Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gardening with Guineas - Part 1

About a year ago, as I was researching information on ticks and Lyme disease for the 2010 Farm Safety Day (blog post here), I came across a site that talked about the use of guinea fowl to manage tick populations. That site is here. That site, in turn, led me to another site and this book that expands the concept to bug and weed management in your garden with the help of guineas. I didn’t go into much depth, but I did make mental note for off-season reading and potential follow-up.

The thought became reinforced with all the hoopla we experienced last year (continuing into this year) about stink bugs.
Guniea Fowl are African game birds, related to chickens, whose diet consists of insects, bugs and weed seeds. What’s more, unlike chickens, they don’t scratch the dirt and ruin flower beds and gardens. They’re also still a little more wild than chickens, and so can be better at protecting themselves from predators, than their domesticated cousins, who seem to have had a lot of the smarts bred out of them.

So, I bought the book. Researched some more. Consulted with Barbara Aldrich, our 4-H Extension Educator who conducts a series of embryology classes with the local elementary schools, and ordered two dozen eggs from a farm in Iowa.
They arrived last week.

So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be taking pictures and documenting the progress of the hatch, their brooding period, imprinting and taming, and then the eventual controlled release and free range onto the property as allies to reduce populations of Japanese beetles, stinkbugs, ticks, weed seeds, etc.

Follow along with me.

Packed in granular sand
After carefully opening the box, we have our 2 dozen eggs, packed for protection during the mailing process.

Marked with an X in pencil
 In nature, on a nest with a broody mother hen, the eggs are naturally turned.  This is important to keep the growing embryo from becoming physically stuck to the inside of the shell, which increases mortality.  So, in an artificial environment like an incubator, you have to manually turn the eggs (some more expensive incubators have a mechanical egg turner built into them to make the process automatic).  Eggs should be turned a minimum of 3 times throughout a 24 hour day (more is better).  The X is a means to tell which side is up, so you can keep track of the turning process.  A pencil should be used, since other marking materials may give off fumes that may be poisonous to the sensitive embryos.

Placed in the incubator
 The incubator maintains a constant temperature and humidity level ideally suited for hatching.  Temperature should be at, or just under 100 degrees F.

Another Angle
Next week we should be able to candle the growing embryo and show the progress of development.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting...I wonder if I could disguise one as a dog since I wouldn't be allowed to have one in my yard. I've had two on me already. Maybe a leash?