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Q&A with Handy Mac: Family of guinea fowl

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We have a family of guinea fowl who enjoy walking on our polycarbonate roof sheeting. We wondered if they could do any damage?

Mike, an old friend and colleague, has raised an interesting question.

Q: We have a family of guinea fowl – Annelize and I counted eight – who enjoy walking on our polycarbonate roof sheeting. We wondered if they could do any damage.

A: I am not much of an ornithologist, but I do know a bit about roofs, so I did a bit of research. I was surprised to find how many people, especially overseas, keep guinea fowl as pets. I think South Africans see them more as pests, but apparently they are great for controlling bugs in the garden – ticks and the like – so, maybe we must be a little more considerate to them and ignore the holes they make.

When you think of things that can damage your roof, the first that come to mind are wind, rain, falling tree branches, exposure to UV rays and other weather factors. A problem many people forget, however, is birds. From pigeons to hadedas, they can wreak havoc to a roof’s integrity and greatly contribute to its deterioration over time.

Bird droppings are extremely acidic and can slowly dissolve most types of roofing, particularly those which are bitumen-based, such as flat roofs where bitumen-based sheeting is used. In fact, studies have shown the constant application of bird droppings can cut the lifespan of a roof in half.

Obviously, this depends on the type of roof and where it is situated – one at the coast near a fish factory frequented by hundreds of sea gulls is going to be much more in danger than a cement-tiled roof in a leafy suburb.

I am continually on about keeping gutters clean and you would be surprised where you will find birds nests. Any small sheltered area off the ground is great for a nest. Often built in summer months they are great blockers of the free flow of water around your roof when winter arrives.

None of us wants to see smashed bird’s eggs or fledglings left stranded, so ensure you keep a sharp eye out for the start of a nest and destroy it before the birds breed.

Then, of course, we have my other great favourite – fire. Nesting materials, such as dry twigs and grass, can easily catch fire if near electrical components on a roof or exposed wiring, especially during dry weather.

Nests in chimneys and ventilation systems can block air flow and cause smoke to back up in the building.

Nests also attract rodents and snakes but let’s not be too alarmist and get back to Mike’s guinea fowl. Apparently, they are a great deterrent of snakes and rodents.

Heavier birds could also cause some minor structural problems. If you already have loose tiles they could dislodge them. The tapping of a woodpecker could also cause damage to your woodwork.

So, as much as we love our feathered friends, it is important, as with everything else around our homes, we carry out the necessary maintenance related to them and not let problems develop.

I hope Mike is going to get onto his roof and check he does not have a build-up of droppings or nesting materials.

*Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to don@macalister.co.za or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB: facebook.com/thehandymac

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