The Guinea fowl is an exotic species of birds, but its popularity is slowly growing among farmers. They are vigorous, hardy, and mostly disease-free owing to their adaptability in different conditions. People keep guinea fowl for various reasons, but the main one is as an alert whenever something unusual happens on the farm.
The noise the birds make can be a nuisance, but it works as a tool for protecting the farm. If you are considering adding guinea fowl to your flock, then this guide can be resourceful. You will learn the basics, including their nutrition, housing, challenges, etc.
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Guinea fowl come in different types, all different in appearance. But, the most common type, kept in backyards is the helmeted guinea fowl. These have a knob-like part on the head, giving it a helmet-like appearance.
Another common one is the crested guinea fowl. These are the most aggressive ones among the types and often chase people indiscriminately, including their owners. This type has a curly mop on the top of the head.
When it comes to guinea fowl’s general appearance, the head and neck usually have no feathers. The lack of feathers around the head helps the birds regulate the body temperature in hot climates of their native African region.
Like most birds, guineas get along with members of their kind. They move around in groups, and if one travels, the rest of the flock is most likely to follow. On this note, if one of the guineas gets lost, the others will make noise and continuously call it out until they find it.
Guinea fowl can be aggressive, especially when raising them with other birds like chicken and ducks. If you have mixed poultry, you should be careful with how you house them, as the males are most likely to fight and mark territories.
In a flock of guineas, plan to separate the males as soon as possible to avoid fights and constant aggression. A good idea is to raise guinea keets with a small flock of young chicks. That way, they get used to each other growing up and will less likely fight.
Challenges Raising Guinea Fowl
Like other birds, raising guineas comes with a set of challenges. The most common one is to do with confinement. Remember, guineas are mostly wild and prefer to roam around with no restrictions. On this note, you are likely to face a challenge trying to confine then in a specific area.
At first, guineas will tend to roost in trees instead of going in their coop. This is common as they are not fond of dark confined spaces. You can entice them with some treats to go in the coop and add a light bulb. They will slowly get used to going inside, and you can always turn off the light once night falls.
Things to Do Before Starting a Flock
It is essential to keep a few factors in mind when starting a flock. One, check with your local zoning requirements to make sure the regulations allow the raising of poultry, particularly guineas. Guineas are known to cross borders and often cause a nuisance to neighbors, so you want to be sure your area regulations allow that.
As mentioned, guinea fowl are mostly wild, but you might want to confine them for meat or egg production. In such a case, you need to have a desirable area to keep them and protect them from the elements.
A great place to start is ensuring you provide plenty of room for the guineas, essentially 2 to 3 sq feet per guinea. This will ensure they all have space to roam around, which will, in turn, prevent stress.
When it comes to the design of the coop or space, consider covering the floor with absorbent material such as wood shavings, sawdust, chopped hay, etc. These materials will stay dry for months, and you will not need to replace them often.
It is important to note that guineas love to roost, so ensure you provide perches. You can build this anywhere in the pen as long as you provide enough for the number in your flock. Also, if the pen is not heated, do not insulate the room. This is because insulation tends to keep in more moisture than keeping the cold out. In such a situation, the room becomes damp and can lead to respiratory problems in your flock.
Another consideration is the cover of the pen. Guinea fowl fly from an early age, and if the pen is not covered, you risk losing them. Also, remember that they are good runners, so you might never have them back in such a situation.
Once you have the pen, coop, or room ready, it is time to start your flock. A simple rule you should follow is to avoid housing male guineas with chickens, especially if there are roosters in the flock. When male guineas stay with roosters, they are likely to chase them away, which will keep them away from food and water.
However, if they all roam during the day and only confined at night, it is safe to keep them together. It is also okay to confine them in one barn in an emergency, such as bad weather.
Lastly, if you want to raise some for guinea eggs, provide nest boxes. Nest boxes designed for chickens work just fine and reduce the likelihood of the guineas laying eggs in hidden places outside. A tip to help them lay in the nests is to keep them in the barn until midday by which they will have laid.
Selecting the Breed
This stage is essential and goes in line with your reasons for keeping the guinea bird. If you are raising some to control insects, it is advisable to acquire adult guineas. These are easier to care for than young ones and do well on their own.
Note that it takes a while for the guineas to settle down in their new environment. Therefore, it is advisable to keep them in a confined pen for a week or two. This will help them adapt to the new home while reducing the risk of stressing them. If you let them out the day after getting them, they could run away and never come back.
