Animals Blog

Guinea Fowl Chicks Move in with Elongated Tortoise

Guinea Fowl Chicks Move in with Elongated Tortoise

Have you spotted some new and unusual residents in the Tropical House this October? There are currently nine Guinea Fowl chicks who have moved in with the Elongated Tortoises at the wildlife park. 

The rangers had kept track of when the chicks were due. Keeping an ear out for an activity, Ranger Jess heard the hatchlings and took them to the back of the Tropical House, where the rangers had already prepared a new home for them. Not all the eggs had hatched yet, but an incubator had also been set up and the rest of the brood were not far behind. 

The move was planned to give the best survival odds to the chicks. While the cold weather would certainly have gotten to a few predators, mainly the grey crows but also sparrowhawk and buzzards would have been the biggest threat. This is why a Guinea Fowl would have so many chicks, a female could have had as many as 16 so that she can afford to lose quite a few chicks and still have some left to look after. The group at Fota Wildlife Park haven’t had much success raising their own here in the park, due to these predators.

 

 

The chicks had been living behind the scenes at the Tropical House for a week, when ranger Julien, who was upkeeping the tortoise area, had an idea. There are always a lot of crickets in the enclosure, which are part of some of the Tropical House’s residents’ diets. While the crickets help with treating the tortoises waste, they have no natural predator in the tortoise enclosure and this added with their breeding has seen their numbers were increasing. The rangers have been looking into introducing quail or some other species to the enclosure to act as a natural pest control. Julien put the chicks into the enclosure to see how they got on.

At the start of the month they first went into the enclosure. The chicks took to their new surroundings with enthusiasm and were actively chasing the crickets. Speaking about their move Julien said, ‘They’re helping with pest control, plus the chicks are out and about, getting to run around the enclosure and eating good food, which is also providing enrichment for the chicks. There’s a heat lamp also in the enclosure so they’re comfortable, but we are moving them back to their own space over night to keep an eye on them.’

And how are they getting on with the tortoises? ‘At first the tortoises were wondering what was going on, curious about the chicks and to see what they would do, so it was also providing an enrichment for the tortoises. They were a lot more active with the chicks in the enclosure and were following them around to learn more about them. Animal enrichments which introduce new and unplanned types of activities is good for their welfare as expected and planned enrichment can get stale, so it’s benefitting everyone.’

The chicks are growing quickly and when they’re bigger the rangers will move them outside, with their own heat lamp first to get used to the cooler temperatures and new surroundings. The rangers have been careful to not interact with the chicks too much, this is to make sure they will recognise each other as birds and slowly they will re-introduce the clutch to the adult Guinea Fowl over time.