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A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RAISING GUINEA FOWL Hello world!

Last year we decided to add guinea fowl to our flock on our homestead.

Let me just say, what an experience and interesting bunch!

Their personalities and habits differ dramatically from chickens. However, if you are prepared to put in some effort, they can make a wonderful addition to your flock and offer many advantages for your farm.

But, be aware! They are not everyone’s cup of tea! Although they are very cute and mind their own business most of the time.

Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of raising guinea fowl, how to care for them, their egg-laying ability, mothering instincts, and more!

CONTENTS:

a guide to raising guinea fowl

RAISING GUINEA FOWL

Many people have never seen or even heard of guinea fowl, and they often mistake it for some kind of turkey. But nope, they are not! Guineas are Galliformes, a group including all chicken-like birds, but have their own kind of bird family. 

There are many kinds of guinea fowl, with the Pearl (or Helmeted Pearl) guineas being the most known and domesticated. Other favorite varieties include the White, Royal Purple, and Lavender guinea fowl. Pearl feathers are often used for decorative purposes.

PROS AND CONS OF KEEPING GUINEA FOWL

As with all live animals, keeping guinea fowl has pros and cons. Some people will love them, and some will hate them. And when you ask those who keep guineas why they have them, you’ll get a different answer every time.

PROS:

  • If you prefer free-range fowl, guineas are your answer!
  • Guineas are great at warning you when they spot a stranger or predator.
  • They are excellent at bug and pest control around your farm or yard. This and their alarming ability are our biggest reasons for keeping them.
  • Guineas also target small snakes and small rodents
  • So when you have guineas among your flock, they act as watchdogs!
  • Guineas will cost you less, as they get 90% of their food when free-ranging.
  • Guineas will not mess up your garden beds like chickens do!
  • They are tolerant of warmer climates.
  • They have a long lifespan of 10-15 years.

 

CONS:

  • Like chickens, guineas are natural-born scratchers, although not as persistently as chickens. They also love freshly worked soil.
  • Guineas are VERY, VERY LOUD! This makes them a poor choice where neighbors live nearby or if noise drives you crazy! So their noise could be a pro or con!
  • They are not ideal for small backyards and confinement, as they are much happier in big open spaces. 
  • Guinea are not chickens and will never be your best friend. They’ve got about the same level of affection as a barn cat! Although our barn cats are awesome!Learn more about how to raise barn cats here.

 GUINEA FOWL CARE TIPS

SPACE & FREE RANGING

Guineas will spend most of their days foraging and looking for their next meal, so they need a large area to be happy, healthy, and active. They really must be able to free-range, that is what they were made for.

Our guineas are forever all over our homestead, they love exploring!

If you have to enclose your guineas, it is vital to give them plenty of room (2 to 3 sq. ft. per guinea). The more space they have, the less likely they will become stressed, unhappy, and unhealthy.

You can also have a movable tractor or something like that, which can help if you don’t want them to free-range fully.


HOUSING & NESTING

As I mentioned, guineas will want to free-range most of the time. An enclosed run might not even be necessary for them as they will most probably roost high up in trees at night.

However, you can still provide shelter or an enclosed run to protect your guineas from rain, cold, snow (they are not fond of snow!), sun, and predators. 

Add absorbent bedding material such as wood shavings, chopped hay, or straw to the shelter or coop, especially during the winter.

Always ensure you have enough ventilation in the coop to prevent moisture from accumulating and causing mold and disease problems.

Guineas like to roost off the ground or in trees, so make sure you have roosting poles for them in the coop or where you keep them enclosed. Roosting makes them feel more comfortable and safe.

Guineas are not fans of nesting boxes and would rather lay their eggs wherever they like! And sometimes it would be in the most random places!

But if you do intend to keep them for their eggs, providing nesting boxes and teaching them to use them (here’s to hoping!) will make your life much easier! Nest boxes designed for chickens will do just fine.


EGG LAYING

Guinea fowl only lay eggs between March – October, depending on your location. Hens will lay on average around 100 eggs per season.

Their eggs are light brown, speckled, smaller than chicken eggs, and very hard-shelled. 

As I mentioned earlier, guineas will lay their eggs anywhere they deem fit! And often in the places where you will never find it! It could be in the woods, long grass, or on top of buildings. This is their way to hide the eggs from predators.

Guineas are ‘communal’ layers where they will often all lay in one nest until there are sufficient eggs. Sometimes up to 50! They are also communal brooders, taking turns to sit on the nest.

How precious is that, mothers helping each other!

Since guineas will lay their eggs anywhere, you may struggle if you plan on collecting eggs.

Your best bet is to purchase keets (baby guineas) or young hens and keep them in an enclosed space from a young age. This will familiarize them with the coop, and once they get older, you can gradually start to free-range them one by one.

They will stay close to the pen where their family is (they are pack animals so won’t stray far) and learn to return to the coop each night.

Yes, it is a lot of work and will take a lot of patience, but this is your best tactic from possibly losing them all to the woods.

As I said, they are wanderers! Oh, and they can fly pretty high!


MOTHERING INSTINCTS

Guinea hens are unfortunately not the best moms. They try, but most babies end up dying because they can’t keep up with the mom.

Guineas will brood their eggs for 26-28 days until the keets hatch. Although they are protective of their babies, the mother is ready to get a move on by now!

Once the first few eggs have hatched, the mother will leave the nest, and then the keets need to catch up and stay with her! Unfortunately, it is survival of the fittest!

If a hen hatches babies, I would recommend taking them and putting them in a brooder. I always leave a couple with the mom, and they do okay, but don’t leave all 15–20 babies with the mom.

Some guinea keepers also use a broody chicken to hatch the keets themselves.


 RAISING GUINEA KEETS

You can order guinea keets the same way you would order chicken chicks and often from the same hatcheries.

The chicks will start off in a 95-degree brooder. Then approximately every three days, you’ll turn down the temperature by five degrees. If you’ve raised chicks before, you’ll know the signs of discomfort. They will huddle under the lamp if it’s too cold or try to stay as far away if it’s too hot.

Keets need much more protein than baby chicks. You should start them on a 28 % game-bird/turkey ration (they prefer crumbles) and then change to an 18 % feed for weeks 5 – 8. After week 8, you will continue with a 16 % layer mash.

Only give them lukewarm water as cold water can cause a life-threatening chill. You should also keep their bedding clean and dry.

Move the keets to a pen once they’re fully feathered, but don’t let them out to join the flock yet. They need to stay there for two to four weeks.

You can read more here on how to care for baby chicks, and much of the same will apply to keets

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