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Hobby Farming in Ohio

The Good and Bad of Keeping Guinea Fowl

Jenna TygerBefore we bought our farm, I knew little about chickens, and even less about guinea fowl. Actually, I’d never heard of them before. My husband heard they were good guard birds, so we found someone selling them on Craigslist and nabbed six up. We lost one as a keet, and then two more were killed by a predator after we put them in the coop. For most of the last four years, we had three. We recently lost one to a raccoon, and are down to two.

Guinea Keets

Our Three Guineas

Guinea Fowl

I’ve met several guinea fowl keepers now, and they all love their guinea fowl. I’ll admit, though, that they aren’t my favorite birds. Here are some things that you should know if you ever consider keeping guineas. Some of these items could be pros or cons depending on your point of view.

– They eat bugs. They’re known for keeping the tick population down, and they’ll do it without hurting your plants.

– The females (called hens) produce small eggs that you can eat. I haven’t tried them, but my husband says they’re close to chicken eggs in taste, just tiny, so you need to use more. Many people eat guineas, but we never have, so I don’t know about flavor or texture.

– They come in a variety of colors, and their feathers are beautiful. The males (called roosters or cocks) have large wattles.

– They’re loud. This is one of the pros and cons. They will scream when predators or strangers come around and scare some of them off, as well as alert their keepers and other birds that something is wrong. Our chickens hide as soon as the guineas start screaming. The con is that their voice isn’t pretty, and can be annoying when they’re screaming at seemingly nothing (this happens all the time). The cocks and hens have different calls, and this is one way to sex them as they get older.

– They roam. They don’t stay as close to the coop as chickens do. They won’t disappear on you, but they may not be the best choice if you have close neighbors. I found this out the hard way, and all of our birds have to be kept penned now because our guineas disturbed the neighbors.

– They aren’t that bright. They are able to fly, but sometimes they’ll run back and forth across our fence line for an hour, unable to figure out how to get past it. Yet, sometimes (if there’s snow on the ground, for example, because they don’t like to walk through it), they’ll end up on the roof of the barn and refuse to come down and into the coop at night (they’ll roost in the trees if you let them). Ours also look at their reflections in glass and peck at them, thinking they’re looking at other birds. This is bad when your neighbor’s car is shiny.

– They’re bullies. They will beat up on other birds, particularly the cocks. Our cock has beaten up every rooster we’ve had, and taken on up to three ducks at once. They are the bad boys of the bird world.

– They are said to live 10 to 15 years. I’m not sure how accurate it is because ours aren’t that old, and it is a moot point if you plan to eat them, but it’s good to know if you plan to keep them long term.

This isn’t everything I’ve learned about guinea fowl in the last four years, but the main points that I wish I had known before we'd gotten them (poor planning on our part). Even with all of their faults (or what I consider faults), my husband does like them. They’ve got personality. However, if you have neighbors close and you want them to free range, they may not be the best birds for you. 

If you have guineas, is there anything you wish you had known before you got them? What types of things do your birds do that you love? What drives you crazy?

An Old Gray Mare

Jenna TygerI have an unusual barnyard pest that will take any chance she finds to break into our chicken coop.

Her name is Mercy, and she's an old pony we keep as a companion for our younger horse, Cricket. She has a problem – like most ponies, she LOVES to eat. More than anything in the world. And she'll eat whatever she can find. She doesn't hurt the birds, but she does cost us money in wasted feed, could hurt herself, and could very well destroy our coop. The chickens aren't generally thrilled about her presence in their home either.

She started this a couple years ago, and we've been trying to combat the problem ever since. When she gets into the coop, she manages to get the feed buckets open and eats all of the chicken feed. For those that don't know much about a horse's digestive system – this isn't good. She's generally an easy keeper, but horses (and ponies) will literally eat themselves to death if they're allowed. They don't have that signal that tells them to stop. And I'm sure chicken feed isn't that great for them.

Mercy in Coop 

Since that photograph was taken, we added an enclosure around the pen. We actually added it because the chickens and guineas kept venturing into our neighbors' yard, much to their dismay, but it has also served the purpose of keeping Mercy out of the coop. She's barged through the coop door a few times, but not often.

Of all the pests to have in my coop, I'd say Mercy is probably the most preferable, but also one of the most unusual. I don't have to worry about my chickens being killed with her around, I just have to worry about them starving when she eats all their food. I forgive her though ... because look at that face!

Mercy, Me and Sadie

What is the most unusual pest you've ever had in your barnyard or garden? What did you do to keep them away?

Farming and Financial Gain

Jenna TygerFor the past four years, we’ve considered our farm to be our hobby. We haven’t tried to make any money on the farm, besides selling eggs to people we know here and there, and we sold them cheap – not even close to covering the cost of chicken feed. 

Lately, we’ve been considering making the farm work for us. Our pasture is six acres, and the horse and pony we have barely make a dent in trimming the grass, so Chris ends up spending half the spring and summer mowing the pasture. Sometimes it just seems like a waste of space that could be used on possibly lucrative endeavors.

