They are known as nature’s alarm system for a reason, and they do their job quite well. At times a little to well.
Guinea keets look very similar to turkey poults, but shortly after hatching they develop their wild streak. They are not cuddly little creatures and if you want to love on them, be prepared for a fight! They’re difficult to catch and will do everything in their power to escape, so hold on to them tight. As keets they are stunning, and they begin growing their helmet before they turn 1 year of age; giving them the distinct look that only guinea fowl have, a face only a mother could love.
Guineas communicate in 3 ways, and there is no reasoning with them when they go into alarm mode. Their basic form of communication is a gently chirping sound, it’s such a sweet chirp that at times you forget there’s a sire built into them. Hens will issue a double syllable call much like, “buckwheat-buckwheat” in a repetitive action. I refer to this call as the “I’m needing attention” call or the “where are you at” call. The males are generally quite and content with chirping, but will issue a one syllable call similar to “buckwheat. Then there is the alarm, a scream that is so deafening it can send chills down your spine.
How serious should you take their alarming? It’s a 50/50 probability that there is a predator in the area. Often they will alarm if they can’t find each other, or if one is stuck on the other side of the fence and can’t reach the others, OR if its shadow is to big and it frightens them….that’s when you want to throw a shoe in their direction hoping to startle them enough to stop their screaming. But then there was that one time….
Our 3 guinea fowl went crazy at 7:30am, alarming and staring in the same direction. As I looked to see what they were alarming about I noticed an extremely large bobcat jumping from the maple tree about 60 feet from me. This same bobcat had recently taken out 2 of our neighbor’s flocks, and was hanging around and headed our way; luckily we only lost one chicken hen to it.
The alarm is one of two reasons why people bring guinea to their property; they are a great first line of defense announcing that an unwanted visitor is nearby. Many have a hard time imagining how the alarm sounds, and all I can say is this, imagine a 100 hundred banshees circling and screaming in your ear. Think I am exaggerating? Talk to anyone who keep guineas!
Guinea hens are seasonal layers often laying from late spring to mid fall. They tend to lay their eggs in hiding, usually deep in the thicket of the woods, causing their owners to hunt for the nest and eggs. We have been extremely lucky that our hens like to lay in the coop, and more often than not in a nesting box! We have only had one go broody in the 2 years that we have been keeping them, and that was an experience in its own. Imagine a grown man being terrified to move the broody hen, her raptor like movement and hissing had him almost in tears!
Their eggs are quite delicious and contain more yolk than whites, and though it is not as rich in flavor as a duck egg, it’s richer than a chicken egg. But what amazes me the most is the egg shell ~ the shell is as hard as a rock, and can take up to 2 good whacks on our cast iron to get through it. The shell coloring varies each time a hen lays, and you aren’t able to easily identify which egg belongs to which hen based on shell color alone.
Aside from their ability to alarm, guinea fowl are excellent at keeping insects under control, making this the second reason why guinea fowl are brought to a property. They love to consume ticks, fleas, mosquito larva, crane flies, and various other bugs, but it doesn’t stop with bugs. They will also consume snakes and small rodents without a hesitation.
Many allow their flock to roost high in the trees, or on the rafters of their barn. Ours have chosen to roost in the coop with our chicken and ducks, returning to the coop each day about the same time the chicken do. Though a guinea can not actually fly, it has the ability to get to a branch or roosting spot 20 feet high. There have been many nights when one of ours will decide that it would rather roost high in the maple next to the coop, and once it’s up there it will not come down until the morning.
As much as I love our guinea, I will warn you that they have an aggressive side. They have never been aggressive to us however, our chicken and ducks are not always quite so lucky. Most attacks have resulted in a hen or rooster losing a few feathers, but a minor attack can turn aggressive quickly, often resulting in a bloody mess. We have witnessed that they attack as a pack, when one turns they all turn, often go after the victims head. Sadly, because of this behavior we have had to cull our lead guinea hen who’s attacks were so violent she could not be left to free range or coop with the others; since then the others have settled down.
Our guinea flock tolerates us, never friendly and is always an arms length away, but there are Guinea Whisperers out there. Our friends over at Happy Days Farm has their flock eating out of their hands and their guinea don’t mind being held. Even though they have this great relationship with their guinea, they will also tell you that their flock is kept separately from the other poultry because of the aggression they can display.
We provide our guinea flock the same feed we give our chicken and ducks, which is the Breakfast of Champions designed by Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily. Additional to this feed we also provide herbs and ACV which they are thriving on. Much like any other bird on our property the guineas love treats. Happy Days Farm has a great guinea treat mixture if you wish to provide a healthy bribe in order to get them eating from your hands.
Guinea meat is very lean and consists of dark meat, it has a gamey taste which is great for stews or roasting. Their feathers are stunning with a polka dot pattern which makes them prized for jewelry making and crafting.
Is raising guinea fowl for everyone? No, most definitely not. You have to be able to tolerate their screams and alarm. Their unpredictable behavior towards other birds on your property is always a huge concern. You will worry if they chose to roost in the trees at night, but you will be thankful for their ability to control the insect situation around your property. Consider your neighbors prior to adding them, you may end up with a disgruntle neighbor at your door one day. Weigh all your options prior to bringing them to your property, they are not easy to rehome!