Ultimate Guide to Caring for Guinea Fowl
Guinea fowl can be a great addition to your barnyard, whether you want to use them as alert birds, raise them for meat or eggs, or simply just have them around. Raising guinea fowl can be quite different than raising chickens, so it’s important to educate yourself before your purchase these birds.
How do you care for guinea fowl? There are different aspects of caring for guinea fowl that I will cover in this article. When caring for guinea fowl, you have to be educated on the following:
- guinea fowl behavior and characteristics
- guinea fowl lifespan and life stages
- food and sustenance requirements
- housing and shelter recommendations
- common health conditions
In this article, I will provide in-depth information about caring for and raising guinea fowl. Properly taking care of your guineas can help expand their lifespan and increase the quality of products they produce. To learn about caring for guinea fowl, keep reading!
Guinea Fowl Behavior and Characteristics
Guinea fowl are funny birds who aren’t your typical poultry. Understanding some of their characteristics and behavior will help you to understand the birds more and know how to provide them with better care. In this section, I will give a basic overview of guinea fowl behavior and characteristics.
What Does a Guinea Fowl Look Like?
Guinea fowl have a very unique look, although they can be mistaken for some type of turkey. To me personally, I think their rounded back and large body make them look like ticks! However, there are a few signature aspects to a guinea fowl’s appearance:
- Guinea fowl have a large oval-shaped body.
- Their feathers are usually grey in color covered with white dots.
- A guinea’s head is usually white or blue.
- Most guineas have wattles.
- They have slender necks and short beaks.
If you get confused between a turkey and a guinea, guinea fowl are usually smaller, weighing between 1 – 4 lbs (.5 – 2 kg). Guinea fowl also have shorter tail feathers while female turkeys usually have longer and more pronounced tail feathers.
Guinea Fowl Are Social Birds and Live in a “Confusion”
A group of guinea fowl is called a “confusion,” which may seem like a good name for these birds due to their quirky personalities and their ability to find themselves as tasty snacks for predators. That being said, a guinea hen will stick closely to the other birds in the group to provide a sense of protection and security.
If you’ve ever had chickens, you may have noticed how they tend to mind their own business. They’ll stay close to each other, but they won’t follow each other around as if their lives depended on it. Well…guinea fowl will. Where one guinea hen goes, the others will go. You will usually see a confusion of guinea fowl staying close together as they browse and pick through the grass.
Being in a group provides security for guinea fowl. In a group, there are more eyes and ears searching for danger. If for some reason you have a lone guinea bird, that guinea fowl will probably learn to stay close to other poultry or livestock. We had a guinea fowl that had managed to outlive all the others. This bird somehow managed to become apart of our horse herd! Whenever I went out to check on the horses, the guinea fowl was in the middle of the group of grazing horses. That being said, it’s always a good idea to provide your guinea fowl with other guineas or poultry that they can be social with.
Do Guinea Fowl Lay Eggs?
Guinea fowl do lay eggs that you can collect and eat. They do not, however, lay eggs year-round. Most guinea hens will lay eggs daily from early Spring to early Autumn. If you do plan on collecting these eggs, you will need to raise and train your guineas to nest in a coop at night so that you can gather the eggs in the morning.
Guinea fowl prefer to be free-range, and unless taught to come to a coop for the night, you will likely never see any eggs. These birds tend to roost up high in trees and on top of buildings. To teach the guineas to roost in a coop, purchase keets, or young guinea hens, and keep them in an enclosed space where you can round them up and shut them in a coop at night. Once they get older, you can gradually start to free-range them. Through this process, most guinea fowl will learn to return to the coop each night.
To learn more about coop-training your guinea fowl, check out my article Do Guinea Fowl Need a Coop? Essential Care Guide.
Are Guinea Fowl Aggressive?
While guinea fowl are easy prey for many predators, guineas can be dominant and aggressive towards other poultry and are even known to kill snakes and small rodents. That being said, they will usually kill snakes by playing with them and pecking them rather than attacking them because they see them as a threat. (To learn more, check out my article Do Guinea Fowl Kill Snakes? What You Should Know.)
In some instances, guinea fowl may bully chickens by pecking them, chasing them away from feed, and even causing severe injury or death. If you plan on keeping your chickens and guinea fowl together, it’s best to introduce them at a young age, when the guinea fowl are still keets. Avoid keeping male guineas with roosters, as male guinea fowl can be quite aggressive towards other birds.
Guinea Fowl Are Easy Prey
While guinea fowl can fly higher than most poultry and will send out an alerting call at the first sign of danger, these birds tend to end up as dinner for wild dogs, birds of prey, or wild cats. One of the main reasons for this is that guinea fowl like to free-range at night and roost outside rather than staying in a safe and secure environment like a barn or a coop. This makes them more susceptible to predators and danger.
