Deer ticks, or the black-legged tick, which are prevalent in the wooded and grassy areas of the northern United States, are notorious for transmitting Lyme disease, but also can infect people with powassan encephalitis, babesiosis and human anaplasmosis. Poultry are the natural predators of ticks, and homeowners wishing to reduce the number of ticks in their yards have raised guinea fowl, chickens and turkeys as a natural pest control.
Guinea fowl are native to Africa, but are pet poultry in the United States because of their pest control abilities. The birds' diet consists mainly of insects, including ticks and some weeds.Guinea fowl work well for deer tick control because they are territorial and will roam in a pack in one area. While they prefer grassy areas, they will hunt for insects in brush and along the borders of woody areas. Potential guinea owners will need a large area of land since the birds roam, and owners should make sure there are no zoning laws in their town regarding keeping poultry in their yard. Guineas have a loud cry that may annoy neighbors and are susceptible to attacks from raccoons and opposum.
Chickens like to eat what is easily accessible in the grass, making ticks a prime target since they like to climb to the tops of grasses to hitchhike on passing animals and people. Chickens will only be effective pest control if they are allowed to roam your yard to eat what they find, but this could result in some damage to your landscaping or garden because chickens like to scratch. They get along with guinea fowl, and are effective in pulling ticks off livestock. As with guinea fowl, ownership of chickens may be restricted by local zoning ordinances. Chickens shouldn't be allowed to roam in areas where chemical pest control has been used because it can kill them.
Tales tell of wild turkeys eating ticks, but there is no clear evidence that wild turkeys reduce the deer tick population. A study by Richard Ostfeld and David Lewis published in the "Journal of Vector Ecology" determined that wild turkeys did not act as major carriers of ticks, but didn't significantly reduce the deer tick population either. Some people raise and release wild turkeys as part of their poultry pest control plan, though Ostfeld speaks against this in another study, warning that they can be carriers of other types of ticks.
Natural predators of ticks also include wild song birds, amphibians such as frogs and lizards, insects such as fire ants, and nematodes or microscopic round worms.
- Minnesota Department of Health: Blacklegged Ticks
- Lime Disease Pa.: Homepage
- Department for International Development: Use of Poultry for Tick Control
- Mother Earth News; Go Ahead, Get Guineas: Nancy Smith; October/November 2003
- Mother Earth News; Gardening with Guinea Fowl; Gail Damerow; August/September 1992
- "Experimental Studies of Interactions Between Wild Turkeys and Black-Legged Ticks"; Richard S. Ostfeld and David N. Lewis; 1999
About the Author
Eileen Faust began her career in journalism in 1999 and has worked as an editor for Greater Media Newspapers and the "Pottstown Mercury." She was a member of "The Mercury" editorial team awarded second-place for promotional community service by Suburban Newspapers of America for coverage of the local Relay for Life. Faust received a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Rider University in 1998.