Guinea fowl have an almost prehistoric appearance when they are compared to chickens and other types of fowl. Their plumage is spattered with black and white feathers on their bodies. And depending on the breed of the guinea, the face and neck feathers that they have are generally shiny and entirely black.
They have red eyes that look rather fierce as well. The helmeted guinea fowl looks the most prehistoric of all because it has a horn on top of a patch of red skin that looks just like a helmet sitting on its head. There is also a guinea that looks very similar to a vulture too. The unique attributes of this type of fowl make them an interesting addition to a farm, but their looks aren't why most people keep them. Read on for several benefits of having a flock of guineas.
Although some people are against the idea of raising guinea fowls because of their reputation for being loud, there are many of advantages that may outshine the disadvantages. Read on for several benefits of having a flock of guineas.
Guineas originate from Africa where they spend their days with rhinos who don't mind their presence at all. They pick ticks and other bugs off of their thick skin that they can't reach themselves. And in return, the rhinos offer them protection from predators that could eat them.
On a farm, they continue this behavior by eating bugs off of the ground. Some people have said that they have seen them do the same thing to farm animals too. These fowl also catch and eat small snakes and other vermin, such as rats and mice. Another positive benefit of them scavenging for pests as a food source is that they get about 90 percent of their meals this way, so it costs less to feed them than other fowl who depend on grains for food.
Since guineas are not as protective of their eggs as chickens are, collecting them in the morning as a food source is fairly easy. The eggs are smaller than a chicken's egg, though. They also have a richer flavor. The guineas themselves are a food source too. Most people find that their meat is a little drier and leaner, so it tastes best when it is paired with foods that offer moisture to it. Guinea meat is lower in fat and calories, which makes it a heart-healthy choice of protein.
Guineas produce about the same amount of eggs that a chicken does, and their gestation period is only one week longer. This means you can multiply them almost as fast as chickens if you want to. In as little as one month, a brood of tiny guineas will hatch. However, guinea mothers often forget about the eggs that they lay. They sit on them infrequently or abandon them completely to lay a new set of eggs somewhere else.
So if you want to have a larger flock of this fowl, you might have to help care for the eggs by putting them in an incubator as soon as they are laid. It is mostly younger guinea mothers that struggle the most in caring for their young this way.
For the most part, guinea fowl get along well with other animals if they are raised with them. This includes other types of fowl. However, if a rooster from a flock of chickens should happen to harass them during a season of mating, they will not fail to attack. So it is important to keep roosters away from guineas during this time.
It is difficult to sneak past a guinea without it alerting the other members of its flock with its loud call. They have been known to gang up on predators that are attempting to attack one them, so this helps to protect other animals on the property from being injured by a fox or weasel. Together, the fowl act as an alarm system for a property. In the wild, other animals listen for them as a sound off to potential predators who are nearby, and humans have learned to do the same thing.
For guinea to be used the most effectively in this way, a flock of more than six of them must be kept, and they cannot be caged up. Guineas are the happiest and the healthiest when they are allowed to roam freely. If a person should try to raise only one of them, it will usually die even if it is kept with other types of fowl.
Though, it should be noted that guineas are infamous for roaming past the area that they are supposed to stay in. To prevent this from occurring, it helps to have a fenced in place for them with a small coop for shelter from the elements. This makes guineas unsuitable for people living in urban area.
When guinea fowl are allowed to roam about and eat insects at their leisure, they produce rich droppings as they go that fertilize areas of soil. Their droppings from barns or hen houses that they are kept in can also be collected for gardens for this purpose. Or they can be thrown directly into a compost pile.
Unlike chickens who are constantly getting into gardens and causing trouble, guinea fowl generally leave most planted areas alone. However, they do peck at weeds that they find since they like a little vegetation in their diet. If they are kept in a fenced in yard, they will keep it free from nuisance dandelions or ragweed. Just be sure to put fences a little bit wider than the extra garden plots, so vegetation won't be accessible to them. Occasionally, they will mistake small seedlings for weeds.
As you can see, guinea fowl are an excellent addition to a farm for many reasons. They offer protection from intruders, and they make a great source of food for your family. Guineas also help tend to the ground and keep pests away. Just be sure to keep a large flock of them. They get lonely by themselves. Since this type of fowl originates from Africa, they are more acclimated to warmer weather.
So if you live in a cold region, be sure to give them a heated shelter where they can stay warm and dry. They also need a source of fresh, clean water daily. And though they get most of their food from foraging, this is difficult to do during the winter season when many pests hibernate, so be prepared to offer more grains during this time of the year.
Jennifer Poindexter and her husband raise most of their food and a variety of animals in the foothills of North Carolina, where they built a small homestead on very little money. She writes about all of her adventures at Morning Chores, where she shares the knowledge she has gained with others that might want to take the full plunge into homesteading. Read all of Jennifer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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