Field of Dreams 

Because of this, we’ve been considering raising cows. I haven’t even begun to research whether this would work for us, but assuming it could, we have to decide if we can do it.

See, Chris and I are softies when it comes to animals. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t have so many pets. We wouldn’t have 4-year-old chickens. We wouldn’t have a partially blind horse and a disabled pony. And we wouldn’t still have the guinea fowl that have only caused us problems.

So we wonder if we have what it takes to care for cows for several months, and then send them off to be turned into food. We both eat meat, and I realize this is hypocritical, but it’s much less personal to open a package of meat to cook and eat than it is to look into an animal’s eyes every day knowing you might be eating it eventually. I even think they're kind of cute (the cows below are dairy cows, but beef cows are cute too!), and have more personality than most people give them credit for having.

Are there cows in my future?

I know if we decide to do it, we would have to go into it mentally prepared, resolute in our plans, but I’m afraid that won’t be enough. I'll have to remember why we're doing it. We'll know where our meat came from and know the animal was treated well when it was alive, unlike most of the meat sold in grocery stores. And we'll be able to provide that to others who want the same.

We’re having similar thoughts regarding raising chickens. Should we try raising meat chickens? Could we do it? Should we get more chickens for eggs, and then do what most farmers do and sell them once they stop producing?

I don’t know the answer to these questions yet. If we are going to stay on our farm for the long haul, it makes financial sense to start earning from it. But whether we have what it takes to do that is still to be determined.

Do you have any reservations about profiting from your animals? If so, how did you overcome them? I’d love to hear from others.

Gardening by the Box

Jenna TygerMuch to my relief, this year's garden is planted. I mentioned in my post about gardening last year that keeping up on the garden isn’t my favorite activity. However, I do love growing and consuming our own food.

We’ve planted in raised beds for the second year, and my favorite part of the raised beds is that they cut back greatly on the weeding. They also mostly eliminate the need to till. One other benefit, in my opinion, is that the beds are more attractive than traditional gardens with plants in the ground.

Our plants this year are mostly the same as last year. We’ll be looking forward to green beans, strawberries, broccoli, carrots, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon, peas, tomatoes and peppers.

Strawberry Bed

Lettuce and Zucchini Bed

Lettuce and Tomato Bed

My personal favorites are broccoli and zucchini. Last year, most of our broccoli was eaten up by rabbits or groundhogs. We solved that problem by adding fencing around the beds most likely to be appealing to the current residents of our yard. 

Hopefully we’ll have better luck this year, because I’ve found broccoli to be my favorite fresh vegetable. We also haven’t had much luck with zucchini, a plant that other people seem to have no problem growing. I’m hoping this is the year we get a good crop. 

Have you tried raised bed gardening? How does it compare to traditional in the ground gardens? What fresh fruits and vegetables are you looking forward to eating this year?

Life Happens

Jenna TygerI’ve been absent from the blog for a while. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest is that we had a new addition to our family …



My daughter, Sadie

Meet Sadie! She came in April, and we couldn’t be happier. I found out I was pregnant shortly after starting this blog. Between work, the animals and the farm, I just couldn’t keep up with everything! Right now I’m on maternity leave, and using the time to catch up on things I neglected when I was pregnant and extremely tired.

Life has continued during this time. We've had some losses. The one that hurt me the most was losing my dog Buffy the day after Thanksgiving. She was 11, but it was still unexpected. We also lost a few birds to accidents and one to a raccoon. Recently I lost one of my rabbits. For me, losing them is the most difficult part of keeping animals, and I always vow that I can't keep doing it ... then I end up with more.

Most of the work on the farm has fallen to my husband for the last several months. I’m just now getting back in to helping out in the barn. The weather has been going back and forth between chilly and dreary, and hot and sunny. I’m a hot and sunny weather kind of girl, so I hope it stays soon. It definitely makes it easier to go out and do the work I need to do when I enjoy the weather. Between the animals and our garden, which my husband just planted, I’m going to be spending a lot more time outside soon. Which brings me to the project I need to start before I go back to work – retraining my horse Cricket.

Miss Cricket

She’s blind in one eye, and I haven’t ridden her in three years. She’s only 10 years old, far too young to be a pasture ornament, and I need to get her going again. Unfortunately, she’s stubborn, and has developed some bad habits since she’s mostly been turned out for the last four years. It’s going to take a lot of effort and I’m not sure I can do it, but I’m going to try to work with her.

Hopefully I’ll have more successes than failures to bring to the blog coming up. Any tips and advice for training a blind horse are welcome!

