Guineas and Guinea Keets
Guinea fowl have become very popular because they will quickly, safely rid an area of disease carrying ticks, as well as other insect pests and small rodents. Guineas make great pest exterminators for gardens too. But as people learn that Guinea fowl are also entertaining, personable and family-friendly birds, they are also starting to fill a niche as family pets.
Guinea Fowl are Natural Exterminators
Helmeted guinea fowl are native to Africa. However they are rapidly growing in popularity around the world, especially in the United States. The reason is because they have a voracious appetite for of bugs, and one of their favorites is the tick.
Big Appetites for Large Variety of Things
Besides having a voracious appetite for bugs, guineas also dine on grasses, weeds and their seeds. They are also carnivores and keep barns free of mice. They hate snakes and they will warn of, drive off or kill any snakes they come across. They also make a superb predator alarm system. Guinea fowl will make quite the noisy raucous whenever any change occurs in their environment.
Sizes and Colors
The original and most common color of helmeted Guinea fowl is called pearl. Each feather has a dark gray background and white spots called “pearls” on a very dark gray. Selective breeding has increased color choices to a mind boggling number. They come in two sizes. The originally domesticated variety of Guinea fowl weighs up to about 3½ pounds. Jumbo Guinea fowl are a genetically improved strain that weighs from 5 -7 pounds. We decided to raise the jumbo because they have the potential to consume more bugs and also make a nice sized roasting bird.
Guinea fowl, are capable of short flights. When startled they burst into the air like a pheasant. During the day they eat, breed, nest and lay their eggs on the ground. Like chickens, Guinea fowl like to roost on some kind of perch during the night. People who raise them usually provide some kind of coop with roomy perches. This keeps the birds dry, warmer and safe from nocturnal predators such as owls, raccoons, skunks, foxes and possums.
Guinea fowl are flocking birds so they need the company of others of their species. Three or four Guinea fowl is a minimally acceptable size flock size to make the birds comfortable and content. All members of the flock will establish a pecking order.
Guinea offspring are called keets. For people who have never kept Guinea fowl it’s best to start with keets. You’ll want to train your Guinea fowl to come to their coop each night and this is most easily done starting when they are keets.
For complete information on how to successfully raise Guinea fowl keets, visit the Guinea Fowl International Association’s forum at: http://www.guineafowlinternational.org/forum/. Join the forum and you can ask specific questions and get knowledgeable responses quickly. It’s an invaluable resource for the Guinea fowl keeper!
Is it a boy or a girl?
With chicks or ducklings, sex is determined by vent sexing. This is not possible with Keets. The only way to tell the sex, with any degree of certainty, in the early stages of a keet’s life is through genetic testing. This is not usually done because of the expense. This is why we only sell keets in a straight run.
If you can wait out the suspense for 8 or 9 weeks, keets begin vocalizing in sounds unique to their sex. The adult guinea male is called a cock. He makes a one-syllable sound when alerted by anything unusual. He makes a ONE-syllable sound only: “CHI-CHi-Chi-chi…”. The adult female is called the guinea hen. She makes a two-syllable sound: “buck-wheat, buck-wheat”. She can imitate the sound of the cock but the cock cannot imitate the hen.
As adults, the cocks may also be recognized by having larger wattles than the female, and a somewhat larger helmet. Although physical characteristics may suggest the sex of an adult guinea fowl, sound is the sure way to determine the sex.
Keeping Guinea fowl is not for everyone. They do tend to wander a bit, and some neighbors might not appreciate their insect removing skills in their yards. They also make quite a noise when they are disturbed about something like strangers, unknown animals or cars. Again, neighbors might not like hearing the Guinea fowl ‘alarm’ go off. Beekeepers should not raise Guinea fowl within ¼ mile of their hives. Guinea fowl keepers need a safe, enclosed home (coop) for their flock, and a fenced area is also very nice to have. Small coops can be purchased on line, and larger coops are relatively easy and inexpensive to build.
Guinea fowl are inexpensive to purchase and maintain, easy to raise to maturity, naturally perform some very worthwhile tasks around the homestead, and are a constant source of entertainment. They provide nutritious eggs during the spring and summer months and their colorful, patterned feathers are sought after by many artists. A small flock of Guinea fowl might be just what your home and family need. They certainly deserve a close look. I have a flock of 30 wonderful pearl gray Guinea fowl and there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure: I will always keep Guinea fowl on the property.