All About Guinea Fowl {And why you need them on your homestead!}

raising guinea fowl

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…)

Guinea Hen

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.

Guinea Hen 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!

Guinea Hen

 

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.

 

 


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Comments

  1. Carroll the Irishman says:

    Excellent information. I knew they were loud which is okay as long as they pipe down after dark. I did NOT know they were from Africa. That’s very interesting. I’d like to know how they came to America in the first place. I also didn’t know they were lousy mothers so, an incubator is a must I’m guessing. What’s the size of their egg compared to a chicken keeping in mind they’re different sizes too. I enjoyed the read.

    • They’re eggs are a little smaller than the size of a chickens. When they hatch, they look like a very small turkey!

      • Carroll the Irishman says:

        Thanks for your reply about the eggs. Haha…..wonder if they’d keep ticks off my Bloodhound.

        • If the bloodhound would let them, I am sure they would eat the ticks right off of him. That is how they live in Africa. They live with larger animals, like the Rhino and keep them free of bugs while the Rhino protects them of predators.

  2. Our neighbors have guineas! They used to have quite a few of them, but, they have been taken by predators, so they only have one left. It often flys over our fence and can’t figure out how to get back over! Makes me laugh. They are loud, but they also are great for keeping ticks and such at bay!

    • Genipher says:

      Maybe you could suggest the neighbor clip one of its wings so it stays on the right side of the fence?

  3. Jill thank you so much for this post! I have been toying with the idea of Guinea Hens. We have a bad tick problem and snakes so this may be perfect solution.

  4. Kimberley O. says:

    Guinea fowl are great for keeping predators at bay, not foolproof, but we have watched ours chase a fox out of the yard and they always run off strange dogs. We only have guinea cocks now as our hens would nest in the tall weeds therefore making them vulnerable to predators.

  5. Tiffany Rogers says:

    Funny you post this today since we have been talking seriously about picking some up at our next farm swap! I knew they were good guard dogs and ate ticks and fleas(one of our biggest problems with 4 dogs) but I didn’t know about the snakes! Good to know since we have a variety here in Florida!

  6. I can attest that they do taste better than chicken – but I’m not sure I want to raise them. They are pretty obnoxiously loud, and if they ARE free range, they can be hard to control or train to lay in nesting boxes.I also didn’t notice this article mentioning that the eggs are quite a bit smaller than chicken eggs – something to consider, especially if you do need to end up feeding them a bit to keep them tamer.

  7. Is there an issue with males getting along with roosters?

  8. Lesli Langsmith says:

    We had guineas on our farm in Alabama. When they say they are LOUD – that doesn’t do them justice. They are incredibly LOUD and they never shut up. We had a 6 foot fence around our 1/2 acre chicken run and coop area that didn’t even come close to containing them. They never went into the chicken coop with the chickens at night. They just found the nearest tree and flew up there. Since they were completely uncontainable we lost all of them to predators within 6 months. We tried again the next season and lost 20 more before we gave up. To keep them successfully, you would need a fully enclosed run, which would defeat the purpose of free-ranging tick-eating birds! i would never get them again.

    • Claudia says:

      20 years ago we had guineas, a turkey (male), geese, and chickens.They all free ranged on an acre or two. The chickens and guineas roosted in the chicken house with no problems. Had males in all of the flocks and NEVER saw fighting between the males. Opened the chicken house each morning and let all that were in out. The chickens would run where ever they wanted. The guineas had a path that they ranged on all around the cleared area at the forest line. Loved to watch them!

  9. Excellent article! I’d love to add some to our place, however we have lots of cats, 22 to be exact. Not by choice. Most were feral and before we could trap an fix them, they had kittens! Now they are all fixed and do a great job keeping the little critters out of our barn. For the first time ever we have no feed damage at all. Question. How are these Guineas at keeping the cats at bay? Thanks for the article.

