I’m a newbie homesteader. A very newbie homesteader. I won’t say we bought a farm on a whim, but…we bought a farm on a whim. My visions of front-porch-swinging, goat-milking, fresh-egg-collecting simple homesteading have been anything but my reality during this first year on the homestead.The wind has nearly torn the porch swing from its hooks more than once. The goats…well, they’re goats. Hilarious, mischievous, and a total handful. And while we’ve got plenty of fresh eggs, we still have a lot to learn about raising guinea fowl, chickens, and other poultry.
My most recent lesson? Never collect eggs in the pocket of your sweatpants, because you’ll undoubtedly lean against something and end up making a big yolky mess of your sportswear.
Because we’ve had so much help on this journey, I want to do what little I can to help others by sharing what I’ve learned. While I’ve learned a lot about keeping our clothes clean (at least, clean of broken eggs), I’ve learned much more about something I’d never heard of before we moved to the country: guinea fowl.
Before I share my “beginner’s guide to raising guinea fowl” (say that five times fast) with you, however, let’s talk about one other major lesson I had to learn quickly: Once you escape the city – with its bad drivers, crazy neighbors, and cast of other colorful characters – you jump right in to a sea of other pests. In particular: ticks.
Maybe I should’ve known. But you only know what you know, and I didn’t know.
Nope, I didn’t expect to be inundated with blood-sucking insect vampires, which are the stuff of my nightmares. It never even occurred to me that every time I opened the front door they’d be waiting for me, arms outstretched, halfway up the doorframe. (That, apparently, is called questing, and it’s just one way ticks try to ruin my life.)
So, of course, having made the commitment to self-sufficient farm living without pesticides (natural strategies and beneficials only), we knew what we had to do. Well, Google knew. We needed guinea fowl, and fast.
Guinea fowl are famed for their tick-hunting abilities (Googling “natural tick control” is fast proof of this), but being new to this country life meant I didn’t really truly realize a few things. Three things, to be exact.
These are the three things around which my beginner’s guide to raising guinea fowl is built (and when I say beginner’s, I mean it. These are pure no-clue-newbie-novice lessons. Hey, we all have to start somewhere):
This should be obvious, sure, but in my fear-fueled frenzy I simply rushed to the hatchery and bought a straight run of seventeen guinea keets (more is better, right?) during the worst of tick season, which meant I was raising guinea fowl keets for months before they were ready to scavenge their own dinner from our property, and by that time, tick season had passed. Guinea keets are absolutely adorable (funny that they grow up to look like adorably evil clowns) but, if you do what I did, you’ll be waiting until next season to take care of the tick problem.
Lesson 2: Guinea fowl need to be raised at your property to know they need to stay on your property.
When I realized that our guinea keets would take their time to grow, I did what any wise girl would do: bought three full-grown guineas off Craigslist from a farmer three hours away. (I don’t recommend this strategy.) I drove all afternoon, paid twelve dollars for three full-grown male guineas, and trucked them back home in a cardboard box perched precariously in the backseat, convinced that our problems were now solved. We knew we needed to keep them confined for awhile so they’d know where their “new home” was, but six weeks later I didn’t have the heart to keep them cooped up any longer, and lo and behold, as soon as I opened the door they were gone. (Actually, one has taken up with the neighbor’s chickens and now goes by the name Jenny, but that’s a story for another day.)
Lesson 3: Teaching guinea fowl to “roost” in the barn at night is a recipe for a loud, reverberating mess.
Don’t ask me why, but I thought it’d be a great idea to tuck our sweet flock of guineas into the barn at night – ensuring their safety from night predators, keeping the off-hours noise down, and enabling us to get a head (er, helmet?) count every night. Turns out, while keeping your guineas in the barn is truly a great way to keep them safe, it’s also a great way to end up in an enclosed space with the reverberating sounds of seventeen squawking guineas. It also takes the responsibility of guano duty away from Mother Nature and puts it squarely on my shoulders.
So there they are: the three important lessons of your beginner’s guide to raising guinea. Basic? Yep. Important? You betcha. Guinea fowl are a fantastic addition to your homestead – despite the noise and the learning curve, we can’t imagine life without our guinea fowl, and now that Tick Season Number Two is upon us, we’re even more grateful for their help.
Oh, and a bonus lesson: guineas and dogs make surprisingly good friends.
Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.