Monday, 27 February 2012

Glorious Guinea Fowl

If you've ever been in Usk in the summer, perhaps you've heard my guineas, or seen them as they sneak through the grass in my yard hunting for bugs.

I got guinea fowl a few summers ago, by getting some eggs shipped to me from a very nice lady all the way in Saskatchewan.  My neighbour had an incubator, and so we popped the beautiful little eggs into it.  Twenty eight days later, the cutest little chicks chicks hatched, and I took them home down the road in a little box.

Taking them out of the box to put under the heat light, I was so excited!  Their little legs and feet were the brightest of oranges.  Baby Guinea Fowl are called Keets.  I fed them chick starter.

Baby Guinea Fowl aren't the friendliest of chicks.  I think they are a little wild, and are more flighty then chicken chicks.  They don't seem to enjoy being cuddled as much, and peep very loudly when you catch them.  I have heard if you handle them often from day one, every day that they can become friendlier.  They are also pretty good at flying as well, from a young age.  I had one escape from the brooder in the basement once, and it took me a long time to find it.  Finally I heard it peep, and found it on top of a stack of egg cartons, on top of the fridge.  Wow.

Their first set of feathers that come in, aren't spotty, but have a brownish color with fine stripes in it.  I imagine, this is because in the wild in Africa, everything wants to eat a guinea fowl.  At 8 weeks old they are starting to get spotty.

This one isn't really spotty, but more of a pretty blue purple colour.  She's just getting in her big girl feathers.  There are different colours of Guinea's but I mostly have Pearl Guinea Fowl, which are the most common. 

Pearl Guinea Fowl.  They have the prettiest feathers all spotted.  People use their feathers for tying fishing fly, feather jewellery and crafts.  This one is quite young.  Her helmet on her head is still growing, and the downy strips have disappeared.

I have found Guinea Fowl to be quite hardy birds once they get past the small chick size.  They seem to handle winter well, and be quite resistant to the more common poultry diseases.  These one are out on a cool winters day enjoying the sun. 

Who would have ever thought that a bird could have such pretty eyelashes?

Guinea Fowl are pretty hard to tell apart when they are young.  Even as adults it can be very difficult.  One of the ways you can tell the female from the male is by listening.  The female makes a loud sound when she calls that sounds kind of like she is saying "Buck-wheat!  Buck-wheat!"  If you look closely when they are older, you will see that the females have smaller wattles and helmet.

The male has larger, brighter wattles and a larger helmet.

I don't know if it is normal or not, but I noticed one thing last year.  Mine seemed to pair up.  I had two males and two females.  And they each seemed to stay with their mate.  Well, they would also hang around in a group, but it seemed that if they did split up, it was in pairs.

One of my hens went broody.  She just sort of disappeared, and I would see the male walking around all by his lonesome.  But he seemed to be hanging around my Black Currant patch.  One day, when I noticed her in the yard, I watched her, and seen her disappear into the patch.  I followed her and seen her hidden in the middle of the patch. 

When she next came out, I went and looked and sure enough there was a nice big clutch of eggs.  She had both chicken and guinea fowl eggs she was sitting on.  I removed the chicken eggs and tossed them, not knowing how old they were.

Guinea fowl are seasonal layers.  They lay in the spring and summer months.  Their eggs are a smallish egg, with a round bottom and a pointy top.  They have very thick hard shells.  I have heard them called Saddle Eggs, because they are good to take camping or horse back riding, because of their toughness.

The male seemed very lonely when she was sitting.  He would try and hang around with the other pair of guinea fowl, but the other male guinea fowl, kept chasing him off.  Then he would fly up onto the chicken house and call, and call, oh so lonely without his lady love.

I felt rather sorry for them.  He in his loneliness, and she in her broodiness.  She sat there, day after day, for almost a month.  Rain or Shine, she sat there, only occasionally coming out for a quick bite to eat or drink of water.  I peaked in once when it was raining, to see her hunched over her precious brood of eggs, keeping them dry and warm.  I wasn't sure what to do for her, because I didn't want to disturb her.  If I got to close she would run off the nest, so I just left her and crossed my fingers, occasionally checking to make sure she was ok.

Finally the day came when she emerged.  and behind her were 5 little keets, all peeping.  We were so happy, and so was the papa.  You can see the babies hidden in the grass.

Well, one thing about guinea keets is, they don't handle dampness well.  We live in an area that has lots of rain, and I worried for these little guys.  So I caught the babies as they struggled through the grass, putting them in a bucket.  Of coarse, Mama was very concerned.  Guinea Keets peep very loudly, so I took the bucket and put it in a little covered pen.  The babies, continued to peep, and of course Mama followed the sound of her darlings into the pen.  I reached in, gently tipped the bucket over and shut the gate.  It was actually easier then I thought it would be.  The Daddy hung around outside of the pen, watching his love and their babies.

I left them in the pen for about 6 weeks until their feathers came in, and they could handle the dampness of the grass, then let them out.   To be honest, I wasn't sure how the daddy would react to his babies.  But it turned out he was a great Dad.  They took to him, and he to them.  

