By JAKE MOONEY
Daily Progress staff writer
HOOD — In five short months on earth, a Madison
County guinea fowl named Peep has lived its own
version of the ugly duckling fable, with a modern twist.
Rescued from impending doom by a Hood family, Peep
faced scorn from his peers before gaining a measure of
redemption. Not as a beautiful swan — he’s still rather
odd-looking, to put it generously — but as a television
Peep appeared alongside Tim and Vicki Watkins, his
owners, on the April 13 episode of the Rosie O’Donnell
Show in a segment on the benefits of guinea fowl as a
means of insect control.
His rise to celebrity status began in November, when
Charlene Watkins, Tim and Vicki Watkins’ daughter,
rescued 11 eggs from horses that were stomping on their
nest, Tim Watkins said Friday.
After three days in an incubator, Peep hatched, and the
bird has remained attached to the Watkins house ever
He never mixed well with the other guinea fowl the family
owns, Vicki Watkins said. Unlike the other birds, which
roost in a cedar tree on the family’s 243-acre cattle
farm, Peep prefers to stay closer to home, spending his
nights in a cage in the house’s sunroom.
“He won’t leave us,” Vicki Watkins joked. “We’re
going to be sending him to college soon.”
Peep’s brief life story has had other plot twists, like his
close friendship with a goat named Billy, who lets the
bird ride on his back. The bird’s crowning achievement
so far, however, has been his national television
Vicki and Charlene Watkins were watching O’Donnell’s
program on April 11, when the host wondered out loud
about guinea hens.
O’Donnell had complained of finding a tick on her
daughter, Chelsea, and said she had received numerous
letters telling her that the birds can prevent ticks.
“The fact is they are meat-eating animals, and they are
very easy to care for,” Vicki Watkins said Friday of the
birds. “You don’t ever have to feed them.”
“They’ll sit in front of a beehive and clean it out,” Tim
Watkins added. “They’ll eat every bee.”
Almost immediately after the show, the Watkinses
contacted O’Donnell staffers and offered to share their
guinea fowl knowledge. Within an hour, Vicki Watkins
said, O’Donnell’s people called back and offered Peep,
Tim Watkins and Vicki Watkins a spot on the show two
The trio drove to New York the next day, spent the
night at a hotel — one without a strict no-pet policy —
and appeared on the April 13 Rosie O’Donnell Show
that also featured supermodel Cindy Crawford, singer
Shannon Curfman and “All My Children” star Walt
The Watkinses sat in the audience for most of the show,
and even got to perform the coveted duty of introducing
Peep, however, was uneasy.
“He reacted to the music and the strong beat of the
drum,” Tim Watkins said. “He doesn’t like sharp noises
Because of his initial skittishness, Peep spent the majority
of the show in a cage backstage. He came out later,
though, for a segment in which the Watkinses presented
O’Donnell with two guinea fowl of her own. She called
them “the best gift anyone’s ever given me.”
Vicki Watkins said the family also plans to send
O’Donnell a book on “Gardening with Guineas,” and
possibly more birds later in the year.
For his part, the Watkinses said, Peep has recovered
from his case of nerves.
In fact, Tim Watkins said Peep came home from the trip
with a new favorite hangout: the family car.
“Somewhere in his beady little pea-sized brain he’s got
an imprint of that car,” Watkins said. “He liked it, I
guess. He liked going to New York.”