The Romans may have conquered the ancient world, but they did not conquer the Guinea Fowl’s desire to be free.
Let this be your warning!
While they may not be the smartest bird around, they are funny to watch and listen to. Some of their behaviors seem to be borderline insanity, but their ability at pest control is unrivalled.
Of course there is also the added benefit of egg laying.
It is important to thoroughly research Guinea fowl before you raise them. There are some definite dos and don’ts.
Keep reading to learn our 11 must know tips…
Contents and Quick Navigation
- Tips To Raise Guinea Fowl
- 1. Guinea Fowl Are Difficult To Domesticate
- 2. Do Not Feed Them Pellets
- 3. They Have A Flock Mentality
- 4. Identify Males And Females Through Their Vocalization
- 5. You Will Need Patience To Train Guinea Fowl
- 6. Raising Keets Is Similar To Raising Chicks
- 7. Guineas Love To Roost Up High
- 8. You Will Need To Raise Keets On Your Own
- 9. Guineas Can Act As Watch Dogs
- 10. Male Guineas Are Very Territorial
- 11. Keets Will Imprint On Chicks
- Final Thoughts
Tips To Raise Guinea Fowl
1. Guinea Fowl Are Difficult To Domesticate
The majority of chicken breeds have learned to accept the human relationship since it benefits both parties. We get eggs and in return the flock gets room and board plus security (and a little loving).
Guineas have remained fairly wild in comparison. They see no benefits in linking up with mankind and therefore are not inclined to forge any depth of relationship.
Recorded attempts at domestication began with the Romans.
Even if you get them as keets they are difficult to tame.
2. Do Not Feed Them Pellets
It is important to know that Guineas do not like pelleted food. Give them crumble or mash instead.
You should feed your keets either turkey or game bird feed with a protein content of 24-26%.
They require this very high protein for growth in the first few weeks. During this time their feed should be separate from the chicks who do not need such high protein content.
Once they reach around 18 weeks old they can have 16% protein feed.
These birds also enjoy a variety of grains such as millet and wheat. You can give them leafy greens too. All of these things are good for your chickens too and the variety will keep them happy and healthy.
If you provide all of these things in or around the coop for them, they will be more inclined to come home at night to roost. Something else that will encourage them to come home at night is to feed them in the evening. When they hear the familiar sound of food being dished out, they will gather in order to eat before bedtime.
They are relatively cheap to feed because they eat a wide variety of bugs, grains and other tasty morsels while out ranging.
3. They Have A Flock Mentality
Guinea fowl have a flock mentality and this is a blessing!
Where one goes, they all go. If any flock member gets separated they will immediately sound the alarm and search for missing members.
They hunt and forage in a group and are constantly chatting back and forth. They will even gang up together to kill mice, snakes and other small creatures such as voles. In this respect they are good news for the garden as they are fantastic bug and pest eaters and are not known for damaging plants.
4. Identify Males And Females Through Their Vocalization
If you thought that chickens were difficult to sex, then Guineas will frustrate you even more!
These birds do not reach sexual maturity until roughly two years of age. Until then the sexes can not be determined!
The sexing problem is important to know since male Guineas can become aggressive towards roosters and can kill them. It is important to be aware of this potential conflict before it happens. To prevent conflict between the males, the roosters should be kept in a separate breeding pen that the Guineas cannot access.
Vocalization of the sexes is quite different and it is the only sure way to tell the sexes apart.
5. You Will Need Patience To Train Guinea Fowl
It is possible to train Guinea Fowl but you have to start training them from a young age.
Successful training relies on repetition and consistency, so be patient and work with them. They are not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree, but they will eventually get it!
As for letting them outside of their pen, this too is an exercise in repetition. Guineas are very much flock birds, they stick together and get panicked when separated.
When training them to return to the pen you are going to use this instinct to keep them together.
On day 1 you can let out one bird. It will not stray far from the enclosure because it is alone. On day 2 you should let two different birds out. Again, they won’t stray far from the pen because of the flock mentality.
A few more repetitions of that routine should make them understand that home is the enclosure.
It can be done!
All you need is time, patience and Guineas.
6. Raising Keets Is Similar To Raising Chicks
You raise keets much the same way as chicks.
