Guinea Fowl Body Language Question - What Does it Mean?!

CalBickieMomma

Songster
Jul 27, 2019
268
635
166
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Hello Guinea Fowl experts!

So, I had a Guinea keet show up randomly in my yard this summer (about 2 weeks old) and he has been with my chickens (about the same age) since then. I’m pretty sure he’s a boy (haven’t heard the buck wheat sound from him and he’s coming on 7 months old now). He also likes to ‘rev up’ then dash off, sometimes chasing one of the chickens, other times he just runs past or into them.

Anyway, he’s pretty tame (doesn’t like me to hold him, but I can easily get him into a corner and if I move slow enough he’ll stand still or even sit down while I pet him. He’ll also come up to me if I’m sitting in my coop lawn chair with some of my pullets on my lap and is usually enthusiastic when I approach the coop).

There is one thing he does, though, that I have a question about. When I’m petting him, I’ll sometimes gently pet his neck and he often starts panting. I can’t say it’s because he’s hot - he’s done it in cool weather. I was just wondering if anyone with more Guinea experience can interpret this behavior for me. I know chicken body language, but Vic Vic is my first Guinea Fowl and I need a translator :lau. Thanks!
 
May 21, 2018
1,888
4,848
436
Stillwater, OK
Hello Guinea Fowl experts!

So, I had a Guinea keet show up randomly in my yard this summer (about 2 weeks old) and he has been with my chickens (about the same age) since then. I’m pretty sure he’s a boy (haven’t heard the buck wheat sound from him and he’s coming on 7 months old now). He also likes to ‘rev up’ then dash off, sometimes chasing one of the chickens, other times he just runs past or into them.

Anyway, he’s pretty tame (doesn’t like me to hold him, but I can easily get him into a corner and if I move slow enough he’ll stand still or even sit down while I pet him. He’ll also come up to me if I’m sitting in my coop lawn chair with some of my pullets on my lap and is usually enthusiastic when I approach the coop).

There is one thing he does, though, that I have a question about. When I’m petting him, I’ll sometimes gently pet his neck and he often starts panting. I can’t say it’s because he’s hot - he’s done it in cool weather. I was just wondering if anyone with more Guinea experience can interpret this behavior for me. I know chicken body language, but Vic Vic is my first Guinea Fowl and I need a translator :lau. Thanks!
My guineas are not tame enough to pet, so I can’t comment on that. They only times that I’ve seen them pant have been on very hot days and when stressed. So... stress?
 

CalBickieMomma

Songster
Jul 27, 2019
268
635
166
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Oh, no! I hope I’m not stressing him out too much! I saw a video once of a Guinea hen approaching someone and when the person was petting her on the neck, she started panting (so I was hoping it might be equivalent to purring in a cat (since the Guinea in the video was clearly very tame) but wanted to check on this forum in case there’s a Guinea expert out there :wee).
 
May 21, 2018
1,888
4,848
436
Stillwater, OK
Oh, no! I hope I’m not stressing him out too much! I saw a video once of a Guinea hen approaching someone and when the person was petting her on the neck, she started panting (so I was hoping it might be equivalent to purring in a cat (since the Guinea in the video was clearly very tame) but wanted to check on this forum in case there’s a Guinea expert out there :wee).
@Sydney65 has tame guineas - perhaps they will comment on how their guineas behave when petted?
 

Sydney65

Chirping
Aug 2, 2019
104
162
86
Indiana
Hi! You described 2 very different scenarios- One where you've cornered him, & one where he chooses to be near you. If he's panting after being cornered, he's definitely stressed. That's the only time I've seen mine do that. If he's doing it when he chose to come to you & let's you cont petting, then I'd take it as a "warning", just letting you know "this & no further." Guineas accustomed to being touched do enjoy neck massages.
Mine shun all treats except millet, but that they eat in my hand while using me as a perch.If you want to make friends w/him, when he comes up to you, start off w/ a treat at a distance in his comfort zone, gradually moving it closer to you.
Mine do like to be near me..follow me..knock on the door and stare in the window if I've been inside too long . ...
 

