Saturday, May 27, 2006


Guineas are interesting birds. As Mary puts it, they fight dirty. On the other hand, they don't fight all that much among themselves. They run the other birds away from the food (with only temporary success), but they seldom get into knock-down drag-out fights with each other -- especially if they are free range birds.

Today, I saw one guinea seriously picking on another. She was pinned against the barn. I went up to them, but the aggressor didn't relent. I picked up the poor girl that was trying to hide, and found that she had a broken leg. The femur was broken just above the knee, and the lower leg and foot were just hanging limply and dangling. Other than that, the bird was still full of life.

I took the bird to Mary and discussed it with her. We considered setting and splinting the limb, but it hadn't worked for the rooster. In the case of Stripe, the joint just popped right back out. In the case of the guinea, I expect that it would break again.

I considered amputating below the break, but that would have been painful, and of dubious value. It's not like they make wheelchairs for poultry. She might be able to get along without a leg, but she would be vulnerable to predators. The real show-stopper was the process of cutting, though.

I also considered using the elasterator to band off the bad part of the leg. That would also be painful. Where would I band it? If I banded above the break, the bone would be sticking out when the rest of the leg dried up and fell off. If I banded below, I would have to pull out the live section of the broken off part of the femur. If I banded right at the break, the broken edges of the bone would break through the skin.

I hated to do it. I really did. It's one thing to do in a bird that is slated for the dinner table, but it's different when you just have to euthenize something. No good comes of it. It's just a waste. If you kill an animal for food, it brings food to the table. If you just bury it...

I shouldn't be so sentimental about it. It's not like this is a pet bird. The only reason I cold even come close to her is because she was injured.

But still, that girl was calm when I was holding her. I didn't ask for help because I figured that passing her to someone else would cause her unnecessary pain.

So, I picked up the ax. Then, I found two nails. I wasn't about to make the same mistake I made the last couple times I had to kill a bird.

I pounded the nails into the tree stump that we use as a chopping block. They are just far enough apart so that I can put a chicken or guinea neck between them, but the head won't slip between them.

She squawked and wasn't happy when I put her neck between the nails. The logical side of me knows that she was just upset about being handled that way, but it felt like she knew what was going to happen.

One quick chop, and it was over. I was pleased that didn't get clumsy and cause her extra pain. She had been through enough already.

Still, it can hardly be called neat. I dropped the ax and felt warm blood splattering on my left hand, wrist, and forearm. The headless body squawked and struggled. I dropped it, and it went an amazing distance. Chickens aren't nearly that energetic when they get their heads chopped off.

The head looked still alive for a few seconds. According to some experiments a French doctor did with guillotine victims, it may have been.

I really hate this.

I moped back to the house. Mary went to the garden and buried a barred rock hen that I had found in the manger earlier today. Then, she fed the dead guinea to the cats. They didn't eat much, so our boxer mix dog got the rest.

I guess the guinea wasn't wasted, after all.

But I'm still far from happy about the situation. I like those ornery noisy birds. They have personality.


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