guinea hens vs. grasshoppers

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

Has anyone used them to control the grasshopper population around crops. I plan on getting about eight hens for a three acre fenced in orchard. There were a few hundred thousand grasshoppers last year before I planted. They were the really big ones too. I also plan on spraying hot pepper spray on the leaves as well.

Argyle, TX(Zone 7b)

I had over 30 at one time (not adults). I have four adults now and six keets. I got them for the grasshoppers also. A guinea after a grasshopper is more determined than "a chicken on a june bug" as the expression goes. Mine spend more time on the Iris farm next door than they do on my property. Definately not total hopper control. Sounds like you have a good plan combined with the hot pepper spray. I forget what it is called, but you might also try that organic grasshopper bait that spreads a natural disease to grasshoppers. Love the guineas, but a little more venturous than chickens. Good watch dogs too. I like the different colors available.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

My neighbors got guineas and the neighborhood rebelled. They are noisy birds! Worse than yappy dogs IMHO. They got rid of them after a month, thank heavens.

I had turkeys for the grasshoppers and they worked well, And they're quiet so the neighbors don't mind them.

Argyle, TX(Zone 7b)

They are really loud, especially when spooked. Would not recommend if you do not have land or have neighbors. The nearest house to me is over 1/4 mile away. Argyle acres (7 acre Iris farm) is my nearest neighbor, but he loves to see my guineas and chickens and leaves out water for them. His house is actually in the town. His love would probably cool if I moved, with my guineas next door to him in town.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

They are pretty birds and very interesting... they just need to breed mute ones!

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

I wont be living on the land so it should not matter to me. I am going to build a coop that is six feet high on slick metal poles so critters cant get to them at night. They will also be in a 6.5 high fence.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

It's not about you, it's about your nearby neighbors, if you have any. It won't pay in the long run to be inconsiderate of the impact the noise of the birds may have on them.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

I love guineas, but in moderation! I wouldn't have a farm w/out them but have chosen to only have 2 at a time, at the most 3. Once upon a time I had a flock of ten or so and they got so loud you couldn't hear anything but them.

And yes, they are great for insect control (especially ticks), don't scratch up the garden like chickens do, they taste pretty good if you want to go that route (all dark meat though), and they'll happily sample a tomato or so from your garden while on patrol.

jujubetexas, chickens like grasshoppers, too, and if your orchard is fenced in that would be a great place to have some chickens, plus you'd benefit from having your very own free-range eggs. Your 6.5 ft fence will easily keep chickens in but a guinea will easily escape.

Hope this helps!

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

It is about a quarter mile to the nearest house. Should that be far enough? I was going to do the guinea because they seemed more durable and I will not be out there but once or twice a week. I plan on having a 25 gallon water and feeder out there with them.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

It'd be far enough for me. =) They are certainly tougher than chickens. Seems like a good plan.

My turkeys were hardy in NM, I had Bourbon Reds and they seemed clever enough about avoiding neighborhood dogs that would pass through my property, and didn't seem to mind the rain, roosted in the trees. Anyway, the old breeds of turkeys, like bourbon reds, narraganset (sp?), bronze... breeds from a hundred years ago are more savvy and weather hardy. Black Spanish. They used to run flocks of them through the corn fields to control grasshoppers around here. That was the little kid's job... turkey herder. =)

The 'assembly line' turkeys that they raise for Butterball are the ones that drown themselves in a heavy rain. 'Course, who wouldn't if you couldn't have sex?


Argyle, TX(Zone 7b)

I1/4 mile should be far enough, thats about what I have. I think it is harder to get guineas to hang around a new roost than it is to get chickens to hang around a new roost. They have a habit of taking off and losing their way back by dark, assuming they had any intention of coming back. You might consider keeping them locked in for a few days or pick somebodys brain about how to keep them from taking off. Are you getting keets or grown guinea hens?

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

A quarter mile would work (unless you plan on getting 100's of them).

