Are you considering raising guinea hens for tick control on your property? We’ve tried it and highly recommend it.
Beware though, there are a few things to think through before raising guinea hens in your backyard. Here’s what we learned from our journey of hatching guinea hen eggs to reaching a nearly tick-free homestead.
This tick issue is the real deal. I did not grow up spending a copious amount of time outdoors, especially not in the woods. So, my first encounter with the feared tick was a couple of years ago when we moved to Vermont. I’ll never forget the first time I had one on me, it was crawling up the front of my shirt, getting ready for its next meal. Then there was the Lyme scare we had last summer. I’ve learned so much about this blood-sucking pest since then and picked way too many off of my young children, so this year, I am grateful to have found a “tool” to solve our tick problem.
Spring and early summer are always tainted with the reality of ticks perching on the tall weeds, ready to hitch a ride on their next meal. During mild winters, ticks stay active longer and reappear sooner, even when there is still snow on the ground.
In the past, my children’s play spaces were infested with ticks.
We would find them in the grass where we ran, on our Oak tree where we climb, and we even saw them crawling along the slack line. Yuck! The children couldn’t take cover under a bush while playing hide and seek because a tick would be waiting there for them. Of course, tick checks multiple times a day were a must at our house, and we even decided to shave the boys’ heads just to cut back on the amount of hair we had to wade through. It was frustrating to do this every day. So, this past year, after considering all the options, we decided to try raising guinea hens for tick control around our home.
Before moving to Vermont, I had never even heard of a guinea hen. This awkward-looking, noisy (no seriously, SO loud) fowl is native to Africa and spends its days looking for food, especially ticks. Although they’re not very bright, they’re known to consume over 4,000 ticks a day! Yes, please! We were introduced to this type of bird by a neighbor who owns at least 15-20 at any given time and highly encouraged us to give them a try.
In May of 2021, we took a trip to a farm in Sheffield, VT and picked up 16 guinea hen eggs to incubate on our own. After candling (checking with a light to see if the eggs are fertile), we were able to put ten of the eggs in the incubator. I had heard quite a few stories of guineas going rogue because of their nature to be in the wild, so to train them to stay on our property, we decided to raise them with baby chicks!
This was our first season incubating eggs of any bird, so we had a lot to learn, but with two incubators going, somehow we were able to hatch two backyard mix chicks, both of Polish descent, and four guinea keets (baby guinea hens).
To our surprise, the guinea keets were much smaller than the Polish mix chicks, and the chicks acted as mother and father to the keets. The little keets watched eagerly as the older and bigger two showed them around, taught them to eat and drink, and even snuggled them tight. It was turning out to be quite the little flock.
In our opinion, the guineas thought they were Polish chicks too. The birds spent the summer following each other around. “Mama Chicken” and “Boss” had their four little keets, three pearl grey, and one white. It wasn’t until the guineas grew older and started to roost higher in the trees that they started differentiating themselves from their chicken “parents.” But the bonding had happened, and the “place of home” was established, and even now, our guineas come in at night for safety in the chicken coop after a long day of free-ranging and gobbling up unwanted pests.
I am happy to say that the work that we put in last year to raise these birds has paid off. We have been floored by the fact that our routine evening tick checks have been rather dull- and thankfully so! Raising guinea hens for tick control wasn’t without a learning curve, however.
Here are a few things we learned:
- It’s best to raise these birds from a very young age so that they have “home” imprinted on their brain. Taking adult guinea hens away from their home may confuse them and they will likely run away in search of this home.
- Protect your garden. Just like chickens, guinea hens will peck on any vegetation out of curiosity, even if they’re not going to eat it. I learned the hard way last year when they, just little teenagers, took a sample of my greens, tomatoes, and pumpkin, spoiling what we had waited months to enjoy. This year, we fenced the garden, and thankfully, they are respecting the boundary. This was a small price to pay for the service they offer.
- Guinea hen females are notorious for escaping to the woods to create a nest to lay their eggs. After raising two females and two males, and waiting about a year for the birds to mature, we were anxiously waiting for our girls to start laying eggs. By mid-May, these light brown spotted eggs, much smaller than a chicken egg, started showing up in the nesting boxes in the bird coop every few days, and then every day. Then, all of a sudden, we stopped seeing them. About two weeks later, my daughter followed one of the female hens to a brush patch at the edge of the woods, and there under a few branches of protection, sat 14 eggs all snug in the nest. She has yet to sit on her eggs for more than a few hours, however, we’ve learned that if she refuses to come home, we shouldn’t be concerned. We should be prepared to house her offspring though. My children can hardly wait.
- A word to the wise, guinea hens are loud. If you live within earshot of your neighbors, and you’re interested in raising some guineas for tick control, you might want to talk it over with them before you plunge in. We live a field away from our neighbors, and still check in regularly to see if they’ve heard them. Thankfully, we haven’t had any issues.
If you’re ready to start raising guinea hens for tick control, we highly recommend giving it a try.
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