Sunday, September 5, 2010

Eagles, hawks and poultry - Guinea fowl

My farm is surrounded on all sides by land that is minimally farmed.  most of the use around me is either orchards or used to graze cattle.  One one side is an 800 acre parcel managed by the Washington State Department of Fish and Game, primarily as a warm-season pasture and a cool-season stop for migrating waterfowl.  they provide access and I see people shooting birds out there all the time. 

As a result of this activity, I have quite a bit of contact with wild birds; both migrating birds, who are attracted to the lush greenery, and birds that seasonally nest in the area; raptors like eagles and hawks seem to think that this is a pretty good area to raise their young. 

I've made my piece with the raptors by doing a couple of simple things, and one of those is keeping a small number of guinea fowl that range with my poultry.   Their function in the larger flock is to provide the early warning system for aerial attacks from raptors, and they're also very good at spotting people they don't know (and sometimes people they forgot they already know) and sounding the alarm. 

Chickens and ducks quickly learn to pay attention to their calls, and while there is an occasional false alarm I pay attention to them when they start screaming, at least to figure out what they're squawking about.   

Guinea fowl are a lot more gang oriented than chickens.  Both guineas and chickens will hang out in flocks, but the guineas are a little poultry mafia.  If a chicken dares to pick a fight with a guinea it will find that it is fighting the whole guinea flock in a matter of seconds.  they'll also single out chickens or turkeys that they consider to be threats (well, guinea consider everything a threat, they're pretty paranoid birds, but maybe a bigger threat) and they'll pick on that bird.  they'll single out the bird they've chosen and drive it away, even though they're taking on birds that are twice or more their weight. 
I do get asked for them from time to time, and I'll sell them if someone really wants them, but mostly I like their watchdog tendencies and their ability to make my life easier by safeguarding less paranoid fowl. 

Note:  They really do create quite a racket.  If you think roosters are bad, you don't want guinea fowl.  However, if you have a neighbor who thinks that roosters are bad, a few guinea fowl will make the rooster noise seem insignificant.   You can also give them as gifts to children.  This is roughly the same as giving a noisy toy to a child at Christmas.  The gift that keeps on giving. 


Anonymous said...

Giving Guineas. You are rotten. To the core.

Anonymous said...

This post made me laugh. You have described guineas behavior perfectly. They are good eating though. Found that out last year when the noise got to me and I thinned the flock.


Bruce King said...

There's a fellow (hi, robert!) who really likes them and buys them for special occasions. you really can't find them much locally, and he likes that I have a flock of free-range guineas. Just not much demand other than his, though. So not worth raising more than a nuisance quantity.

Across The Creek Farm said...

They're good as gold for tick and fire ant control in the south.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Anon #1. Ha Ha! Love the "nuisance quantity". But they are rock stars at spotting danger. We had some for a while, they were great at yelling about danger, until I startled them one day with a trash can, and then I became something dangerous. I could not go outside without being SCREAMED at. The flock dwindled a little as my side arm throw improved, but we ended up giving them all to a lady who was more than happy to take them. Without their heads.