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View Full Version : Guinea Hens....how many to make a difference?



PNWjumper
Jun. 1, 2011, 08:44 PM
So one of my neighbors apparently picked up some guinea hens recently who have adopted my farm as a new home. They're making the dogs go crazy (which is driving us crazy), spooking the horses, and are just loud enough calling to each other to be annoying (as uninvited guests anyways).

My question is.....can 3 guinea hens make a difference in the bug population on my 5 acre farm? They're actually kind of cute, and I know that given time the dogs will calm down and it's never bad to get the horses used to something new (though I'm a bit worried about how often the hens dart underneath their legs). I'm trying to decide if it's worth having them around or if I should make a point of talking to my neighbor....though I'm not sure there's much he can do since I do have a much more inviting property (well, I think it's more appealing to guinea hens....his is pretty densely wooded).

Should I just embrace my new guests and feel lucky that they've adopted me?

rustbreeches
Jun. 2, 2011, 12:49 AM
I don't know how well they will reduce the bug population, but guinea hen eggs are the perfect size for deviled eggs. No awkward half eaten egg in your hands with the filling splooging out.

Personally, I am not a fan of loose fowl. I know they are good for bugs and breaking down manure, but I find them messy, JMHO.

aspenlucas
Jun. 2, 2011, 09:23 AM
The farm I rent has 7 of them. They cover and peck from about 30 acres area. I have 17 horses on the property and have never found a tick, while friends around me are pulling ticks off their horses daily. Yes they make a difference and are worth it. They get used to you and don't cackle as much. They dart in front of your car, horse, etc, but I've not hit one yet. :)

mitchfromtimco
Jun. 3, 2011, 01:59 PM
haha they will never stay away from your horses, at least ours never did, but eventually your horses will stop trying to step on them

birdsong
Jun. 3, 2011, 02:30 PM
Love them and their little yellow tennis shoes! I have peacocks myself but would enjoy guineas too. With the neighborhood being more developed I've resisted so far.

Yes, loose fowl spread manure, eat bugs, and provide entertainment. Some will also chase away snakes! You will get more accustomed to them ...I hardly hear my peacocks though they are gorgeous lawn ornaments! Enjoy them.

Guilherme
Jun. 3, 2011, 03:17 PM
Guinea hens are very useful, but don't grow too attached to them. While perhaps not actually suicidal they have little or no regard for their own lives. My neighbor accross the street started out with about 18 and within a summer was down to about 5. I haven't seen any this year at all.

I understand that they will "wear out" the tick population and that's a Good Thing.

G.

Go Fish
Jun. 3, 2011, 04:19 PM
haha they will never stay away from your horses, at least ours never did, but eventually your horses will stop trying to step on them

That's because horses attract bugs.

They are a great early warning system.

Chall
Jun. 3, 2011, 05:55 PM
And keep in mind some horses dont get used to fowl. Do a search on the Hallmark card thread when horses smooched neighbors roosters. Hysterical, if sad for the roos.

chism
Jun. 3, 2011, 08:48 PM
Guinea hens are very useful, but don't grow too attached to them. While perhaps not actually suicidal they have little or no regard for their own lives. My neighbor accross the street started out with about 18 and within a summer was down to about 5. I haven't seen any this year at all.
G.

Absolutely!
A dirty little secret - By the time they're all gone, you're actually glad.

kinnip
Jun. 3, 2011, 09:17 PM
Guinea hens are very useful, but don't grow too attached to them. While perhaps not actually suicidal they have little or no regard for their own lives. My neighbor accross the street started out with about 18 and within a summer was down to about 5. I haven't seen any this year at all.

I understand that they will "wear out" the tick population and that's a Good Thing.

G.

True and true! Really it's not just ticks, it's just bugs. They aren't as good with flies. Flies are fast and their larvae stay well hidden, better territory for chickens. I've seen them gang up on a snake before. It was not pretty for the snake.
They are absolutely not in it for the long haul. Moreover, you cannot rely upon them to raise young. It's as if they just forget what they were doing every few minutes. They do get smarter in greater numbers, however, and the thinning is noticeable. My population has been cut in half since last summer, but we have a known coyote problem. Honestly, I don't how these creatures survive in the wild.
My ideal small flock size for our 3 1/2 AC farm would be 6-7. It's hard to just get the hens; you'll get a few roosters. For their societal model to work easily, they need more females than males. They do mate long term, some say for life. I have seen a roo woo a hen into his group before, though. Males with no mate are chased relentlessly. Sometimes the male with females who chases the mateless bird, is so distracted, so frequently that another harem-having male steals his girls. They are fascinating critters.

ladybugred
Jun. 3, 2011, 10:09 PM
They are SOOOO STUPID!!

They get smarter the more you have because they each have ONE brain cell to contribute to the communal brain.

