Meet Emu- a new guinea fowl baby

Some of our guinea fowl looking for bugs.

 It’s late in the season for baby anythings, but one of our two (out of ten) female guinea fowls decided a month ago that Autumn is a great time to sit on eggs. Silver (the mum) has been diligently sitting on her nest in the useful scrap pile for some time and my daughter has constructed a fence around her and a roof of sorts over her to protect her from being trampled by sheep or eaten by ducks (not a joke; the ducks ate some of her eggs before we built the fence around her). She has only hatched the one baby and remains sitting on the other eggs. We will have to take them away at the end of the week as we suspect that they are infertile and she won’t get off the nest until all the eggs are gone.

Silver on her nest

We keep guinea fowls for tick control around the humpy (see my previous post) and they do a great job; we have not had to take ticks off the sheep or dogs for years. As guinea fowl live for many years we don’t tend to hatch many babies (we don’t need to replace them often), but sometimes life just finds a way. Our flock at the moment consists of ten birds; eight males of various ages and two females. Silver (the hen that went clucky) is only four years old and her mate is at least ten years old, proving that love doesn’t take account of age. We think the age difference may be why only one egg has hatched. She had many different ages of male to choose from; the males range from two years old right up to ten plus years old. Some sources say that guinea fowl have harems (like chooks) but at our place they tend to prefer having a permanent partner who will hang around the nest site being generally unhelpful while the female sits on the eggs and get very excited when she hatches babies.

Patch, Silver’s mate

Our new baby; Emu was taken away from his mum as soon as he hatched because guinea fowl are terrible mothers. His dad and the other males came to the humpy door as soon as they heard him squeaking, they hung around for a day or so trying to mount a rescue, but eventually decided to give up and go to the pub. Emu lives in a heated box inside at the moment. He eats insectivore mix, ground grains and live termites (collected daily). He is one happy, contented little keet (guinea fowl chick). Unfortunately, guinea fowls are impossible to truly tame; guinea fowl may have been domesticated before the humble chook (or jungle fowl) but they haven’t evolved into the quiet, biddable fowl that chooks have become (for the most part). Little Emu startles at any movement and shadows on the wall frighten him into a darting, cheeping mass of nerves, he’s just a very highly strung bird. My daughter has high hopes of turning him into a sweet, cuddly pet though.

Emu eating termites

Emu under his heat lamp

In other news…
Primrose the Rainbow lorrikeet has been up to her usual tricks and I managed to get a few shots to share.

Prim playing with a pencil

A blurry Prim in a tree on a walk to the front gate.

Using Guinea fowl for tick control.

We have been keeping guinea fowl for years. When we were managing (and working) a bio-dynamic avocado orchard we used them to keep down insect pests in the trees and paralysis ticks on our house cow. Now we keep them to reduce tick numbers for our sheep and dogs, and because it seems too quiet without them after all these years. They are exceptional insect hunters and will eat adult ticks by the thousand, they are also efficient watch dogs and escort snakes and goannas from the yard very swiftly (except that one time when they chased a black snake into the house instead). They do however have some unique characteristics…………….

The flock collectively have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); they tour the perimeter of the yard at a specific time each morning and afternoon and if anything is out of place they will stand and cackle at it for about fifteen minutes, examples of ‘out of place’ are leaving a pot upside down when it was previously the right way up, parking the car two meters closer to the house, leaving a shovel leaning against the fence or a visitor’s car is parked in the driveway.

Individual guinea fowl will behave in a bossy way towards chooks, dogs, sheep, ducks and sometimes humans when food is at stake. You can see the warning in the body language of the guinea fowl in this clip, he is warning the rooster off ‘his’ grain.

They don’t like to sleep in a pen at night but will go as high up the tallest tree they can find. Ours come gliding down to the ground at dawn with much squawking and cackling.

 One of our dogs; Jess, has been obsessed with one particular guinea fowl for some time and she sometimes gets a bit overwhelming for the poor boy. He sometimes flies onto the top of the chook pen to get a break from her. This clip shows her patiently waiting for him to come down so she can protect him.

In my experience, guinea fowl are terrible parents; they hatch too many babies then try to walk them too far and don’t protect them from predators (kookaburras, goannas, foxes, currawongs, butcher birds, hawks and snakes here). We get around this by finding the eggs and giving them to a clucky chook to raise, this has the added advantage of making them less flighty in nature as some of their behaviors are learned from their parents.

The latest batch of guinea fowl keets with their (no doubt bemused) mum.

There is some debate about whether guinea fowl actually help control ticks; here are a few articles on the subject to help you make up your mind. For my part, I definitely think they make a difference.

a comparison study of biological and chemical tick control

a home-grown view

an effectiveness study

An ‘against’ article.

Another ‘against’ article

What do you think? Would you keep them?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in dogs?

This clip shows one of our dogs; Jess, guarding her pet guinea fowl. It may look like she wants to eat him, but she is actually looking after him. The little nips she gives him are a signal to move; herding behaviour. That particular guinea fowl was a sickly chick and so spent a month sleeping in a box by the fire, which is also where Jess sleeps (not in a box, on a mat by the fire), so they must have bonded. She spends her day following him and if he gets into a fight (which he does a lot) she will move in and break it up. When he goes outside the yard where she can’t follow Jess will sit at the gate looking worried until he returns. When he flies up into a tree to sleep at night Jess comes to the door to be let in, she flops down by the fire with a sigh that sounds like the one I give when I get home from work.

Jess has an adult puppy; Val, who also lives with us, but she has never been like that with her own pup. I don’t know if this is frustrated herding/ guardian behaviour or if she has an OCD tendency.