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Guinea Broilers

 
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Greetings All.

I was just wondering if anyone here had tried raising Guineas for meat in a Joel Salatin style 'tractor' system?  Can they cope with being in a cage all day? I can't find any mention of such a set up so I'm assuming they're not suited to it??

Thanks for your thoughts

 
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I think it important to keep in mind that it's only a cage in the detrimental sense if it is made cage-like.

If the tractor is large enough with an appropriate stocking rate for how often the tractor is moved, all you are talking about is a large, somewhat sheltered, probably shaded, predator-free area open to the ground.

Granted, I am thinking about geodesic structures with a height of six feet or so wrapped in something like 2 x 2 welded wire panels, for predator pressure and stability, but I think it applies.

-CK
 
mark anstice
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Thanks Chris. I'm thinking more of the easily moveable 9' x 6' x 2' sort, which are kind of cage-like (if one is honest) regardless of daily moving. But I wondered if Guineas adapt ok to not being able to roam more freely and whether, for example, they start to show more aggression towards one another, Rumblefish style?  And also, how long would it take for them to get up to weight?  
 
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I kept guineas for many years, and love d them,but I don't know how they would do in a confined space.  They have huge protein needs, and rely on the insect grubs and grasshoppers and such.  They do eat vegetation, but not like chickens who prefer it, so as Chris said size of the enclosure is important, and I'm thinking how often it is moved is not so important.  Unless you have a different insect situation than I had.
 
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Hi Mark,
Unfortunately Guineas are not like chooks as regards tractoring. We have a number that we are getting ready to release into our orchard. In the cage, they don’t dig but kick up a lot of dirt. They are great at getting rid of ticks and grass hoppers. They are not great at producing manure to mix into compost.
Your best option is to get chooks or pigs to do the job. Good luck with your project.
Cheers
Paul
 
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I haven't raised guineas or quail so this isn't one of those better first person experience replies.  However it's my understanding couternix quail are domesticated to be a captivity meat bird so you may have a better fit or experience with them.  Pretty much everything I know about them came from listening to thesurvivalpodcast.  I don't want to sound like a commercial but there's an alternative. I hope you find helpful.
 
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We raised guineas in a tractor one year, when predators removed a significant portion of the batch and we needed to keep the remainder contained/safe to fulfill prepaid orders.  They did okay, and though I don't have the numbers to support it I'd say they were much less economical to raise than their free-roaming brethren.  Free-roaming (I use "roaming" rather than "ranging" for a reason) guineas will forage far and wide, drastically reducing their feed consumption.  Even when we withheld feed for 24 hours prior to slaughter, their crops were full of lambsquarters seeds, because they were still roaming about for the day.

I'd say one reason not to confine them is they simply don't seem to like it, but if we're honest I think we have to say that about all poultry.  Joel Salatin talks about how if one of his Cornish Cross broilers gets out, it is obviously stressed and wants back in the tractor, but I would suggest this is not because this individual wants to be in a chicken tractor but because he wants to be with his flockmates.  Introducing certain aspects such as roost bars (guineas like to roost high, so have an appropriate shelter) and frequent tractor moves (as in multiple times per day, to more accurately simulate their roaming, and to stir up more bugs and such) would seem to go a long way toward the birds' contentment.

The difference between guineas and other domestic poultry, too, is that they are, well, much less domestic.  In other words, I think they 'submit' to confinement much less readily.

All that said, confining guineas, if not ideal, isn't the end of the world.  If your situation requires it (close neighbors, busy street, heavy predator pressure), I'd say the chicken tractor will be okay.  Then again, maybe in such a situation it would be better to simply choose a different bird to raise thus.
 
Chris Kott
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Yeah, that's a good point, Wes.

Mark, why Guineas? Any particular reason?

One thing I would probably try if the guineas seemed to like it would be a BSFL decomposition system, whereby compost, roadkill, or garden pests like squirrels (squirrel!) would feed larvae that would then drop for the guineas.

As with other pasture issues, I think in most cases that ensuring the health of the soil and pasture system on which the guineas are being tractored will ensure a complete natural food web from which to forage. I have read that inoculating degraded pasture with a 10% to 20% solution of raw milk in water will drastically improve it's health and that of the livestock grazing on it.

Inoculation with compost teas would, in all likelihood, increase the forage yield per square foot, simply because the primary producers of the system would be more numerous, and would be introduced to dead spots.

I had also toyed with the idea of keeping a woodchip pile, or a tower confined by a welded wire cage or a box made of pallets, that I would keep dampened for the wood decomposers that would come along for the feast, and in turn be eaten by the guineas.

But I can't see you incorporating that into a tractor. I don't suggest, either, that you spread a bunch of woodchips across your pasture, but increasing the amount of dead organic matter to be decomposed will increase the number of decomposers, which is what your guineas are looking to eat.

Maybe you want to run a ruminant three to five days before your guineas. That way, organic matter will be eaten and pooped out, or at least trampled, drawing the decomposers that your guineas want. In the short term, it feeds your tractored flock. In the long term, you increase the rate of nutrient and mineral cycling and bioavailability, which feeds everything.

-CK
 
Wes Hunter
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Mark, expect 16 weeks to get to slaughter weight.  I'd highly recommend "French guineas," which have been bred for meat production.  Not like a Cornish Cross, mind you, just plumper and meatier.
 
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