The First of the Animals – Our Guinea Fowl

When we bought this farm, we didnt know that, along with the shed, the natural spring, the house and the paddocks, we were inheriting a flock of five guinea fowl as part of the deal.

Like cats, guinea fowl own you, not the other way around.  So when the previous owners moved out, the guinea fowl, being the independent birds they are, didn’t see any need to follow.  This is their home, and I get the feeling that we’re tolerated interlopers – so long as we don’t try to get too close. Take so much as a step towards the flock and they high-tail it in the opposite direction.

Having watched the birds for three weeks now, I can safely say that our farm isn’t the only place they call home (and frankly we feel a bit jilted!).  I’ve seen them in the next door neighbours’ paddocks, across the road, and some days we don’t see them at all.  I read on one website they can easily roam ten kilometres a day!

I’d seen the odd magazine article about guinea fowl in the past, and remembered they eat ticks, squawk at snakes and some people find them irritatingly noisy, but that was about the extent of my guinea-fowl knowledge.  What I didn’t fully realise is that they are almost entirely wild.  Our five adult guinea fowl get the occasional bit of birdseed from the next door neighbours but everything else they forage for themselves.  As far as pets go, they’re as low maintenance as they come (at least when they’re adults like ours).

The guinea fowl march down our driveway like visiting royalty each afternoon about five. They circle the property pecking at invisible insects, chasing each other from time to time, before ducking under the fencing wire and disappearing into the distance as quickly as they came.

So how do they compare to the hype surrounding their tick-eating, snake-repelling and noise-generating abilities?

Ticks: Grass ticks are an issue in this area.  When we first moved in and the guinea fowl weren’t visiting, three of us in the family ended up with ticks after being outside.  All I can say is that none of us have had a tick within two days of a guinea fowl visit.  Coincidence? Possibly.  But I’m happy to say I think the birds keep the tick numbers down.

Snakes: It’s winter now so probably not the best time to judge snake numbers, but we haven’t see a snake yet (touch wood!).

Noise:  I was really curious about how much noise they would make given that guinea fowl get a lot of bad press for the volume of their ”alarm calls’ (the sound they make when startled).  Honestly it took about two weeks for us to hear this noise at all (usually they just peck about quickly and silently).  And even now that we have heard it (mostly it’s just one of the birds who will ‘alarm’ if it gets separated from the rest of the group) it’s really not a big deal.

The noise reminds me of a cross between the sound of a chicken, a car alarm in the distance and something almost like a musical instrument.  We don’t find it loud or overbearing and usually all it does is gets my kids to jump up and say excitedly, “the guinea fowl are visiting!” and run around trying to see where they are outside.  I guess if you tried to contain the birds to a suburban-sized block the noise would probably get a bit much but on nine acres we barely even notice it.

I’ve taken some photos to give you an idea of what the birds look like – apologies for the rubbish camera work (they move so fast they’re almost impossible to get in focus!)  I had to stage a guinea fowl stake-out with a serious zoom lens on the camera to get any pics at all.  Felt very private investigator-ish 🙂

P.S.  Did  I mention they’re pretty?  In a beauty contest, Guinea fowl plumage would give the famed silver-laced Wyandotte chicken a run for its money.

IMG_2076

(pictured above: a guinea fowl helping itself to an afternoon tea of insects in the houseyard)

 IMG_2051(pictured above: sounding the alarm – this is how they look when making their infamous alarm call)

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