Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ernst Friedrich Seidler Quote

"Do not try to correct the gait by practicing the same gait. Look for the underlying reason for the disobedience, which we always find in an insufficient flexibility of a body part. We determine which one it is and improve it with the appropriate exercises. Very often we will be happy to see that a horse who seemed very spoilt becomes obedient with little effort on his or on our part, whereas thoughtless actions would have added him to the number of truly vicious horses. On the other hand, there will be many cases that require more time to correct than some horse owners believe, depending on how easy or difficult it is to remove the cause."

(Ernst Friedrich Seidler, 1846)

Guinea Fowl Dreams

So, I'm kind of considering guinea fowl to keep around the barn. Sure, they're noisy, but they're fantastic tick-eating-machines. There's a guy on Facebook selling some 5 month olds for cheap, so I am sorely tempted. Here's what I've found so far about Guinea Fowl husbandry:

University of Connecticut Cooperative Extention System - College of Agriculture and Natural Resources [16.5KB]

Guinea Fowl Management
Michael J. Darre, Ph.D. P.A.S
Extension Poultry Specialist
Department of Animal Science
University of Connecticut

There has been an increasing demand for guinea fowl recently. The meat of a young guinea is tender and of especially fine flavor, resembling that of wild game, and therefore has been substituted for game birds such as grouse, partridge, quail and pheasant Guinea fowl has a taste similar to other game birds and has many nutritional qualities that make it a worthwhile addition to the diet. It is second only to turkey in calories, having 134 Kcal (Calories) per 100 grams (turkey has 109 Kcal). The meat is lean and is rich in essential fatty acids.

Why raise guinea fowl? There are many reasons. The guinea has been used in protecting the farm flock from intruders because of its loud, harsh, cry and its pugnacious disposition. Since one of the main sources of food for wild guineas is insects, they have gained popularity for use in reducing insect populations in gardens and around the home, especially because, unlike chickens, they do not scratch the dirt much and do very little damage to the garden. Recently, guineas have been used to reduce the deer tick population, associated with Lyme disease. Other people raise them for their unique ornamental value.

There are three principle varieties of helmeted guinea fowl reared in the United States at this time, the Pearl, White and Lavender. The head and neck are bare, but there may be some wattles. The wattles on the male guinea are much larger than on the female. The Pearl is the most popular variety and the one most people recognize. The Pearl has purplish-gray plumage regularly dotted or " pearled" with white spots and its feathers are often used for ornamental purposes. The next most common variety is the White Guinea (also called African White). The White Guinea has pure-white feathers and its skin is lighter than the other two varieties. These birds are not albino and are the only solid white bird that hatches solid white and not yellow. Lavender guineas are similar to the Pearl, but with plumage that is light gray or lavender dotted with white.

Basic Management of Guinea Fowl
If you already have other poultry, you will soon discover that guineas are not chickens. They are much more active than chickens and not as easily tamed. They seem to retain some of their wild behavior and will remind you of this whenever they get spooked.

Guineas require a dry environment with plenty of room. Guinea fowls are extremely good runners and use this method, rather than flying, to escape predators. Since most people raise guineas with the intention of letting them run loose after reaching adulthood, space is usually not a problem. If you are confining your birds for any length of time, give them as much room as possible outside and a minimum of 2-3 square feet per bird inside. The more room they have, the less likely they will become overly stressed. Guineas tolerate weather extremes fairly well after they are fully feathered and have reached adult size.

Guineas begin to fly at a very early age and can be confined only in covered pens. It is not unusual to find adults roosting 20-30 feet above the ground complaining about everything they see. They are very strong fliers and the birds will often fly 400-500 feet at a time when moving around the farm, especially if startled.

The laying season will vary depending on your latitude and local weather patterns. The Pearl and Purple usually have the longest laying season and the lighter colors have the shortest.

Managing Adults
If you are purchasing guineas for tick and insect control then you are better off purchasing adult guineas as they require little care and do very well on their own. Clean water and a regular chicken laying mash is basically all you need to rear them. They enjoy a little scratch feed mixed in with their feed and scattered on the ground. If your birds are allowed to roam freely they will eat very little during the summer months. If you keep their feed restricted during the summer months, then they will spend more time eating insects.

Feeding Guineas
Keets need a 24% - 26% protein ration such as turkey starter or gamebird feed. It is recommend using an unmedicated feed to avoid potential problems with keets getting over-medicated. Reduce the protein to about 18% - 20% for the fifth through eighth weeks. After that they will do well on regular laying mash that is usually 16% protein. If you can't find feed with different amounts of protein, mix the higher protein feed with laying mash to get the proper protein mix. The guineas' natural diet consists of a high protein mix of seeds and insects. If your birds have a large area to roam they will usually get enough to eat on their own, but you can train the birds to stay closer to home by providing supplemental feed in a regular location. Guineas need a higher protein feed than chickens, but do quite well on regular poultry mash or crumbles. It is recommended that they be given only mash or crumbles instead of pelleted feed. They will not eat much supplemental feed if they are finding plenty to eat on their own, but it has been found that they really like wheat, milo, and millet and will clean up every kernel. However, only give whole or cracked grains as a treat or supplement, but not too much. The protein content is too low and the fat content too high to be much value. They don't care for the larger grains and will ignore whole corn kernels.
Make sure they have access to clean water. Give keets warm water only! They don't tolerate cold water well.

