Looking for something a little different than the typical barnyard chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese? You may be surprised at the usefulness and marketing potential of some of these unusual birds.
Guineas are the watchdogs of the poultry world. Their loud shrieks and repetitive calls can serve to warn less alert chickens or even goats of predators. Not all guineas get along with all chickens, however. If you decide to add some guineas to your backyard chicken flock, make sure that the chickens are not being chased.
Guineas are also excellent predators of two of the worst enemies of the small farm—insects and rodents. A sufficiently large flock of guineas can help control tick populations, and they are often used to control pests in the garden. However, they must never be fed table scraps, or they may acquire a taste for produce.
Guinea meat, a delicacy in some countries, is lean, dark, and full of vitamins. Guinea eggs taste just like regular chicken eggs, although they are smaller.
Finally, spotted guinea feathers make intriguing decorations.
Much like guineas, peafowl are excellent farm watchdogs. Perhaps they are even better than guineas—peafowl are louder and far more persistent. Although they are not usually aggressive, they will let out a scream that sounds much like “Help! Help! Help!” when anything unusual enters their territory. But think twice if you have nearby neighbors. More than one person has been fooled into rushing to the rescue or picking up the phone to call the police in response to the alarm call.
Also like guineas, peafowl are effective at controlling insect pests.
A less common use of peafowl in our country is producing meat. Peafowl is highly nutritious, but it has a rather distinctive flavor, which can be perceived as either delicious or disgusting. Peafowl eggs taste much like chicken eggs.
Peacocks are excellent pasture ornaments, but that’s not the only way to enjoy their good looks. Their feathers can figure prominently in a multitude of crafts.
Swans are another species of feathered watchdog, since they can be extremely aggressive toward invaders.
One interesting use of the swan is as a living lawnmower.
Although few people eat swans today, swan meat was a royal delicacy in medieval times. Swan is lean, but quite moist. Its flavor is only lightly gamey.
Swan eggs are also edible. However, swans lay very few eggs per year. The eggs are not typically eaten, but hatched to produce new swans.
Swan feathers can be collected for stuffing pillows and quilts.
Most swans, however, have little purpose in life other than to decorate the farm pond.
Probably the most common use of the pheasant is as a game bird. After being raised to maturity, pheasants are released into the wild to reproduce and to provide sport. The idea is to ensure that the pheasant population is at a high enough level to allow for sustainable hunting.
Whether hunted or kept on the farm, pheasants can be enjoyed for their meat. Pheasant is rich and tender.
Pheasant feathers are a fly-tying delight. Their colorful plumage can provide lures of all descriptions. Pheasant feathers are also useful for creating decorations.
Some types of pheasant are bred specifically for ornament. They are typically not released for sport, but are kept around the farmyard for their good looks.
The partridge is primarily a game bird. It can be released into the wild for sport hunting, or simply to establish a wild population.
Partridge is considered a gourmet food. It is rich in protein, B vitamins, and many minerals.
Quail have become popular for their egg-laying abilities, partly because they are prolific and low-maintenance layers. The eggs themselves boast excellent nutritional value, with more protein, vitamins, and minerals than can be found in chicken eggs.
Quail also make fairly good meat birds. They produce tasty white meat, but it can be difficult to eat because the bird is so small and delicate. Still, quail is considered a gourmet menu item in some circles.
Getting Started With Guineas
Ready to buy your first guineas? First read up on their basic needs.