Guineas are grotesque but extremely cute at the same time, oddly making them high on the list for modern homesteaders and farm owners.
Guineas are peculiar birds resembling tiny men in baggy gray suits. Guinea fowl are often the talk of the town for their excellent job in scuttling up and down gardens and orchards to polish away insects and similar pests.
Guinea fowl are generally hardy and excellent for meat, eggs, and controlling pests. They prefer tall coops with roosting bars and 3-4 square feet of free space each.
Guineas thrive on 16-28% protein, but adults forage for themselves and generally meet their nutrition requirements independently.
Guinea fowl popularity is swiftly on the rise for modern homesteaders and farm owners. However, guineas are nothing like other fowl, and it is advisable to first learn a thing a two before raising guineas. Here’s the ultimate guide to raising guineas.
Purposes Of Guineas?
Guinea fowl are a highly effective means of pest control; flocks of guinea fowl kill and eat pests like mice and small rats. In addition, guinea fowl control insects.
Guineas also control wood ticks (reducing the risk of Lyme disease) and insects like flies, grasshoppers, and crickets. Guinea fowl also eat grubs, slugs, and flocks of guineas even attack snakes.
On the other hand, homesteaders or farm owners raise guinea fowl for meat and egg production. Young guineas have tender meat that tastes similar to wild game. Guinea meat is lean and full of essential amino acids.
You can eat guinea eggs just like regular chicken eggs (aim to collect them daily if you do not want them for hatching purposes).
Note: Very few guineas respond well to structure and, therefore, aren’t great as pets. Their nature simply does not accommodate becoming domesticated livestock. So forget the dream of having a docile or easy-to-manage guinea- they are nothing like your chickens!
However, they will make excellent alarms! Anything out of place or new will elicit a loud, unpleasant alarm.
When To Get Guineas?
If you consider investing in a flock of guinea fowl for your homestead or farm, I highly recommend getting day-old keets (baby guinea fowl). However, only get your guinea keets in warm weather as they are tiny and highly susceptible to chill.
Raising guinea keets is relatively simple- if you’re familiar with raising chicks, you already know the drill.
First, keep your guinea keets in an already set up brooder until they are fully feathered.
Next, your brooder should have the following supplies:
- A container: the container needs to keep them safely contained, it needs plenty of airflows, and it needs a dry, warm area for sleeping.
- A heat lamp or plate: heat plates are a better option than lamps. Heat plates allow the keets to choose to go to a warmer area. Ensure you keep the heated area dry.
- Absorbent bedding or litter: Consider using paper shreds, pine shavings, or straw as litter,
- A chick waterer: Provide clean and fresh water daily. If you do not have a chicken waterer, you can provide small containers with marbles to prevent the keets from drowning.
- Crumbled or moist chick starter: Unmedicated chick starter is perfect for guinea keets. Preferably, do not give your keets layer pellets before they are five months old.
Raising Mature Guinea Fowl
Once your keets are fully feathered, you can start to allow them to roam outside in their coop.
Guineas are not quite as domesticated or tame as chickens or other poultry and are still very much wild game birds, and you should treat them as such. So, it would help to allow your guineas to roam freely by occasionally opening the door of their coop.
Once guineas are comfortable with their surroundings, they will roam further and further from home. But if you keep them in their coop for six weeks, they generally come home each night.
Guinea Fowl Housing
Guinea fowl need shelter, but not necessarily coops, as they prefer to roost high up in trees. However, guineas trained to roost inside a sheltered area generally live longer than those roosting in trees.
In addition, I’m assuming that you’d like to keep these fellas around and that you don’t have all day to look for eggs.
So, here is an idea for a guinea coop with a “natural feel” to it.
What Size Coop Do Guineas Need?
Guineas need a larger and taller coop than chickens because they prefer to roost higher up than chickens. However, the housing does not have to be elaborate at all!
Adult guineas require 3 to 4 square feet of free space per bird.
Tip: Keep in mind that guineas may need confining to their inside shelters for weeks at a time during frigid temperatures. So, we recommend 4 square feet per guinea to prevent stress and aggressive behavior.
Can You Keep Guineas In A Chicken Coop?
