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Join Nicole as she discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly of guinea fowl as well as some commonly asked questions!
What You’ll Learn
- The many reasons you should consider adding guinea fowl to your farm
- Some things to consider before owning guinea fowl
Resources & Links Mentioned
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Announcer: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from heritageacresmarket.com, where we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living and more. Now, here's your host, Nicole.
Nicole: Hello, everyone and welcome to Backyard Bounty. I'm your host, Nicole, and today we're going to be talking about guinea fowl, the good, the bad, and the ugly. What is a guinea fowl? A guinea fowl is a game bird that was originally native to Africa, but they're pretty common here in the US. They're those silly, little gray and white speckled birds that have the bare face with the little horned head, and they're pretty popular in the South and on farmlands and they're growing in popularity in backyards, but they need more space than most backyards have to offer, which we'll talk about in a minute. They're usually on a multi-acre hobby farms. Now, guinea fowl, they have a bad reputation, which I think is really unfortunate because there's a lot of really good reasons to add guinea fowl to your current flock.
Nicole: They make amazing organic pest control and they don't destroy crops quite as bad as chickens do. They will scratch a little bit, but they don't generally pick at plants and dig them up quite to the extreme that chickens do. If you've ever let your chickens out and they've gotten into your garden, you know that they can pretty much decimate your vegetable garden or your new flower beds pretty quick. Guinea fowl are commonly used for ticks and snakes, scorpions, spiders, grasshoppers, pretty much all the little nasties that you would find in your backyard. Especially ticks, that's one of the reasons that they're so popular in the South. Here in Colorado, the tick isn't so much of an issue, but for those that have them they can really be a huge nuisance, so the guinea fowl, that's one of their specialties and they can pretty much wipe out ticks. I've seen tons of stories online about how people had this huge tick problem and they end up getting a flock of guinea fowl and within a period of months the ticks were just completely gone.
Nicole: Guinea fowl also make amazing pest control for crops and farmers. Here in Colorado, we actually provide guinea fowl for the hemp farmers because, like we said earlier, they don't destroy crops quite as much. The guinea fowl can just be let loose to roam in the hemp farms and they do an amazing job.
Nicole: One of the things that I personally like most about the guinea fowl is they're super entertaining to watch. They're not quite as mellow and tame as chickens are, so they're much more exaggerated and dramatic in their antics. They're always running around and chasing each other, and one of the things that I like is if they find a snake or something that they're unsure of, especially if there's more, a larger number like 10 or so, they'll encircle this mystery object and huddle up on it and investigate what it is. You can see they put a lot of thought into what they're going to do. Is this something that they need to eat or is it something that they need to run away from? It's just super funny to watch them.
Nicole: Another great thing about guinea fowl is that they're really pretty hardy and relatively disease free. They don't necessarily require a coop. However, I definitely recommend that they have one just to keep them safe from predators and things like inclement weather. There's a lot of stories out there about guineas that take free ranging to the extreme and they don't really need a lot from us as their owners, I guess. They do need to be fed. That's a common misunderstanding about them. A lot of people think, "Oh, I can just throw them outside and they'll be good." But they should have a backup food source if they don't have a great day of forging bugs and seeds and things. Of course, they should have water supply as well, but they're definitely more self-sufficient than chickens.
Nicole: Another benefit, I suppose, of the guinea fowl is, let's say that you decided to get some and they don't really work out for you and your farm and your homestead, they are actually a dark meat that's very tasty, it's actually a delicacy in Europe. But if you've ever had pheasant, it's a lot like that. They don't necessarily have a ton of meat on them. They're definitely leaner than a chicken, but they're very tasty and they're really great for roasting. I've only personally had guinea once, but very good and I would definitely recommend if you tend to process your birds to try a guinea fowl.
Nicole: Now, let's talk about some of the "bad" about guinea fowl. These are probably some of the things that you've heard about them in the past, maybe some of the things that you haven't, but I always like to tell people, if you're considering getting foul, then you should know both sides of the story because they're not quite as simple as chickens where they're pretty tame and mellow and quiet and lay eggs and go on about their day.
Nicole: The guinea fowl are definitely, like I mentioned earlier, more wild and less domesticated, and they certainly have their quirks, which may or may not be a problem depending on where you live if you have neighbors and maybe how much you like to sleep in. Personally, I don't find it offensive, but these are some of the things that you should probably know about them.
Nicole: The first thing about guinea fowl is they are not very bright. Anybody that's had guinea fowl can attest to this. It's amazing to me that they've even made it this far and that they didn't get picked off as a species because I've always said that guinea fowl are the only bird that can get lost in the corner of a round pin. Not very bright, tend to get themselves stuck in some unique situations in or under things, not the brightest birds. Because they are unintelligent, they are somewhat prone to predation. They don't see very well at night. A lot of times if they're not properly coop trained, then they will nest on the tops of buildings or telephone poles or fences and it's really easy for them to get picked off by owls. If they're on a fence then they can get picked off by coyote.
