Friday, March 26, 2010

Photos Phriday: Tiny Cheeping Evil

The Zelie postmistress called me at 5:45 this morning to tell me that a cheeping box had arrived for me.

Oh sure, they look like adorable little striped chickies.

Don't be fooled. I missed catching them trying to eat one another's toes, but that's the first thing they did when I put them in their brooder.

The color is odd because they are under a red heat lamp. Or else that's the glow of the furnaces of Hell from whence they were spawned. One or the other.

Guinea fowl experts assure us that these vile creatures can be tamed with daily handling, but then add "We mean hours a day."

Our last flock of guineas was heavily slanted towards cock birds, and they quickly became nasty. I don't mind aggression towards humans and dogs, because, what, we can't deal with a three-pound bird? But they were mugging my chickens and kicking them off their roosts. The stress was seriously cutting into egg production, but more important, the hens were frightened and miserable. Not. Cool.

We ate most of the males, sold the remaining mated pairs. But not soon enough.

If these behave, they can stay over next winter. If not, they make a superb coq a vin. This batch is the larger, meatier French guineas. No accident.

Why guineas again?

They have one virtue. They eat ticks. And the ticks have suddenly taken off here. They'll go outside in May -- I'll house them in the woodshed, away from the chickens -- and start earning their keep.


  1. Do other chickens not eat ticks? Or do guineas just have an extra-strong bias toward seeking and destroying ticks? If the latter, maybe it's their way of surviving with humans. I've often thought that even loose-eyed herding breeds learn a fast, cute down (away from stock, anyway) as puppies because then they're too cute to kill for whatever they've done this time.

  2. One thing that helps is brooding them with chickens. The chickens teach them to roost in places we like, and seem to mellow out the attitudes. That being said, any you hate are welcome here, Heather. It gives an excuse to visit Dakota, no? ;)

  3. In other poultry-related news, my formerly friendly rooster has turned nasty. Today, for the second time, he snuck up behind me while I was picking up the waterer and gave me a nasty peck on the back of the leg.

    Having experienced the same thing just yesterday, I was prepared. I had the OddMan with me. When I felt the peck I turned around and saw Audie pinning Clover to the ground by his neck. He did not kill or injure the bird, just held him down until he quit struggling. When he rooster submitted, Audie released him and stood there giving him stink eye until my formerly cocky bird shook the dirt off and walked away muttering to himself.

  4. JL --

    Guineas aren't chickens -- they are a semidomesticated species of African fowl that look like they should be supporting players in a Serengeti nature film -- because that is essentially what they are.

    Free-range chickens will eat ticks, but the official line is, guineas prefer them over all else, and go on seek and destroy missions. Guineas are more carnivorous than chickens, and much less destructive to vegetation.

    Cute is every baby critter's way of keeping us from eating them no matter how much they deserve it. It wears off pretty quick with these guys, which is why they are as fast as they are obnoxious.

    Stacy, I raised my last batch of guineas with the chickens. It did get them to go into a coop at night; unfortunately, once there, they were in a perfect position to torture the hens. I'm going to experiment with roosting the flocks separately this time.

    Janeen, Audie is following in his lil' sister's footsteps. She was Henery Hawk patrol when Henery started to get snotty with humans. If Ken had let her do her job, HH would not have gotten a broken leg. (Which worked out well for him in the end, as it got him sent to rooster retirement with a hobby hen-keeper and a few biddies.)

    When we had kids visiting, I made them take Rosie when they went outside, and she made sure Henery didn't go after them. Our current roosters are both rather young and were not made pets of as little chicks, so they yield plenty of space. I know Rosie is just waiting for one of them to screw up.

  5. Stacy, I was looking at the sale page on your website, goat browsing, as it were and OMIGOD MUST OWN GORGEOUS BLACK ARAB STALLION.

    Seriously, that is every girl's fantasy horse. But you knew that.

    And *totally* inappropriate for me. But still WANT.