Until next time –


Operation Chicken Rescue and Flock Integration

Jenna TygerAbout a month ago, my husband and I adopted three new adult leghorn hens from Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna, OH. These chickens came to the rescue from a factory farm in California (with a stop in New York in between). I know many people think it’s absolutely crazy to make this much of an effort for chickens – but everyone has their own feelings on that matter. I figured, if they made it all the way to Ohio, why not take a few. We have plenty of room, and our chickens are a hobby for us, not for making money. They live their whole natural lives on our property.

Around 3,000 of them were rescued altogether and transferred to different rescues. These chickens lived in cages their whole lives, and the idea of letting them live free for at least part of their lives appealed to me.

We picked the girls up after work on a Friday night and brought them home. Once our resident chickens were bedded down for the night, we added the new ones into the coop. They were scared, and didn’t want to leave the carrier. We finally got them out of the carrier, and they started exploring the coop. It was dark, but they didn’t really know what to do. They met the geese and ducks, who were scared of them. And then they tried to figure out how to get on the roosts, which proved difficult - I don’t think they’d had much practice. My husband finally picked them up one-by-one and put them on a part of the roost not too close to our other chickens. All was quiet and we left.

I wasn’t sure if they had the leg strength to stay on the roost, but they were still where we’d left them when my husband opened the coop the next day. As soon as food was poured, they were down and ready to eat. There were some minor skirmishes with the older chickens, but mostly they each stayed in their own groups – new chickens and old chickens. A mere week or so later, though, the groups were co‑mingling like they’d always been together.

One thing we noticed right away about the new chickens was that they were debeaked, and unfortunately can’t really forage. They rely on the food we provide them, which they eat with gusto as soon as we pour it into their bowls. It’s unfortunate, since forage is natural to chickens and the food they find provides health benefits. It’s sad to see one chicken in particular, who has almost no top beak left. I’m not sure how she takes in food, but she’s active and has gained weight, and seems to be getting enough nutrition.


Another thing that has struck me about the chickens is that they are not at all afraid of us, despite being in cages their whole lives. Mainly they’re concerned with being fed, and surround us whenever we’re in the coop. They are more tolerant of petting than the chickens we raised since they were one day old.


I’m glad that we were able to participate in the rescue. These chickens may not be major egg producers at this point (our other chickens aren’t either), but it’s fun to watch them learn to live outside of a age. 

Raised Bed Experiment

Summer 2012 was a bad one for gardeners. It was hot and dry here in Ohio. We had a pretty large garden, but got almost nothing out of it. It was largely our fault, because we did a poor job of weeding. I dread weeding, and will do anything to avoid it. With the size of our garden, it seemed overwhelming.

The garden is really my husband’s project. I don’t care for gardening all that much, though I do like knowing where our food comes from and that it isn’t covered in pesticides or who knows what else. This year, though, things have been a little different: Chris and my mother-in-law put in raised beds.

I thought that raised beds would be a good idea last year, but they can be expensive and a little daunting to start. My mother-in-law convinced my husband to give them a try. They put together several raised bed kits and added new dirt to them. They also added cedar and mulch around the beds to keep the weeds from growing around them.

They planted lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green beans, cucumber, peppers, and watermelon in the raised beds. Separately they planted zucchini, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and potatoes.

What I love most about these beds is that weeding is a breeze, and I’ve even helped with it. Since the beds started with clean dirt, there aren’t nearly as many weeds as before, it’s not as overwhelming, and it has taken an hour or less to completely clear out the weeds. I highly recommend raised beds if you hate weeding as much as I do!

We had a fence around our garden, but did have some problems early on with rabbits and groundhogs eating the lettuce and broccoli. Since then, we added fencing around those individual raised beds. It was easy to do since they’re small areas; another positive of the beds. We haven’t had issues since we added the extra fencing.

We’ve gotten a good yield from this year’s garden, though that is also in part to the weather. It’s been pretty cool here this summer and we’ve gotten lots of rain. Good for the plants – not so great for those of us who are beach lovers.

By mid-summer we’d gotten lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, broccoli, and zucchini, along with a few peppers. Last week we pulled up lots of carrots, a couple watermelons, more green beans, and a pumpkin.  Below are a couple pictures of the raised beds and our cucumber plants. We’re usually good at taking pictures of our gardens, but we forgot this year and only have a couple to show for it – which is too bad.

Raised Beds



A couple plants that didn’t do particularly well. While we got a few zucchini, something seemed to happen to the plants mid-way through summer, so we didn’t get nearly the yield we’d hoped for. Our tomato plants fared the worst. We think the large amount of rainfall we got hurt them, and in the end we didn’t get very many.  

Now we’re heading into fall and all we have left to pick are pumpkins and potatoes. Our pumpkins won’t win any prices for size, but they look cute. I’m looking forward to a big batch of potatoes - we’ll see how many we actually get. It’s sad (for me) to see all the plants dying off and turning brown, but time flies and we’ll be seeing green again in no time.

I enjoyed this raised bed experiment, and recommend giving it a try if you are feeling overwhelmed with your garden. Have any tips or experience with raised bed gardens? I’d love to hear them!