Today I’m learning just as much as you are! I’ve often wondered about raising guinea fowl, but have not yet taken the leap. After reading this post by Charles of The Chicken Review blog, I’m ready to bring home some guinea keets from the feed store next spring. I think they’ll make the perfect addition to our homestead–especially as snake repellent! Read on as Charles shares the scoop on why you need guineas on YOUR homestead—->
The guinea hen is often referred to as a guinea fowl. This unique bird is not native of the United States but actually comes from Africa, south of the Sahara.
The helmeted or domesticated guinea hen is a larger species than other guineas. This particular guinea fowl weighs almost 3 lbs. This is the common guinea we find here in the USA, and it displays grey body plumage sprinkled with small, white spots. This domesticated Guinea does not fly well, but is very apt at running and they are very fast. Their flight is a short glide and they are running upon touching the ground.
I still remember being raised around this unique bird and finding it was one of the hardest creatures ever to sneak up on! Our next door neighbor owned a good-sized farm and raised these birds, along with hundreds of chickens. They had a large, long chicken house and the chickens and guineas would all roost together. I was never able to to go to their home without the guineas announcing my arrival.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider adding guineas to your homestead:
The Benefits of Owning Guinea Hens
- Guineas are excellent free range birds
- They provide excellent bug control
- Guineas are talented at catching small snakes and small rodents
- Guineas give loud warnings when they spot a stranger or predator
- Guineas will consume about 90% of their food when free ranging
- Guineas will not scratch up your garden seed like chickens do
(Jill: I’ve always heard that Guineas were excellent at keeping snakes away from the barnyard! I’ve been wanting to get some for that very reason… And the idea that they won’t destroy your garden is appealing as well…)
Similarities of the Guinea Hen to Chickens
- Guineas need shelter, especially during the winter months
- You’ll need to feed them a ration, like you do your chickens (Although not as much if they free range)
- They lay eggs that you can eat
- Guineas are excellent meat birds (Many say better than chicken)
Although chickens are a good natural bug eliminator, guineas are even better! With a keen eye and lightning-fast peck, they will clean up ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. The diet of a guinea hen will consist of small animals and plants such as seeds, fruit, greens, small mammals, lizards, small snakes, frogs, worms, insects, spiders, etc! They are a wonderful clean-up crew.
Interestingly, the guinea hen is not a very good mother. They are known to abandon the nest and allow the eggs to spoil. The incubation period for the guinea hen is 26 -28 days, a little longer than the chicken who incubates in approximately 21 days. The guinea offspring are called keets. The male species are very aggressive toward one another and will fight often.
The one setback to raising guinea fowl? They are LOUD! They make a very loud high pitched harsh call when they are disturbed. They are some of the finest watch animals ever. Our neighbor never needed a dog during the day time as long as they raised guineas.
So, if you are thinking about owning Guinea’s remember:
- They are loud and can disturb your neighbors
- Guineas are more adapted to free range than most chickens. They are actually easier to take care of than chickens as they are great free range birds.
- If left to free range, they usually have less diseases than chickens do.
- They rarely stay within their property lines. If not fenced in a yard, they will wander over on your neighbor and have to be trained to stay home by your feeding them. They love to roam for their feed. It is in their nature to do so.
Guineas are loved by many types of people and if you ask the owners why they have them the answers may vary a bit! Some keep them to ward off snakes, some to be a bug and pest relief, some to work the garden and keep the beetles and such cleaned off the crop. Guinea are a very useful fowl in the right environment and can be a joy to watch.
So, are you ready to get some Helmeted Guinea Hens? If you live in the open, own a garden or out on a farm, they might just be a perfect fit for you!
My name is Charles and I am the owner of the Chicken Review Blog where we posts articles on chicken breeds, health, coops, incubators, feed, etc. I was born and raised in Southeastern Kentucky and many of us raised much of our own food including chickens and guineas. My wife Sandra and I have been writing for our web sites since January 2013. We love the simple country life and all the pleasures it affords.