Nicole: I always tell most people to buy several more guinea fowl than you want to end up with. If you want to end up in the end with four birds, then consider buying six to eight just because things happen and they don't always last the greatest. This is another one of the reasons I always tell people that they should coop train their birds. Keeping them coop trained and somewhere that they can go at night and roost keeps them a lot safer.
Nicole: One of the things that guinea fowl are particularly known for is they tend to be pretty noisy. Now, I put this in the bad category, but I personally find this more of a benefit. Now, they're pretty much constantly noisy and that they will chat. They're always talking to each other and making little whistles and peeps and different things all the time. But generally, they're not really noisy unless something's wrong. Yes, sometimes they will sound their little alarms when a tumbleweed goes by, but most of the time if they are outside making a racket, then it's something that needs to be investigated. Especially when the birds are new, let's say you bought some adults and you introduced them to your property, everything's new and scary for them, so in the beginning for the first, I don't know, month or two, they'll be a little bit noisier and sound alarms at certain things, but eventually they'll figure out the flow of the comings and goings of the farm. They'll figure out vehicles and when and where things are supposed to be, and then they settle down quite a bit.
Nicole: We had some guinea fowl about two years ago now. We keep our guinea fowl mixed in with our chickens. Everybody was out free ranging and it was a nice spring day, so we had the sliding glass door open but the screen door closed, and all of a sudden there was just a total racket outside. It was probably 2:00 in the afternoon or so, and the Guinea fowl just started totally freaking out. We knew that something was wrong because they don't normally make that noise that they are making. My husband and I go outside to go see what's going on and there was a coyote in our yard and it had actually picked up one of our chickens and was running off with it.
Nicole: My husband being super athletic all of a sudden takes off running, literally jumps the fence, no hands, goes running after this coyote, and he gets just about to the coyote and picks up some rocks. I guess he was going to throw the rocks at the coyote, but he ended up scaring the coyote, because I'm sure the coyote's not used to this human chasing him, so the coyote drops the chicken took off running., and so my husband grabs the chicken, brings her inside. She was totally messed up from getting bit by the coyote. Long story short on that, she ended up, I fixed her up, she's fine. We have a blog post on that. I'll put that in the link in the description. If it wasn't for those guinea fowl we would have had no idea that the coyotes even got the chicken.
Nicole: The guinea fowl, yes, they can be noisy, but at the same time it's also great if you have them out roosting at night and all of a sudden they start going off. They can let you know if somebody maybe is trespassing on your property or breaking into an outbuilding. I personally see it as more of a benefit, but there are some people that don't like their constant chatter during the day.
Nicole: Guinea fowl also tend to be a little stinky. I'm not really sure what it is about them because they eat the same food that chickens eat, but they just have a musk for lack of better terms, this musk about them. It's not so noticeable when you only have a couple, but if you had 10, 12, 20 guinea fowl, just know that they tend to be a little bit stinkier than chickens. They also are pretty flighty. They're not as easy to catch if you needed to go and catch one to do a vet check or something. It amazes me that as flighty as they are and hard to catch, that they fall to predation so easily.
Nicole: I always thought that since they could fly so well that they would get away from danger easier, but that doesn't always seem to be the case. I think it's just because even though they're great fliers, they're not super smart, but just know that they can be pretty flighty and they don't have very strong legs. If you do end up getting guinea fowl or if you have guinea foul and you need to catch them, the safer way to do it is with a net. That way you can catch them without messing up their legs.
Nicole: Another thing to know about guineas, if you get some as keets, is that even though their care requirements are the similar to that of baby chickens, they are much more delicate in their first two weeks of life. They are much more sensitive to heat fluctuations and temperature requirements and they're just a lot more difficult to raise. The first time I ever got guinea fowl, I killed every single one and I felt awful. I finally figured out what I was doing wrong and it was because they weren't able to find their water. I assumed it was like baby chicks, you just put them in there with their food dish and their water dish and they'd be good to go. Now, every time I raise keets I make sure that every single one that I put in the brooder, I dip their beaks in the water dish, so they get a drink, they know where the water is, they know how to get the water. Since I started doing that, I lose less than 1%. That has really, really helped.
Nicole: Another thing that I found with guinea keets is if you put them in the pine shavings like you would with baby chicks, they eat the pine shavings and that impacts their crop and that will also kill them. Raising them, like I said, it's the same overall requirements. They need their high protein feed, water and heat and all that, but there's some unique little quirks with raising the keets. That's another one of the reasons that I tell people. If you want to end up with x amount of birds, always buy extra, especially if you're raising them as keets, because most people end up losing at least a few while raising them up to adulthood.