In the first few weeks or so, confine them in a pen where they can see where they will be living. After a few weeks, let one guinea out at a time. Remember, they like to be in a group so the one outside will not go far from the pen. Slowly, let out more until the entire flock learns its way around.
If you want to start a flock with guinea keets, you can purchase them from a local breeder. If you cannot find any around, you can search online and have them delivered to you. You may worry that the keets might not survive shipping, but day-old guinea keets can survive for 48 hours with nutrients from the yolk during hatching.
Guinea Fowl Nutrition
If you start a flock with adult guineas, you do not have to worry about hat to feed them. They forage for themselves and can meet their nutrition needs on their own. Adult guineas eat a variety of insects, weed seeds, worms, slugs, and caterpillars. They also eat grass, dandelions, weeds, and other vegetation to maintain proper digestion.
It is essential to keep some grit for the birds and ensure they get clean water supply at all times. Like most birds, they enjoy scratching the ground for food, so throwing some wheat, sorghum, and millet is advisable. Note, however, if you are keeping guineas for pest control, minimizing their food will encourage them to go searching for insects to eat.
If you are raising guinea fowl cannot forage. In such a situation, you can feed them a commercial poultry diet. However, you should note that guinea fowl need a higher protein diet than chicken. If your local feed mill does not have high-protein feeds, you can mix a high protein feed with the regular one to ensure proper protein levels.
Also, ensure the feed comes in a mash or crumbles, as pellets are not suitable for guineas. You should also provide leafy greens for guineas to peck. They will eat the leaves and do away with the stalks, which you should remove daily to prevent mold growth.
Rearing Guinea Fowl
Guinea keets are a little sensitive to moisture and dampness after hatching. For the first to weeks, you should ensure they are in a moisture-free environment to ensure they survive. After that, they can survive the conditions and are the hardiest of birds.
If you start with day-old guinea keets, you can raise them in brooders such as those for chicks and baby turkeys. You should ensure the temperature is at 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first two weeks, after which you should lower by 5 degrees Fahrenheit each week.
You can use infrared lamps, but make sure you have porcelain sockets that are approved for these lamps. Make sure the lamps are secure to prevent unforeseen accidents. Ideally, the lap should be at least 18 inches above the litter. You can raise or lower the lamps depending on the conditions to balance the brooder and the outside.
It is advisable to have a few lamps per brooder to ensure you provide enough for all the keets. If you notice the keets piling up under the heat, it is an indication they are cold. If they tend to go away from the lamp, then it is too hot. Ideally, they should be spread throughout the brooding area when the temperatures are right.
How to Hatch Your Keets
Usually, guineas in the wild mate in pairs. For you to get a new set of keets, it is not necessary to have equal pairs of male and female guineas. One male can dominate over four to five females, but the number can go higher if many guineas are confined.
A guinea hen can lay about 100 eggs or more a year. The incubation period for guinea eggs is 26 to 28 days, similar to that of turkeys. If you have broody chickens, you can use them to hatch guinea eggs as guinea hens do not make good mothers. On this note, a large chicken can brood up to 25 keets in favorable conditions.
If you only have guinea chickens, they might take longer to brood as the nest has to build up to 30 eggs. A healthy guinea lays an egg every day, and if you remove the egg, it will most likely build a nest elsewhere. The eggs have thicker shells than those of chicken eggs, and as a result, it is challenging to candle the eggs until ten days of incubation.
What Are Guinea Birds Good For?
Guineas are good for pest control as they eat insects, works, rats, etc. They are also great at protecting farms with their high-peak alarm noise in the event of unusual activity.
Can Guinea Fowl Live With Chickens?
Yes, guineas can live with chickens as long as they grow up together from a young age. As adults, guinea and chicken males might fight to try and set boundaries and claiming the territory.
How Long Do Guinea Hens Live?
They can live approximately 10 to 15 years in a favorable environment.
Can Guinea Fowl Fly?
Like most birds, guinea fowl can fly from a young age, which explains why you should confine then in a covered pen for the first few weeks after acquiring them.
Can You Eat Guinea Hens?
Yes, the meat is lean and rich in amino acids like chicken meat.
What Does a Guinea Fowl Sound Like?
The guinea hen makes a two-syllable noise that is more like ‘’buckwheat, buckwheat,’’ or ‘’put-rock, put-rock.’’ When excited, both hens and cocks make one syllable noise that is more like ‘’chi chi chi.’’
The Bottom Line
Raising guinea fowls can be exciting as well as adventurous. You will need to put it the work in the beginning to tame them, but with this guide, you can figure out the process smoothly. As long as you provide favorable housing, feed them right and let them roam, you will have an easy time raising a flock.