Preventing Ticks the Natural Way
Most of us across the country have been sucked into the yearly hysteria involving ticks: who they are, what threats they bring, and how this year is the “worst year” thus far. While the threat of Lyme disease is a very real and dangerous thing for those of us who venture outdoors on a semi-regular basis, we really feel that fear shouldn’t cripple you, or discourage you from exploring the great outdoors during the beautiful and warm summer months with your family. So we’ve put together everything you need to know about ticks, from the different types out there, to how to prevent them from ticking you off (see what we did there?), and preventing them from sucking the fun from your outdoor lifestyle. (We’re full of puns.)
What are the different types of ticks?
American Dog Ticks:
The dog tick is the most commonly found tick in the United States, and are mostly found in places with little-to-no tree cover, such as grassy areas and wetlands. They feed on random animals ranging from mice and deer, to household pets and even humans. They are mostly active from April until September.
Lone Star Ticks:
The lone star tick has a few different names, depending on the region: Northeastern Water Tick or the Turkey Tick. The lone star tick gets its name because of the large white spot on its back. It’s commonly referred to as a turkey tick in many Midwestern states, because the wild turkey is its primary host as an immature tick. The lone star tick is mostly found in the southeastern side of the U.S., and is primarily found in wooded forest areas with thick underbrush.
The deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, is mostly found in the northern Midwestern areas of the United States. It’s known as the deer tick, because it commonly infests the white tailed deer, and uses them as a host to feed and travel. It’s notable that once a deer tick has consumed large amounts of blood, the coloring of the abdomen will change into a light greyish-blue color. You can easily see that the body will remain black though, so you can identify them if you happen to come across one.
What are the dangers that each tick brings?
The American Dog Tick is the primary vector for transmitting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The Rocky Mountain Spotted fever is a bacterial infection, and most of the infected population complains of rash, fever, and headache symptoms. It is treated with an antibiotic and can be deadly if access to antibiotic is delayed or unavailable.
The Lone Star Tick was never thought to carry or transmit any diseases until recently, when there was a sudden link between a Lone Star tick bite and developing a sudden illness/allergy to meat and meat products. The effects of the allergy can range from short term to long term, and thus far, isn’t able to be cured or prevented via medication.
The Deer Tick is (by far) the scariest in the gross little tick family, as they can carry and transmit the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, also known as Lyme Disease. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a rash. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread into the joints, heart, and nervous system. In many cases, if you’re bit by a tick and early detection and medication is on hand, antibiotics can keep Lyme Disease at bay.
How to prevent naturally
Keeping ticks off you and your family can be done naturally. According to this study, it was found that geranium oil compares to using DEET to repel ticks and mosquitoes. If you check out the EPA’s website, they actually acknowledge that three particular essential oils have been shown to repel ticks: catnip, citronella, and lemon eucalyptus. If you’re interested in going the natural essential oil route, we really love using this synergy (pre-mixed) oil blend that comes in a pre-diluted and convenient roller ball called Shield Me, from Plant Therapy. It features all of the above mentioned oils, and is safe to use on children.
How to prevent ticks on your property naturally
A common and natural way to keep ticks away is to utilize natural cedar mulch around your home. The cedar lets off a scent that most insects don’t enjoy, so you won’t have as many mosquitoes, and ticks won’t want to crawl around on it, either. (Remember, ticks can’t fly like mosquitoes.)
Many home owners also use this homemade garlic spray recipe to treat an area, such as a playscape or outdoor play area. The strong garlic scent confuses insects and keeps them away from their favorite areas.
Using diatomaceous earth is also a popular natural defense against many types of insects, including ticks. Diatomaceous earth (called DE for short) is a one-celled single plant that lives in the oceans across the western US. Large deposits of DE were left behind when the ocean rescinded, and it’s now used in many different things such as toothpaste, paint, swimming pool filters, etc. DE is approximately 86 percent silicon, 5 percent sodium, 2 percent iron, and many other trace minerals such as titanium, boron, manganese, copper, and zirconium. You can use DE a few different ways, from sprinkling it on the ground to making a water-mixture to cover the area. DE is food safe, so using DE around your garden is a great and organic way to keep the unwanted bugs out. It is important to note that since DE is so microscopically small, it can cause lung irritation if you breathe it in excess. Because of this, it’s recommended to wear a face mask if you’re using the powdered form of DE. Because of the silica in the DE, it kills insects by drying them up. Learn more about DE here.
Many homes that have the ability to have a backyard flock are turning to owning guinea fowl as a natural way to keep ticks off their property. Guinea fowl are a similar size to a chicken, and can cohabitate seamlessly alongside a backyard chicken flock. Guinea fowl are often a homesteader’s best, and most overlooked companion. They don’t win any awards in looks; their bald turkey-like head resembles a vulture, and the body looks like a polka dotted chicken. They are extremely loud, and have an interesting communication within their flock. They are often referred to as a “guard dog” because their loud screeches can alert anyone that danger is possible. That “danger” may be a coyote, or it may be your UPS driver. Guinea fowl will screech and squawk at them all. They do their best free-ranging around the property, and aren’t the best animals to keep penned up for any length of time.
Guinea fowl are known as tick-eating machines. Guinea Fowl International President Cindy Gibson notes that using them to control ticks and other bugs is their truest claim to fame. They also will eat smaller snakes that they come across, as well. The good thing about adding guineas to your flock is that you do not have to worry about them scratching up or eating any of your garden or vegetation, as they primarily dine on insects.
