Using Chickens Guineas and Geese to Break the Life Cycle of the Curculio Beetle Through the Bird's Consumption of Dropped Fruit

2011 Annual Report for FNC10-836

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $5,980.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
John Baumann
Baumann Farm

Using Chickens Guineas and Geese to Break the Life Cycle of the Curculio Beetle Through the Bird's Consumption of Dropped Fruit


Spring of 2011 we started our grant program by installing electric poultry netting and roosts for the birds. For the geese we purchased swimming pools and watering containers knowing that they are in need of constant water supply.

We kept the birds in their roost for 10 days so that they would get acclimated to coming back there at dusk.

We rotated the geese to different sections of the orchard to mow the grass.

The chickens were the easiest and stayed in their poultry netting and returned to their roost every evening. The Guineas were not trainable -- very few would stay in the poultry fencing even with one of their wings clipped. Once out of the fencing they would physically have to be put back as if not able to figure out how to get back on their own.

We observed the birds as they worked their way through the orchard and cared for them daily.

During the first growing season of the grant, spring 2011, a warm-up in early March caused all our fruit trees to be in full bloom the last week of March. Enduring a snow and multiple hard frosts our fruit crop was down 90 percent from 2010.

We kept the chickens, guineas, and geese in the orchard as planned and what little fruit hit the ground was given the most attention from the chickens.

The geese did an excellent job of mowing the orchard floor but showed no interest in the downed fruit as the summer went on, and as the drought set in we found ourselves supplementing the geese diet more than expected and the orchard floor started to look worse for the wear.

The guineas were a challenge; we went through 22 birds during the course of the summer. Guineas pay no attention to electrified poultry fence despite winging and trying to establish a nightly roost. Some nights they would come back and roost with the chickens and some nights they would head for the trees. Others would huddle together in brush along the edge of the woods making them impossible to find at dusk unless you are a fox, coyote, raccoon, bobcat, etc. The ones that roosted in the trees fell prey to hawks and owls. Guineas are good buggers; they are fast runners and entertaining to watch but showed no interest in the downed fruit.

Value added Benefits thus far:
All the trees in the orchard stayed watered all summer due to the rotation of the swimming pools for the geese. When we would change the goose poop water every few days, we watered the trees around the pool location then relocated the pool elsewhere in the orchard before refilling. Summer 2012 will tell us if the goose poop water was good fertilizer as well.

Egg production was light throughout the summer but picked up in the fall and is giving us enough for the table so far this winter.

Cons thus far:
During the peak of the drought, in an attempt to keep up with watering the vegetables and the geese, we ran our well dry. Luckily after giving it a rest it recuperated within a few hours but we were forced to reduce the irrigation to the vegetables.

The geese are not selective in the foliage they eat; a small garden plot within the orchard fencing was reduced to nubs and 20 new pear seedlings in the orchard were kept free of foliage and ultimately destroyed. Geese also like to nuzzle their bills into moist soil.

Unfortunately throughout the drought, the only moist soil in the orchard was around the trees that were just watered. There were a lot of holes in the ground around the bases of the trees. I’m not sure how detrimental this will play out to be but there was some minor root damage to some of the trees.

Presently we have relocated the geese out of the orchard for the winter to a neighbor’s pond to save the orchard floor. We still have 5 chickens and 2 guineas (that still must be shown the way back to the roost sometimes) with the intent to purchase more in the spring and continue the study with hopefully a bumper crop in 2012.

Posted pictures and this report on our website blog and face book page.