  6. Appropriately enough, Libby sounded the alarm upon hearing the sounds of TCE, even though all our dogs were barricaded in the living room. (She is the smartest of the three, you know.)

    At one point, my sister-in-law had a rabbit as a girl, but desperately wanted a horse. (No word on whether it was a black Arab stallion.) When my in-laws then lived out in the Arkansas countryside, one of their neighbors actually had a horse, and upon overhearing this (apparently oft-repeated) wish, he told her, "I'll trade you your rabbit for this horse, straight up."

    I believe her parents did not allow it.

  7. Also, you may wish to configure that for not HD, because it blows the hell out of the framing blog post.

  8. Trichloroethylene makes a sound? Do the various isomers emit different tones?

    Why did I waste time on flame ionization, field chromatography and infrared ambient air analyses?

  9. Ha. Pharoah is so unlike most of the stallions I've handled... except other Arabians... If you weren't looking, you almost couldn't tell. He has his proud carriage, but is so easy to handle, even when being led through the mare herd (we have a couple that are in perpetual heat). Never had to use anything more than a voice correction with him. He's nice to ride too. Now that I'm home more, I'll be taking him out more often.

  10. The most interesting thing we've received in the mail is a box full of 100 bobwhite quail-- a species that used to be native here but is now extirpated (mainly because we have forests now instead of farm fields).

    No one knew what they were. No one.

    As for guines, yes they keep the ticks down-- and even the kill snakes.

    The problem is they are possibly the most obnoxious birds on the planet. If something spooks them, they have make an interesting noise that sounds like a cross between garage door opening and a puma in heat. It is a continuous sound-- like the barking of a dog. That wouldn't be so bad, but lots of things spook them. They wind up making this noise dozens of times an hour.

    Unlike many birds, they don't always run or fly away from danger. Often, they were form a phalanx and march at the supposed predator, making exactly that same noise. One of my poor dogs got this treatment, and she never messed with them again. I'm sure they do exactly the same behavior against jackals and leopards in Africa.

    Some guineafowl will also attack.

    But the good thing about the ones my neighbor had was that he couldn't keep all of them in his chicken coop. They simply were too wild. When they would roost in the trees at night, their obnoxious behavior was no match for the great horned owls.

    Within a summer 24 guineas became six.

  11. Guineas have to be one of the STUPIDEST creatures on this green earth! We had two- Pearl drowned herself in a water bucket at the age of 5 months. Agnes would fly over the fence that surrounds our barnyard, then spend the next three hours pacing back and forth up and down the fence trying to figure out how to get back into the barnyard. She did this so often that she created a decently sized trail. She must have been very attractive for a guinea though since a guinea and a peacock belonging to our neighbors both came over to our place and courted her at the same time. They eventually convinced her to move next door, so now we don't have any and I can't say I'm eager to replace them any time soon.

    And Heather- I am so with you on the black stallion thing. WANT!

  12. I have the same problem with our guineas. Raised with the chickens they return to the coop but push the hens off the roosts and in general bully everyone around. In a coop by themselves and eventually they start roosting outside and then that is the end of things. We didn't care for the taste or stringiness when we had some butchered in the past but made great dog food. Now the dog thinks they NEED to stay with the chickens so they don't roam as far which means they cover less ground on their patrol. After these last three disappear I won't be replacing them. Looking into tick drags etc and other controls but it is a real problem. Good luck.

  13. At my house it's the other way around-the two hens beat up on my two guineas. And I don't mind the alarm call-me, the dogs, and the horses all go running to see what set them off-it's the 'I'm lost buckwWHEAT!!!!' call that the hen does when she's two feet from the cock. It was much worse with two hens-the poor cock would just run back and forth until he gave up. I'm not really sorry a coyote got one hen.

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  15. I just pulled a dozen ticks off the dogs and one off me from this morning's river trails outing.

    Send the evil peeps. Now.

  16. Okay, I gotta figure out how to sew one of the little bastards onto a dog.

    I think maybe the real secret is that their shrieking either repels the ticks or just kills them where they stand.


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