Some years ago, I learned about Guinea Hens. An acquaintance of mine in the hills of California raised Guineas to keep rattlesnakes away. Fast forward to today . . . I have rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and lots and lots of cockroaches in tons of pine straw. Enter . . . Guinea Fowl.
Guinea fowl originally came from Africa. They were introduced to the states before the Civil War. I have a flock of Pearl Guineas that typically weigh in at 3-3 ½ lbs. They are dark with white dots; their head is featherless akin to a turkey. They run everywhere. Boy, do they ever run. They’re either chasing each other or they’re running from themselves. They are used for meat in some areas as well as guard chickens. They will peck at anything; cockroaches, ticks, snakes. Though I’m told that they don’t eat the big snakes, they do pester them away. That’s good enough for me. They squawk at the slightest provocation. They are great to announce visitors coming up the driveway and potential predators to my chickens. We had a series of problems with opossums. After a few live catches, and a new flock of Guineas I had no further problems. Guineas also fly very well. I often find them on my rooftop and in branches of trees. In fact, my flock roost on my chicken coop at night. I don’t think that they’re very intelligent as birds go. In one instance, our chihuahua mix, Snickers, cornered a Guinea in the front fenced yard. The Guinea continued to bash itself into the fence rather than fly over it. We rescued the Guinea, but Snickers was disappointed. She wanted to play.
Care and Feeding. My Guineas free range. I do feed them scratch or cracked corn daily to draw them back to the chicken coops at night. In the past, I purchased Guineas as keets. I raised them in the coop with my chickens for 8-10 weeks, then let them free range. I start out with 10-12 guineas each year, but I generally lose 5-6 each year to critters, cars, and who knows what. As young keets, I found that the hot, humid South Georgia weather was too much for them. I lost 4 keets last year due to excessive heat. Our chicken coop is in the shaded tree area of our property, but the young birds couldn’t tolerate the heat. I transferred the keets into my garage (with a window air conditioner) until they were old enough to tolerate the climate. Once they could withstand the heat, they were fine. I don’t have a specific age for that transfer to the outdoors; it was just a judgment call that I made.
Noise. Some folks dislike the squawking the Guineas make. For me; however, their squawking was one of the reasons I got them. I wanted them to act as my “Guard Chickens”. We live in the country and anyone come knocking on our door or driving down my driveway is very unusual. The Guineas let me know when someone approaches. They’re better than my dogs sometimes. They also roost among my chicken coops at night squawking at the slightest pretense of danger to the chickens.
Pests. Guineas will peck at just about anything. We have a large pine grove on our property rife with cockroaches in the pine straw. The Guineas do a great job of keeping the roach population down. They also eat beetles, ticks, and bugs of all kinds. Now if I could only get them to eat gnats, flies, and other flying insects too.
I usually start the year with 10-12 Guineas and expect an attrition throughout the year. I’m down to 5 guineas now and it’s time to replenish the flock. Usually, as I discussed earlier, I purchase Guinea Keets and raise them to maturity. This year I decided to raise Guineas from eggs. Guineas generally lay their eggs in obscure ground nests. I had a problem finding their nest on the property because it was hidden well. Once I found the nest and got back to it hopefully to find some fertilized eggs, critters raided their nest and I had none. I ordered fertilized Guinea eggs from Stromberg’s online. I expect to receive the eggs on July 24th, .2017. Another of my favorite resources is BackYardChickens.com. You can find out just about anything you want to raise fowl at this website. I look forward to the experience.