Nicole: One thing to consider with guinea fowl, if you have neighbors, I would say within a five acre radius of you, is that they tend to forge a pretty large area and they really know no boundaries. They'll just go wherever they want. I've definitely heard stories of guinea fowl that will go two miles down the road to visit their neighbor and eventually they come back. They tend to be pretty adventurous little spirits. If you have neighbors I would maybe talk to them and just let them know, "Hey, I'm thinking about getting some guinea fowl. Are you okay with that?" I would definitely sell them on the good side of it about the pest eradication and see if hopefully your neighbor is willing to allow or entertain the possibility that the guinea fowl might come by and say hi every now and then. Especially if you have or rather if your neighbor has some tall trees and you don't, they tend to like to go to trees because they are wild, so they might visit your neighbors trees, so just another thing to keep in mind with them.
Nicole: I compiled a little list of some of the common questions that were asked when people contact us about guineas. We've been raising and selling guineas for three or four years now, so most of the time I get the same questions over and over again, so I thought I would also just mention them here. Some of these we already talked about. Probably the biggest question that I get is, are the guineas as loud as everybody says? Like we already talked about, yes, they can be loud, they tend to chatter a lot, but personally I think that the benefits of their noise definitely outweighs their daily chatter.
Nicole: Another question that we already talked about is people ask me, do I need to feed them? I always reply, yes, of course you need to feed them. Maybe it was rainy or maybe they just didn't have a great day out foraging, they can get up to 90% of their feed by foraging, but they still need a little supplemental food. When they become adults, they can eat just regular chicken food, so always supplement their feeding with regular layer food if you have them foraging.
Nicole: Another common question is are they hard to train? I wouldn't go so far as to say that the guinea fowl are difficult to train, but they do need a little bit more persistence than chickens. Again, they're not so smart, they're a little bit more wild, so you just need to be a little bit more persistent and that really just falls on you as the owner. They can be tamed. There's, again, a ton of stories out there of guinea fowl they're super affectionate and people can just go pick them up and their birds follow them around. I don't have birds like that because I don't have the time to spend training them every day, but just know that that's maybe a little bit of a nature versus nurture argument, but yes, they definitely can be trained. You can coop train them, you can train them to come when called to come for treats, just like you can with the chicken. Just keep in mind that it's going to take a little bit more work and reinforcement with them.
Nicole: Another question that I'm asked all the time is, can I raise guinea fowl with chickens? As an overall answer, yes, absolutely. Now, I say overall because when they're young and below 10 weeks old, they do have a different feed requirement from chickens. They need to be fed a higher protein feed so they develop properly. Otherwise, they end up small and deformed, especially their toes. I found that their toes will curl in. They can be transitioned over to a layer feed when they're 10 weeks old, 10 to 15 weeks rather. Once they're at least 15 weeks old, then yes, absolutely they can be with chickens.
Nicole: Like I mentioned earlier, we keep guinea fowl with our chickens really just for the sole purpose of serving as a watchdog for the flock. We don't have a rooster and even when we did, he wasn't really the best at watching out for everybody. The guinea fowl are much more attentive and aware of what's going on around them. I definitely recommend anybody that has chickens that free ranges to add at least two or three or four guinea fowl to the flock. It'll make a huge difference for predation.
Nicole: People also ask me if a guinea fowl lay eggs and if they do, are the eggs edible? Of course, guinea fowl being a bird, they do lay eggs, but they don't lay them like the chickens do where the chickens lay one every day for the most part, and you just go out every day and collect the eggs. Guineas, I think it's just because they're more wild, they lay their eggs in clutches. Once or twice a year, they'll lay one egg every day, but they'll lay between 30 and 40 eggs in one nest and then that's when they would sit on the eggs and brood them. After they laid their 30 or 40 eggs, they're not going to lay anymore for a while. The eggs are totally edible. They have a thicker shell, but I wouldn't rely on them as a regular egg source because they don't lay their eggs like the chickens do.
Nicole: Well, that's all I have today for our good, bad and the ugly of guinea fowl. I hope that you found this episode to be helpful and hopefully answers some questions about guinea fowl that you might have had. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to our podcast.
Nicole: If you have any questions that you'd like us to answer on the show or maybe have some feedback or suggestions, we would absolutely love to hear from you. Please send us an email to ask, A-S-K, @heritageacresmarket.com. Don't forget that you can also find us online. We've got Instagram and Facebook and YouTube, and all of those can be found with the handle @heritageacresmarket. Our podcasts will also be coming soon to YouTube. We'll actually video record the podcast as we audio record them, so be sure to check us out there. You can watch the YouTube videos and see our smiling faces, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, and I'll also put that link in the description below. Thank you so much for listening to our podcast and we'll see you again next week.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by heritageacresmarket.com. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show, please email us at email@example.com. Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, @heritageacresmarket. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week.
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