Ever been bitten by a tick? If so, you know how annoying they can be, at best. At worst, ticks can transmit serious diseases to humans. Ticks are small, parasitic pests that feed on the blood of a “host”—namely, another animal. Ticks aren’t too discriminating when it comes to their food; they’re all too happy to feast on humans, dogs and cats along with other, wilder animals. Fortunately, there are many different animals that are a tick’s natural predator, including some birds that eat ticks that might make a great addition to your home to assist with natural tick control.
Do turkeys eat ticks? That’s a question many homeowners ask. There are several types of poultry and wild birds that eat ticks, for example, along with ants, centipedes and certain other predatory insects. Keep reading to learn more about these parasitic creatures and how you can keep them away from you and your family.
Which Animals Eat Ticks?
What is a tick’s natural predator? Fortunately, there are several, some of which might even make a good addition to your property if you have a tick problem that you’d like to control via natural means.
Guinea fowl are a wonderful tick predator, especially for larger properties (that are zoned for poultry) where they can roam free. Also called guinea hens, these birds eat ticks along with any other insect they can find on the ground. Deer ticks are a favorite cuisine for guinea fowl, along with (gulp!) snakes.
Chickens are another type of bird that eats ticks and they are obviously a more reasonable choice than guinea fowl for people seeking natural tick control who live in urban or suburban areas. You can set up a backyard chicken coop and let your animals peck around the yard, where they’ll happily gobble up ticks and many other insects—and perhaps provide you with wonderful eggs for your breakfast table, too. Just be aware that chickens are known for damaging landscaping with their sharp claws since they dig through the dirt to forage for food. They can also be time-consuming and even expensive to care for. Many neighborhoods prohibit chickens due to the birds’ potential for becoming a nuisance to neighbors (think noise, odor and mess) so make sure to check your neighborhood’s regulation on poultry for pets.
Do Turkeys Eat Ticks?
Due to increased hunting regulations, wild turkeys have been increasing in numbers across the American southern states. This means that we are more likely to run across them, particularly in suburban areas close to the wildland-urban interface. Turkeys will eat almost anything that moves in leaf litter, including different types of insects, lizards, frogs and salamanders. These omnivores will also munch on leaves, flowers, acorns, fruits, seeds, grasses and roots. We know less about turkeys’ favorite foods since they are opportunistic and eat what is available. Scientists have found that although turkeys will eat ticks, having a turkey roaming around your yard will probably not be enough to eliminate a tick population. In some cases, turkeys can even be a host for a tick, providing a way for the pest to hitch a ride closer to your home and loved ones.
What Do Ticks Look Like?
While ticks are often referred to as insects, they are actually eight-legged arachnids, like spiders and scorpions. (No wonder they’re so scary!) They are typically flat, brown, oval-shaped and small. They measure only a few millimeters in length, unless they’ve been feeding off a host. When they are engorged with blood, ticks become rounder and larger in size. Some species, like the American dog tick, can get so engorged that they grow to the size and shape of a dried bean, or even a small grape. Ticks can be a variety of colors depending on their species and sex, but most are a shade of brown, and some appear to be almost black.
Where Do Ticks Live And How Do They Find Their Animal Hosts?
Ticks live in Texas and across the United States in woody, brushy areas, clinging to shrubs and grasses, where they wait for an animal to move past and brush against it. That’s how ticks get on people and dogs; they simply wait for an opportunity to hitch a ride. Once they’re picked up by a host, they crawl around on the animal’s hair or skin until they find a good spot to sink in their mouthparts in preparation for a feeding.
With the exception of winter, ticks are active throughout almost the entire year. That means if the temperature is above freezing, tick bites could be a problem. They can be found anywhere that is home to shrubs, tall grasses, humans and other animals—and that’s pretty much everywhere.
What Makes Ticks Dangerous?
In some cases, tick bites are simply an itchy, painful nuisance. In others, they can actually be quite dangerous to humans and pets. First and foremost because ticks are carriers of Lyme disease along with several other disease-causing bacteria. Lyme disease can be a seriously debilitating illness for humans, causing headaches, fever, chills, nausea and fatigue.
Ticks can also pose a threat to dogs and other animals. Dogs, like humans, can contract Lyme disease from a tick bite; they can also become anemic due to ticks feeding off their blood, and might even suffer temporary or long-term paralysis due to tick-borne illness.
How To Prevent Ticks From Infesting Your Home
There aren’t many species of ticks that will infest your home—but there are a few. Dog ticks are one species that will happily move indoors if given a chance, and since the females can lay thousands of eggs at a time, infestations can develop quickly. This is just one good reason among many to inspect your dog and remove any ticks promptly after your pet has been outdoors.
It’s also important to maintain the grass and shrubbery near your home, keep it trimmed and cut short so it won’t be an attractive habitat for ticks. And when you go out for a walk in nature, be sure to use an insect repellent that is rated for ticks. Wear long sleeves, long pants and closed-toed shoes when you’re walking or working in tall grass and remove your clothes promptly as soon as you return home.
Ticks Are No Match For ABC
If you do experience an infestation of ticks in your home or yard, count on ABC’s pest control pros to take care of your problem. We can also help with lawn maintenance to keep ticks from becoming a problem in the first place. We’ll tick-proof your yard so you and your beloved pets can enjoy the great outdoors without fear of bites, illness or infestation.