Another reason why guinea fowl tend to meet an early demise at the hand of a predator is that they do not have very good eyesight. While these birds like to stay out at night, they cannot see in the dark, making it easy for a predator to sneak up on them and pounce.
Before you get guinea fowl, it’s important to understand how susceptible they are to danger and predators and what you can do to help increase their longevity.
Guinea Fowl Are Often Used As Alert Birds
If you’re looking for a way to alert you or your farm animals of danger or strangers in the area, guinea fowl make perfect alarm systems. When a guinea senses danger or is wary of something or someone new, they will let out a loud squawk to let everyone know. When we had guineas at our horse stable, the birds would squawk anytime a car drove up that they didn’t recognize.
Sometimes, the loud squawking of a guinea fowl can be enough to deter predators from attacking other livestock or poultry. While guinea fowl rarely attempt to fight off predators, they do make excellent guardian birds due to their ability to alert animals of danger.
To learn more about livestock guardian animals, check out my article What Are the Best Livestock Guardian Animals?
Guinea Fowl Lifespan and Life Stages
Did you know guinea fowl require specific care at certain stages of their lives? For example, baby guinea fowl will need to be raised under a heat lamp just like baby chickens. As they age, they will become more independent and able to fend for themselves. In this section, I provide an overview of a guinea fowl’s lifespan and life stages you can expect when raising your birds.
How Long Do Guinea Fowl Live?
Many guinea fowl meet early demises at the hand of predators. If your guinea fowl does manage to avoid becoming lunch, you can expect them to live an average of 13 years. You can help your guineas’ chances of survival by providing them with a secure shelter to roost in, whether that’s in a coop or in your barn rafters. You can also keep them in with geese, who are more likely to attack and chase away predators.
What’s the Incubation Period for Guinea Fowl Eggs?
If you plan on breeding guinea fowl, it’s important to know the incubation period for guinea fowl eggs. Guinea fowl eggs usually incubate for 28 days before hatching. Guinea fowl can nest in a coop if they have been taught to, but free-range guineas will tend to build their nests and lay their eggs on the ground. Guinea hens tend to lay numerous eggs at a time, but only about 50% survive the incubation period.
What’s a Baby Guinea Fowl Called?
A baby guinea fowl is known as a “keet.“ You should take care of guinea keets just as you would baby chickens. They require a warm and dry place, like under a heat lamp, until they are fully feathered. Keets become fully feathered around 6 weeks of age, which is when they can start being integrated into an outdoor setting.
Like with any baby animal, keets are fragile and more susceptible to danger. As you raise guinea keets, there are steps you can take to help increase their chances of making it to adulthood. Instead of bedding, lay down paper towels in their area. Keets like to try and eat other types of bedding, which can cause them to choke or become sick and die.
Also, look for alternative ways you can provide water to your guinea keets. Keets are small and can fall into a chicken waterer and drown. You can use nipple waterers or waters made specifically for chicks.
When Do Guinea Fowl Reach Maturity?
Female guinea fowl can start laying eggs as early as 12 months, but they don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re about 2 years of age. Guinea hens will usually produce eggs daily during their laying season for 3 – 5 years. After that, the frequency of their egg-laying will start to decrease. When bred, guinea fowl tend to lay numerous eggs at a time due to the high risk of most not surviving.
What to Feed Your Guinea Fowl
When it comes to raising and caring for any animal, it’s important to provide them with proper sustenance so that they can grow and thrive. When it comes to raising poultry, and especially guinea fowl, you may be wondering how much food you will actually have to provide for your birds since they tend to eat bugs and vegetation throughout their day. Here is all you need to know about feeding guinea fowl.
How Much Food and Water Do Guinea Fowl Need?
Like most poultry, guinea fowl require at least 0.25 – 0.5 lbs of food a day, whether that’s a combination of bird feed and forage or it’s a free-range bird fending entirely for itself. Guinea fowl require a diet higher in protein compared to chickens, so they rely heavily on bugs, greens, small rodents, and high-protein bird feed to sustain their diet.
Guinea fowl can drink up to a pint of water a day, so it’s important to ensure that they have access to fresh water. Free-range guineas will rely on any water source, from a small pond to a water trough or puddle. If you keep your guinea fowl in an enclosure, be sure to check and fill a waterer for them every day so that they can stay hydrated.
Foods That Guinea Fowl Eat
Did you know that many people purchase guinea fowl just to use them as natural pest control? A population of guineas can easily remove unwanted pests from your property, from ticks and mosquitoes to rats and snakes. Guinea fowl are not picky eaters, and they do have certain foods they enjoy more than others. Here is a list of things that guinea fowl can eat:
- High-Protein Bird Feed
- Sunflower Seeds
- Small Lizards
Your guinea fowl can be used to take care of a pest problem, to eat away weeds, and to finish off your leftovers. Since Guinea fowl originated from the wilds of Africa and are still considered undomesticated birds, their diet will rely heavily on what they find as they forage and browse throughout the day.