They need warmth for the first few weeks, special food and all the usual attention that you give to chicks.
However you should not not expect them to bond to you like chicks do; Guineas are different from chickens. They will however bond fairly well with chicks and if that bond is strong, your keets will be less likely to wander too far from home.
7. Guineas Love To Roost Up High
These birds love to roost high up.
You will need to build roosts in the coop that are high up from the floor. The perches will need to be sturdy as each Guinea will weigh around 4lbs. Make sure there is enough headroom for flying up so they do not get head injuries.
In terms of space on the roost they will each need at least 12 inches.
You will also need to have a small night light inside the coop to guide the Guineas home each night. Guineas do not like going into dark places so the light helps them to feel secure.
If they have not come home by nightfall you can assume they are perched up in a tree or some other high place for safety.
8. You Will Need To Raise Keets On Your Own
Guinea fowl are notoriously rotten mothers.
Although they will diligently sit on the eggs, once those eggs are hatched the mother will expect her little ones to keep up with her. Sadly many die from lack of attention or inability to keep up, so what do you do?
If you have a broody hen your problem is solved. She will hatch and care for those little ones until they are old enough to fend for themselves. This is absolutely the ideal solution because the keets will accept the hen as their mother and will have a better chance of survival than with their natural mother!
Your other option is to collect the eggs and incubate them yourself.
Guinea eggs take 26-28 days to hatch.
These birds do not lay all year round; instead they are cyclical layers. This means they will lay eggs during the warmer months.
The Guinea is fond of making nests in hedgerows or areas of dense cover so you may have trouble finding the nest. Nests are often communal which means they all lay eggs in one spot.
9. Guineas Can Act As Watch Dogs
The noise that Guineas make can be loud and irritating, but this noise is also a useful tool.
Guineas can act as watch dogs and call when something disturbs them and the noise is also thought to be a rodent deterrent.
They are also ferocious hunters and will eat mice and small snakes. Larger rodents such as rats can give them a run for the money, but researchers have found that few rodents care to live where Guineas live. They seem to know that the neighborhood is not safe and will move away.
10. Male Guineas Are Very Territorial
Male Guineas will treat the coop as their own and will not tolerate any roosters at all. If you keep roosters then you should not keep male Guineas or mix the two flocks.
The male Guineas will attack the rooster, deprive him of food and run him off.
This behavior ramps up in the breeding season and an overly amorous male Guinea might try to mate with a chicken. The male Guinea should be removed since they can cause injury to the hen.
11. Keets Will Imprint On Chicks
If you buy Guineas as keets you stand a much better chance of semi-domestication with them. Your chances improve greatly if you buy or have chicks that they can bond with. They will imprint on the chicks and recognize them as flock mates.
This is very important as the bond between chicks and keets will help to keep the Guineas coming back home.
You will need to keep them penned for the first few weeks to get them to accept that the coop is home. When raised with chicks and kept in an area designated as home they are much more likely to return.
However if you buy Guinea Fowl as adults then the likelihood of them staying in your locale diminishes rapidly. Guineas are wanderers by nature and really do not have a concept of home.
Many people have bought Guineas with the idea of keeping them near to the home only to have them wander off far and wide never to return. They are excellent flyers, so they can travel large distances if they wish. You have to be diligent about working with them and fulfilling their needs in order to have them stick around.
Depending on your outlook Guineas can be fun, interesting, and effective pest control or noisy, stupid, and suicidal.
As mothers they leave something to be desired but the species has endured so far and they show no signs of dying out anytime soon.
Guinea fowl thrive as pest control. You can put them in with your grown plants and they will do minimal damage to the plant but remove any and all bugs.
You will not need any home security as the Guinea will sound the alarm for anyone stopping by too.
They are certainly an acquired taste but these quirky, funny birds have a very firm following. Lots of people love them and would not be without them!
If you already raise chickens, remember that chickens and Guinea fowl are quite different in their habits but have some similarities that allow them to be kept together. If you have done your homework, they can live together peacefully. Many folks keep them both together and the system works very well for all concerned.
Are you ready to take the plunge? Remember, patience and repetition is needed to enjoy your Guinea hens.
Let us know your tips in the comments section below…