Of all the valuable things we’ve learned, both from COUNTRYSIDE and from experience, this defense against ticks is the one we really feel needs to be shared with others.
My wife and I own five acres on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In our area there is a large population of whitetail deer with their accompanying parasite, the ubiquitous tick. When we first moved here three years ago our daughter and dog would quite often return to the house with ticks on their bodies. There are several stories in our area concerning severe harm coming to local residents as a result of these tick bites, including Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Erlichiosis.
The second year we were here, we purchased a few guinea fowl. Ticks have been very rare in our life since then.
Our guineas are range free and sleep where they wish (usually up in the rafters of the goat barn). They get most of their own food in the summer and reproduce on their own. They require practically no care at all. Their only drawback is their alarm call, which they issue quite frequently during the daylight hours. They only screech at night if disturbed and in fact, you may find them more alert than your best watch dog.
Do not purchase adult birds and just let them loose. You will not see them again. We find it best to buy very young ones and keep them confined for a few weeks before allowing them to roam.
Guinea Fowl in the Rafters
Once the birds are a year old they will nest on the ground, laying their eggs communally, and the adults will share the responsibility of raising the young. We once had a mother killed by a fox and the three-week-old young were successfully raised by their father.
Unfortunately, the keets spend the night on the ground for the first few weeks and we have lost many youngsters and adults to fox predation. What we do as insurance is to steal freshly laid eggs (while the adults are off feeding – they are very protective) and set them under a Bantam hen to hatch. This works well as long as the guinea babies are removed when they hatch. We keep the babies isolated until the young surviving free range birds are mostly perching up high with their parents at night. At that point we let the confined keets loose near the free range brood and they are eagerly adopted into the group.
If overpopulation is a problem, both the eggs and the birds are edible. It is best to catch them at night when they are roosting and relatively helpless. Or you can sell the birds. There always seems to be a market for them; we get about $6.50 per adult bird at the local auction.
Spread the news and check behind the kids’ and dogs’ ears, and we’re happy to answer anyone’s questions about these noisy helpful birds.
Related article: Lyme disease, p. 58.