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New to Guinea Fowl  RSS feed

 
Vince Thom
Posts: 3
Location: East Tennessee
chicken forest garden goat
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I'll be adding guinea fowl to my small farm the end of May.  They will arrive as less than one week old keets and once they are old enough I plan on free ranging them.  We have 2.5 acres that is fenced in on all four sides.  I know that they will be able to fly over the fence unless their wings are clipped but I'm not planning on doing so unless necessary.  We live in a very rural area and are bordered on two sides with wooded & farmland.  I'll have an enclosure for them with fresh water available at all times and plan on holding them in a fenced in area for a time once they leave the brooder.  My main question is, what is the best thing and how much to feed the guineas since they will be free range? 
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 2846
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Well, first off, you will be needing to keep the keets in the pen for at least 6 weeks (they need to be full grown prior to letting free range) so they know where home is (otherwise they will take off).

The usual foods are bugs, but a good chicken feed will be a treat and if you desire to do so, get meal worms for them or crickets (they will chase down a cricket or grasshopper).

Great thing about them is they love to eat ticks, will take out snakes, your fly population will decrease too.

Guineas will travel quite a ways in their search for foods they love. They will also decide to roost in trees unless they have been taught where home is.

Redhawk
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3574
Location: Anjou ,France
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They also taste great and are very popular here in  France for that reason nice with prunes for example .

David
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 2846
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
234
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Indeed they are tasty, the "poor man's pheasant".
 
Vince Thom
Posts: 3
Location: East Tennessee
chicken forest garden goat
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Thanks.  I've found much of what you've posted during my own research.  It's always good to hear from many others who have had real life experience.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 312
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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We raise French guineas for meat, feeding them the same broiler grower ration that our chickens get.  We let them out in the morning, they forage all day, and we entice them back inside by feeding them at sundown.

Last year we butchered them in three batches, over a two week period.  Prior to butchering the first batch, we stopped feeding them entirely, and I'll be darned if they didn't get heavier with each successive butcher date!  Their crops were full of lambsquarters seeds.
 
Trevor Voscinar
Posts: 6
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Good luck man. Im at the same endeavor as you right now but a slight bit ahead of you. Some people have had success keeping them with chicken i am trying to do so, tho the guineas can be a lil agressive towards them its working. I put nesting boxes on the ground to try and get the chickens to encourage them to use the nesting boxes too  but the guineas still get flighty and run or fly across the nesting boxes and will poop on eggs ocassionally or break. Its the one down side. Guineas are ground nesters so that was my thought tho i think am going to hang the nesting boxes higher again and just make sume sort of corner with tall field grasses around it instead for them. tho i am sure sum of my guineas did. Use the nesting boxes there was still spoartic eggs randomly on the floor and a hayed and wood chipped enclosure.  Just sum info on ny set up fpr your. Knowing sum of what to expect and these ares young guineas like not a gull year yet bossing around my year and cpuple month old chickens. They specifically pick on one for sum reason lately it seems. He has less tail featjers than the rest and if you dont have a raccoon trap get one and bait it often.
 
Kerry Bernal Coates
Posts: 2
Location: Madrid Spain soon to be Medina Sidonia Cadiz
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Hello, we started with only three guinea fowl last year and love them to bits, so few I don't hace to think about eating them yet! Yes aggressive to chickens, but do coexist. Ours are completely free range and roost in tree above the chickshaw. They have not attacked the vegetable patch but I have heard of tat happening occasionally with a bigger group, so fencing in your valuables might be a good idea. We feed them some chicken feed at night. The nesting is an issue as we would like to eat the eggs as welll. When one did go broody last year we tried to move the eggs to a safer place but no joy. This year I plan to fence around her to keep out the mongoose around here as well as the dog. If they eat ticks, I haven't noticed but the locusts are less here and I am convinced they keep the rats on their toes.
 
Stuart Whitby
Posts: 5
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Chickens are also aggressive to chickens.  It's a pecking order thing, and will always go on with birds.

We've been keeping a couple of guinea fowl for about 5 years now.  We had a lockdown due to bird flu recently and figured we wouldn't catch the guinea fowl - they could just stay out while the rest of them were stuck in a stables behind netting.  Once they figured out where the hens were they wanted in with them, so they're entirely sociable with chickens in my experience.  We also hatched one along with some duck eggs, as they're the same incubation period, and it lived as a duck - apart from just shouting at them when they went into the pond

I have found them terminally stupid as far as breeding goes.  Our guinea girl has gone broody twice and both times lost all chicks within 48 hours of hatching by doing things like flying over a fence and expecting them to follow, or just walking them through long wet grass until they get chilled and die. 