If you can handle the dumb, ie; won't move out of the way of a car they see MULTIPLE times a day dumb, you may just appreciate them.

So dumb!!

LBR

Mozart
Jun. 4, 2011, 02:37 AM
Ironically, I had to avoid 3 on the road this morning. They belong to a neighbour and I see them everywhere...except the neighbour's property!

shakeytails
Jun. 4, 2011, 08:22 AM
Moreover, you cannot rely upon them to raise young.

Yes, but don't try to catch the babies! The parents are fiercely protective.

PNWjumper
Jun. 4, 2011, 11:43 AM
Thanks for all of the replies.

After watching them for 5 or 6 days this is what I can contribute to the conversation.

Oh. My. God. They are SO DUMB!

Two of them seem to do okay, but the white one (there's one white, one with the typical black/white/spotted coloring and one blue) has to be the dumbest creature I've ever seen. It keeps getting stuck on the wrong side of a no-climb fence. So it will be 10 feet away from the others and suddenly have a complete and total freakout that it can't get to its friends. Note, the fence is about 30 feet long and has space on either end to walk around.....and, oh yeah, it COULD FLY OVER. It usually gets stuck about 2 feet from the gap on one end or the other.

Every morning we're awakened in the 5-6am range by one of the white bird's freakouts. I pray one of the horses decides to take it out. The other two are fine.

I was initially thinking that maybe I was lucky to have the free bug control. But we don't have ticks and the only real issue around here are the skeeters and the flies. Doesn't sound like they're great control for either. We have a pretty big swallow and bat population, so I'm thinking they're still my best bet.

I've decided that my neighbor must have picked up the guinea hens because he hates us.....

kinnip
Jun. 4, 2011, 01:08 PM
Fences will totally confound a guinea, even if they've flown over the same fence before. We invariably have one or two who get stuck in the goat pen all day, then suddenly when it's time to roost, they figure it out. If it's mosquito and fly control you're after, ducks are great for both.

Prime Time Rider
Jun. 6, 2011, 12:27 AM
Yes, they are suicidal and dumber than dirt. We started out with 5 and we're down to one hen now who had her leg broken when my gelding stepped on her. She still hasn't figured out NOT to bed down in his stall. The scary thing is she is the one lone survivor, which makes her probably the smartest of our original flock of five!
She goes out to graze with th horses everyday ( I thinkshe think she's one of the herd). She's amusing and she does eat bugs, so I wouldn't turn down a free flock of five if I were you.

MorgansForMe
Jun. 6, 2011, 01:20 PM
They are really wonderful if you need to get rid of Japanese beetles.

stillhere
Jun. 6, 2011, 02:23 PM
Five years ago I started with 7 keets. I am sadly down to 2 hens. I have a fox that is relentless. My 2 males tried to defend their mates and lost their lives. I got them for tick control we have had lymes and ehrlichia, horse, human and dog. They did a great job but it is too sad losing them they do range pretty far.

Riding with them is challenging- they love me and the horses so they fly to us- one horse always freaks. My mare puts her nose down and pushes them out of the way. I am thinking of getting bantams anyone have them?

JetsBuddy
Jun. 6, 2011, 04:13 PM
The farm where we rent the barn has a small flock of 3 Chilean hens (chickens). 2 hens and the rooster (got beat up by another rooster and missing an eye) ended up being fox food. We found a silkie bantam rooster on Craigslist who is now the leader of the band. Now that he's gotten acclimated to the girls he follows them around. They do a good job of breaking up manure and cleaning up grain from the horses. They will even go into the stalls when a horse is in there to clean up the scraps. We just ordered a box of babies from Texas - got here Friday. 12 of the 16 made it and are in their own protected area until they get much bigger. The chickens are not the brightest bulbs but way smarter than the guinea who ended up as fox food as well. The farm I used to work at had 2 guineas, down from a much larger flock. They like shiny objects and would chase car bumpers. The farm owner used to say that the little thing on the top of their heads contained their brain.

The swallows and bats do an awesome job with the bugs.

howardh
Jun. 8, 2011, 03:59 PM
My chickens are gone now, but if I ever get young horses again I will for sure get more.

They are the absolute best way to bombproof a horse.

I used to look out at my herd and they wouldn't stop grazing even when caught in the middle of a chicken squabble. Even when chickens crashed into their sides they kept their cool after becoming used to them...

I just rode in a park and a pheasant exploded right under our feet. My friends horses spooked and whirled and my ARAB simply kept trotting on without a second glance...

gaitedincali
Jun. 8, 2011, 04:40 PM
My chickens are gone now, but if I ever get young horses again I will for sure get more.

They are the absolute best way to bombproof a horse.
.


I wish this worked for me.:no:

My horses make a clear distinction between our chickens (ignore) and everyone else's birds (deadly).