Sexing Guineas
One of the most-often asked questions about guineas is how to tell the hens from the cocks. Young guineas cannot be sight-sexed like other poultry or fowl. The hens and cocks look exactly the same except for some of the newer colors where the hens are darker, as both keets and adults. The only precise way to tell the sexes apart is to listen for the two-syllable call the hen makes. This sound has been described as sounding like "buckwheat, buckwheat", "put-rock, put-rock" or "qua-track, qua-track". This is the only sound that the hen makes that the rooster doesn't. The young birds start making these sounds at 6-8 weeks, but some hens do not start calling till much later.

Hoofcare and Lameness presents: Connemara hoof wall syndrome

Apparently, I may need to be watching out for this! Pippa chipped off some hoof wall on the front of her front hooves during our trailer loading debaucle, and apparently there's a whole study going on about hoof wall separation syndrome in Connemara ponies. Most people are also familiar with how crappy thoroughbred feet can be, and given that Pippa is a cross between these two, I may need to pay close attention to the maintenance of her feet! A blog post by Fran Jurga referencing the study and its findings can be found here:, and there is also a blog completely about the syndrome and the ongoing related studies that can be found here:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ulcer Schmulcer - Uh Oh

So, Merck is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies out there, and they report evidence of ~50% of foals showing mild gastric ulcers. There are other sources that report similar findings and statistics, but I'll stick to referencing just Merck primarily for now in this particular posting. Additional statistics state that approximately 30%  of adult horses have mild gastric erosions, whereas a whopping 90% of race horses have gastric lesions, with at least 50% of those cases are moderate to severe.

I reference these statistics because I've now had some experience with ulcers, and based on that experience, I believe that my new filly, Pippa, has ulcers. Some noteable symptoms that can indicate ulcers can be jumpiness/spooky behavior, unwillingness to eat their meal all at once, a preference to hay over grain or grass, a dull look to their coat, inability to put on weight, perpetual ribbiness, discomfort and/or attitude at feeding time, discomfort when cinching the girth, general crankiness, etc. etc. etc.

Continued observation of Pippa leads me to believe that she must have ulcers. She exhibits several symptoms, including ribbiness, spookiness, discomfort/objection to touching her sides in certain ways sometimes, and her coat is quite dull. When she eats, unless you have her tied to her feed bucket, she will grab a bite, wander off and pace a bit, then wander back and grab some more. After she's been eating awhile, she'll finally settle in and stay put more, but I've taken to tying her while she eats so that she will stay focused.

I picked up some ulcer medication from our vet, and Pippa has now been on it for about 4 or 5 days. However, further reading makes me think that perhaps I should add Ranitidine to her medication dosing schedule because she had history of ulcers before after a particularly traumatic weaning experience prior to coming to my farm. I believe that she may have either not completely healed before or she just had them come back more strongly than I thought they did after moving her to my farm. Admittedly, I have been too busy and haven't been paying as close attention because I just finished up a 6 week long stretch of wedding weekend after wedding weekend because of friends and family members getting married back to back. She was getting fed every day, but I was seeing without observing. Now that I'm paying closer attention, she seems to be even more spooky than when she first arrived, and the wandering off from her meal plus the dull coat and objections to me touching her flanks makes me think ulcers for sure.

The jury is still out on Queen having ulcers or not. I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt to dose her since she still has some longish looking coat where she shouldn't. On one hand, people are telling me that weanlings sometimes don't shed out to sleek till later, and she's sort of sleek, but there are definite areas on her back and flanks where the hair is longer than on her neck or legs. Probably good to dose them both, but Pippa may need a longer dosing period since she seems to be more stressed out.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bored at work

I should probably post an update because I haven't done so in forever, but I don't feel like it. Procrastinators unite! (tomorrow).

But I will post that I am bored at work and browsing Facebook, Etsy, Craigslist, and Pinterest... Pinterest is the biggest time suck, but the photo I'll share is from Facebook :) I'm just waiting around on my TDS test to finish so I can weigh my beakers, so enjoy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So much

So much has happened this year. Some of it has been very bad, and some of it has been very good. I still mourn and miss Ivan. My dressage journey has taken a lot of turns. Sebastian, the horse I was leasing since February, has gone back to his old owners. Sadly, he had hock and stifle issues that made him worth a lot less than their original asking price. I just couldn't afford to let emotion overtake reason and part with that much from my wallet for a damaged horse. So instead, I ended up with TWO horses to replace Sebastian. Captain has now come to stay for awhile, and Pippa is my new Connemara/TB yearling who I'm hoping to do great things with eventually. Captain is just a free lease since Pippa and Queen are not old enough to break to ride yet. Once they are broke, I suppose I will reevaluate where I'm at with Captain.