Foods That Guinea Fowl Shouldn’t Eat
While there’s a lot of foods and items that guinea fowl can eat, it’s important to know the things they should avoid consuming. If a guinea fowl consumes the wrong thing, it can cause the bird severe illness and even death.
There isn’t much that guinea fowl can’t eat; I would just avoid giving them processed human food that may have excessive sugar and salt that the birds aren’t used to. You should also avoid feeding any poultry undercooked and dry beans since they can affect your bird’s digestion. Avocado pits and skins are also toxic to birds and should not be fed as leftovers.
Should I Feed My Guinea Fowl Bird Feed?
Many people wonder whether or not they should feed their guineas bird feed since these birds often free-range and are pretty good at fending for themselves. Birdfeed can be fed to help sustain your guinea fowl’s diet, especially if they live in an enclosed area where forage is limited.
From the start, guinea fowl require high-protein food. You can feed guinea keets a turkey starter since it is considered high in protein at 24-26%. As the guinea fowl matures, they can be fed birdseed with a protein level of 16%. Guineas aren’t fond of pelleted food, so try finding a mash or scratch that would better suit them.
Housing and Shelter for Guinea Fowl
It can be tricky to figure out how to provide housing and shelter for your guinea fowl. Guineas are considered undomesticated, so they don’t have the domesticated habits that chickens have, like returning to a coop and living in an enclosure. With all that said, proper shelter is vital to the survival of your guinea fowl, whether they are free-range or not. Here’s all you need to know about housing and shelter for guinea fowl:
Guinea Fowl Are Naturally Free-Range Poultry
Guinea fowl are naturally free-range birds. This means that they rather be in a large open space where they can wander around rather than being in an enclosed area like a pen or a coop. This also means that these birds are highly independent and are pretty good at finding their own food and water when left to fee-range. They will also roost up high in trees to help them stay safe from predators.
There are some things to know about free-range guinea fowl. If they are not gradually introduced to the free-range as keets, they will probably leave and never come back once you turn them loose for the first time. It can also be difficult to keep them safe from predators or the elements since they may refuse to shelter in a barn or in a coop. Many free-range guinea fowl rarely live to a good old age; they’re usually eaten by predators or die of exposure.
Guinea Fowl Are Susceptible to Many Different Predators
One thing you should know about guinea fowl is that they are incredibly susceptible to predators. The reason for this is because they have horrible eyesight and tend to stay out at night when most predators are hunting. Even if they roost up high in a tree, they can still be picked off by birds of prey or wild cats. Here is a list of the most common guinea fowl predators:
- Wild Cats
While there are many positive traits about guinea fowl, the bird’s negative trait unfortunately often calls for an early demise: guinea fowl just aren’t that smart. They can’t outwit a predator. When it comes to seeing a guinea living a good long while, only the smart will survive. The ones that learn to roost in a barn or in a shelter at night have a much higher chance of surviving than those who don’t.
You Can Teach Guinea Fowl to Roost in a Coop and Live in an Enclosure
The good news is that you can train your guinea fowl to roost in a coop and live in an enclosure. While it may originally be against these birds’ natures, if trained from a young age, they can easily accept living in an enclosure without a problem.
An easy way to teach a guinea fowl to roost in a coop each night is to keep it will chickens. Guinea fowl are social animals and will follow wherever the other animals go. Guineas do not like to be left alone and will do their best to stay with other birds or animals. By keeping your guinea fowl in with chickens, it will learn to follow the chickens into the coop each night where it can be safe and secure from predators.
Guinea Fowl Coop and Enclosure Requirements
If you do plan on keeping your guinea fowl in an enclosure with a coop, there are some things you can do to make the enclosure more natural and comfortable for the guineas. Here are some things to consider:
Make Sure the Enclosure is Covered
Did you know that guinea fowl can fly for about 500 ft? That’s pretty far and pretty high. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure you cover the enclosure you plan on keeping your guinea fowl in. You can use chicken mesh to block the escape route but still provide sunlight into the pen. You’ll also want to make sure the cover or the roof is strong enough to hold predators that may jump or climb on top of it.
Provide Them With Roosting Perches
Guinea fowl naturally like to roost off the ground and in trees. Provide your birds with roosting perches both in their coop and out in their enclosure. This can make them feel a little bit more comfortable and secure.
Build Nesting Boxes If You Plan on Collecting Eggs
Another reason to teach your guinea fowl to return to a coop is so you can collect their eggs in the morning. Guinea hens lay eggs daily from the Springtime to Autumn, so you will have a chance to gather many eggs. If you plan on collecting guinea fowl eggs, you should provide your birds with nesting boxes. Guinea hens will actually share and lay eggs in the same box, so don’t be surprised if you find a bunch of eggs in one box!
We have many articles about how to take care of your poultry and livestock, from chickens and guinea fowl to sheep and goats. You can check out a complete list of my articles by clicking here!