|This is a Barred Rock hen, my favorite breed|
Celeste said guineas eat more bugs and don't peck the tomatoes. They probably do eat more bugs; I've heard they help keep ticks to a minimum, although when I kept guineas, I never took a count of the tick population. They still wouldn't eat the right kind of bug, or enough bugs, to be a big help. Celeste is wrong when she says they don't bother tomatoes. The last time I had guineas, about thirty years ago, I got a call from a distressed neighbor (long-since deceased) who informed me my guineas were pecking holes in their tomatoes. I killed the birds and pressure-packed them and have not had guineas on the place since.
Personally, the fact that chickens and guineas peck at tomatoes doesn't seem like a big problem to me. A couple of holes in a tomato isn't a big deal; it isn't like I was trying to sell tomatoes and they had to be perfect. But you know, a person tries to keep the neighbors happy, especially the good ones.
I used to love having guineas around and hearing the clatter they make, but four years ago one of our neighbors had some of them and those critters started squawking at 4 A.M. I guess I'm just getting cranky in my old age, but I prefer peace and quiet when I can get it.
Back to the subject of why I don't have chickens. I would love to have three or four hens and one of those portable "chicken tractors" to keep them in. But while Cliff and I are still able to travel, I don't feel it's fair to ask somebody to do chores for me when I'm gone. True, Cliff's sister lives next door, and our daughter lives two miles away. But they have jobs. I remember what it's like to work all day and then come home and have something extra you have to do. That is why I didn't buy another bottle calf this year. I'd have to choose between being tied down at home, or asking somebody to take care of my animals. The animals I have now require no care at all as long as there is grass growing for them to eat. I don't have to milk Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow because her calf does that job for me. The only animal that would tie us down would be Iris, my dog, but we either leave her with the grandson or pay to have her boarded.
Back to the hens and the bugs they eat: I can't have free-range chickens here, so they wouldn't be any help to my garden. Between the varmints that creep and crawl by night and the hawks that soar overhead by day, it's a losing proposition. Cliff and I watched a hawk try to pick up a ten-pound rooster a few years ago. Poor guy was bloodied up pretty badly, but he lived to see another day, only to be killed and beheaded later by an opossum. I kept chickens for years, but they were always in an enclosed pen that had netting over the top.
When I know we are done with travel, I will have chickens.