Every homesteading family should have a flock of guineas – even though they will never eat them or a single one of their eggs. Guineas are the junkyard dog of the poultry world. They will not only protect the flock of meat chickens, ducks, and turkeys, but pull double duty eat bugs and ticks that want to dine on garden planted to feed the family or take to market.
Raising Guineas To Protect The Rest Of Your Poultry
Guineas are the most low-cost and low-maintenance breed of poultry in existence. Except during the harsh months of winter, you will likely never have to spend a cent on feed for the free-ranging flock. From sun up until sun down guineas wander around the homestead plucking all the spiders, ticks, locusts, beetles, wasps, flies, tadpoles, frogs, worms, snakes, potato beetles, snails, and even cockroaches they can find.
Endeared By Farmers
Come night time, the real hunt begins for the flock of guineas. They just love to attack mink – the number one killer of poultry flocks. When guineas discover a mink, or any predator, near their living area, they carry on something loud and fierce. A guinea flock will even take on rattlesnake or a copperhead, which has endeared them to ranchers across the country.
Many farmers refer to guineas as sacrificial lambs. The old timers did not place such a label on the unusual members of the poultry family to be cruel or cold-hearted, they were merely being brutally honest. When you invest in starting a flock of guineas, losing some – perhaps even many, is a downright given. But, what you won’t lose, are your meat chickens and ducks, breeding pairs of the same, and laying hens.
My Little Assassins
I prefer to refer to my flock of guineas as “my little assassins.” That is truly what they are after all. Nothing short of a fox, wild boar, or hawk willingly come back twice when faced with an angry flock of guineas. Even if your chicken coop is several acres away from the house, you WILL hear them when they get excited over finding a snake – think free big juicy steak to properly gauge a comparable human level of excitement. When you hear loud whistling, chirping, and clicking, the guinea flock has found something significant approaching them and/or the chicken coop.
Guineas do not live in the chicken coop with the rest of the flock, but should be trained from the time the hatchlings are old enough to leave a brooder that the coop and run are their home base. Guineas roost in trees much like turkeys but should be provided a shelter of some type to get into during extremely poor weather. A three-sided hutch or shed will suit them just fine – especially if it faces south to help them stay as warm as possible.
My brooder doubles as transitional housing for guinea hatchlings. Once they are old enough to go outside I put them in their former wood, chicken wire, and hardware cloth enclosure and sit it next to the coop. Guineas are smaller than typical farm poultry and can be squished by them or relentlessly pecked if intermingled.
The various flocks get to know each other this way and the guineas learn where their home base and protectees are located and will most often never stray too far away from the coop unless hunting for food and roost in nearby trees at night.
The keets (young guineas or hatchlings) remain in their new enclosure until they are keets at least one month old, but typically two months old. Letting them free-range too soon will quickly zap the numbers of your flock, unless older guineas are also present to teach and help protect them. While the keets are in their outdoor enclosure I let them out in the late afternoon every day for at least a few hours even though their temporary habitat is spacious.
Guineas require a substantial amount of exercise for both their physical and mental well-being. Being “cooped up” tends to make them very testy. Lure them back before the sun sets with the shake of a feed bucket or a treat. This helps to train them to come back to the same area near the duck and chicken coop at nightfall to protect your meat and egg flock. They can snack on anything that is also safe for chicks and ducklings, but millet seems to be their favorite treat. Packages of millet run only a couple of dollars and are readily available in the bird section of the pet store. Simply plant the remains of a millet stick onto the compost pile and soon you will be growing your own guinea treats.
Guineas need a diet filled with more protein than chickens, ducks, and turkeys. They can survive and thrive on the same feed but flourish when fed a high protein diet to supplement their foraged meals when necessary. Keets should be offered a feed with about a 25% protein ratio. Once they are older the protein level can be reduced to about 18 to 20% and then a 16% layer mash once they are more mature birds.
Not Your Typical Farm Animal
Do not try to catch a guinea by one leg as many folks do with chickens. It will go into attack mode immediately and possibly break its beak trying to get free. Guineas love their freedom and can be tamed to a certain degree, especially if you raise them from hatchlings (many homesteaders purchase eggs from local or online hatcheries) and handle them frequently, but do not expect them to warm up to you as is common with many breeds of chickens and ducks.
Guineas will come running to you for a treat or a meal, which are the best ways to entice them to gather where you need them to be and to do a flock count. When raised among chickens and ducks, guineas tend to become a lot more tame than flocks raised isolated from more domesticated fowl.
There are a plethora of guinea varieties, many are quite beautiful in their own odd-looking sort of way. They typically lay eggs between March and May like other breeds of poultry after the hens reach about 25 to 30 weeks old. A healthy and average hen will usually lay about 100 eggs each year until she is at least five years old.
Guinea hens commonly lay their eggs in either the late morning or early afternoon hours. The hens typically lay their eggs on the floor of their hutch or the ground near their roosting spot and not in a nest. In all honesty, you probably won’t know your guineas has laid eggs until you see a string of hatchlings trailing along behind them.
Guinea eggs are rather cute. They shells are a light shade of brown and speckled. The egg shells are a significant bit tougher than regular chicken eggs and have a sharper point on the rounded narrow end. Guinea eggs are smaller than chicken eggs. It usually takes three guinea eggs to equal the size of a standard chicken egg.
Identifying Male From Female
One guinea cock per every five hens is recommended – as long as the cock is no more than three years old fertile eggs should be readily produced. A cock and his harem of laying hens develop quite a tight bond and often run to each other like long-lost lovers in a cheesy romantic comedy when separated only a short while or by a small distance – it is quite a humorous sight to behold.
Guinea hens are typically quite fertile. Rarely do they cross-breed with free-ranging chickens. If the unusual does occur, the end result is most often a vulture-looking type creature that is infertile.
Sexing guineas based upon how they look is nearly impossible. Cocks are slightly larger than hens once they pass the keets stage, but it’s barely enough of a difference to notice. The red waddles on the neck of a cock are a little more vibrant and larger than the waddles on a hen – but again, it is quite a subtle difference.
Guinea hens make a two-syllable sound which some folks hear as “come back, come back” and others think sounds more like, “good luck, good luck.” Cocks prefer to make a one-syllable noise that sounds an awful lot like the buzz of a chainsaw or a repeated, “chi-chi-chi.” A guinea hen who is in an angry state can sound a lot like a cock, but cocks have never been known to make a two-syllable sound like a hen.
Survivalistboards shows us his guineas for when SHTF and the time he had to wait to get them:
What do you think about raising guineas? Let us know in the comments below.
Want another project to make your chicken-keeping easier? Check out here 10 Easy To Build Chicken Watering Stations to keep your flock well hydrated!