Meet the guinea hens. These little keets will grow into 5 lb birds that will roam the yard. They will roost with the chickens and feast on the seemingly never ending supply of wood ticks and other bugs.
Guinea hens originate from the sub-Sahara region of Africa. They are rather noisy creatures and will raise a fuss if someone new comes in the yard or a predator is looming. Even though these birds can be annoying to say the least they are great to have around.
When they are allowed to range free about the yard they will live on insects they find. This is supposedly going to be a record year for wood tick and tent caterpillars. Having the birds on “tick patrol” will help immensely here! If allowed in the garden they will feast on potato bugs and squash beetles, they may eat a vegetable or two on their way but for the most part they like the bugs. (Make sure the garden is full grown before releasing the birds in it. Like any poultry they do enjoy young plants.) Guineas have also been known to keep mice, rats and snakes out of the yard as well.
Starting with keets or baby guineas you need to have a warm (95 degrees or so) place for them. We keep it pretty simple, a large cardboard box and a heat lamp. Keep the birds quite warm for the first week, then backing the temperature off by about 5 degrees a week. This may vary depending on your situation, so take it as a rough guideline.
Keeping the birds fed and watered is a simple task. Don’t put wood shavings in with the birds of the first while as they can mistake it for food (I do use large shavings against the recommendations). Rather, use flat newspaper for starting. These are probably the cleanest birds to care for. Their droppings are dry unlike the “soup” the comes from the rear end of water fowl. Change the paper (or shavings) regularly. I have my birds in the house so I like their bedding changed daily otherwise it can start to stink in a quick hurry and that’s not a welcoming odor.
A high quality starter feed of roughly 28 percent protein and a drowned proof water container is all you need. I use a small dog dish for water for the birds, it is not downed proof nor is it recommended. I check in on them quite often during the day not that I could save a little guy from drowning but so far it has been working good. For food a small plastic container. They are a couple weeks old now and it’s time for a food container that they can’t play in and dump out and soon a bigger box. Both will come at the same time and soon.
To be continued…