Sunday, 18 May 2014

Guinea Fowl...

The chief Guinea Fowl
Three weeks ago I purchased some Guinea Fowl. As mentioned in previous posts, I have a number of goats at my parents property. Nineteen to be exact. I've also mentioned that my parents live in a rural area with lots of wildlife. Some of this wildlife, namely wallabies and bandicoots, are carriers of a variety of ticks. In previous years I've lost goats, particularly baby goats to ticks. Until now, I've put dog tick collars on all the goats. This is both expensive and not ideal due to the chemicals.

I had been doing a lot of reading about alternative pest control options and discovered that Guinea Fowl apparently do a fantastic job at controlling ticks. So after consulting Dr Google regarding their needs and care, I decided to look around to purchase some. Happily the next day in our local paper, someone was advertising Guinea Fowl Keats for $10 each. I called them on a Saturday afternoon and on a Sunday, three weekends ago, Gigi and I were on our way to pick up our new pest controllers.

Some things I learned from Dr Google regarding Guinea Fowls:

  • They are LOUD so do not keep them near the house, if you'd like to sleep. 
  • They are native to African and thus are used to walking long distances (up to 10km) per day. Therefore when first purchased, they need to be kept locked up for 3 weeks if purchased as keats (babies) or 6-8 weeks if purchased as adults to ensure they get used to their new home
  • It is best to keep them locked up close to where you would like them to roost or free range. 
  • Even though they are 'domesticated' they are not tame or pets.
  • Guinea Fowl can fly. Quite well. 

With this in mind, I set up a temporary cage for the Guinea Fowl in the goat shed. As per Guinea Fowl facts above, I placed them here because it is in the goat paddock, where I would like the Fowls to free range when it came time to let them out and there is also a lovely Moreton Bay Fig Tree next to the goat shed, which i thought would be perfect for them to roost in. 
Temporary Guinea Fowl confinement cage. 
Inside the goat shed, I re-purposed a pallet as a shelf and placed the cage on top, with straw on the bottom. The cage is usually used to house newborn bottle-fed baby goats in the garage at night. Its actually a dog crate.

I got the Guinea Fowl home in a cardboard box and transferred them one by one into the cage. I left them for a while to settle, then put food and water in with them. The food is a seed/grain mix that I purchased from the Produce, good for chickens, guinea fowl and turkeys. 
Our eight Guinea Fowl Keats, free ranging
The week just gone was week three of the Guineas confinement period and therefore time to let them out. On Friday, around lunchtime, I opened the cage door, tied it back and waited for them to launch themselves into freedom. They just stood there looking at the open door. Ten minutes later, they still hadn't made a move, I got bored and left them to it. On dusk, I went back to see if they'd come back to their cage to roost. No Guinea Fowls in sight. I grabbed a torch and looked in every tree around the goat shed. No Guinea Fowls. Thinking they'd flown off, I cursed the Guinea Fowl and my own stupidity. 

The next morning I went out to check the goats and to my surprise the Guinea Fowl were hanging around the goat shed! They hadn't made for the hills after all! They've now been free for four days are are still happily hanging around. Free ranging pest control ready to roll.
They didn't run-off after all!
Some additional things that I have learned from experience about the Guinea Fowl:
  • They are wild. When I fed them and gave them fresh water every day, I softly called to them to get them used to me. For the first week, they went crazy in the cage trying to get away from me. By week three they'd stopped going crazy but still huddled in the furthest corner. If they were chickens, they would have been eating out of my hands by three weeks. 
  • Even though I'd picked a nice tree for them to roost in and placed their confinement cage next to it, Guinea Fowls have a mind of their own and have chosen a different tree to roost in at night. I still haven't figured out which tree it is. 
  • They really can fly. And run. They are very fast runners. 
  • Once they've been let out, thats it. They are now 'wild-domesticated' animals. I can see that I'll never be able to catch them or cage them again. 
Some things I'll have to figure out with time:
  • I have no idea how to tell the difference between male and female. Currently they all look the same (except one, which is significantly older and more mature) and they are all making the same cheeping noise, which I guess is because they are still young. 
  • I have no idea how I will find their eggs to eat, when they get old enough to lay.