If we would make a list of the world’s most hated creatures, I guarantee that the tick would make it to the top 3.
These little bloodsuckers – about 700 hundred species of them – are not only pesky because they pierce our skin and suck our blood. They can also carry dangerous and debilitating diseases, including but not limited to Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Ticks are present worldwide, and their numbers are on the rise. Sure, pesticides are useful in combating them, but they are a danger to our health and the entire biosphere.
Plus, ticks are way too tough and complicated to treat just by pesticide application, and the chemicals often end up killing the tick’s natural enemies instead of their target.
In short – we can’t just spray our way out of the tick crisis. We need to get inventive about controlling ticks the natural way.
Using one organism to control the spread of another organism is called biocontrol. It is an intelligent way to use the natural feeding habits of our fellow creatures against other creatures that cause us harm.
Despite our perception that ticks exist solely to torment our fellow mammals and us, fortunately, they are a part of the food network.
That means they, too, get eaten.
And that means we can have tick predators on our property to help us out.
Top 5 Farm Birds That Eat Ticks
Now, let’s look at the list of our top bird tick eaters!
The smallest bird on our list – quail is still a force to be reckoned with if you’re a tick. They make up for their small size with their hefty appetites for creepy crawlies.
This bird gladly forages in small groups and eats small invertebrates that it happens to find. Ticks are by no means spared – quails are even used in organized tick biocontrol programs such as this one on Long Island, NY.
If you live in the US, there is an awesome opportunity – to join the native bobwhite quail raising program and the study aimed at tick reduction.
That way, you are both supporting a vulnerable species that declined 85 percent over the last century, and you are getting rid of ticks.
How cool is that?
Of all the birds that eat insects, the good old turkey has one unique trait.
Because of its tall stature, it can venture out into corners of your property covered in long grass – a territory that stays out of reach for both chickens and quails.
Turkey breeds commercially raised for meat are not suitable for tick hunters. They are too large – and often too lazy – to forage efficiently.
Get some of the turkey heritage breeds instead. Lighter and agile, these turkeys are more prone to exhibiting natural behavior- and that includes tick munching.
We all know that chickens are not picky eaters – but they sure are tick-e-eaters! They will munch on any arthropod that is not foul-tasting, and fortunately, that includes ticks.
The only drawback to keeping free-range chickens across your yard is their digging habit.
They do this to reach insect prey that hides in the upper layers of soil. In the process, they may disrupt your garden, lawn, or flowerbed, so be careful where you want to put them to the task.
Also, when choosing chickens with tick control in mind, go for the lighter, agile breeds. Heavy meat breeds such as broilers surely won’t be successful in tick hunting or any active foraging.
Ducks are something like the Navy in the world of bird-operated tick control. Unlike most other fowl species who avoid wet and muddy areas, ducks naturally love it.
Conveniently, ticks are fond of moisture, so ducks might be able to tackle some of their favorite strongholds.
Indian runner ducks are especially keen on this job. (You can buy ducklings at Tractor Supply)
Famous for being one of the rare birds that will eat slugs, they are also advanced tick hunters. Because of their height, they can take on high grass blades, similar to turkeys.
Additionally, each can provide you with 250-325 eggs per year, along with meat and feathers!
Also, ducks are easy-going in general. They are not prone to roaming, roosting, or digging. However, naturally, they need to have a water surface to thrive.
Among domestic fowl, guinea fowl would probably classify as having clinical-grade hyperactivity. The guineas are constantly chattering (or rather, screaming), running around, and seem to be everywhere!
In this case, being hyper is quite useful because it promises a strong foraging instinct. And foraging includes a great deal of hunting for arthropods.
And if you ask how many ticks do Guineas eat a day, you might be surprised.
According to multiple sources, in their African homeland, guinea fowl can eat as much as 1000 ticks per day.
Move over from that throne, possum!
However, there are some drawbacks to having guineafowl. Like many special task forces, they are a bit edgy.
The same way they excel in arthropod hunting, guinea fowl excel in jumping, roaming, roosting, and escaping.
Oh, and lots and lots of noise making.
They are infamous for being not very traffic smart – or smart in general – which means they can, unfortunately, die under the wheels easily if you have a road nearby.
Lastly, they are known to bully other poultry.
What’s the Best Tick-Eating Bird for You?
Forgetting about the importance of our natural predatory allies and opting for spraying poisons everywhere instead has led to great environmental disbalance and allowed for the very thing it had meant to prevent.
Despite all our “progress,” ticks are experiencing a population boom, and the number of tick-borne diseases is on the rise.
When nature gives you allies to combat pests – you better safeguard them, nurture them, and of course – use them.
While you can’t return wildfowl to our overdeveloped lands, at least you can spare your own homestead of intoxication and let domestic fowl do the tick extermination.
The fowl-tick control method was never said to get rid of all the ticks on your property, but, as many homesteaders testified, it could greatly reduce their numbers.
I hope I’ve provided you with enough information about farm birds that eat ticks and that you can now pick your feathered tick-eating favorite.
I don’t see a reason not to employ fowl-power in your yard, especially if you already keep poultry. If you let them inspect your yard for ticks, they will be happier, and your yard will be rid of much of its parasite load.
How’s your experience with birds as tick control? Let us know in the comments!
Thursday 9th of September 2021
Great article and exactly the information I need today. My cows have got ticks, lots of them, they are disgusting. I try to manually remove them with tweezers but there is always more. I reckon guinea fowl would be great, but where to find them??? Any ideas out there?
Thursday 9th of September 2021
I've been looking at fertilized eggs instead of live birds Sue, they seem a bit easier to find and they ship them through the mail - we might be able to hatch some ourselves (maybe with a homemade incubator)!