Raising Guinea Fowl: A Low-Maintenance Flock

Compared to chickens, guinea fowl are low-cost and low-maintenance, and do a standout job as chemical-free pest control.


| August/September 1992



Guinea Fowl With Chicks

A domestic guinea hen lays seasonally, just as her wild cousins do.


Photo by Fotolia/Jamie Wilson

Like officious little men in baggy gray suits, the guinea fowl scuttle up and down our driveway. Since dawn, they've been scouring our orchard for beetles, locusts, spiders, and ticks. Now they are ready to patrol our yard and garden for ants, cockroaches, flies, wasps, termites, cutworms, grubs, and snails. The guinea fowl are relentless in their pursuit.

I can remember a time when my husband and I had no guineas. Our former flock had roosted in trees and nested on the ground where, one by one, they had fallen prey to owls and foxes. While we were guinea-less, our potato crop was denuded by potato beetles, our hibiscus hedge was decimated by locusts, and we lost several fruit trees to flat-head borers. We soon realized that our "little gray men" had given us far more than just a pleasant diversion (and occasional good eating). So we got a new crew to work our land, and I hope never to live without these little guys again.

Raising Guinea Fowl

Many people have never seen, much less heard of, guinea fowl. Visitors, on spying their first guinea, invariably ask "What is that—a turkey?" Nope, but not a bad guess. Like turkeys, guineas are Galliformes, a group encompassing all chicken-like birds. But while chickens are members of the pheasant family, turkeys and guineas each have a family of their own. Native to Africa, they are known for traveling in large, gregarious flocks. Guinea fowl were introduced into Europe by 15th century Portuguese explorers, and then arrived in North America with the early settlers. There are seven species of guinea fowl, of which the "helmeted pearl" is by far the most common, and certainly the weirdest looking, with its oddly shaped helmet, white, featherless face, bright red wattles, and gray polka-dotted feathers.

Ask those who keep guineas why they have them and you'll get a different answer every time. Chicken and turkey farmers keep them to ward off poultry-eating predators. Ranchers turn them loose to discourage rattlers and copperheads. Country dwellers like the way they gobble down disease-carrying ticks. Orchardists use them to drive off marauding birds. Farmers put them to work patrolling for row crop pests. Guineas do all this without damaging crops. Sure, they'll take the occasional peck at a cultivated plant, but they much prefer insects, weeds, and seeds.

Free-ranging guineas spend most of their days foraging. They work as a team, marching chest to chest and devouring anything they startle as they move through the grass. When they discover a special treat—a rodent, for example, or a small snake—they close ranks, circle their prey, and move in for the feast. All the while, they keep up a steady stream of whistles, chirps, and clicks, a sort of running commentary on the day's hunt.

But these little foragers have their faults. Like chickens, guineas are natural-born scratchers—I once watched a week-old guinea scratch vigorously in a saucer of starter mash while others stood by trying to catch bits of mash sailing through the air. Nevertheless, a guinea doesn't scratch as enthusiastically or as persistently as a chicken, and is far less likely to dig up garden seedlings, although they are attracted to freshly worked soil and will spend hours digging holes for luxurious dustbaths. Once I acquired a whole flock of guineas simply by arriving on the scene moments after they had devastated a friend's blossoming snap beans.

beyeaja
8/25/2017 6:40:34 AM

My jumbo Keets are 2 weeks old and I have one that although healthy the wings look broken because they drag low causing whe he gets knocked over by the othe Keets as they move about, he can't flip back right side. I have to always flip him back. What can I do with his dropped wings to help him?


laxdaniel
1/17/2016 10:37:03 AM

Great article, I enjoyed reading it.


jonell
8/3/2015 4:35:12 PM

@Donna: There are, indeed, wild guinea fowl. A friend and I, encountered a flock while hiking high in the mountains, on the CO trail one summer. It was a beautiful sight and site.


donna
7/12/2015 5:56:01 PM

I've encountered three Guinea fowl in my yard. Thing is that all homes around here are either apartment buildings or condos. So am wondering if Guinea's could be wild. Nothing I've read indicates such, so perhaps free range ... but how far would they go from their "home"?


jasmine
1/26/2015 8:12:48 PM

Hi, My 11 year old daughter is giving a speech on guinea fowls. She would really love to include this photo of the guinea mom and babies. May we have your permission to do so? Thanks in advance. Jasmine CA


dkdan
2/23/2014 4:54:17 PM

I am very new to having a small flock . Is there anything I need to know. I have a barn that I am going to start them out in and will allow them to roam free. I will start feeding and watering them in the barn. My main concern is that there is many woods in the area and I would prefer if they would stay around the house. Any suggestions ?


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erika
10/18/2013 1:08:29 PM

I am potentially interested in raising guinea fowl and found this site to be very interesting and informative. Thanks so much for sharing this info!


carolin.fields
6/30/2013 10:23:55 AM

we found one of our hens in the middle of the yard ,she had been sitting,her head is laying straight back,like she's looking up,she acts like she can't put it down and she can't stand up. Do you know how we can help her?

 


wadda
6/25/2013 8:56:17 PM

How can I keep my guineas from wondering off.  I already lost 3 separate flocks.  Thank you Wadda


voidunston
5/2/2013 11:30:13 AM

My guinea fowl has 20 eggs that she has not started sitting on yet.  Now we are expecting a freeze overnight

What should I do with the eggs - she still comes to the coop at night and the nest is in the yard


libbyrobinson
4/23/2013 8:49:12 AM

I have a question - I just noticed last night that one of my female guinea's helmet is bright red does that mean anything?

 


mary in texas
5/21/2009 3:14:00 PM

I have two guineas sitting on eggs - one doesn't move and the other only sits during the day and comes in with the chickens at night. Should I put food and water next to the one that never moves? Thanks, Mary


cindy_42
4/9/2009 3:01:57 PM

That was a great article on guineas. I am wondering if I can just buy a couple (like 2 hens, no rooster) to eat the ticks that are driving me crazy in my backyard. I am in the country, I'm sure my neighbors wouldn't complain. We have a four foot fence around our backyard, where our dogs are (not the type to eat a bird). Would the hens stay within a fence that size? Should I get a chicken also, so they can be caught at night? I don't really care about the eggs or eating any of them, and I only have shrubs in this area, but if they "jump the fence" they will wreck my flowers. I have also considered cedar extract spray - I may be moving to the city soon (another fenced in yard.) ticks may not be so awful there (there is also a fence), but I wish I understood how much noise two or three would actually make. Do you know how I can find out about the laws before I decide? Thanks for your help, Cindy


rosemary riksen
7/18/2008 9:23:11 PM

I bought 9 araucana hens and 1 rooster in April from Tractor Supply, and asked which one was the rooster. They pointed to one bird that was smaller and had a diferent beak, but otherwise looked similar to the other birds. After the peeps started losing their "chick looks" it was clear that my rooster was a very strange looking bird. I searched online and found I had a guinea fowl. Now I clearly have 2 araucana roosters, 7 araucana hens, and one guinea fowl. I still don't know the sex of my guinea bird, but it is clearly part of the gang. What's next?


gabrielle_1
3/6/2007 2:40:14 PM

Congratulations on a great site. We are hoping to have guinea fowl soon on our smallholding in France. Almost everything we are doing at the moment is new to us so we have been looking a loads of 'how to' sites for a huge range of things. Your information on guinea fowl is fantastic, very helpful. Thank you






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