Sydney65

Chirping
Aug 2, 2019
104
162
86
Indiana
Curiosity made me look into this further after re-reading your post, bc I realized you were saying that the panting IS when you're petting him, & again, mine don't do that. As w/everything "guinea", I wasn't finding much except that Martha Stewart has added guineas to her farm.:yesss: lol. So then I wondered if "panting" in a juvenile might evolve into hissing in an adult? Found this thread which I *think* backs up my theory that he's giving you a subtle warning. (Disclaimer-FAR from being an expert.)
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/do-your-guineas-hiss-at-you-at-night.404103/
 
May 21, 2018
1,888
4,848
436
Stillwater, OK
Curiosity made me look into this further after re-reading your post, bc I realized you were saying that the panting IS when you're petting him, & again, mine don't do that. As w/everything "guinea", I wasn't finding much except that Martha Stewart has added guineas to her farm.:yesss: lol. So then I wondered if "panting" in a juvenile might evolve into hissing in an adult? Found this thread which I *think* backs up my theory that he's giving you a subtle warning. (Disclaimer-FAR from being an expert.)
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/do-your-guineas-hiss-at-you-at-night.404103/
Agree that hissing when petted is more likely fear/warning than pleasure... CalBickieMama, maybe backing up the social interactions to his comfort level then slowly increasing the contact will allow you to get the level of tameness that you are after?

In my experience, maintaining a level of respect is a good thing for male poultry of all kinds, as they can be aggressive sometimes, especially during mating season. If your guy is the only guinea in your flock, he and his chicken friends may find life difficult once his mating season begins... A healthy level of respect for you might be important then.
 

CalBickieMomma

Songster
Jul 27, 2019
268
635
166
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Curiosity made me look into this further after re-reading your post, bc I realized you were saying that the panting IS when you're petting him, & again, mine don't do that. As w/everything "guinea", I wasn't finding much except that Martha Stewart has added guineas to her farm.:yesss: lol. So then I wondered if "panting" in a juvenile might evolve into hissing in an adult? Found this thread which I *think* backs up my theory that he's giving you a subtle warning. (Disclaimer-FAR from being an expert.)
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/do-your-guineas-hiss-at-you-at-night.404103/
Thanks for the link with more info! Yes, Vic Vic hisses a bit at me if I go in there at night and get close to him while he's on the perch. It's more of a burst of soft hissing sounds and not a drawn out noise like an angry snake might make. He'll peck outward as well, but it's not a hard peck and I'm certain it's because he can't see me in the dark (even with the flashlight - I've read they have terrible eyesight at night).

He hasn't hissed at me during the day, and like I said in my original post, he'll come up to me and peck at my lap blanket (I assume in curiosity because he's making his happy Guinea sounds - the whistling/clicky noises) when I'm sitting with the hens and my roo (he even used to sit on my legs with them when he was a little younger, and might still do so if I were to sit on the ground (but the coop and run is way too dirty to do that now, so I have a low lawn chair and special chicken coop clothes and blanket for when I hang out with them. He hasn't jumped on my lap like the others, though. Just kinda hangs out nearby).

I also know about the males getting a bit more feisty during breeding season, so I'll be keeping a watch on his behavior and have a back-up plan if he gets too aggressive with my cockerel.
 

Sydney65

Chirping
Aug 2, 2019
104
162
86
Indiana
This was an "ah hah" moment for me, actually. Thankfully,when building the coop, we put it on sleigh runners, bc w/the snow followed by 60°, we now have a swamp. Today we moved the coop up closer to the house on dry ground. The guineas screamed at us as we were doing this, & were still in an uproar tonight.
I remembered later that bc of this I had left the back up light on in the coop for them, went out to check, they were settled, so I opened the door to shut the light off. When I looked in, Nugget, of all guineas, had hopped down from the perch & positioned himself facing the door, head down, wings spread. He cocked his head to look up at me before relaxing, but gave me a look like, "what ARE you doing?". The rest of the goonies were just realizing something was up! I shut the door and left the light on.:rolleyes:
 
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