Guinea Hens For Beginners (The Complete Care Sheet)

When people first see or hear a Guinea Hen their reaction is usually to ask what is that?

Guineas have a unique alarm call when they are disturbed!

They are also very odd looking. Guineas look nothing like chickens and have very different personalities too.

While they may never be pets they can become quite friendly. As an organic pest control solution they really cannot be beaten.

Do you want to learn more about this interesting bird?

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about: egg laying, using them as pest control, keeping them with chickens and much more…

Helmeted Guineafowl

Guinea Hen Overview

Guinea

Guinea Hens may look like the clowns of the barnyard, but in fact they are very useful birds to have around!

If you live in an area where you suffer from ticks and other nasty bugs then the Guinea will take care of things for you. They are voracious hunters of insects, and will eat ticks and other creepy crawlies in your yard.

However, if you do want to get some, there are some things to be aware of before you buy.

Firstly, these birds are noisy.

They make a fantastic early warning system against and will sound off on predators, intruders, the neighbor walking the dog, leaves blowing by – you get the idea! They are definitely not recommended if you have close neighbors.

Also these birds do not like being picked up or held – they will scream at you until you put them down.

They are birds that like to free range and do not do well in confinement.

Although they can share living arrangements with chickens you should be aware that males are extremely territorial and will fight with your roosters.

Guinea Hen
Beginner Friendly: No.
Lifespan: 10-15 years.
Weight: 2-5lb.
Color: Pearl, white, lavender, royal purple, coral blue, buff, chocolate and bronze.
Egg Production: 2-3 per week.
Egg Color: Brown with dark speckles.
Known For Broodiness: No.
Good With Children: No.
Cost of Chicken: $5.

What Is It Like To Own A Guinea Hen?

Guineafowl

Guinea Hens are very active birds.

They like nothing better than patrolling for bugs. They will hunt together and are an amusing sight as they stalk across the lawn in search of prey.

Guineas are also good flyers so do not be surprised to find them roosting in your trees or other high places! Getting them to roost safely in the coop can be a challenge. A combination of routine and bribery works for many folks, but you have to be persistent.

You should also know that these birds are clumsy.

They will often step on their keets and not realize. If you have keets a brooder will give them a much better chance of survival.

Personality

Guinea fowl are very sociable within their group.

They will all move around together, unlike chickens who are much more independently minded.

Because they are a flock bird, if one Guinea gets separated from the rest it will keep calling until the flock comes to find it.

Although they can come to tolerate or even like their keepers, they dislike being handled in any way and avoid close contact with humans. The males are protective of their ladies and can be aggressive with intruders. Males will run off any roosters you have if they live in the same pen.

Males are however caring and nurturing with their keets.

They actively help to raise their young.

Egg Production

Guineas will not lay eggs all year round.

They are seasonal layers and tend to lay between March-April and September-October.

When they do lay eggs they tend to not use the nesting box so if you want the eggs you should keep the hens confined to the coop area until noon.

Guineas are communal layers so egg clutches can be huge – up to 50 eggs is not unheard of! They are secretive about their egg stashes. They will frequently lay and brood out in a field or hedgerow. They may seem to have gone missing only to turn up with some bedraggled keets behind them.

The eggs are similar in appearance to chicken eggs but a bit more pointed at one end. They are light brown to brown with dark brown spots. The eggs are slightly higher in protein and fat than chicken eggs but are said to be rich and creamy like duck eggs.

Egg Production
Eggs Per Week: 2-3 Eggs.
Color: Brown with dark brown spots.
Size: Small (half size of chicken egg).

Noise Levels

Guineas are loud!

Because they are so loud it would not be suitable to raise them in an urban area.

However, if you need a burglar alarm then the Guinea hen is it. They will announce to the whole neighborhood that there are strangers or visitors in the area.

Appearance

Guinea Hen

There are several types of Guinea Hens:

  • Helmeted
  • Vulturine
  • White breasted
  • Black
  • Plumed
  • Crested

The most common domesticated variety is the Helmeted Guinea fowl.

Some of the most popular colors are: pearl, white, lavender, royal purple, coral blue, buff, chocolate and bronze. However, only lavender, pearl and white are accepted colors in the US.

Helmeted Guineas are a round or oval shape, tapering to a short tail.