You can keep your guinea flock in a chicken coop, but only if the housing is larger than the standard plastic or small chicken coops. The reason being, your guineas need more space inside an enclosure and outside than chickens.
Where Should I Put The Guinea Coop?
Keep your coop at least 100 yards from houses unless you do not mind guineas disturbing you. Some communities have laws for minimum distances of housing poultry from habitation.
Housing Requirements For Guineas
Their housing can be anything from a shed, the corner of the barn, or an old outhouse. What we are looking for is housing that will provide the following requirements:
- Adequate space
- Four walls and a roof
- Adequate ventilation
- Roosting bars
- Water (unfrozen)
- A nesting box is optional (they usually ignore a nesting box in favor of choosing a stubbornly well-hidden spot).
During the winter, you’ll want to shield your guinea flock from icy temperatures and hungry predators. Guineas are unfortunately unable to see in the dark and are easy nighttime snacks for roaming and returning predators like owls and hawks. And raccoons.
Guineas are also prone to frostbite during frigid temperatures, so guinea care is vital to ensure that the flock is safe and healthy.
Cover all shelter openings with a quarter-inch of welded wire fencing to prevent rodents and snakes from getting into your guinea shelter.
How Often Should Guinea Fowl’s Bedding Be Changed?
Replace your guinea flock’s bedding as soon as it is wet.
The reason being, parasites rapidly multiply in damp bedding environments. So, remove any wet bedding from water spills and keep the bedding as dry as possible.
Type Of Bedding For Guineas
Straw, shredded paper, sand, and wood shavings are all options for guinea bedding. However, straw takes much longer to dry out as it tends to hold in moisture.
So, we recommend using a bag or two of compressed wood shavings instead. Wood shaving is easy to use and clean. In addition, wood shavings are loose, and therefore, not as likely to grow mold and mildew.
Guinea Housing Accessories
There are a few nice-to-haves for a guinea shelter, but they will be fine without them too.
Here is a list of guinea housing accessories:
- Electricity will make a nighttime trip or a gloomy winter day a whole lot easier for you and the flock.
- A water-based heater will help to keep the water from freezing in icy winters.
- A heat lamp is not a requirement, but it does provide your guineas with an option to warm up if necessary.
Poultry Fencing For Guineas
Guineas need a lot of space—one or two acres minimum. Ideal fencing would be a one-inch vinyl-coated wire fence for the entire fencing. Install fencing 6 to 8 feet high and bury 12 inches to deter climbing and digging predators.
Note: There isn’t such a thing as a high enough fence for guineas; they can fly 400 to 500 feet in one “jump.” So, the only way to constrain them is to cover the top of the enclosure with netting.
However, if guinea fowl are well-trained, they will return to their coop at night.
Can You Clip Guinea’s Wings?
Some homesteaders clip their flock’s wings to try to keep them from flying away. But clipping only makes guinea fowl vulnerable to predators as they can still fly but cannot control their balance.
Guineas can fly or jump a 5-foot fence with clipped wings.
Guinea Fowl Food Requirements
Guinea fowl require 16 to 28 percent protein, depending on the age of the bird.
- 0–5-week-old keet: Provide a starter crumble with 24 to 28 percent protein to the keets.
- 6–8-week-old keet: Supply keets a grower with 18 to 20 percent protein.
- Older than eight weeks: Give a layer mash with a minimum of 16 percent protein to the keets.
Adult guinea fowl forage for themselves and generally meet most of their nutrition requirements on their own. They delight in consuming various insects, slugs, worms, caterpillars, weeds seeds, and arachnids (mosquitoes, ticks, beetles, and so on).
Guineas also feed on greens, including grass, dandelions, weeds, and other types of vegetation.
Although adult guineas meet most of their nutritional requirements independently, it is vital to ensure grit is available for the flock. They also benefit from oyster shells occasionally.
Other than grit and oyster shells, provide clean water at all times.
If you prefer restricting your guineas from foraging, feed them an unmedicated, commercial poultry diet. Guineas will also enjoy oats, wheat, sorghum, or millet grain as an addition to their poultry feed (not that they will ignore whole corn kernels).