Anyone trail riding with me is likely to hear "IT'S JUST A %$*&^ CHICKEN!!!! YOU LIVE WITH 12 OF THE $%&^ THINGS!!!" at least once.

foxhunter25
Jul. 12, 2011, 10:53 PM
Oh My Goodness!

I did a ton of research and purchased 6 guineas Memorial Day weekend. THEN I found this thread. I have only lost 1 guinea but not sure how long the others will survive. I have a few questions:

1) Do they have an instict to eat bugs, flies, etc.?
2) Do you always have to feed them poultry food or will they eventually take care of themselves?
3) Will they always think whoever they are following (myself, the cat, dogs, horses) are their parents?

That said... I recently started letting the guineas out during the day and feeding them in the evenings so they will come back to their house and roost. I let them out in the AM and feed the farm. As soon as they are out the perch on my front porch and sort of "knock" on the storm door or scream. I go to work and come home and they are in the same place. The second I get out of the car they are flocking to me. I go about my chores and they follow me every where (or the dog or cat) they get sidetracked easily :) They carry on talking and flocking until they are fed. I haven't seen one of them attempt to eat anything I don't give them. They always act like they are hungry. I think they are amazing birds and hysterical to say the least. I know they are stupid but will they learn to eat the bugs?

smokygirl
Jul. 12, 2011, 11:18 PM
My chickens are gone now, but if I ever get young horses again I will for sure get more.

They are the absolute best way to bombproof a horse.

I used to look out at my herd and they wouldn't stop grazing even when caught in the middle of a chicken squabble. Even when chickens crashed into their sides they kept their cool after becoming used to them...

I just rode in a park and a pheasant exploded right under our feet. My friends horses spooked and whirled and my ARAB simply kept trotting on without a second glance...

Nothing to do with the chickens.. Arabians are just naturally the smartest :)

Nes
Jul. 13, 2011, 09:59 AM
/\ :lol:


...
1) Do they have an instict to eat bugs, flies, etc.?
2) Do you always have to feed them poultry food or will they eventually take care of themselves?
3) Will they always think whoever they are following (myself, the cat, dogs, horses) are their parents?
...


We don't have guineas but we do have chickens/ducks/turkeys.

They definitely have instincts to eat bugs/flies/etc.

We let our guys run around in a protected run all day, as well as feed them special food. After buying 4 different bags of food (starter/grower/layer/turkey grower), I've barely taken more then a few scoops out of any of them. They'd rather eat the bugs & plants.
Good thing feed doesn't go bad quickly, they can eat it in the winter.

I got all my guys between 2 and 4 weeks old, they do NOT think I am there mother. They do however think our young rooster is... :yes:
(Which is pretty funny with one young rooster leading around 6 chicks, 3 ducks, and 4 turkey)

DiablosHalo
Jul. 13, 2011, 11:00 AM
I would LOVE to have guineas but I have a business boarding TB weanlings and yearlings. No way would that work! They are hard enough to handle and turn in/out with things quiet as a mouse around the farm. I couldn't imagine taking out a 16.1h colt that has rarely seen human before my place and now has hens chasing him down the lane - omg!!!

If I had the same herd for a year or so - it may be worth the chance. But our state residency program has the majority of them coming/going every 90 days. Just as they get used to the hens, I'd have another 20 to "bombproof"! ugh.

mysaygrace
Jul. 13, 2011, 11:19 AM
Hey howardh!! Luv your comment about birds are the best way to bombproof your horse. My 5 yo ARAB gelding is pretty much a steady eddie & I attribute this to him being born on a farm with lots of birds. Then he grew up with us where we have 8 chickens, 2 peacocks & sadly we're down to only 6 guineas but I agree I think this has helped him tremendously with desensitizing, lol! Our riding ring is right next to the bird pens & when they go flying around when I'm up there riding he could care less. Also luv the guineas as watch dogs, anything comes around they let us know about it!

foxhunter25
Jul. 13, 2011, 10:42 PM
So, should I start weaning them off the poultry feed? I don't feed them very much & I am a bit worried about not feeding them anything. However, I was home all day & they stayed perched on the deck. Never out looking for food. We have 10 heavily wooded acres with a huge insect population. Any suggestions???

Prime Time Rider
Jul. 14, 2011, 12:11 AM
How old are your Guineas? You need to wait until thery'er several months old before you can wean them off the grain, and during the winter you will need to feed them unless you live in a place like Florida

foxhunter25
Jul. 14, 2011, 12:17 AM
They are about 4 months & a nice size.

PNWjumper
Jul. 14, 2011, 12:49 AM
So, should I start weaning them off the poultry feed? I don't feed them very much & I am a bit worried about not feeding them anything. However, I was home all day & they stayed perched on the deck. Never out looking for food. We have 10 heavily wooded acres with a huge insect population. Any suggestions???

