Mama Hen Becomes a Foster Parent for Guinea Keets

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Illustration By Tom Griffin
Have orphaned poultry babies? You can try using hens as foster moms.

We own a 60-acre farm outside of Ingleside, Ontario. My husband and I wanted to try our hand at raising a few guinea fowl this year, so when we saw an ad in our local newspaper for guinea keets, we ordered five. We picked them up when they were 5 days old. I felt so guilty that these little guinea babies had no mommy to care for them; my heart broke every time I saw the keets huddled in a corner shivering. I had asked the breeder whether they could be integrated with a chicken, and she warned me that the chicken would probably kill them.

It just happened that at this time I also had a young mama hen sitting on 12 eggs. She seemed overwhelmed by the task, so I carefully placed her with her mother (who was broody, too) and split the eggs six and six. Eleven hatched, so everything was fine — I thought. Then, the daughter hen (Virginia) no longer wanted her mom (Lacie) around, and let her know at every opportunity. The atmosphere in the nursery was getting ugly, and I had no choice but to remove Lacie. So, I took a chance and introduced Lacie to the “other” babies.

It was like night and day. Lacie saw the babies and started to coo, and the guinea keets took to her like ducks take to water. It has been a delight to see them progressing from frightened little balls of fluff to following her around and pecking at everything she presents.

Lacie is beside herself, and she has made it clear to us that “you ain’t takin’ these from me, too!”

Helene A. Oakes
Ingleside, Ontario