Guinea fowl can be sort of an exotic addition to a homestead. You will hear many glamorous things about them. Things like:
- Guinea fowl will eat ticks
- Guineas will take care of problems like snakes and rats
- Guineas are easier on the yard than chickens
- They don’t scratch as much or won’t go after your garden
And, yes, most of that is true.
Guinea fowl can eat ticks and even snakes, sometimes. (Read all about that on Do Guineas Eat Snakes?)
They are somewhat easier on your land. Though they will still dust bathe and peck at your garden veggies if given the chance.
But in the interest of full disclosure you really should know the things that they do that aren’t so glamorous about guinea fowl.
5 Reasons Not to Own Guinea Fowl
(Again, this is from my personal experience! Really- read the comments- lots of great information there!)
1. Guinea Fowl Are Loud
Let me say that again. Guineas are LOUD!!! No cute little clucking noises from these guys, it’s full out screaming and screeching. Sometimes this is spun as a positive.
I don’t know how many times I read that guinea fowl make great alarm systems. And to an extent that is true. Guineas will alert you to strange dogs, people and cars coming on to your property. But they will also alert you to the fact that a door just slammed, the wind blew, or a car drove by a mile down the road.
They also have a habit of moving as one solitary unit. Where one goes, the others go. It is actually sort of fascinating to watch, but when one guinea gets separated from the flock? You’d better cover your ears until they find each other again!
2. Guineas Can Be Bullies
All birds have a pecking order. When you have new additions there will always be a period adjustment while they figure out the new order. And if you thought this was a tough process to watch with chickens, you will be amazed with guineas- these guys are mean! The guinea fowl figured out their own pecking order eventually but be prepared for a longer adjustment if you have other birds as well.
Our guinea fowl were raised from keets with chicks. They were together from the beginning. When we added the young birds- both guinea and chicken- to our mature flock the usual fight for top bird began. 6 months later- half our chickens were missing their tail and back feathers.
They were afraid to go into the coop at night once the guineas were in there. Half the time we let the guineas roost in the trees just to give the chickens a break. Which leads me into my next point…
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3. Guineas Love to Roam
I recently shared my thoughts on free range chickens, but I assume if you want to purchase guinea fowl it is mostly for their tick-eating tendencies. I’ll tell you now that they won’t eat many ticks in a covered run. They are free range birds and they take it to the extreme.
If you’ve done your research about raising guinea fowl you will know that you should raise them in their final home, or keep them locked in their new home for quite a few weeks before allowing them outdoors so that they know where home is. I am here to warn you, even if you do that, they might still have trouble coming home at night.
Guineas can fly pretty well and jump pretty high which means fencing isn’t really going to do much. Once they are comfortable with being outdoors they will start pushing the limits. They will cross roads, bother your neighbors, terrorize the horses down the street- all while screaming and squawking.
They might come home and night, they might not. They might go into their coop or they might find the tallest tree imaginable and fly and jump their way to the tiny top branches.
Related Reading: 6 Things Your Chicken Coop Must Have!
4. They Will Brood and Breed
So if you have survived the first few months with guinea fowl and you make it to laying season, you will begin to notice small speckled eggs in your nest boxes (Yes, you can eat them). Either that or you will notice some of your guinea hens are all of a sudden missing.
You might wait a few days for them to come home and then assume that they were nabbed by a fox or neighborhood dog and move on with your life. Until the day your guinea fowl flock all of sudden grows exponentially. Guinea hens nest on the ground, and they usually do it under cover somewhere.
If you have a well-concealed nest of eggs you might wake up to find mama guinea with her newly hatched brood ready to join the rest of the flock. Guinea hens are a little different than broody chickens in that they will sit on eggs and raise young together. You could be potentially looking at a nest of 40 or more eggs!
Related Reading: Can You Eat Guinea Fowl? (and Guinea Eggs?)
5. They Are Stupid
Okay, I don’t like the word stupid. I try not to use it often, but unintelligent just doesn’t get the point across. I am pretty sure that guinea fowl are one of the stupidest animals I have ever met.
They have no sense of self preservation and when they get scared or separated it’s like their brains fly out the window. This will get them in all sorts of trouble. It will cause them to get eaten by predators. It will cause you to give up on getting them in the house at night even though a hurricane is blowing through. It will cause them to squawk and screech incessantly until somehow their brains return.
Now, I don’t want to turn anyone off of getting guineas if they really want them. Like any addition to your homestead, this is a personal decision. We had them here for about a year, and I could live with all but one of the things I just listed.
I have 5 kids- I can tone out loud noises! We live pretty far out in the country with lots of other farms around and neighbors didn’t seem to mind the roaming. I am willing to let them multiply and allow their stupidity to reduce their numbers.
But, I can’t live with the bullying. Chickens are important around here- both as a productive member of the farm and a beloved pet to my children. And, ultimately, we let the guineas go because of how mean they were to our chickens. If you want to learn more about raising guineas, you can check out my article on Raising Guinea Fowl for Beginners or the eBook Guinea Fowl: Complete Guide to Raising Guinea Fowl can help you learn absolutely everything about this unusual bird!
Tips for Raising Guinea Fowl Successfully
You don’t have to end up with problem guineas! Here are a couple of tips to try and prevent some of these issues with your guinea fowl flock!
*Raise your guinea fowl from keets- starting a flock in their permanent home is always best
*Keep them locked in their home/coop for at least 6 weeks before letting them roam (another reason to raise them from keets!)
*If you will be cohabitating with chickens- raise them from babies together (this didn’t work for us)
*Buy quality birds. Breeding matters- even with guineas! If you want good birds, buy GOOD birds
*Realize that guineas and chickens are not the same. Guineas must be free range and the are less domesticated than chickens. Don’t fight their nature
If you decide that you want to ignore my advice, or like many my advice has inspired you to go and get some guinea fowl for yourself, here’s where to get them:
If you want to mail order, Cackle Hatchery sells guinea fowl. There is a 5 keet minimum.
You can also order from Meyer Hatchery. Here’s their assortment of guineas.
But I actually suggest searching for a local source. Guinea keets are very fragile, so picking them up local reduces the stress of shipment. Check Facebook Market Place, local Facebook livestock swap groups, or Craigslist.
Want to learn more about the types of poultry you can add to your homestead? Check out my article on Poultry Alternatives.
**NOTE: Since the original publication of this article, I have received a lot of comments and heard from many other people who have raised guinea fowl. I would like to add that the 5 reasons I wrote about below are in line with MY experience with guineas. They will not happen for everyone, but I shared my experiences in order to let those who are on the fence about adding guineas to their homestead about the possibilities. I encourage everyone to read through the comments. There are a lot of stories there shared by people either with similar experiences or contradictory experiences. And if you have raised guineas, I would love to hear your stories too!**