Goodbye Prim

This post has been a long time coming. I had to heal a little from the loss first; Prim was a very close family member.

Prim joined us in January 2017. She was a baby then and she grew up in the humpy, she never decided to leave and join the wild lorrikeets, as I think she formed such a close bond with our family.

Her relatively short life (only three years instead of the average 20 years) ended when she contracted a respiratory infection. I believe that the stress of being evacuated due to fires and being exposed to unknown pathogens in many new atmospheres knocked her immune system down and led to her death. I will miss her very much, but the time she spent with us is a time I want to remember.

Prim in her oxygen tent the night she died.

It is hard to express the pain we all felt at losing Prim, it has taken me six months to even write about it. I still shed tears at her memory. I will miss you Prim, I hope your next life is as loving as this one has been.

Meet Emu- a new guinea fowl baby

Some of our guinea fowl looking for bugs.

 It’s late in the season for baby anythings, but one of our two (out of ten) female guinea fowls decided a month ago that Autumn is a great time to sit on eggs. Silver (the mum) has been diligently sitting on her nest in the useful scrap pile for some time and my daughter has constructed a fence around her and a roof of sorts over her to protect her from being trampled by sheep or eaten by ducks (not a joke; the ducks ate some of her eggs before we built the fence around her). She has only hatched the one baby and remains sitting on the other eggs. We will have to take them away at the end of the week as we suspect that they are infertile and she won’t get off the nest until all the eggs are gone.

Silver on her nest

We keep guinea fowls for tick control around the humpy (see my previous post) and they do a great job; we have not had to take ticks off the sheep or dogs for years. As guinea fowl live for many years we don’t tend to hatch many babies (we don’t need to replace them often), but sometimes life just finds a way. Our flock at the moment consists of ten birds; eight males of various ages and two females. Silver (the hen that went clucky) is only four years old and her mate is at least ten years old, proving that love doesn’t take account of age. We think the age difference may be why only one egg has hatched. She had many different ages of male to choose from; the males range from two years old right up to ten plus years old. Some sources say that guinea fowl have harems (like chooks) but at our place they tend to prefer having a permanent partner who will hang around the nest site being generally unhelpful while the female sits on the eggs and get very excited when she hatches babies.

Patch, Silver’s mate

Our new baby; Emu was taken away from his mum as soon as he hatched because guinea fowl are terrible mothers. His dad and the other males came to the humpy door as soon as they heard him squeaking, they hung around for a day or so trying to mount a rescue, but eventually decided to give up and go to the pub. Emu lives in a heated box inside at the moment. He eats insectivore mix, ground grains and live termites (collected daily). He is one happy, contented little keet (guinea fowl chick). Unfortunately, guinea fowls are impossible to truly tame; guinea fowl may have been domesticated before the humble chook (or jungle fowl) but they haven’t evolved into the quiet, biddable fowl that chooks have become (for the most part). Little Emu startles at any movement and shadows on the wall frighten him into a darting, cheeping mass of nerves, he’s just a very highly strung bird. My daughter has high hopes of turning him into a sweet, cuddly pet though.

Emu eating termites

Emu under his heat lamp

In other news…
Primrose the Rainbow lorrikeet has been up to her usual tricks and I managed to get a few shots to share.

Prim playing with a pencil

A blurry Prim in a tree on a walk to the front gate.

Meet Primrose the Rainbow Lorikeet

Primrose, or Prim for short

Way back in January some time we had a text from a friend who had been approached by someone with a baby bird who needed care. Of course our friend contacted us straight away, because we have become known in our area as the repository of lame ducks, flightless birds and white elephants. Of course we said to bring the baby bird over and we would see what we could do, because we are in fact the repository for all creatures great and small in need of help.

Our first report said that this baby bird was a rosella, so we emergency bought a huge bag of granivore mix (for seed eating birds like rosellas). Feeling very prepared and organised, we set up a nursery cage with soft fabric as a nest and hot water jars for heat.

Our first sight of Prim

This is what a baby rosella looks like (from a bird raising site)

When our friend delivered this baby bird in a shoe box, we had a peek inside and felt a lot less prepared; she was obviously a Rainbow lorikeet (the blue head is a dead giveaway), luckily the people who rescued her had been feeding her organic baby food (fruit and vegetable mush) which is fine for either species. If she had been fed granivore mix she would have had a very upset tummy and would possibly have died.

We had some nectivore mix (for birds that eat nectar and pollen, like lorikeets and honey eaters) in the cupboard for Barry (the Blue faced honey eater) so we fed her that for a few days until we could get some nectivore mix especially for baby birds. She was in very good condition, not dehydrated or thin at all, so her transition to humpy living was relatively easy.

Apparently she had fallen or been blown from her nest into a mud puddle in a storm, then picked up by a large dog who took her home to his place. The people who rescued her (from their dog) had just put her in a warm box and fed her, so she was still covered in dried mud and dog slobber. We were also worried that the dog may have hurt her, although after two or three days in her rescuer’s hands she had not shown any sign of injury. As it turned out she had no injuries. Our first move was to give her a warm bath to remove the mud, which was causing her some irritation, as were her feathers as they grew in.

Yes, this is the ‘baby in the bath’ photo

It took two baths to remove the majority of the mud and Prim herself groomed the rest off. She was fed and changed just like a baby for weeks after that and just like a baby she cried at night and had to be fed on a four hourly basis. Needless to say nobody in the house got much sleep until she gained enough weight to sleep through the night. Luckily my eldest daughter took on all of the child rearing duties (making Prim a grand daughter I suppose), she feeds her, changes her cage and keeps her amused for hours at a time.

After a week more of her feathers had come through and she looked like a bird not a dinosaur

She loves to groom hair

She loves to groom herself

She sleeps on her back a lot of the time

Prim is a delight to have around, even if she is a bit naughty. She learned to fly very young and flew out the window into a tall gum tree, where she stayed for two nerve wracking days. She couldn’t work out how to fly down and kept calling to us for food but not understanding that we had no way to get to her. Eventually my daughter and I took an extension ladder out to the tree and my daughter climbed up as far as she was able then coaxed Prim into trying to fly to her. Prim launched herself into the air towards my daughter, who leaned out as far as she could from the ladder and snatched Prim from the air, everyone concerned let out a startled squawk and Prim was safe once more. It was decided to clip some of her flight feathers to slow down her development a little. This is not something we usually do as it can be really hard for birds to develop flight muscles if they don’t do it young, but she would have starved on her own as she was only just beginning to learn to feed herself.
Prim has become my daughter’s closest feathered friend since she lost her galah George last year but we all love her and delight in her antics. She has  taken to screaming what sounds like “Up yours!!!” at my partner when he gets home from work (I don’t know where she got that from) but she loves him and will make her way across the furniture, floor and sometimes dogs to get to him for a play as soon as he is sitting down. She supervises the cutting up of fruit and vegetables to feed all the birds (galahs, cockatiels, budgies, miners and a crippled finch) in the mornings, bouncing up and down on the shoulder of whoever is doing the cutting and screeching advice. She watches movies with us and loves to snuggle down to snooze in my knitting (all birds love knitting it seems) or in someone’s hands. She sings along with music and really love the Hilltop Hoods, but isn’t so fond of M&M (I found that strange as she often sounds like she’s swearing). The joys of opening your house to creatures in need are many, they make all the work worth while. Prim will be popping up in posts for a while from now on, until she decides it is time to join the wild flocks and find herself a life.