They have a featherless head and neck area, and a large bony knob on the top of the head (this is where their name comes from). The skin around the head and neck is a garish combination of red, blue and black.

Guineas have short beaks but they can be used as a formidable weapon against rodents and small animals.

The males’ wattles are larger than the girls’ but some birds do not have any wattles at all. Finally, they have unfeathered legs with four toes on each foot and very sharp claws which are used for digging and scratching.

In terms of size they are very similar to chickens, perhaps a little taller and definitely rounder. They can weigh from 2-5lb depending on the age and sex (with the females being heavier).

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Guineas are good pest exterminators and even eat mice and rats.
  • Very good intruder alarm and protects your property against intruders.
  • They are very tolerant to warmer climates and the heat.
  • Have a very long lifespan of 10-15 years.

Cons:

  • Not very friendly with humans.
  • Very loud so not suitable for suburbs.
  • Don’t like to roost in a coop so not good around predators.

Guinea Hen Care Guide

Guinea Hen with Keets

These birds are hardy but dislike snowy and wet climates.

If you are keeping them in Northern climates then they need to have adequate shelter and food.

Because of their untouched gene pool they are tough and hardy once they become adults. They are remarkably disease resistant and there really are not any specific diseases that afflict them other than the usual parasites of lice, mites and worms.

All of these minor problems can be kept in check with regular health checks.

Feeding

Adult Guineas should be fed turkey or game feed with at least 16% protein. Most keepers feed their birds in the morning and evening turning them loose after breakfast so they go on pest patrol.

They tend to ignore pellets so stick to mash or crumbles.

Do not give them any medicated feed as it is toxic for them.

If you let them roam they will eat large amounts of bugs, weed seeds, berries, and greens. They will eat larger things such as small snakes and mice if they have the chance to. If your Guinea Hens eat greens then you should supply a bowl of insoluble grit for them. This will help them digest the greens better. Also make sure that fresh water is always available to them.

Coop Setup and Roaming

Guinea Hens require slightly less coop space than standard chickens.

They spend very little time in the coop so each Guinea will need 2-3 square feet each inside the coop.

For roosting space they will each need 8-10 inches.

As for nesting boxes they dislike using nest boxes as they would prefer to lay free range. If you want the eggs for eating, selling or hatching, you will have to keep them locked in the coop area until around noon each day. They should have laid by this time and they will be anxious to get out and about.

Just remember this bird does not thrive in close confinement. They need a large area to remain happy and active. A large area that has been cordoned off with electric fencing would be acceptable, but bear in mind that they can fly quite well.

They will roam far and wide in their unrelenting quest for bugs, seeds and other good stuff to eat.

Guineas will patrol your yard and lawns, scrubby areas, woods and hedgerows. If startled they can fly up into the trees for safety. It has been said that the noise that Guinea fowl make deters rodents and snakes from entering the area patrolled by them.

They are good at evading predators and are quick to raise an alarm about anything that is unfamiliar to them.

Breed History

The Guinea hen belongs to the Numida family of fowl.

This family is closely related to other game birds such as turkey, pheasant and grouse.

Guineas originated in Africa and they can still be found roaming in sub-Saharan areas today.

They were first documented by ancient Greeks who travelled extensively in the Mediterranean area. It is thought that the birds may have been traded for goods by sailors around 5BC.

Romans were the first people to try and tame them.

They discovered Guineas in Africa and took them back to their farms in Italy and the surrounding areas. While they were able to farm them for meat and eggs, they never really tamed the Guinea and it has always retained its wild side.

In recent years farmers and homesteaders have been trying to reduce their use of pesticides.

The Guinea fowl has been embraced by many as an effective form of pest management, with the added benefits of eggs!

Guinea Hen Pictures

Summary

Guinea Hens can certainly test your patience, but the benefits of this odd bird are undeniable.

As mothers they can leave something to be desired, as they are seemingly quite careless with both eggs and the keets. If you want to get some baby keets, you may be safer using an incubator.

They are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they certainly do have a place on the homestead.

Let us know in the comments section below about your Guinea Hens…

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

1 Comment

  1. Great info on guinea fowl, l am trying to transfer my guineas x 3 over to pellets, with some success(as l have silkies x2& Araucanas x2) & the breeder suggested golden yolk pellets. But my guineas still perfer the wild grain.

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