    • farmmom says:

      Our cats, chickens and guineas have an understanding it seems. Scraps belong to the guineas first. The guineas will peck whoever or whatever forgets that. The cats and chickens share the leftovers. We always keep the new guineas in a pen until they are able to fly well. No problems losing them to the cats or dogs. Those beaks must hurt more than chicken beaks

  10. We had wanted to get some guinea fowl for eating the ticks, but the more I read about them, the more I new they wouldn’t work for our place. One thing I read about them is you can’t have guinea fowl if you raise bee’s. They will stand at the entrance of the hive and eat every single bee!

  11. Shirley says:

    I have had two guinea hens for about six years now and I have been delighted with them. They have mingled very well with any chicken I have gotten over these years. They do raze a ruckus when something strange is on the property, great watch hens!!!

  12. We have had guineas for 3 years. we grow them up with the chicks so they are coop trained at night. They are loud!!! the females never stop talking!!seriously. Our males chase the fox into the woods and they are better at watching the flock than the roosters. They have picked on one of our roosters terriibly. They pluck his tail feathers and I’d swear they were trying to kill him. Right now (one named Mikey has a barred rock Sally for his girlfriend). Its kind of cute!! If you have neighbors that dont mind the noise I would definatley get them. BTW, their meat is dark and wonderful….

  13. We had 6 of them about 3 years ago and now are down to 1. He just hangs with the chickens (though he is a big bully to all the chickens…even the roosters). They are excellent alarms if a predator is around. Once a coyote came down to our chicken coop and the Guinea Fowl alerted us to it. Then challenged it and kept it at bay until I was able to chase it off. We just got 15 guinea keets 2 weeks ago. So I’m excited to have more.

  14. My grandmother just got a few to help with snake control. They’re still babies and she has a little hutch built for them. She said that if you give them a treat at night and call it something like “cookie” and call them, they’ll come home and go to roost. She’s going to train them for that. I can’t wait to meet them soon, they’re such funny and interesting little birds :)

  15. Guineas are great but really really loud and dummy.
    Once I read somewhere that all the guineas is the world share one brain and it´s never your guineas day to hear it. I have had guineas for 2 years now and can attest to that.
    On the other end they really do a good job protecting all fowl and get along great with the chickens. They all free range together and came to the coop for a treat and to roost at night. Their eggs are as good as chickens only a bit smaller and their meat is way better than chicken meat.
    Since a have them free ranging on my yard I never again seen another tick and flea on my 5 dogs.

  16. free range says:

    My mother owns a flock. They are very susceptible to predators and being hit by cars because they are fairly unintelligent and tend to walk into bad situations and you can’t keep them in fences. . They are terrible mothers and if their babies do manage to hatch, they are often lead into dangerous situations and left there. The adults are incredibly noisy all the time (but deafeningly so when anyone or any thing approaches them). They are great foragers and keep pests at bay. These are not fowl I would choose to own.

  17. Esavvymom says:

    We have 9. They are loud, especially in their first year as they get used to the sights and sounds. I read one person say they would never do them again because the predators got them, etc. just like with chickens, you have to train them in the coop. We raised ours from keets. They stayed in the coop for the first 9-12 weeks. Then they were let out into the enclosed run, but NOT outside to free range. They were not let outside until about 16 weeks. They were used to us giving them millet treats in the evening. Now they free range very well and come in at dusk, especially when we come out with millet. Our property (~5 acres) does have a fence all the way around, so it keeps them contained. They just circle the yard all day long. Occasionally, one will fly over the fence and get “stuck” for a little while but they still manage to stay with the flock which is on the other side of the fence.

    They do help greatly reduce the ticks though. We notice the difference immediately between being IN the fenced yard and OUTSIDE the fence, simply by the number of ticks you pick up.

  18. We are raising some keets now. First time doing this. I am playing classical music on the radio to see if that may help them be a little more calm. Fun experiment.

  19. How do you keep free range birds (geese chickens guineas etc) from running away? I just getting into this homesteading idea and I can’t really understand how you let them out in the morning and then they just go back in their coop at night.

    • Our birds just know where home is and stick around. :) When they are babies or new to the homestead, I’ll watch them more carefully and only let them out with supervision, but once they are older, they never stray far.