After we had purchased our first small flock of chickens I decided that I wanted to get some guineas. I heard they were great tick eaters and we needed something to help with tick control. I didn’t really know anything about guineas and I thought they weren’t much different from having chickens. I was about to find out that was not true. We bought a cage of guineas at a local auction and I thought I’d keep them penned up with the chickens for a week before letting them out to free range. Luckily for us a wiser older neighbor informed us that if we didn’t keep them penned up for at least six weeks they would probably all run off as soon as we turned them loose. This was good advice as they will indeed take off if they haven’t been made accustomed to your farm and learned that this is home. As it was when we turned them loose we still lost a few but most stuck around. “This post contains Amazon Affiliate links” If you are new to guineas I highly recommend the book “Gardening with Guineas: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Guinea Fowl on a Small Scale” by Jeannette S. Ferguson as it is full of useful guinea information and I still refer to it on occasion.
Guineas are meant to free range and are not happy being kept confined. Our whole reason for getting them was for tick control so confining them would be defeating the very reason for having them. If you are raising them for meat or raising birds to sell then keeping them confined would be the best option. To do so you would need to have a wire or net covering on their run. They can and do fly so an open top most likely won’t keep them in unless the fence is well over six feet tall. By free ranging birds you run the risk of them being attacked by predators. As we have found out it may be necessary to replenish the guinea flock every year or so unless the guineas themselves hatch more keets on their own. We have a farm dog who does a good job guarding the birds but he can’t be everywhere all of the time. The female guineas have a habit of wanting to go out into the neighbors field across the road and make a nest and then sit there all day and call “buck-wheat” “buck-wheat” until something comes and eats them; they may as well ring a dinner bell. By the way, “buckwheat” is what it sounds like the females say when they are calling and that is the best way of telling the females from the males. If your guineas have been raised in a coop they may return to the coop around dusk to roost and then they can be safe from predators at night. However I have found that many times mine will choose to spend the night outside roosting up on top of the run or on a nearby tree branch. There is no sense trying to catch them and put them inside as they will only get all stressed out and you won’t catch them anyways. If it’s after dark they can’t see to get back up onto their roost and now they’re in more danger spending the night on the ground so it’s best just to leave them be.
I have successfully incubated guinea eggs several times. I found the book “Gardening with Guineas” to be very helpful in this respect. Guineas are essentially a wild bird and it is amazing that they seem to come out of the shell that way. If you want to tame one it take lots of time handling them as keets. Keets are what young guineas under 12 weeks of age are called. The tamest one I ever had was one that was a lone survivor of a hatch and I spent a lot of time handling him. When he was grown he would come right up to me for pets and scratches. One thing that helps to tame a guinea is to offer them white millet seed; they simply go nuts for it and will even eat it out of your hand. You can even teach them to come to your call by training them with some white millet seed. After you have won the trust of your guineas and they learn that you are the bearer of grain they will follow you around when they want some. They also learn to follow after the lawn mower looking for bugs. I’ve even seen them standing next to our dog Tito looking into a hole he was digging waiting for him to unearth a bug or worm they could eat. They’re very cautious birds but also very curious. One guinea fell in love with his own reflection in the chrome bumper of my husband’s truck and he’d spend hours looking at it. This caused a bit of an annoyance for my husband when he tried to drive his truck as the guinea would get upset and follow it out the drive way. I ended up having to hang a mirror in the coop so he would leave the truck alone.
Guineas also like to eat weed seeds so they can help with weed control as well as bug control. They don’t scratch the way a chicken does so they won’t rip up your vegetable and flower gardens. They like to walk among the plants in your garden looking for any bugs they can pick off the plants. They will however take the opportunity to take a dust bath in a freshly prepared seed bed. Another benefit to having guineas is the fact that they hate snakes and will kill them when they find them. Some people like having snakes around but I’m not a fan of having any snakes in my buildings so if the guineas keep them away that’s fine with me.
While having guineas on a farm can be beneficial they are not for everyone. If you have close neighbors who do not like guineas then they are not a good idea. Guineas have absolutely no respect for property lines and they can be quite noisy at times. They are good watch birds as the slightest sign of anything out of the normal sends them into a ruckus that could wake the dead. However many times it’s a false alarm and they just saw something they didn’t like the look of. After a while you will learn the difference between their cries of “wolf” and when there is definitely something wrong. Even our dog has learned to tell when they are really serious about something and he needs to get there right away and see what is going on. If you have chickens then guineas are a good addition as they will alert you to any predators trying to get your chickens. Guineas and chickens get along just fine and can be kept in the same coop. Sometimes the noise guineas make when alarmed is enough to scare away a predator. The male guineas are quiet most of the time unless they are alarmed but the females will sometimes do their “buckwheat” call for hours. All of this noise making could get you on the bad side of your neighbors if they live too close by so be sure that guineas are really suited for where you live. If you do have close neighbors you might try selling them on the benefits of having guineas as they will eat your neighbors bugs as well.
Guineas are good egg layers during their laying season which normally runs from March thru October. If they are free ranging the yolks will be a deep orange from all the good nutrition they are getting from all the bugs they are eating. Beware that guinea eggs do not crack easily like chicken eggs. It came as quite a surprise the first time I tried to crack one open. Thankfully I use cast iron skillets so I can really give them a good crack to open them. Guinea eggs are generally a bit smaller than chicken eggs but I have had some hens that lay some pretty fair sized eggs. Guineas are also very tasty to eat. Their meat is all dark meat and it has a very delicate flavor. They are a delicacy in fine restaurants and are sometimes served as a replacement for pheasant. I have found that the legs are a bit on the tough side due to their active lifestyle and are best used in soup but other than that the meat is tender and delicious.
I love having my guineas and I enjoy watching them as they roam about the farm eating bugs. They can be very entertaining. If you think guineas are right for you then give them a try. You might end up liking them as much as I do.
Thanks for stopping by.
For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me.