welcome me this morning.
I immediately started looking for the problem, and it didn't take long to find it. A big black snake lay coiled near the fence. From the looks of him, he'd already dined on my breakfast eggs so I went into action mode.
Grabbing a nearby stick, I gave him a couple of pokes. Not death jabs, just a couple of prods to stir him into action.
Sure enough he began to move and I could see the bulges in his sides like a balloon stuffed into a nylon sock.
My chicken pen is made of horse panels, and when he got there he had to put out a mighty effort to squeeze through one of the 2" wide openings.
Once his tail cleared the wire I showed him no mercy, and if there's an afterlife for snakes, he was there with one swift chop of the shovel.
The guineas were watching, still in a huddle. Hunger trumping fear, they finally scattered to get the handful of feed I tossed onto the ground. They've grown so much. The keets who were small a few weeks ago are now the size of premium California grapefruits - with a head and tail added.
I counted. Hmmm...one missing.
I recounted. Still one missing.
Of course I immediately thought of the egg-stealing snake.
"There is surely no way," I thought to myself, "that a snake that size could eat a guinea as big as mine."
Just to be sure, I grabbed the shovel again and gave the nearly headless body a chop.
And there was the convicting evidence. Feathers and bones. My young guinea.
So what have I learned from this experience?
1. Contrary to what I've read, guineas don't always kill snakes. At least not at the age my guineas are now and given a 5 foot long black snake. Or maybe they simply haven't watched the instructional YouTube videos yet.
2. Snakes are dangerous predators. It may be okay to sacrifice an egg occasionally, but a young guinea is another story. I'll keep working on flock safety.
So goes another day in the life of a bird keeper. Some days I win, some days I lose, but I'll always keep on learning.