Guinea fowl are some of the most quirky backyard birds you can own. Guineas make excellent bug and snake control and will sound an alarm for your flock when there is danger. They are also super entertaining to watch, especially in the spring when the males perform their mating rituals to win over the hens in the flock.
First, let’s talk a bit about the whys and why nots of owning guinea. If you think it may be similar to owning chickens, you may be a bit disappointed to learn they are not very similar to chickens at all. They are both birds, but that’s about as far as a similarities go. On most farms, owning guinea fowl serves 3 main purposes; bug control, security guard, and meat production. Guinea fowl are very good at keeping the bug population under control on any farm, and they do like to cover a large area of land and can be difficult to keep confined. They also can be very vocal, especially when they see something or someone that is strange to them. They make excellent alarms and watchdogs for this reason, but keep in mind that they cannot fight off predators. They will alarm you to a predator’s presence if they see it and will fly out of reach but beyond that, their personal defense mechanisms are few.
Guinea fowl are originally from Africa, so warm summers are not an issue for them. They can be kept in a wide variety of climates but if you live where winters are very cold they will need good, draft-free housing for protection. Guinea keets are raised in a manner similar to chicken chicks; they need to be in a draft-free brooder for the first 8 weeks, kept warm and with access to fresh water and turkey/gamebird starter feed at all times. The temperature of the brooder should start at 95 degrees for the first week of age, then decrease the brooder temperature by 5 degrees each week. Once the keets are fully feathered by around 8 weeks of age, they can be allowed outside to acclimate to their permanent housing.
Guinea keets require a bit higher protein ration than chicken chicks do. For the first 5 weeks of age, feed guinea keets a 24-26% protein turkey or gamebird starter, then after 5 weeks of age, they can eat standard chick starter feed. Medicated feed is OK to use for guinea keets, especially if the weather is hot and humid which encourages the growth of coccidia in the environment. Begin feeding a layer ration once the keets are 12 weeks of age. Supplements such as leafy greens, cottage cheese, or cooked eggs are always great.
Guinea fowl are generally not big fans of being confined. They are happier if allowed free-range of your farm. However, if frequently handled as keets, the adults can learn to accept being handled and confined within a coop and yard similar to chickens. Guinea can fly up into trees and onto buildings quite well, so any yard enclosure will need to have a top if you do not want “fence-jumpers”. Many times, guinea prefer to roost in trees at night and can become difficult to get into a coop at night for safety. Roosting outdoors makes them vulnerable to nocturnal predators such as owls and raccoons. Guinea can be kept with chickens, and often do very well, especially when raised together. The guineas typically return to the coop at night with chickens present.
Guineas come is several different colors. No one color is better than others. One thing to consider is white tends to stand out more in a free-range situation with a lack of cover. If you are interested in meat, the Jumbo Guineas are an excellent option. They can be processed at 6-9 weeks when raised as a meat bird and have highly sought after gourmet meat. All guineas will lay plenty of eggs seasonably, though they do a great job at hiding them, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled and do a float test before cracking them into your skillet. If you are interested in a more rare or exotic kind, the Vulturine Guinea Fowl are a fun choice. They are not cold hardy, and you do need to make special accommodations during the winter.