Ours have roosted in trees, stay in the hen house, or sit on top of the gates at night.  We haven't had any problems with them flying off.  There's enough food around our place for them I guess to give them no reason to go elsewhere.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1379
Location: northern California
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I have tried guineas multiple times on multiple sites and have always been disappointed eventually.  If I got to letting them free-range during the day, they would not come back to the pen with the chickens at night, preferring to roost up on something.  Usually not in a tree, but on top of a building or a fence or something like that, exposed to the sky.  Then, they would vanish one after another at night.  Every time.  I think that owls were picking them off.  Even if they would roost down under the canopy of a dense tree they would be less vulnerable, but as it is, every time I've had them (3 or 4 times at least) they've always become owl bait.
 
Deborah Tupin
Posts: 12
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i was told to think of guineas as an annual crop. we purchased 26 and raised them in a large walk -in coop until we felt they were big enough to fly or run from the hawks, foxes, and other predators here in northern va. we gave them chicken layer feed to train them to follow us to the coop at night. this only worked for a while as they soon decided that roosting in trees at night was their preference and we could not do anything to get them in at night. they were picked off slowly one by one or in twos once fall came and the weather turned colder. we would find their body parts or feathers other places on the farm. eventually their were none left. we were very sad for them but i have also been told that they are the dumbest birds in the world. without them, the ticks and mosquitoes are overwhelming us this year. next year we will buy some more and have them ready to go out when the warm weather starts and then they can do their job all spring and summer. hopefully, some will overwinter. i wish you better luck with your's
 
Mike Arr
Posts: 28
Location: Southeast PA, zone 6b
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By posting this I am pretty sure I'm dooming another guinea to death. As soon as I think I am in a rhythm, something changes and they find another way to die. Over about 15 months I bought 11 adults, 10 teenagers, 8 keets and hatched 6 keets. Of the 35 I was steady at 11 for about a couple months, but went to 10 on Tuesday and will soon be 9 as a couple had problems laying their first eggs. The prior three died from a hawk, a neighbor's trespassing dog and exhaustion when one flew up into a tree before a blizzard and refused to come down for three days.

A lot of the early deaths were newbie error. My first 4 didn't sleep in the pen, at first, so I kept the door open. When they started to, they died. I learned raccoons can reach through chicken wire can decapitate keets (-5). I learned you can't keep the pen door open with keets inside during the day in the spring because a mama fox will grab them and take them back to her den for her cubs (-3). I learned you can't keep the door closed during the day in the winter, because there is not enough cover and there is no where to hide when the red-tailed hawk shows up (-4).

I keep tinkering with my system. When they all run off at once, they often come back one man short, so I try to keep them closer to the house. It helps if you keep 2-3 birds in the cage and let the others out. Currently I'm experimenting with a concept I call "idiot bird inertia." I have a 2x2' door at the top of the coop, at the end of one roost. I also built a one-way door at the floor of the pen. At any given time, there are a couple of birds that can't figure out how to get out or get back in, so I seem to always have a couple of birds in the pen, which keeps the others fairly local, and I'm not fussing with who gets to be in and who gets to be out.

I think if I can keep them locked in the cage at night and fairly close to the house I am bound to lose about one per month from the occasional fox or hawk. I am trying to get to a point where I can stay above a certain critical mass where they can be sustained despite the 12-15/year loss rate. Hopefully my population is getting stronger and smarter. They are laying now and I actually have them laying in the pen. There are about 20 eggs in there and we'll see if/when one goes broody.

I have them because I want free range birds and grass, and that has been a success. I also have them for ticks - we pulled 20+ ticks off of us last May and June, so the next 60 days will tell us if we have been successful in this endeavor.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 317
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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i had 15 of them last year. same issues as above. by sept i had 2 birds left. they preferred to roost on my neighbors shed which got his dog going! he wasn't very happy with me and my gunieas! i got 8 khaki campbell laying ducks. as long as they have a good water source they don't go anywhere and are a lot smarter than a guinea! bigger richer eggs too.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 312
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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I'll further elaborate on our method, in light of other folks' negative outcomes.

Last year we started a batch of 100 keets.  We brooded them for about 4 weeks, then moved the 93 survivors into a coop in the back of our barn.  They were kept confined to this coop for 7 to 10 days or so, to re-home them.  After this period, we would let them out in the morning, let them roam all day, and shut them up come nightfall.  We encouraged them to return by feeding them in the evening, and only in the evening.  They wouldn't all always go back into the coop, but they did all return to the back of the barn; all that was left for us was to usher them in.