And yes, as Excel says, guineas are hard to train to "come home" unless you get keets or poults and keep them penned up in a small confine, feeding them each day, so they know "this is where they sleep, this is where they get treats". That way they will claim that area as their territory and hang around. If you get adults they will certainly go where they choose (and it is seldom where you want them to!).

I suppose getting adults and then clipping their wings might be an option also but doing so may make them people-shy and they will take their time trusting you.

I have a guinea (named "Tammy Faye") who is now nearly ten yrs old. He likes to bunk w/the chickens in the coop, gives warnings when a hawk flies overhead, and is perfectly comfortable with me walking one foot away from him, not shy at all. They're fantastic birds, fairly smart, and worth having around as long as their needs, and the people's needs, are met, which is easy to do.


Goldthwaite, TX(Zone 8a)

using the bait or spray to spread the disease to the grasshoppers is not very effective unless it is done over large areas, and over a period of time. Apply it in a small area, and the neighboring hoppers move in! Timing of application is critical, also. Must be done early enough to get the first hatch, but not too early or it is not still viable. We tried it over a period of time andmay have lowered the numbers some, but not enough to say it was effective.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Interesting info. This year our region had the worst grasshopper infestation in 25 years, according to the USDA. My neighbor was thinking about trying the biological remedy.

Turkeys would be best for my place because we have Great Horned Owls and lots of Red Tailed Hawks. A Great Horned Owl killed one of the neighbor's Rhode Island Red roosters. I suppose that the older breeds of turkeys would roost in trees, and maybe need no shelter. Do any of you raise them?

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

We had a bad 'hopper year here this year, too.

I don't raise any. At the moment I don't have any poultry, as I live in coyote country and have to build Ft Knox first. Which is pretty far down the list of things to do right now. Before, I just got mine down at the feed store when they were poults in the spring.

The hawks and owls might take the younger birds, but yeah, a full grown turkey shouldn't be bothered by them.

Some of the limbs of my cottonwood were low, so they could work their way up to a safe height... they really can't gain much altitude when they fly, about fence post high, I'd say. So if your trees are like that, it'll work. If the branches start high, you may need to think of something else.

Turkeys don't scratch much, more stomping in the garden, which the plants seem to survive OK. They will eat little seedlings, though. During the heat of the day the turkeys would sit in the shade of the big squash plant leaves and pick at squash bug eggs and maybe the nymphs, so we had no problem with squash bugs the years I had a couple of turkeys in the veg garden.

Our grasshoppers would chew through row cover (yum-yum), so the turkeys were a real blessing. And tasty on T-day. =)

Just one note... a heritage turkey isn't necessarily an old breed (I just learned this this week). There are many new color variations being bred, which may not have the hardiness of the old breeds, so do your homework. There's an interesting article about smaller oldish breeds in the latest Countryside... got me thinking about raising turks again.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Thanks,for the reference on the article. I'll look for it.

My trees do have some kind of low limbs, but there is also a fence very close so that looks doable. What about shelter from storms? We have blizzards here. Of course, the owls and hawks don't have shelter, they just move to the other side of the tree trunks.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I expect some kind of run-in shelter would be a good idea, don't really know. We don't have blizzards in Albq. =) They did do fine in drenching downpours and 100* temps (with H2O), hanging out on my porch, up in the trees, or in the horses' run-in shed.

Also, though we get a bit of snow, I didn't overwinter them, just butchered in the fall. Got new poults in the spring; they're the best for grasshopper control because they're quick, and growing so ravenous.

ALBC has a downloadable turkey handbook (American Livestock Breed Conservancy) that looks like a great resource:

Here's a place that specializes in heritage turkeys and has plenty of good info and pics, just be aware that many of their breeds are relatively recent, their standard of heritage being it can breed naturally. If it is an old breed, the site does say so.

They may be able to tell you which are the best hunters. =)

I think the hop to the fence would probably do it. Is it a board fence or wire? Just slap a board up there for their big feet; they won't go up on wire.

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