Raising Guinea Fowl on the Homestead

Nancy Smith provides a guide to raising guinea fowl, includes information on feeding, shelter and selecting birds for the homestead.

  • Learn how to raise guinea hens.
    Learn how to raise guinea hens.

  • Learn how to raise guinea hens.

A guide to raising guinea fowl on the homestead. 

Any bird with a call like "Buckwheat!" and a head like a helmet needs some redeeming quality. In the case of the guinea fowl, which have both the call (in this case, the hens say "Buckwheat!") and the oddly shaped, nearly bald noggin, their appetite for ticks may be their meal ticket in more than one way.

First introduced to the United States from their native Africa during pre-Civil War days, guineas have been kept on small farms and homesteads, usually mixed in with chickens and assorted other fowl, and admired mostly for their delicately speckled eggs and their "watch dog" instincts. They reliably sound their alarm call whenever hawks circle the chickens or rats infiltrate the poultry house to filch eggs, or when strangers drive up the lane.

"I have a lot of woods in the back," Bender says of her one-acre New England lot. "We can see the deer walking up the street here." A gardener like Ferguson, she put up an 8-foot-high fence to keep the deer out of her immediate back yard, but the ticks already had moved in. Four years ago, she heard about guineas and their spectacular appetite for ticks on a television show. A short time later, she saw some keets for sale at her local organic fruit and vegetable stand; she didn't hesitate to buy five on the spot.

"I was very excited, but I didn't know anything about them," she says. A friend who owned guineas offered tips on raising guinea fowl and basic guinea care. In urban Westport, keeping guinea fowl is legal as long as they remain on the owner's property, so Bender had a friend build an 8-by-16-foot coop in her yard. The four-sectioned coop includes one 6-by-4-foot space that she uses for rehabilitating injured guineas. Her birds go in and out of the coop freely, she says, and always have stayed in her yard without having their wings clipped.

Bender also has outfitted a bird room inside her home, where "house guineas" (special pets) reside during winter months; several have moved inside for one reason or another over time. "I love raising guinea fowl, I love the birds, I really do," Bender says.

8/7/2012 3:49:44 PM

I have 4 males left, from the 12 that I started with a couple of years ago. The hens wouldn't nest inside a building, so they were the first to feed the neighboring predators. (They aren't real bright....) But they are so entertaining; they look like feathered footballs zooming around the property. They tend to bully the chickens, but nobody's gotten hurt. And I have virtually no ticks or grasshoppers on my 8 acres, where there used to be thousands! When I come home from work, they all come out to greet me and tell me all about their day!! A friend says they look like clowns from a Stephen King novel and I tend to agree; they aren't very pretty in the face, but they earn their keep.

Roy Pfz
10/23/2009 4:10:48 PM

My wife and I bought some guineas this last year and kept them with some hens. The benefit of that is when the hens come in at night the guineas will follow. They do love white millet, called proso millet to us farmers. If you want to hear and see some my wife posted a video on her blog www.ourhaxtunlife.com they are very winter hardy we have some pics there of them out in the snow.

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