After about a week of free-ranging we were down to 85 guineas.  I suspect most of the losses were to predation (I know at least one was NOT eaten), though it's hard to say for sure.  Ten weeks later, when it was time for processing, we still had 85 guineas.

I would consider this a success.  Here's why I think it worked.

One, the guineas were all the same age, which I imagine means they operate as a group much more readily.  The hierarchy was presumably less pronounced than it would have been if there were mixed ages, making group dynamics operate more smoothly.

Two, this was a relatively large group.  As a flock of guineas acts more as a unit than as a collection of individuals, this was in essence a relatively large organism.  I suspect this makes predation less likely.  (Think of this as trying to take down a cow versus trying to take down a lamb.)  Added to that is the simple mathematical fact that more guineas means more eyes means more chance of spotting potential dangers.

Three, the coop in which they were housed has a high ceiling (10' or more, I'd guess), meaning they could roost high off the ground as is their wont.  Thus, less desire to roost in trees, etc.--though I did have to shoot one off the barn roof in their last week, when he refused to come down; better for him to be food in my belly than food in an owl's belly.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 317
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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i believe in the more eyes the safer. i too would feed at night but they mostly preferred my big spruces in the backyard for roosting as they were able to be hidden by the boughs . daytime it was mine or my neighbors shed as they could see more. if i had a bigger farm away from everyone i might try them again. but like was said they aren't too smart. my ducks are a lot smarter.
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 204
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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We are on our second set of guineas.  The first set really never left their coop and run but they were purchased in tha fall as 6-8 week old keets and spent their first winter cooped up.  So when spring came they just weren't willing to leave!

This set I hatched myself last spring so we were able to get them used to the routine we wanted early on.  We have found that we have less of an issue with predation if we wait until lunchtime before we release them to free range.  So far so good!
 
Vince Thom
Posts: 3
Location: East Tennessee
chicken forest garden goat
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Lots of good information.

One further question.  We'll be getting our keets in about two weeks.  What does everybody sue for bedding in the brooder?  I've used pine shavings for all of our chickens, but hate the dust. 
Can sand be safely used?
Livestock bedding like airelite ([url]http://airliteusa.com/)
Straw?
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 204
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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After an initial period of paper towels, I used newspaper and shavings.
 
Barbara Bartholomew
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I have 20 guinea fowl. The road is several hundred feet from their coop, and there are many hundreds of acres in the other direction they could happily wander, but they go into the road every morning. This presents a danger to drivers, I fear. My son is trying to repattern them by chasing them back to the land and leading them with millet where he wants them to go. Is there anything else we could deploy - fox urine, for example? I take it an electric wire is useless.  Thanks!
 
Mike Arr
Posts: 28
Location: Southeast PA, zone 6b
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I don't know about fox urine, but I can verify that they pay no heed to plastic owls.

I have given up on trying to control them entirely, but if I see that they are developing a habit that I don't like - such as running off the property in the same direction every day - I will try to disrupt that by locking 2 of the females in the coop for a few days. It will cause commotion - they will all make noise and some of the cocks with fight it out. Some will stay close to the coop while others will break off to go foraging in smaller groups. It could help them to develop a new routine, especially if you keep chucking handfuls of millet into the woods in your preferred direction.

It's easy to do. A lot easier than trying to herd them. I probably do this to my guineas every couple of months.
 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1951
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I don't know too much about guinea fowl but a lot of birds will head towards a road because it's a good place to find gravel and grit.  If you live in a place where the roads are salted during winter, they might be down there for the mineral salts.  There's a reason they are taking a risk with the cars.  Maybe try giving them a place to have access to grit, shell, and minerals someplace between the coop and the road.  If they stop at that spot instead of going to the road then you'll be a little closer to an answer.  They might still go to the road as a habit but the reward will be diminished. Maybe take a walk with them to the road and see what is of interest to them?

 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 312
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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A more drastic yet uncertain solution might be to get rid of this batch and start another.

We raise guineas for meat.  Last year, the batch of 80-something went into the road, and indeed lounged in the road, often.  This year, I think I had to shoo them off maybe two or three times.  This year's batch just didn't go there, despite being housed in the same place (thus same proximity to the road) as last year's batch.

For what it's worth, last year's batch stayed together in one large group, while this year's batch would break into groups of 10 to 20.  (This also opened them up to more predation.)  I can't see how that's at all related to the road-going, but there it is.
 
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