Lastly, supplement your guineas with greens like alfalfa.
Snacks For Guineas
Like any other fowl, guineas love snacks! An appropriate and healthy snack to feed your flock include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Mixed birdseed
- White millet
What NOT To Feed Guinea Fowl
There are few foods that you should avoid feeding guinea fowl. Do not feed them the following:
- Dried lentils
- Raw Beans
- Raw potatoes
- Green tomatoes
Guinea Fowl Common Health Issues
Guinea fowl are generally hardy and resistant birds, but they are still susceptible to several common fowl illnesses, including the following:
- Impacted Crop: This generally occurs when guineas do not have access to grit and small stones.
- Keet Mortality: Keets require high percentages of protein in their diet. Protein deficiencies quickly cause stunted growth and even death.
- Fowl Pox: A slow-spreading virus characterized by lesions and scabs on the skin.
- Infectious Coryza: Coryza is like the common cold. Guineas are susceptible when their management is improper. They’ll have symptoms like respiratory distress and watery, swollen eyes.
- Fowl Cholera: A contagious, bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, lameness, pneumonia, swollen wattles, and torticollis. Vaccinate your guineas to prevent the flock from getting fowl cholera.
- Marek’s disease: This is a highly contagious viral infection that causes paralysis in poultry.
Guinea Fowl Companionship
Guinea fowl do not do well in small groups. They are very flock-orientated and tend to get very stressed when you keep them in small numbers. Therefore, we recommend starting with at least fourteen guineas in your starter brood.
If you watch these hilarious fowl, you’ll quickly notice that every time they try to leave the coop, it’s like their very first time—they run into walls and windows year after year.
They are notoriously dumb, contributing to the reason that they only survive in large flocks. So they need to “Darwin out” most of the guinea flock, leaving the smartest ones to stay alive.
In addition, guinea fowl are semi-monogamous and mate for life. However, the exceptional philanderer does exist occasionally.
A 1:5 ratio of males to females seems to work well.
Guinea Fowl Temperament
Guinea fowl are highly social with their kind—where one goes, they all go!
Guineas can co-exist with other poultry, like chickens, but young males can become highly territorial and tend to run off the roosters in your flock.
Breeding With Guineas
Guinea hens are seasonal layers and will lay an average of 100 eggs per season. They prefer laying their eggs in woods, long grass, and hard-to-find corners.
The hens are often communal layers (all lay in the same nest) and communal brooders, too (take a turn in nest sitting).
It takes 26 to 28 days for keets to hatch. They aren’t the best parents for their offspring, and they require more of a “group effort” to keep their keets alive.
So, If you have chickens, get a broody hen to hatch and raise your guinea keets; they’ll have a much better chance of survival!
Hatching Guinea Eggs With Incubation
The incubation period for guinea eggs is 26 to 28 days. When you store guinea eggs before incubating them, be sure to keep them in a cool room and turn the eggs daily.
The incubator temperature should range between 100°F and 102°F, and the humidity should be 30 to 45 percent before putting the eggs in the incubator.
Turn your guinea eggs daily until the 25th day. Day 25 is known as “lockdown.” On day 25, raise your humidity by 65 to 70 percent.
How To Tell A Guineas Sex?
Similar to chickens, sexing keets can be nearly impossible. Guineas also take two years to mature, making it very difficult to sex them. However, as your guineas develop, there will be several signs that will help you differentiate between guinea cocks and guinea hens.
For the most part, the guinea cock and hen have similar appearances, except for one small exception- The helmet and the wattles of a guinea cock are larger and more significant than those of a guinea hen.
In addition, you can also determine their sex by their cry.
Females: they generally make a two-syllable cry. Some say that it sounds like female guineas are saying “buckwheat.”
Males: they make a one-syllable cry. “They sort of squawk.”
Raising Guineas is fun, easy, and can even make a good buck, providing you do your homework first!
These fellas are hardy, low-maintenance, and budget-friendly. However, they are extremely noisy, dumb, and do not train well at all. But be that as it may, if you have enough acreage to own a flock of guineas—go for it!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the ultimate guide to raising Guineas.