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Today, Heather from Second Chance Farm is going to share all you need to know about raising guinea birds.
Hello! I’m Heather, and this is a blog post that I have been excited to put together for quite some time. My family and I are huge fans of guinea fowl!
They are typically added to a farm or homestead because they are great “watch dogs” and very effective at pest control.
But we have also learned to love their personalities, goofy behaviors and how hard they work each day!
What are Guinea Fowl?
Guinea fowl are vigorous wild birds that come from Africa and rank among some of the oldest birds of their species.
Guinea fowl are gregarious and live in large flocks. Once mating season comes around in early spring, they will choose a mate and are known to keep that mate for life.
Guinea fowl are incredibly fast when they run along the ground. Their keets (baby guineas) are extremely active when first hatched and will start to try to fly as soon as the first week.
Although guinea fowl cannot sustain long flights, they can fly very high into trees and glide through the air for quite a distance with ease. While they prefer to run from predators, they will also fly.
The male guineas will actually chase each other prior to mating season to try and “win” over females. Those that are the fastest and don’t tire out, are deemed the most dominant. They will fight, but not often and it’s nothing like roosters sparring.
They are larger than a chicken and often people will comment that they look like a dinosaur or something from the prehistoric era.
What is a Keet?
A keet is a baby guinea fowl. Keets are considered to be younger than 12 weeks of age.
Preparing for Guinea Fowl
Guinea fowl are not like chickens, turkeys or any other common homesteading bird. They need a coop, or a safe place to call home each night, much like other homestead birds.
Guineas are meant to free range and roam for miles each day.
Adult guineas are a large bird and should be allowed 2-3 square feet per bird in their shelter or coop.
Can You Raise Guineas with Other Fowl?
There is mixed information about whether or not it is best to raise guineas with other fowl or poultry. We have known many people that have successfully done so. Actually, we commonly hear just how friendly guineas are within a mixed species flock.
Keets do not pick on each other when hatched like some birds, such as quail.
Some will say that if there is a fight over food, the guineas will win every time. However, we have heard people say that they have not had that issue. Others have told us they get along great with their turkeys, ducks and chickens!
We would encourage anyone interested in incorporating them with their current flock (let’s say with chickens) to go ahead and give it a try. You can always separate them if there are issues, but they are a gregarious bird and will most likely do well.
The only predictable problems may be if you have a protective rooster or more than one rooster.
Caring for Guinea Fowl
Guinea fowl are NOT a backyard bird. They are loud and need lots of space to roam, they can travel up to 5 miles per day.
Furthermore, they are not a bird that should be cooped up in a chicken coop, run, or small space. This is because their natural design is to forage and walk for miles each day as they hunt for bugs and insects.
If you live rurally, then flocks of guineas may be an option for you to consider. Even so, talk to your next door neighbors because it is almost a guarantee the guineas will be cruising through or over to neighboring properties.
We have a large farm with open fields and no neighbors. Because of our space, our guineas are not a nuisance to anyone.
Most people enjoy visits from guineas because it means they are eating their bugs and ticks! But since they can be loud, it’s good to give your neighbors a heads up if you have people who border your land or homestead.
Feeding Guinea Fowl
We choose to free feed our guineas. This means they have access to food all day and all year long. For us, it helps to encourage them to beacon back to where home is each day.
During spring and summer months they may not need food if you have ample bugs and insects for them to eat. We have found that free feeding them does not stop them from consuming all the bugs they can possibly find everyday!
There are many recommendations online of what to feed guineas and we have tried them all. Our flock of guinea fowl seem to only like wild bird seed.
Guineas will eat food scraps as well, much like chickens will.
Below, you will find information on brooding and rearing when raising guinea fowl.
Brooding and Rearing Guinea
Brooding is when a bird sits on their eggs or young to keep them warm.
Guineas lay communal nests, which means they lay their eggs in one nest. Typically, the one nest is usually shared by all or some of the flock.
Often, you will find one broody hen that will sit on all of the eggs. In general, they are known for not being good mothers!
If and when they do hatch their own eggs, they tend to be inattentive parents. Sadly, the guinea fowl keets struggle to make it on their own.
Most people are surprised by how tiny the keets are when they hatch since adult guinea fowl are large. I always find it adorable that keets are so tiny, yet they have such big feet.
When do Guineas Lay Eggs?
Guinea hens only lay eggs seasonally, not year round.
Typically they will begin laying in early spring and lay through early fall.
Egg laying is dependent on the warm seasons where you are located.
How Many Eggs do Guinea Lay?
Guinea fowl can lay one egg per day. One hen can lay 100-120 eggs per year.
Guinea eggs have a 26-28 incubation period. One keet can take over 48 hours from the first signs up pipping to break through its shell. They have some very thick and tough shells!
Hatching Guinea Eggs
When hatching guineas in an incubator, the settings and methods are the same for a broody chicken hen.
Keets, however, require different nutrition than chicks. Young keets need to be fed a game bird starter as they require closer to 30% protein.
Much like other young poultry and birds, guinea keets need a heat source (heat lamp) until they are fully feathered and can be moved from their brooder box.
