Saturday, March 22, 2014

Good Morning Good News! Saturday, March 22, 2014 - Guinea Fowl, a Pheasant and a Chukar

Good morning and Happy Saturday from Rikki's Refuge! 

Today we're going to share about our guinea fowl, pheasant and chukar! We have about 70 or so guinea fowl here, along with one Pheasant named Phil and one Chukar named Chuck.


These beautiful birds are very loud. They're called watchdogs because when they see something unusual they all stand tall and SCREAM .... and it's one heck of a racket they make !!!!
Their noise is what often brings them to Rikki's Refuge. People want the birds, they've heard of their wonderful tick eating abilities (yes, for real, they are a huge help in controlling the tick population) and they are pretty. They don't know how noisy till they try them out. Daytime, nighttime, Saturday's too .... they'll stand up and SCREAM if a predator comes anywhere near ... like within a mile or something .... a car comes down the driveway, a dog in the distance barks ..... or anything that may startle them.
One bird stands up and SCREAMS .... and the entire flock follows along ... never stopping to ask, Exactly WHAT are we screaming for? It's "protect the flock" first .... ask questions later.
The guinea fowl are the peace keepers at Rikki's. They cannot stand to see anyone fight anyone. They've flown into the faces of dogs fighting, screaming and flapping wings .... and the dogs stop right there. Cat fight ... or even a rough tussel that the Guineas think is getting out of hand ... the flock descends on the perpetrators screaming and all cats go running for cover.
When the hens get sick and tired of Leghorn Foghorn and he's after them again, the guineas scream and fly in to the rescue.
The most compassionate think I think I ever saw the Guineas do was save a song bird. A cat had caught somebody, which is highly against our rules, and cats who have a high hunting instinct are not allowed free range. The cat had just jumped and caught a poor songbird and looked rather shocked himself. Other cats came running, hoping to share. The flock of Guineas descended screaming and surrounded the cats, beating with their wings and screaming until the cat dropped the bird and took off.
Then the Guineas quieted and circled the songbird. They sat down and waited. The bird was very frightened, and I'm sure hurting, though I pray there were no serious injuries. For several minutes the bird sat there, then preened a little, then flew away. The Guineas kept that protective circle around the bird till he went off.
Seeing them so protective of a distant cousin really warmed my heart and made me realize that the compassion they have rivals our own. Perhaps we should all be bird brains !!! 


Phil Pheasant has spent his entire life at Rikki's Refuge. Pheasants are not native to Virginia. They are a favored species to hunt with dogs. Many have been released here - Virginia, not Rikki's Refuge - to add to the "sport" of hunting them. When startled in a grassy patch, they fly, quickly spreading their wings, and some people have a thrill watching their dogs flush them out so they can shoot this beautiful bird dead.
Well, once upon a time, many long years ago, we'd just gotten in a bunch of baby chickens. They'd been abandoned and were dying, and we were called to see if we'd rescue them. We did. Over 600 of them. Sadly many were already dead, others were dying. We worked around the clock hydrating them, getting some food in them, and about 400 survived.
Well that's a lot of chickens. And that means a lot of chicken food. We had a few adult chickens at the time, and a few of those hens took over watching the brood.
That's when a mama pheasant - who lived in the wild - came along and decided this might be a pretty good and safe place to raise her new family. And so she nested in Chicken City and laid her eggs.
She raised her brood right alongside the chickens. Phil was always a bit different .... he preferred to play with chickens instead of his own kind.
Yes, birds play. Folks are often amazed to find out that birds each have their own personality, they play, they love, they have special friends, they argue .... just like all the rest of us. Most people don't know about their personalities cuz they know the birds ... they just see them as a group pecking away or flying overhead .... but yes, birds do have distinct personalities.
And so Phil spent more time with the chickens than the pheasants. Though sharing the same area, the rest of the pheasants kept pretty much to themselves. Mom Pheasant would sometimes go over and pull Phil back to the pheasant nest .... but soon you'd see him back tucked under a loving hen.
As they grew, it became time to learn to fly .... all but Phil ... he never too much to that. Up to the top of a fence ... but that was it. Like a chicken ... not a pheasant !! Eventually his mom and feathersibs flew off .... At first mom would come back and poke at Phil to get a move on and go with her .... They'd have a conversation, but Phil would stay with the chickens. As the days wore on .... mom came back to visit less and less often.
Phil was one of the chicken flock.
Pheasants are smaller than chickens. Longer tails, but smaller bodies. Maybe it's the longer tail feathers .... or maybe he flaps to his own drummer .... Phil grew up to like roosters instead of hens. At Rikki's we don't mind who or what you like, as long as everybody is happy and nobody is hurt. Where there's love .... well there's love and that's all that matters. We've had Peacock and Goat couples, Cat and Dog couples, Pigeon and Guinea Pig couples ..... if they don't see a difference or any reason not to love each other .... who are we to get in their way ?
As Phil grew up and matured, his mind began to turn to other things .... as it frequently does with teenage boys. Now I know you're wondering why he wasn't neutered. Rikki's neuteres EVERYBODY .... don't they?
Neutering a bird is very difficult, all the parts are internal in both sexes, and they have a very high blood flow. A rooster has three times the blood flow to his tests which are located internally right above the adrenal gland ..... than to his brain. So now you see why they have one thing on their mind !!!
Anesthesia is difficult on birds, neutering causes a great blood loss, and about 1/3 of them die during such a surgery. Though all surgery caries risks, 33% mortality is just too high when there are other methods to manage the reproduction issues. Egg management is very easy. Many of our hounds help out .... you ever heard of an egg suckin hound? Well we've got 'em !!! And the skunks come at night to eat the eggs the dogs leave behind.
No, nobody hurts the hens. Hens these days have been breed to be lousy mothers. The lay their eggs .... and walk away .... Fewer than 1 in ten hens will have any maternal instinct towards a baby chick. Those who do are absolute fierce in protecting their young.
And so back to the story of Phil...

