The Coop and The G-Unit

Loading the Guineas and Chickens into the salvaged-barn coop. Sophie's curious about her new feathered friends.

Big (and busy) weekend for us. Late last week we finished up the salvaged-barn chicken coop, literally screwing down the roof moments before a thunderstorm rolled through. It was good to have a hard rain before the chickens moved in because we got a chance to see where some cracks along the edges of the nesting boxes and a couple cracks along the edges of the coop were letting in rain. We got it all sealed tight by the weekend and on Saturday morning we rolled out to get us some birds. 

One thing we'd heard about and not fully internalized was the existence of ticks. I remember three short weeks ago sitting in our NY apartment and laughing at the "Sh*t Weekend Farmers Say" video where the protagonists constantly ask each other "Is this a tick?". (See video here, it's pretty good: Sh*t Weekend Farmers Say). Little did I know how true that would be. Since we've been setting record heat days around here all month the ticks are out in full force. Full force is an exaggeration actually, they'll get much worse as the year goes on. But this weekend was the first weekend where they were noticeable. And by noticeable I mean picking one off my leg every hour or two (if not more regularly). The mild winter didn't break the cycle, so they're comin' out swinging before the bell.

Ticks are a reality anywhere in the outdoors and around here the recommended solution is "chemical warfare". We're not really on that boat, so we looked for some alternatives. One of the alternatives we found was Guinea fowl. Guineas are known for decimating tick populations around the farm. 

In our case, we called in The G-Unit. The G-Unit is composed of three adult guineas and three keets (baby guineas). The leader of the posse, Guinea Cent, is a male guinea and he is quite vocal. When reading about guineas online you hear about the guinea's call, which sounds like "buck-wheat, buck-wheat"! That's exactly what the female sounds like and it's really not that bad. Males, on the other hand, just make noise. It doesn't sound like anything really, just loud and cackling. I kind of like it, Sweetbreads loathes it. I like it because I figure it's a good sign that he's on the lookout, or at least making noise for some reason useful to guineas, which in turn is useful to me. My view on loud, annoying noises is little skewed though, I also don't mind it when babies cry. It's not that I enjoy their displeasure, I'm just envious that they get to say what's on their mind as loud as they want and no one can do anything about it. For that I enjoy the fleeting moments of their lives where such freedom exists. So Back to The G-Unit. The other two adult guineas are female and they just kind of hang out. One of them is very protective of the keets and the keets love her back. This is good because it prevents the other guineas and chickens from picking on the little keets. I hope we can hatch some guineas one day, but apparently they hide their eggs much better than the chickens (i.e. not in the nesting boxes...).

Full view of the front of the coop. We transported all the birds in our dog crate from a local breeder.

We hope the six of them will peck down the tick population and make our "Is that a tick" moments far more infrequent than the past two days. For the next week we are keeping them relatively confined so that they understand this is their new home and they don't fly away. After that they'll be on tick patrol. My legs will thank them.