If you’re looking to get some guineas for your property, getting them as babies (referred to as “keets”) is the best way to have a gentle flock that isn’t as wild. Guineas are much harder to train than chickens, and have been known to take up roosting in tall trees, on top of barns, or even on top of homes for the night. They can fly better than a chicken, so it makes them less able to be killed by things such as possums or raccoons, but more susceptible to getting killed at night while roosting in the trees by hawks, owls, or vultures. By getting the young keets and raising them from a young age, they do have the ability to be trained to return back to their coop at dusk, to roost safely inside.
If you’re in the market for a coop that is perfect for your new flock of backyard guinea fowl, look no further than the ecoFLEX Jumbo Fontana Chicken Barn from New Age Pet. The stylish red barn-like coop is very large, and perfect to keep your guineas and/or chickens safe and sound once the sun goes down. It’s made from a non-toxic recycled plastic wood polymer composite material that is durable and practical for livestock use. It will not warp, crack, or split over time. It can hold up to 10 chickens or guineas in it easily, and has two roosting poles that are square designed for them to sleep on peacefully.
It also features three large nesting boxes, so integrating a couple egg-laying hens into your flock would be perfect to keep the bugs off your property, as well as provide fresh breakfast eggs. (Guinea fowl also lay eggs, though they typically prefer to lay them in the open, whereas chickens will seek out their nesting box and will return to it to lay, habitually.)
Proper ventilation is key to a chicken coop, and will be the difference of life and/or death during the hot summer months, or cold temperatures of the winter. The ecoFLEX Jumbo Fontana Chicken Barn has between 7-8 ventilation slits on each side of the coop. This will keep it cool and dry during the summer, and will be vital in the winter months since the most common reason why chickens or guineas die from cold actually correlates directly to the amount of moisture that is trapped where they roost. The flooring is solid, yet has gaps in the corner, making it very easy to clean, even with a hose.
You won’t need a single tool to put together the ecoFLEX Jumbo Fontana Chicken Barn, and installation is easy and quick. (It took our Daily Dad tester approximately 1.5 hours, from start to finish.) It also comes standard with a 10 year manufacturer warranty. The dimensions are: 54.1 x 46.3 x 40.1 inches, and it’s available in red or maple colored.
The matching ecoFLEX Fontana Pen is the perfect addition to your new chicken barn, and provides some outdoor space for your flock that is protected, making it perfect for those days that they may not want to venture too far outside to roam. It’s made from the same plastic composite, and it won’t break, warp, crack, or split from the changing weather. It snaps easily into the chicken barn, and gives you some extra peace of mind for predator protection. The dimensions are 47 x 34 x 24.5 inches, and also has the same 10 year manufacturer warranty that New Age Pet is known to have.
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
If you have a flock of guineas and/or chickens, you may not feel completely comfortable having them free range on your property for a variety of reasons. If you don’t want your guineas roaming the neighborhood and annoying your neighbors, The Chunnel may be the perfect product for you. The Chunnel offers your chickens and guineas over 17 linear feet to walk directly on grass. It is like a pack and play for your backyard flock, and you can easily set it up and move it around your property so that your birds have access to different areas, and can therefore exterminate more bugs. The Chunnel has fiberglass rods to reinforce the stability of the unit, and also has numerous ground stakes, to keep the item securely on earth.
It folds up easily (like a tent) and can be used to keep your flock safe from overhead predators (hawks and vultures) or it will make sure that your guineas won’t wander off too far from home, annoy your neighbors, or roost on the top of your house instead of going into their coop.
Boxed – 23″ x 6″ x 6″ | Weight – 8 pounds | Completely set up – 16.5′ x 3.5′ x ‘3
No matter what type of natural remedy you try on you or your property, sometimes avoiding ticks is impossible. Here are some tips and tricks to keep you and your family safe:
- Before venturing outdoors, use a protective spray on you and your children.
- Wearing tall boots and long pants are a good way to keep a tick from immediately biting you.
- Ticks are attracted to the color white. Some avid hikers insist on wearing white because you can easily identify a tick on it. Some swear by wearing darker colors, as it keeps them from grabbing on.
- Check yourself and your children for ticks vigilantly, and often. Make sure you check your entire body, and focus on dark spaces that are easy to miss such as the groin area, hairline, back of knees, and arm pits. Most people in the medical field say that a tick has to be attached for at least 36 hours to spread the Lyme Disease bacteria.
- If you see a tick on the skin, go get a sharp pair of tweezers and grab the tick as close to your skin as possible and remove by pulling straight upward.
- Place the tick inside a plastic sandwich baggy. You can take the tick to the doctor with you, and they can have it tested as a carrier for Lyme Disease.
- Draw a circle around the bite using a sharpie to monitor the bite site, and if you see any rash, hardness, hotness, or swelling, head to the doctor.
Tags: backyard chickens, backyard guinea, backyard guinea fowl, Chicken tunnel, easy chicken coop, guinea coop, guinea fowl, guinea fowl coop, guinea hens, homestead, homesteading, keeping chickens, keeping guinea fowl, natural insect prevention, natural insect repellent, natural tick prevention, natural ways to prevent ticks, peck and play, peck and play chicken tunnel, peck and play chunnel, plastic chicken coop
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Megan lives in Michigan with her husband, daughter, and son. Her days are spent hanging out and doing family projects on her real-life farm, and spending time on the Great Lakes. She loves swimming, celebrity gossip, University of Michigan and Denver Broncos football, trashy reality TV, and writing. In addition to being a Mommy and self-proclaimed urban-farmer, she owns a photography business located in Southeast Michigan, Memoirs Photography.