Take my advice with a grain of salt as a person who has a) zero experience with poultry and b) as a person who hasn't cared what happened to the guineas here (since they weren't mine and I figured they'd just move on if there was no food).

I have not fed my guineas a drop of food since they took residency. They are adults, so that may make a big difference in their drive to find food...or not? But they seem to be pretty content eating whatever bugs they find out in the fields. They've laid 21 eggs in a nest in one of my back pastures, and one has been roosting for the last few weeks. So my interpretation of that is that they must be well fed enough to do that (and they do look healthy, if that means anything). So I guess I would give the "allowing them to find their own food" thing a go unless more experienced people here tell you not to.

DiablosHalo
Apr. 5, 2012, 02:52 PM
I've searched/read all the guinea posts I could find (here as well as online). I have a few specific questions...

I found a man local with guineas adn chickens for sale in a mixed flock. I'm a first time fowl owner.

Available for sale;

3 male guineas with 1 female guinea. Must be sold together. All about 1yr old. Chickens - I think the same age. Hens and rooster. He's giving me a rooster if I'll take it. I didn't think I wanted one? All housed together currently.

Question: (I plan to take the 4 guineas, 4 chicken hens, and maybe 1 rooster)


Is there a downside to a rooster I don't know about?

Should I still buy a few guinea hens as there is only one in this flock?

I plan to keep in the coop for a few weeks to get used to the new home. Should it be longer? Do I panic if guineas don't come back at night or just let them figure it out. I live on a 20ac farm with neighborhood on 3 sides and 40mph road 800' from coop.

I plan on using the end of our carriage house as the coop home for them. Brick walls with spaced brick for about 20sqft for ventilation, concrete floors. I need to figure out how to put roosting poles/posts in there and plan on milk crate boxes for chickens.

Should I mat the floors before putting bedding down? Sawdust on the floor and straw in boxes and under roost poles?
They will free range during the day (eventually) and get locked up at night in coop (if guineas come back!).

Once free ranging - I have flex fence for horses. Not feasible to put wire mesh fence at bottom throughout the farm (over 8,000ft of fence). Should I worry about that? Should I wire mesh the field adjacent to their coop? Horse residents come/go (TB weanlings/yearlings) throughout the year - not year round residents. So not sure if birds will get stomped?

WildBlue
Apr. 5, 2012, 06:14 PM
Is there a downside to a rooster I don't know about?


Hehehehehehehehehe.

That depends. Did you know that roosters crow whenever they feel like it? Any time of day or night? And the period where they're learning is both awful and humerous? Or that some get aggressive in a not-cute way? Or that some are really nice birds who take care of their flock, and some are total a**holes you wonder if the hens will all gang up and murder some night?

DiablosHalo
Apr. 5, 2012, 08:19 PM
Well,... no to all questions(!) except the aggressive one. I've always heard they can be mean. I have a 3yo and 1yo and they loved to play with and pet the 3 hens we recently chicken-sat while a friend was out of town. I figured a rooster was out of the question - but this guy all but insisted we take one and have baby chicks for the kids to raise. Thought it sounded too good...!

WildBlue
Apr. 6, 2012, 07:57 AM
You'll only have chicks if one of the hens is broody *and* you can get her to nest in a safe place. I've heard from many sources that incubator-hatched hens usually aren't broody, so make sure your hens are mamma material before even considering a rooster.

Aside from the aggressiveness (which is bad for small children--roosters are HUGE at that age) and can be a result of the rooster 'protecting' his hens from your kids, the biggest drawback of free-ranging roosters is the noise. If you get one sitting underneath your bedroom window at 2 a.m. crowing his fool head off, you'll know exactly what I mean! Go out in the morning and collect all the things you threw trying to shut him up... Some roos *are* very tame and child-safe, but you might have to check Craigslist for someone trying to rehome a very calm pet roo to get a good one.

Bluey
Apr. 6, 2012, 08:58 AM
The drawback to free ranging domestic fowl is, just as with free roaming dogs, that they may be free, but are free to be injured and killed also.

Do we want them free or protected?

That is a decision each one needs to make for themselves.

We have a local fellow that gets guineas every so often, right now has a new batch of grays and whites and they are free ranging and, one here, another there, slowly succumb as coyote breakfast, loose dog toy or one more sad grease spot on the road.

We quit having any, once we realized we were just providing a quick snack for our resident wildlife.

We will be glad when that fellow finally decides that getting fowl and putting it in harms way is not really what a good caretaker does.
We wonder how long it will take before he realizes that to keep doing the same and expecting a different result, well, is not any smarter than guineas are.:(

Now, while we had guineas, I saw them find and kill snakes also, but so do roadrunners and those are native here and well adapted to living free, unlike domestic fowl.