Phil became very attracted to Leghorn Foghorn a giant white rooster. Chief rooster of Chicken City. Nobody but nobody crossed Leghorn Foghorn. Now he loved the attention of the chicks, and loved warding off the other guys from HIS women ..... but he didn't love the attention Phil lavished upon him.
Phil became rather aggressive with his attentions (I'll spare you the x rated details) towards Leghorn Foghorn ...... and got beat up pretty badly.
Phil was in the hospital for a couple weeks recovering. Assuming he'd learned his lesson to leave Leghorn Foghorn alone .... Phil went back to Chicken City ....
But Phil's lust for Leghorn Foghorn was just too great. We broke up several scrapples. And then there was a huge fight and Phil ended up with a broken leg. Now he had a long hospital stay and he ended up with a limp.
When he was able to go outside, we let him go to Rabbit Rotunda for the last of his convalescence to keep him away from Leghorn Foghorn. Well Leghorn Foghorn marched right up to Rabbit Rotunda and screamed at Phil thru the fence. Phil screamed back. They jumped and flailed at each other thru the fence. Luckily saved by the fence.
To this day, Phil still lives in Rabbit Rotunda where he has a few hen friends who hate roosters, pigeons, rabbits and guinea pigs !!

Chuck the Chukar -- chukars are often used as training bait for hunting dogs. They are slower than some others and so easier to catch. Some are relatively uninjured and "reusable". Many die. Some are seriously injured. Chuck and his wife were two that were seriously injured.
That day at the training grounds there was a compassionate person who was pretty upset about the whole thing. She was able to convince the owners to let her take Chuck and his wife to a rehabber. Only thing was .... Todd was a pigeon rehabber. But a very kind and generous man. Who said, "well, these poor chukars need help. Then help they will get." They healed and thrived under his loving care. He did not feel they were able to be released into the wild. They had little chance of surviving in the city ... or the country. Different hazards. Having been captive all their lives, their "make it in the big jungle out there" skills were sorely lacking.
They lived happily amongst Todd's rehabbed pigeons for quite some time. When Chuck's wife passed away, Chuck was grieving. He seemed to want to get outside. Maybe discover the wild. But it was far too dangerous. And so he came to Rikki's Refuge to see if Rabbit Rotunda, which is built like a big aviary, would cheer him up.
And it did !!!! And he became our Chukar in a Cherry Tree !!




1. The guinea fowl (/ˈɡɪnifl/; sometimes called guineahen) are a family of birds in the Galliformes order, although some authorities (for example the American Ornithologists' Union) include the guineafowl as a subfamily, Numidinae, of the family Phasianidae. The guineafowl are native to Africa, but the Helmeted Guineafowl has been domesticated, and both feral and wild-type birds have been introduced elsewhere. 

2. Pheasants refer to several genera within the subfamily Phasianinae, of the family Phasianidae in the order Galliformes.Pheasants are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism, males being highly ornate with bright colours and adornments such as wattles and long tails. Males are usually larger than females and have longer tails. Males play a part in rearing the young. Pheasants typically eat seeds and some insects.The best-known is the Common Pheasant, which is widespread throughout the world in introduced feral populations and in farm operations. Various other pheasant species are popular in aviaries, such as the Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). 

3. The Chukar Partridge or Chukar (Alectoris chukar) is a Eurasian upland gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae. It has been considered to form a superspecies complex along with the Rock Partridge, Philby's Partridge and Przevalski's Partridge and treated in the past as conspecific particularly with the first. This partridge has well marked black and white bars on the flanks and a black band running from the forehead across the eye and running down the head to form a necklace that encloses a white throat. The species has been introduced into many other places and feral populations have established themselves in parts of North America and New Zealand. 


Rikki's Refuge, Rapidan, VA.
This morning will be cloudy with temperatures warming rapidly into the low to middle 60s. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph. By this afternoon the high will be 71 F. cloudy, winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 20%. Tonight we’ll have a few passing clouds, otherwise generally clear. Low 38F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 10%.
Sunrise: 7:13 AM Moonrise: 12:39 AM
Sunset: 7:26 PM Moonset: 10:58 AM 
 Don't forget your Saturday 3/22/14 Shelter Challenge vote for Rikki's Refuge! Please vote and share! THANK YOU!
Vote here: 


(Serve with tortilla chips!)
1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas or garbanzo beans
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green or yellow bell pepper
1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeno peppers
(you can use chopped fresh jalapenos instead, as many as you prefer!)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
(you can use chopped fresh tomatoes instead! about 2 cups)
1/2 cup Italian-style salad dressing
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
Red Pepper Flakes to taste for “heat” (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes. Season with Italian-style salad dressing and garlic; mix well. Cover, and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors. 

Rikki's Refuge Educational Center
21410 Constitution Hwy.
Rapidan, VA. 22733
***For this Saturday (March 22, 2014) Rikki's Refuge really needs CANNED CAT FOOD, ORANGES AND PAPER TOWELS!***
You may also leave donations for Rikki's Refuge at Re-Tail in Fredericksburg any time during normal business hours, if this is more convenient for you! 

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
~~ Winston Churchill ~~  

Every meal for every animal, every day, is provided by donations from YOU, our caring supporters!
If you would like to make a donation and send it in the mail instead of making an electronic transaction online, please mail your check or money order to: 

Rikki's Refuge
PO Box 1357
Orange, VA. 22960