When most people hear the word guinea- they are much more likely to think of a guinea PIG not a FOWL. But guinea fowl are gaining in popularity on homesteads and farms all over the country.
So first, what is a guinea? Guinea fowl are are seed and insect eating birds that are members of the Numididae family. This type of poultry originated in Africa, but today domestic guinea fowl can be found all over the world.
Helmeted guinea fowl are the most common and popular type of domesticated guinea. They are quite unusual looking- I tend to go with the “they are so ugly they are cute” phrase when describing them! Most types of guineas have a distinct crest (helmet) on the top of their featherless heads and are somewhat “football shaped” in body style.
Guinea fowl come in a variety of colors including white, lavender, pearl, and pied. I love the pear feathers and they are great for crafts and jewelry making!
Why would you want to add guineas to you homestead? They have a long list of benefits including helping remove pests such as ticks, grasshoppers, locusts, flies, maggots, snails, and more. They may also help around the homestead by eating small snakes and rodents.
But what goes into raising guinea fowl? It is different than raising chickens? How do you get started?
Guinea Fowl: The Complete Guide to Raising and Care
If you are considering getting a flock of guinea fowl for your homestead, I highly recommend starting with day old keets. What’s a keet? Simply the name of a baby guinea!
Once you have an established flock of guineas you should be able to keep growing your herd by letting the adult guinea hens sit on their eggs or allowing a broody chicken to hatch guinea keets for you.
Getting Started with Guinea Keets
Raising guinea keets isn’t too hard, and if you have raised baby chicks or ducklings you are likely to know the drill.
Guinea keets will need to be kept in a brooder until they are older and fully feathered. This brooder should have the following:
- A heat lamp
- crumbled chick starter
- a chick waterer
Guineas can take awhile to know their home, so if the weather permits and you have the place, put the brooder box in their final coop.
Guinea keets are pretty small, and you should put some marbles in the water until they are a little bigger to prevent drowning.
Like chickens, keep them with food, water, and under the heat lamp for about 6-7 weeks, raising the light up a little each week. Once they are fully feathered they should do fine without the light. Though if it is winter, you may want to give them heat outside at night still.
Raising Mature Guinea Fowl
Once your keets are fully feathered, you can start allowing them to roam outside of their home.
Guineas are a bit different than most homestead poultry because they are not quite as domesticated as we’d like to think. They are still very much a wild game bird and should be treated as such.
And I feel the need to tell you, just in case you don’t know much about these birds at all, guineas are loud. Really loud. So if you are in a neighborhood or live close by other people, that is a consideration. They will sound an alarm for all sorts of things, like a dog barking, a car driving by, the wind, etc. They will also sound an alarm for real things like predators….but they are kind of the bird that called wolf.
When you are ready to allow your guineas to roam, simply open the door to their coop. Do not take them out or herd them out the door. Simply open the door and leave them be. It may take a few days, but they will slowly get up the nerve to leave their home on their own.The adult birds are cautious and will take things slow when it comes to exploring.
Once they are comfortable with their surroundings they will start to roam further and further from home. But if you have raised them right, and kept them in their coop for at least 6 weeks they should come home each night.
Guineas can be fed laying pellets or crumbles, but they should be allowed to forage for most of their food. We used food to entice ours back in the coop at night. You want your guineas out there eating snakes and ticks- so don’t fill them up each morning with commercial feed!
As you can see, there’s not a lot that goes into caring for guineas- they need water, room to roam, and a safe place to live. But now let’s talk about some of the other things you may be wondering.
What Kind of Coop Do My Guineas Need?
Give your guineas a coop similar to your chicken coop. Provide them a safe, draft free coop with roosts and nesting boxes (though they will likely nest on the ground instead).
Guineas like to roost much higher up than chickens do, so place your roosts up high. My guineas liked to sleep in the rafters of our chicken coop.
Will My Guineas Come Home Every Night?
Maybe? Here’s the thing about guinea fowl. You may give them a coop and food. And they may choose to roost in the trees every night.
They are essentially wild, so you can give them what they need and then it’s up to them to use it.
Can I Raise Guineas and Chickens Together?
You can, BUT I would suggest raising chickens and guineas together from the start. And I wouldn’t advise that you keep guineas in a run.
They really should be free ranged all the time.
Are There Any Problems That Come With Raising Guineas?
Guineas are very hardy animals and they stay pretty healthy. Because they have resisted human’s quest to domesticate and improve they have almost no health issues.
BUT they are also not the smartest bird in the bunch, and you may find that because of their temperament and their roaming you have more issues with predators than you do with chickens or other poultry.
You can also check out my popular article on 5 Reasons NOT to Own Guinea Fowl, for a full list of why these birds might not be right for you.
How does raising guinea fowl differ from raising chickens?
Guineas are much more wild than chickens, and while they are both poultry, there are a lot of differences. Guineas are much more wild than chickens, they are more roaming, louder, can be much more territorial.
Guineas also tend to be more monogamous or semi-monogamous. They are more likely to get very attached to their mates, and often breed for life. They will also get very attached to their flock mates and stick together as a group. They will be very vocal and call for each other if they get separated- even if only by a fence.
How to Sex Your Guinea Fowl
Just like with chickens, sexing keets can be difficult to impossible. But as your guineas grow there are some signs that will help you tell the difference between male guinea cocks and female guinea hens.
For the most part, the outward appearance between and male and female guinea is the same with one small exception. As adults, the helmet and the wattles of a male guinea are larger than those of a guinea hen.
You can also tell by their cry. Female guineas will make a 2-syllable cry that sounds something like ‘Buck-Wheat”. Males however will make a one syllable sound/
These 2 things are the easiest distinctions to notice and should be sufficient in determining the males from the females in your guinea flock.
All About Guinea Eggs- Laying, Brooding, and Hatching
Guinea hens are seasonal egg layers and will lay an egg a day when the days are longer, around March through September.
The eggs are more pointed on one side and are very light brown with lots of little speckles.
Guinea eggs can be eaten the same as chicken eggs- though they are more rich tasting. Guinea eggs are smaller than chicken eggs with very hard shells. A good rule of thumb is to have 2 guinea eggs in place of one large chicken egg in recipes.
Learn more about eating guineas- both eggs and meat- on my article Can You Eat Guinea Eggs?
Guinea hens can and do go broody throughout the season. They will lay eggs on the ground, either in the coop or in the woods or tall grasses where they can be hidden from predators.
Guinea hens often lay their eggs in communal nests and also will take turns sitting on the eggs.
You can either collect the eggs daily for consumption or hatching or allow nature to take it’s course and let the guinea hens hatch their own eggs.
Guinea eggs will take 26-28 days for the keets to hatch.
If you are hatching using an incubator, care for the keets as outlined at the start of this article. If you are allowing a hen to hatch, let the mother do all of the caring and the keets that survive will be very hardy birds.
Tips for a Successful Guinea Fowl Flock
You don’t have to end up with problem guineas! Here are a couple of tips to try and prevent some of the issues you might have with your guinea fowl flock!
*Raise your guineas from keets- starting a flock in their permanent home is always best
*Keep your guineas locked in their coop for at least 6 weeks before letting them roam (another reason to raise them from keets!) so they learn where home is
*If you will be co-habitating 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
*Remember 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
Want to know MORE about raising guineas? Guinea Fowl: Complete Guide to Raising Guinea Fowl can help you learn absolutely everything about this unusual bird!