If you are planning to raise Guinea hens in your backyard, you have come to the right place. This article will discuss everything you need to know about guinea hens. Keep reading to learn more.
The popularity of Guinea Hens has been on the rise in the recent past. These birds go by several names, but the common ones are Pet Speckled Hen and Guinea Fowl.
They are different from backyard chickens in habits and personality. However, they can make a wonderful bird.
History And Background
The modern domestic guinea fowl or guinea hen traces its roots back to wild Africa. In fact, the bird takes its name from its original place, West Africa’s Guinea Coast.
They were first recorded as early as 400 B.C. The modern guinea fowl has several nicknames, such as vulturine, helmeted guinea fowl, and tufted guinea fowl.
They belong to the Numida family and are related to turkeys, pheasants, and other game fowl.
Guinea fowl were first introduced to Europe in the 1400s. They later made their way to America with the slave ships and early settlers.
The helmeted guinea fowl is the most common type of modern guinea fowl. The breed tends to do well in warmer climates.
Guinea Hen Appearance And Breed Standard
There are many different types of guinea fowl. However, the helmeted guinea fowl is the most common type.
The types include:
- Black: Confined to central Africa.
- White-breasted: It is mainly found in West Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers it a vulnerable bird because of habitat loss.
- Vulturine: It is the largest type of guinea fowl. It has a very striking appearance and can become quite tame. This type also needs large groups in order to thrive.
- Plumed: Mainly found in central Africa.
- Helmeted: This is the most common domesticated guinea fowl. They have a central knob on the skull, which gives them the ‘helmet’ appearance.
- Crested: This is the most aggressive type. They tend to chase humans, including their owners. They also have a “curly mop’ on the head.
Guinea fowl come in various colors, including bronze, chocolate, white, buff, pearl, coral blue, and royal purple.
However, not all colors are recognized by the official standards. For instance, only the helmeted Guinea fowl is recognized in the United States of America.
The colors that are recognized are white, pearl, and lavender. The Australian standard allows white, cinnamon, pied coloration, white, pearl, and lavender.
A guinea fowl is almost the same size as a backyard chicken. They weigh around 4lb when fully mature. Their neck and head area is bare skin, which helps regulate temperature.
Their skin coloration is a combination of red, blue, and black hues. This gives them a somewhat clownish appearance.
Their beak is short, curved, and very stout. Male birds have larger wattles than their female counterparts, although some may not have wattles.
They do not reach sexual maturity until after two or three years. This makes it very difficult to sex them.
Male guinea fowl have a different vocalization from that of females. Therefore, you can easily differentiate the two through their vocalization.
Males will only emit a ‘chi, chi, chi’ sound while females will call what sounds like ‘buck-wheat.
Personality And Temperament
Guinea fowl are notoriously ill-tempered in adulthood and sweet-natured as chicks. They are highly social with their own and tend to travel in tight-knit flocks.
If one bird gets lost, she will call out until the flock comes to find her. These adorable birds can co-exist with other species like chickens.
However, you will need to take care of your male guinea fowl if you raise them with chickens. Male guinea fowl are usually very territorial and can run off roosters in the flock.
They can be bullies to smaller birds in a flock, and the pecking order can become brutal. However, if you raise them with chicks, it can be less of a problem.
Since they are semi-domestic at best, you can sometimes find them roosting on trees, or other high places come dusk.
Guinea fowl do not like staying or entering a dark place. Therefore, you will need to keep a low-output light bulb in their house until they are all settled.
If you want to keep them in confinement, give each bird a space of 2 or 3 square feet. Anything less of this, and your birds will be stressed.
Guinea fowl are semi-wild birds and will not generally do well in confinement. They are monogamous birds and mate for life in the wild.
Guineas are also pest control experts. They love to eat bugs such as wasps, ticks, mosquitos, caterpillars, worms, flies, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers.
They are very vocal birds. Their piercing calls and general noise can be irritating to some.
Therefore, it will be worth checking first with your neighbors before going ahead to keep them if you want to keep a cordial relationship with them. This is mostly true in urban areas.
These birds are seasonal layers. Depending on where you come from, they will lay eggs daily from March or April to around September or October.
Under good care and maintenance, a hen can lay around 100 eggs per year. Guinea fowl eggs are usually hard-shelled and smaller than the average chicken eggs.
Their eggs are speckled and light brown. They are also vibrant in eating. These birds are not fussy about where they lay eggs. They tend to lay anywhere they happen to be.
However, when they decide to make their nest, you will find it hard to locate it. They prefer laying their eggs in long grass, woods, or anything that can hide them from predators.
Males are a bit aggressive and will stand guard for their female counterparts and watch for any danger during the daylight hours.
Hens are communal egg layers and will lay in one nest until enough eggs are. They can also be communal breeders, taking turns in nest sitting.
If you want to collect eggs for eating or hatching, you must keep them penned up to around noontime. They tend to lay before noontime, making it easier for you to collect their eggs.
Guinea fowl brood their eggs for 25 to 28 days until the keets hatch. Once they hatch, they follow their mother back to the flock.
Some may not make the journey as they are very susceptible to wetness and cold before four weeks of age to die from hypothermia as well as predation on the long march.
Keets who make it through the first four weeks stand a better chance of becoming adults. They may also become one of the hardiest birds in the flock.
Health Issues And Care
These birds have resisted human attempts to ‘improve’ and domesticate the species very well. Because of this, they rarely have any health issues.
Guinea fowl are hardy birds that can do well in most climates. However, they do not like cold or wet snow. Since they have an African origin, climate issues are to be anticipated.
They prefer warm climates or environments. If you keep them draft-free and dry, they will thrive and do just well in their housing.
When catching them, you should never catch them by the legs. If you do, they can turn around quickly, and they may dislocate or break a leg.
Your guinea keets will need a feed rich in protein (24-28%) until they are around five weeks old.
After five weeks, you can reduce the protein to 18-20% up to week 9. At week 9, you can further reduce it to 16%.
Their feed should be crumbled or mashed. You should avoid giving them pelleted feed. Also, you should not give them medicated feed as it can be highly toxic.
Tips For Raising Guinea Fowl
Here are a few tips to successfully raise guinea fowl.
Start your flock with one-day-old keets
Experts suggest starting off your flock with day-old guinea fowl keets. This will make it easy for you to shape their behavior, noise level, and sociability into adulthood.
Confine your birds to the chicken coop for the first five weeks
Guinea fowl are generally territorial and aggressive birds. They are also vulnerable birds, especially in the first few weeks of life.
If you confine keets to the kitchen coop for the first five weeks, they will learn that it is their home. With this, they will be returning home when they grow old.
Give your guinea fowl high roost inside the coop
Unlike your common backyard chickens, guinea fowl tend to roost in trees at night. Therefore, they will need higher perches inside their coop.
Keep them separate from other birds
Guinea fowl are usually more aggressive than other birds and may bully them. Therefore, you need to keep them in a separate house.
Guinea hens have become popular in the recent past because of their unique personalities as well as pest-control talents.
They also have tasty eggs and meat. However, these birds can be noisier than other birds. If you plan to raise them, be sure your neighbors are accommodating.