I thought it would be helpful if we could try and make an informative post about the basics of guinea fowl, and address a lot of the frequently asked questions about guinea fowl. Please post any corrections or suggestions that you think should be added.
Raising Guinea Fowl 101
Guineas are very interesting and unique creatures. They have many uses. They are kept frequently for a source, of income, meat, watchdogs, and entertainment. They are extremely hardy birds, and forage very well. They are an ideal bird for any farm.
What do I feed Guineas?
Guineas are amazing foragers and can find almost all that they need outside in warm weather. It is always a good idea to feed them some additional grain. They probably do best on a gamebird feed, but many people, including me feed guineas whatever you feed your chickens.
Where can I get guineas?
Many hatcheries sell at least a few colors of guinea fowl. The largest farm I know of is Winter Guinea Farm http://www.guineafarm.com/ Better still many B.Y.C. ( backyard Chickens ) members sell them as well.
How do I house guineas?
Guineas can be left to roam free, or they can be confined. I think that the absolute best thing for the guineas is to free range during the day, and be locked up at night. This also allows the guineas to forage for a lot of their food. Guinea shelters do not have to be very elaborate. It could just be an old barn. They can live in your chicken house, or in a portable pen. Guineas can stay in trees outside at night, but often this encourages them to become wild and not stay around. I like ours to go in a coop at night so that I can always catch them.
How do I coop train my guineas?
Guineas need anywhere from 6-10 weeks to know where home is. When building a coop and run, plan for one big enough to accomodate your flock for that amount of time. I generally coop mine for 8 weeks and have never had a problem with them returning. To help encourage them to return to the coop, feed them every night at dusk. Once you start free ranging them, they will return for their nightly handout. Some folks don't start out releasing the entire flock at once. They only release half for the first week. Guineas have a strong flock instinct and will return to the calls of their flockmates. After a few days of returning at night, they start releasing the entire flock. Thank you for the information Soccer Mom!
Can I house guineas with my chickens?
Yes. I do it that way. Some people say that they will kill your roosters. I have never had that happen. When I only had one rooster they did sometimes harass him until I was afraid that they would hurt him. Now that I have a lot of roosters I do not worry about it. They do enjoy teasing chickens. They like to run at a group of hens and make them fly up in surprise. They like to bite them at night and knock them off the roost.
Can I free range guineas?
Yes. They can fly up into trees at night and do quite well. They are extremely good fliers, and are hard to catch. However, if allowed to free range they often become wild and are hard for you to catch. Hens will also get eaten on their nests more often. There is always a chance that something clever and devious like a fox might come in and kill them. Keets also have a hard time in the wild. Some people let their guineas run loose, but catch the new keets when they see them and keep them safe until they are older. Guineas can even free range in the winter. I have been told that they can inhale ice and die. Often, when given the choice, they will come in to a barn in the winter.
Managing your guinea flock.
How do I tell males and females apart?
Females usually have smaller wattles when grown than males do. This is not always accurate though. The only accurate way to sex guineas is to listen to their voice. We started raising guineas with 7 guineas we purchased. They were supposed to be straight run. I tried and tried to figure out the difference between their voices. I never could. I was told that the female makes a two syllable call in addition to the one syllable chat chat noise. The male can only make the chat chat noise. I never was able to distinguish the difference. Finally I decided to quit worrying about it and get some more guineas. These new guineas made a sound that I had never heard before. It turns out that all of my first guineas were males. Once you hear the sound it is easy to tell the difference. They all like to go chat chat or chaa chaa chaa. They make that noise with great frequency. Sometimes the females decide to make their call. It is extremely hard to type, but to me it sounds something like ree onsch, ree onsch. It is kind of raspy. Only the females will make this noise. Here is a link provided by MuranoFarms that should lead you to a sound recording of the male and female call of guineas. http://www.guineafowl.com/fritsfarm/guineas/sounds/
Winter guinea farm has a lot of nice pictures of guinea colors here
How old are they before they start to breed?
Usually they will breed the spring after they are hatched.
Can you eat guinea?
Yes. I never have, but I have read a lot of posts about people who did. I was once told that when you go to a fancy restaurant and order game bird you think it is pheasant, but it is actually guinea. I do not know whether that is true or not.
Will guineas protect my flock?
I think they help. While they can not actually kill predators, they can sound an alarm. They are supposed to deter hawks. I have seen them sound an alarm and watched every bird run to the henhouse. They have also sounded alarms to alert me to foxes etc. I once saw a picture of them surrounding a fox. I have never had that happen, but it was a neat picture. I have also been told that they are not afraid of cats.
Guinea eggs and keets
How old are they before they start to lay?
Guineas will usually lay the spring after they are hatched. speckledhen informed me that French guineas have a much longer laying season. She said she had a guinea lay its first egg in December. Thank you speckledhen!
What do their eggs look like/ how can I tell them apart from chicken eggs?
Guinea eggs are brown. They are about half the size of a large chicken egg. They are rather rounded on top. Once you see one you will not have trouble telling it apart from chicken eggs. Here is a picture provided by Soccer Mom showing the difference between chicken and guinea eggs. Thanks Soccer Mom!
On the far left is a standard buff-colored chicken egg (medium-size). Next to that is the guinea egg. Notice that it is just a shade lighter, almost pinkish, and very triangular shaped. Next is a bantam chicken egg. It is roughly the same size as the guinea egg, but rounder. Fourth egg is a medium-size chicken egg.
Will guineas hatch their own eggs?
Yes. They are supposed to be fairly good setters but poor mothers.
How do you incubate guinea eggs?
Guinea eggs are fairly easy to hatch. Here is a chart with some information about incubating them. http://www.shilala.com/Howlongtohatch.html
Can you eat guinea eggs?
Guinea keets (young)
Guinea keets are very active young birds. They are rather delicate though. That is why the mother often loses a lot of them if allowed to raise them herself. I brood mine in a simple chicken brooder box. I have raised them with chickens from birth. Some people would probably disagree with that so use your own judgment. You do need to make sure that the keets will not drown in the water. They are smaller than chicks and can more easily. I have heard that you should put rocks or marbles in the bottom of the water container so it is not deep enough for them to drown. rooster0209 said Another important fact! Keets must stay 95F until they are fully feathered or they die.
Thank you rooster0209 for your information!
Edited by houndit - 3/28/10 at 3:29pm