Mama and baby.

The beautiful family.

It was really neat seeing them go as a family group, the babies following both parents.

I incubated some of my own guinea fowl as well last summer.  They incubate similar to chickens, but you need higher humidity, and it takes them 26 -28 days to incubate.  For the first 25 days, they need to be at 65% humidity, and for the last 3 days up it until 80%.

And they're so darn cute!

When they were old enough, I let them outside to free range with the rest of them.  It didn't take long for the youngsters to leave the company of chickens and go to mingle with the rest of the guinea fowl.  It's a good idea to keep young guinea fowl or new adult guinea fowl locked up for several weeks until they know were to return in the night.

You can see a few different ages of guinea fowls going, but from the hens brood and the ones I incubated.  All getting along.

There is something about watching guinea fowl free ranging in the yard.  They always seem to be on the go.  Sometimes watching the guinea fowl go, they remind me of ladies of olden days with long skirts lifted as they daintily step across the lawn, with their little legs and feet peeping out from under the polka dotted feathers.  They are really entertaining to watch.  Sometimes they are sneaking along, looking for unsuspecting bugs, then the next minute they are running as only the guinea's can or taking off in flight. 

Guinea Fowl are excellent foragers, and free range very well once they know were home is.  They are great at eating all sorts of bugs, like ants and ticks.  They also seem to enjoy the odd berry, grain and crusts of bread, given the chance.  Other then that, my guineas basically eat whatever I feed my chickens, including Layer.  In the winter, they get layer and scratch and seem to do well on this diet.

Although, I've kept guinea fowl in the past with the chickens, I find that in the winter, it is better to keep the guinea fowl in a separate chicken house, as the male guinea's can be aggressive with the chickens, and sometimes horde food.  In the summer, I let the Guinea fowl free range with the chickens, and the chickens quickly learn to stay out of the way of the guinea fowl.

Guinea Fowl make excellent guard birds.  They are not aggressive to people or other animals, and keep a sharp eye out on the sky and on the yard.  If anything comes around they sure let you know.  They will all start screeching at once, very, very loud.  For this reason, perhaps if you live in an area with close neighbours, guinea fowl might not be a good idea.

Last summer several times they alerted us of hawks over head, or attacking chickens.  In one attack we were surprised to see the guinea fowl running around in circles and right up to the hawk who was eating my favourite rooster.  Boy, was I surprised at their nerve!  I'm not sure it they are very brave or very stupid.  I like to think that perhaps they were just keeping a close eye on the danger.

Another time, we were woken at five in the morning to a racket, and looked out the window to see the guinea fowl taking off at a run, screeching all the way.  There was a bear in the yard, and they were letting us know.  One thing we noticed, is that guinea fowl squawk all the time, but if they are squawking, and running, take notice.  Even the chickens have learned to heed the call of the guinea fowl, and will run for cover.

Sometimes though, the guinea fowl just like to make noise for the sheer sake of it.  I notice that just about every evening, they like to fly up onto the chicken house roof and sit there and call.  I enjoy the call of the guinea fowl most times.  I think it gives an exotic feel to the evening, and if you close your eyes you can imagine yourself in far away lands.

There are times when I question the intelligence of these birds.  A couple times now, in the winter, when I let the birds out to go down the trial, or onto the porch of the chicken house, I have had them fly up into tree's.  One thing they do not like to do is land in snow.  These birds are so stubborn about it, they will sit in the tree, or on a pole, until they are week with hunger, and if you are lucky enough to hit them with a snow ball and knock them out of the tree you can get them back.  My husband threatens to shoot and eat them next time.

Guinea Fowl up on a pole.

Have you ever seen anything so sad?

Guinea Fowl are also supposed to be very good eating, tasting like a cross between chicken and turkey, I have heard.  We've yet to eat them, as any offspring that we haven't kept has quickly found homes.  Hopefully this year, with our flock built from 4 to 8 (I sold a bunch last summer), we will get to taste some.  I also plan on keeping the feathers of any that we do eat.

Yes, guinea fowl, the strange and unusual bird in my yard.  They are a bird that you either love or hate.  I find myself loving them.


  1. What a nice tribute to guineas.
    I would be interested in some keets this year.
    Eileen from The Fat Ewe Farm and Bed and Breakfast
    thefatewe at gmail

  2. Thanks Eileen.

    I think you would enjoy guinea's. In the summer, they are the best. We get people driving by and stopping to look or take pictures of them. lol.

    Unfortuantely, I let them out yesterday to wander up and down the trail, and one flew up into a spruce tree, and is refusing to come down. Silly girl. I hope she comes down today. I'll have to clip her wing when she does.

  3. Hi Jen,

    Great page. I am really keen to get some Guinea Fowl but I am having trouble sourcing them.
    Do you sell eggs or chicks? I live on Cortes Island, just off Vancouver Island. Where are you?

    You can e-mail me direct at filipefigueira (at)

    Regards, Filipe

  4. Thanks, Filipe!

    I sent you an email. :) I hope you get it!