Guinea Fowl Join Our Homestead

guinea fowlI suppose it is sort of funny how these things come about. One week we're reflecting on the choices we've made to increase our chicken flock to 32 and saying enough is enough, to going seven days and bringing home 5 guinea fowl to make it 37. 

Now, please understand that we didn't fall into the 'Oh, how cute. Let's get them,' camp of new livestock acquisition, but rather they were specifically tracked down for their usefulness on the homestead. Let me explain.

As regular readers know, we are new beekeepers. The beginning of May we installed a package of Italian honey bees, and we will be installing our carniolans on May 31st, this Friday. 

Being in the woods, we have all sorts of predators, from fisher cats to raccoons, mosquitoes to ticks. Ticks. Nasty little buggers that have only one thing on their puny minds. I've pulled two off of me so far, Wendie is at five at last count, and the kids have simply stopped letting us know how many they've found. It's bad, and seeing as how we wanted to do something about the problem before one us gets Lyme (again), but not wanting to spray pesticides for obvious reasons, we really had only one option in our playbook.


Guinea Fowl to the Rescue



guinea fowl
When we first moved out to our lakeside homestead, we had considered guinea fowl for potential pest control. Ticks are nasty blood-suckers, and the fewer we see, the better. 

As livestock, guinea fowl serve a purpose, and with voracious appetites, they would earn their keep. But with neither Wendie or I having guinea experience, we were hesitant. Our homestead philosophy is 'one thing at a time.' We'd heard stories of flocks just wandering off, or chasing down and harassing other animals. We weren't sure we were ready for the learning curve a new animal would present.

But this past week, we put all of that aside. We discovered that though there is some truth behind the stories, they could be brought in with little trouble if done properly. First of all, guinea fowl truly need to be reared in the environment where they will be kept in order to have the coop imprinted as their home. Even bringing in pullets could be cause for disaster. 

Guinea chicks, called keets, are fantastic homestead animals as long as they stay put. That means hand-rearing and integration into our egg flock around eight weeks of age. Right now, ours are two weeks old and living in the brooder in the wood shop.

I know. I've lost my wood shop again for a time.

In six weeks, they will move out to the summer coop when we transition the broilers to the freezer. The black sex linked, as well as the New Hampshire and Rhode Island Reds, will be integrated into the main flock around this time if not sooner, so the guineas can acclimate a little more before the final move. It is then that our tick patrol can go into action.


Acclimating Guinea Fowl


guinea fowlOne thing we've learned is that we simply can't open the gate one day and expect the guineas to just do their thing and return at dusk. Seasoned experts swear by a practice where a single bird is placed outside the coop for the day where it's instincts drive it to stay close to its flock. 

We'll do this for a couple of weeks, swapping out the birds until they fully understand that that coop is their home. They'll learn that when the day is done, the coop is where they belong.

It is also recommended that special treats are given each night for which the guineas will want to be there in order to enjoy. Scratch is the standard, but even kitchen scraps will do in a pinch. The idea is to establish a schedule that they will want to keep. Charlie, our new guinea fowl mentor, told us that if he's late with the snacks, his birds will call to him to remind him to come out with the grub.


Why Guinea Fowl



guinea fowl keets
So, guinea fowl target inspects. While chickens will eat whatever comes their way, including vegetation, the guineas are looking for bugs. Ticks are a perfect treat as they hover just at eye-line for the birds and apparently are tasty as all get out. 

Guineas won't scratch in the ground, or damage crops, so they are safe in the garden as long as they don't get a taste for strawberries or tomatoes. 

Being in the woods means we have predators, and these little birds won't go down without a fight. We decided to raise French guinea fowl, which are an African breed that are a little bigger and can be intimidating, especially when they're running full gallop at a predator. There's a video on Youtube of guineas running off a leopard on the hunt. Guineas also let out a warning cry that other chickens understand as a signal to get under cover.


Guineas Were a Good Choice


homestead coopAfter discussing it at length, Wendie and I dropped the girls off at school today and took a road trip up to New Hampton to pick up our flock additions. We enjoyed a nice lunch in Laconia, spent some time with the breeder and then headed home for school pick up and then set up the brooder.

I think we're done with new livestock additions for the time being, and now I'm thinking whether to enlarge the coop for this winter. Conceivably, we'll have 23 birds to see through the cold after the broilers go their way, and I'm not sure the coop is big enough. But that's something for another day. For now, its all about raising the keets.

We love sharing our homestead life with you all, and truly enjoy hearing your insights. Do you have guinea fowl? What is it like having them in your flock? Please share your stories by joining the conversation below, and as always, remember to subscribe for more homesteading goodness! 



Comments

Lisa Lombardo said…
Hi WT!
I have wanted guineas for a long time. Sadly, we have neighbors who don't approve of the chickens. So I think the guineas would be more than they can handle, lol. Maybe someday. :)

Thanks so much for sharing on Farm Fresh Tuesdays...hope to see you again this week!