Moving Guinea from Brooder to Permanent Home
Once they are moved from their brooder location, they should be moved to their permanent home in a coop.
Once they imprint a space as their permanent home, they are more likely to roost there at night than in trees.
The best way to protect your adult and young guineas is to lock them in a safe, covered, area at night. This is the same as you would do for chicken hens, ducks, etc.
Although this species has survived for many years in Africa where they originate from. I do not know enough about their life and environment in Africa to make conclusions as to how or why they have continued to do so well.
Guineas are unique in that you cannot tell them apart by looks alone.
In many bird species, you can tell the males by the females based on feather color, features or size. Guinea fowl are much trickier!
You can only truly tell them apart by the sound they make.
Once they are full feathered and young adults they will reach their loudest stage. Then, it is the easiest to listen for the sound of a female or male.
A male guinea makes a single syllable sound that is repeated.
A female guinea hen makes a two syllable sound that is repeated, much like a “chi-chi”. Again, male and female guineas are known for being very LOUD!
As the adults mature we have noticed that the males can be slightly larger in size and their waddles tend to be larger as well. However, the most definitive way to sex them is by their sound.
When raising guineas, it’s important to understand that they have specific nutritional needs. For example, they need high amounts of protein.
Their natural diet consists of a lot of bugs and insects throughout their day.
Guineas eat bugs, insects, frogs, mice, small rats, and small snakes. But what they are most famous for is their highly effective tick consumption. In fact, many people have guineas to help control the tick population.
We were shocked to know that our guineas have made a HUGE impact on our fly population here. It was an added bonus when we noticed that we had so few flies, even with cattle and horses.
We’ve had veterinarians and other visitors to the farm that have mentioned their disbelief at how few flies we have. Thanks to the guineas!
Supplementing them during the winter months with grains is important to make sure they remain healthy. Especially if you live somewhere cold and there are no bugs for them to hunt for all day.
Additionally, if where you live gets cold enough that there are no green grasses and plants for them to forage in the winter, you’ll want to supplement them with alfalfa.
What do Guinea Fowl Eat?
Guineas eat both plants and animals.
- small rats
- small snakes
- long grass
- weed seeds
Guinea fowl are rather hardy although prone to predators like other poultry and birds.
See below for recommendations on how to promote safety with your birds by encouraging them to roost in one location so they can be secured at night.
Predators of Guinea Fowl
Unfortunately, although guinea fowl can fly, they prefer to run on the ground. This makes them susceptible to predators.
The type of predators varies by location so getting to know the predators in your area will help to better protect your birds.
Our most common predator here in TN is coyotes. They will stalk the guineas or try to attack them while they are sitting on a nest somewhere.
How Guinea Protect Their Nest
Guineas are protective of their nest and more likely to stay and protect their eggs than try to get away.
However, they have been known to squawk (and it’s loud!) to effectively ward off predators like coyotes.
The male guinea will stand guard while a female lays her eggs and alert (a very loud sound!) if there is any danger. Together they will make quite a racket to keep predators away.
Protecting Your Guinea from Predators
Guineas are hard to get into a routine of roosting in a safe place. This, too, makes them more vulnerable to predators. There are some things you can do to promote their roosting habits in safe locations, like a coop or barn.
If you raise guinea fowl with other birds and poultry, such as chickens, they are likely to stick with them during the nightly roosting routine. But what really makes an impact is where you raise them from the keet stage to adult stage.
Guineas will imprint their space as “home” as they are growing young keets. Once they are moved from their brooder location, it’s a good idea to locate them in their permanent home. If not, the flock of guineas will not easily relocate after that. Which means they’ll end up roosting in trees.
Guinea fowl do best when they can be locked up securely at night, just as someone would with chickens, ducks, turkeys, etc.
How Guineas Protect the Farm
One of the things we like most about raising guinea fowl is that they are an incredible alarm system.
When somebody or something that is not part of the farm shows up, the guineas let us know. They are very protective of their home and very loud when they need to be.
Chicken eggs vs. Guinea eggs
It always surprises people when they find out that although guineas are bigger than chickens, their eggs are much smaller and more nutritious!
Another fascinating quality is that their egg shells are incredibly thick and tough. Perhaps by design so their eggs will withstand their poor mothering in the wild. Nonetheless, they are thick and it can take the keets a while to get through the shell when hatching.
Guinea fowl eggs have a higher yolk to egg white ratio. This is why they are known for having a creamy and rich flavor.
Generally, 2 guinea eggs is equal to 1 chicken egg in size.
Guinea eggs are high in protein and they are full of high amounts of potassium, sodium and iron. They also are rich in amino acids and calcium. Guinea fowl eggs have less fat than chicken eggs and almost no cholesterol.
In addition to high traces of vitamin B, D and E, guinea eggs are known to be a good alternative for those with egg allergies.
Purchasing Guinea Eggs
We raise our own guinea fowl and sell hatching eggs seasonally, usually May through August.
If you are interested in purchasing hatching eggs, reach out to us through our website: https://second-chance-farm.square.site/, Instagram: @second_chance_farm_ or our farm email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We will ship anywhere in the U.S.
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