Pecking away at Lyme disease
In the fight against Lyme disease, tick-eating mammals such as the opossum which were discussed in my previous blog are frontline commanders in reducing the tick population. Chickens, famously known for pecking bugs and small insects off the ground, are also valuable in contributing to the eradication of ticks. However, it is the Guinea hen that reigns supreme over its fellow fowl in fending off ticks.
Originally from Africa, the colorful, oval-shaped Guinea hen boasts a diet that includes small snakes, small insects including ticks, and even rodents such as deer mice – one of the most common carriers of black-legged ticks a.k.a. as deer ticks. Studies have proven the Guinea hen to be a strong adversary against ticks by reducing the number of black-legged ticks on lawns, and researchers have concluded that free-ranging guinea fowl may well aid in the fight against contracting Lyme disease. Due to being low-maintenance, low-cost tick killers, they are sometimes used in backyards to eradicate the surrounding area of ticks. Of course, if this sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Compared to chickens and ducks, the Guinea hen is excessively loud, obnoxious and territorial, so they aren’t recommended in suburban areas unless you intend on annoying the neighbours! Still, the poultry provides important services for anyone concerned with ensuring the tick population is controlled and the occurrence of Lyme disease is minimized as much as possible.
If the Guinea hen is not for you, chickens provide similar, albeit slightly less efficient benefits when it comes to killing ticks. In fact, pest-control methods have become of such public concern that Dave Cassel, a resident of Fayetteville, New York, recently submitted a proposal to his village board that would allow its citizens to keep up to six hens, mainly for their ability to eat flies, mosquitos, and of course ticks. Coupled with its ability to provide food for humans through their eggs and meat, the chicken is capable of serving as a jack of all trades that can inexpensively control pests.
Although, one cannot totally rely on opossums or domestic fowl to fully rid our yards of ticks, it is nice to know that we can get help from the animal kingdom to reduce tick-borne diseases.