Wednesday, December 21, 2005


When last I left you, my children and I were trapped in the house while strange and angry creatures were storming our door. They were small but very loud and apparently very angry that someone had come to live on their farm. I was bigger than they were but they out numbered us eight to one. How was I going to get past them, get my children in the van and then head back to Florida?! Who wants country living? Not if I was going to keep encountering unpleasant creatures on my driveway....let us not even think of the fields, streams, ponds and woods on the farm...not to mention the mountain ridge! Should I sacrifice our small poodle who was more than willing if I would only open the door? Should I open the door? Would they storm in? I began to bang on the door and yell, in fact all the kids began to yell and they took off....literally, into the air...and they all landed in the Catawba tree in the front yard. It looked like a tree from outer space...really weird! We have since learned that these were Guinea Fowl. Now look at the picture below and tell me if this bird doesn't look would you like 40 of these looking in your door and screaming at you? We did learn however, that the Guineas were not out to get us - they are just very vain...they love to look at their reflection and were using our sliding glass doors as mirrors! This is a mother with her baby....don't let this picture fool you....they are TERRIBLE mothers. They might hatch a clutch of 12 eggs...if 2 survive it is a miracle. They run through tall weeds at a break neck pace and loose their babies...the cats, coons, hawks and owls are quick to find them. Have you ever seen an uglier bird? The odd thing is that they are the cutest little keats. They make me think of chipmunks with wings. They are adorable! Then they loose the feathers on their heads and they turn into this!

Here is an up close picture....really ugly. And the noise they make...sounds like a really old, squeaky hinge on a really old door in a really old house swinging non-stop in the wind. They say you can tell the difference between a hen and a cock by the sound....nope....they all sound the same to me....LOUD! And it is one of those sounds that just gets on your nerves after a few minutes. Guineas come in a variety of colors. They are good watch birds - they will scream at anything they don't recognize on your farm...but the best news of all is that they eat bugs. Think ticks! When we moved here the kids couldn't go outside for 10 minutes without picking up ticks. Sometimes we would pick 10 or more off of each child. We found them crawling up the walls in our house where they dropped off of clothes on the way to the showers. Once we learned about Guineas eating ticks, we picked up 4 Guineas of our own (our neighbor's Guineas weren't so neighborly once they found out we had moved in to stay!). We named then Fred, Ethel, Ricky and Lucy. They stayed for several months and then joined our neighbor's flock. Lesson learned: never buy full grown birds - always buy keats.

So, we bought 10 keats from a friend who raised them. We kept them in a chicken tractor until the "book" said it was safe to let them out (and we thought they were big enough to fend off our cats). We lost half of our little flock that first night to possums - at least we think it was possums since our German Shepherd brought us a dead possum that same morning The other Guineas survived, stayed around and hatched their first clutch last spring. I think out of 18 babies, 4 survived. Lesson learned: don't let the momma's raise the babies if you want to increase your flock.

The tick population almost disappeared. The boys really have to be in a far field now to come home with a tick. This year we found the babies the day they hatched. There were 18 of them. We caught 15. Of those, 12 survived, a much better survival rate than with Mom, she lost the 3 we left with her. But Mom sat on a fence and called for them for DAYS! There goes that squeaky hinge. They hatched another clutch in late summer. We left them with Mom - there were over 20 babies. At last count, eight had survived - a miracle! Though they are terrible parents, they are actually very smart in other ways. They are almost impossible to catch. If you try one method and aren't successful, you will never be able to use that method again successfully with the same bird. They remember....forever...

If they see you near their nest, in fact if they even THINK you were near their nest, they will move it. Over and over. You most likely won't find it again so be sure they don't see you the first time.

Their eggs are delicious, sort of tear dropped shape, lightly speckled and the shell is extremely hard. The first time I cracked one I didn't notice the shape. I hit the egg against the bowl and nothing happened. I tried again, and again....I made a mental note to talk to my husband about the fact that we either had one strange egg layer or we needed to reduce their intake of oyster shell...then it rang a bell somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind. I had read about this years ago. I began looking through the egg basket and found some strangely shaped eggs...sure enough...guinea eggs!

The Guineas and I get along fine now, although my seven year old got to close to some babies that were with Momma Guinea this year and was soundly disciplined by her....lesson learned!

Thank you to where I found these pictures.


  1. You really had me going. These are good pictures though. Our tick population went down big time after getting guineas.

    Well I am off to bed. The twins being identical have been waking up in the night lately for just a few minutes...first one...than the other. Problem is, it leaves me awake. It is already morning here and I get to help milk the ladies. Brian thought I was enjoying the winter just a bit too much, he wants me to empathize with him. Trouble is I love milking in winter over summer. Great post!!!

  2. I find Guinea Fowl rather interesting creatures. They go about our place foraging for whatever it is they find good to eat. I've never actually seen them eat a tick but, they give us a sense of comfort as they pick through the grass almost continually throughout the summer months. They roost with our chickens at night. Even though they are indeed ugly and often noisy I kind of like having them around.

    I'm not sure what it is or if it is just unique to our situation but, when we get predator problems for some reason the Guinea's are the first to disappear.

    Enjoyed your story.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and God Bless


  3. Merry Christmas!

    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in Vermont


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