30 April 2008

Guineas Under House Arrest

10 great iPhotos, originally uploaded by Leigh At Larrapin.

Before we got the guineas, I read up as to whether they would harm the garden and several references gave them good marks, compared to chickens, anyway. I should have thought carefully about that comparision!

The chickens, previously free range, are now pastured-poulty in the large pen built for emus by the previous owner. If allowed to roam they head directly (at a great rate of speed and with great determination) to the deep mulch I've carefully built in my garden and around the trees we've planted. They scratch like heck to get at all the lovely earthworms and buggies under that deep blanket, leaving nothing but scattered mulch and scratch holes. In the pen they went.

But oh, the guineas were supposed to be focused on bug-eating, particularly ticks, and only lightly muss the garden, if at all. Wrong. I should have entered "guineas are eating my garden" into the search engines as I did recently to find the scads of entries. Turns out they like new, small shoots (peas are their favorites, according to my recent eyewitness research) and their other favorites are RIPE TOMATOES.

I immediately knew the guineas were going in the pen. Not only do I kind of specialize in heirloom tomatoes in my garden, but my neighbor is the tomato king of our hilltop. This will never work. In fact, most of those entries online were complaints about neighbors' guineas and how to control them. (Like the homestead squirrel control ideas online, "eat them" comes up often...) I do not want to be the kind of neighbors we once had at another home, in fact I had a kind of spasm just thinking we might be like them. So it was time for a guinea rodeo in the chicken house come nightfall.

Guineas can fly very well, but the 6ft poultry pasture fence would keep them in if I clipped their wingfeathers. Which I did, after dark I grabbed them one by one with a crocheted throw (sorry) that my dog sleeps on. It was the perfect weight and texture to grab a chicken sized bird who nonetheless fights likes the dickens and will peck and claw and squawk at ear-splitting range during the process.... Wing feathers were trimmed without bloodshed, theirs or mine.

So I've bought the time, till the feathers grow out, of whether to keep them to let them out strategically in the evening (they don't go so far just before dusk - unlike their distant wanderings in the daylight) to nibble on bugs or just take them to the poultry auction when their feathers grow out... (Guineas fetch up to $7 each around here due to their tick and bug and grasshopper eating talents on farms and homesteads...for those who don't have unfenced gardens or good neighbors with unfenced gardens I guess...)

Unlike the chickens, who still do their job of laying eggs, breaking up tough oak leaves for mulching, and donating great fertilizer for heating up my compost pile even while they are in their pasture -- the guineas main job is out on the grounds and they aren't much use in the pen. Hmmm. Will have to ponder all this....

Next poultry experiment for garden-friendly bug control for 2009: DUCKS!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is funny how we find a lack of research to be detrimental. I have owned guinea fowl for several years. I read Gardening With Guineas by J Ferguson and have never had any problems. Her book outlines all the training requirements and how to raise them properly. But anyway, as I said in the beginning, research is the key to any project.