If you're looking for a natural form of tick and pest control, guinea hens could fill the bill. While they're low-maintenance birds, they're not low noise. Get used to constant background chatter, a noise sounding "buck wheat" repeated incessantly. That background chatter escalates into louder noises on a regular basis. Guinea hens aren't the birds for you if you enjoy the sound of silence.
Although domesticated for hundreds of years, guinea fowl still retain many of their wild ways. They aren't especially friendly, but they're easy keepers. While chickens also eat ticks and bugs, they do a lot of dirt scratching and potential damage in the process, which isn't true of guinea fowl. They scratch, but not nearly as enthusiastically. Because guinea hen and guinea cocks look pretty much the same, the easiest way to sex them is by listening. While the hens make the "buck wheat" noise and can imitate the cock's "chee-chee" sound, the cocks can't say "buck wheat." The cock's wattles are larger than the hen's. While the pearl-colored guinea fowl is the most common, they're available in other shades, such as lavender or white.
There's no question that guinea fowl are noisy. They're African natives, and if you watch movies or documentaries set on that continent, you might hear loud avian noises on the soundtrack. Get your guinea hens home and you'll realize where you've heard those calls before. They can make good watch-birds, alerting you to any strangers nearing your property. In The Atlantic, Mark Bowden neatly summed up the guinea hen's lifestyle - "Guineas have four modes: eating, sleeping, chattering, and screaming in terror." That last mode can occur several times a day, so be prepared.
It's not a good idea to get guinea fowl unless you live in a rural area. Unless you keep them confined, which defeats the purpose of combating ticks, they'll range all over the place, not respecting property lines. Since they're so noisy, you're likely to get complaints from neighbors. As with any poultry, make sure your community's zoning allows you to keep these birds.
Adult guinea hens require little more than fresh, clean water and chicken feed. Since guinea fowl are easy picking for predators, they require a safe, secure coop. Getting them into it a night if they free-range isn't the easiest task. Because they start flying when very young, you're likely to find them roosting in trees early on if they don't go back into their housing. If your flock free-ranges, you should resign yourself to losing members through predation.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.