Tick-Eating Guinea Hen Weapon Against Lyme DiseaseBELCHERTOWN (WBZ) ―
There's another summer health threat on the rise in Massachusetts -- Lyme disease, which is up in every county in the state.
The disease is spread by ticks, and it can be debilitating. One local woman has discovered a weapon against ticks that gets rid of the diseased bugs by eating them.
The tiny ticks are barely noticeable to humans. But they survive by sucking blood.
Wayland police Officer Mark Wilkens, like many, was bit by a tick and now has Lyme diseases.
"I ached and broke out in sweats," he said. "It was just under my vest -- the bulls eye -- the typical identifier that you have Lyme disease."
Ticks can pass along a list of diseases..
"There's no real cure for it," Wilkens explains. "It's just one of those things."
Because of a wet winter, Massachusetts is bracing for a bad tick season.
"There are just more ticks out there, and I think we are going to have a bumper crop of ticks this year," said Department of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Alfred Demaria.
They prey on us, but what preys on them? For that answer we travel west to Belchertown.
On a bucolic hobby farm there are 2 llama, a dog named Simon and a yard that used to be filled with ticks.
"They've dropped off dramatically to the point where we no longer put flea and tick powder on the dog," said Karen Tetrault.
Tetrault, who runs the farm, found a clever way to cut down on the tick population.
"We started off with five, and now we have nine," she said.
Tetrault is talking about guinea fowl -- an African bird that is a bit bigger than a chicken and has a very healthy appetite for all kinds of bugs, and worms. But their favorite snack is ticks -- lots of ticks.
"They see things that you and I wouldn't see," Tetrault explained. "Their eyesight is very good. They see even tiny things. They just take steps and as they go they gobble things up, and they do that everyday."
She has even trained them to come running when she rings a bell. Otherwise, they roam not far from their coupe, and all day long peck away at the tick population.
They even warn when a stranger is approaching.
"They will even let you know when the mailman is coming down or a salesman, or a mother-in-law."
So, they eat lots of ticks, they'll warn when an intruder comes near and they'll give fresh eggs. So what's the drawback?
Well there's one thing.
They're loud – really loud.
It's how they talk, and they are quite the chatter boxes.
"They talk a lot and when they do you can hear them," Tetrault said.
On Tetrault's 10 acres the noise isn't a problem. But she knows these birds may not be for everyone, especially for those who have nearby neighbors.
"If there's a concern about the noise, if everyone understood the benefits of them, maybe they would hear voices instead of noise," she said.
Guinea fowl breeders say the birds are inexpensive and low-maintenance. But you do have to make sure they have shelter and food and plenty of room to roam.
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