Guinea Fowl Are Useful and Exotic Pets
Why Raise Guinea Fowl?
I maintain a flock of Guinea fowl for several reasons. They produce great eggs, alert me when I have visitors as quickly as any watchdog, but most importantly, they spend the day foraging for ticks. Here in the tropics, I have a lot of ticks, and if you live in an area with Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or other tick diseases, Guinea might be the best animal you have ever owned.
Raising poultry in the tropics is not easy and there are a lot more problems than some areas, but Guinea fowl are well adapted to heat and sunlight, and they can do very well even without a lot of extra care. You will need to search for the best feed sources for your new Guineas, adapt heating sources since the requirements are so different, and maybe even look into alternative incubation sources, but it is all worth it.
The birds are excellent watchdogs, spend their days eating ticks and other insects around the property, and will produce enough eggs to pay for their upkeep.
Housing Your New Keets
Raising keets (hatchling Guineas) is not as easy as raising chicks. Like with any new animal, it is important to prepare the housing before arrival. Get several birds (at least 6 but 10 is even better), and make sure they have room to grow up in for the next few weeks.
In the tropics, you will not need to buy a heat lamp for them, but if they are to be raised without their mother, they might get chilled at night and need some source of supplemental heat.
A simple incandescent light bulb will provide enough warmth in the evenings. If you do not have reliable electricity or do not want to put a lamp in the outdoor cage, the alternative is to bring your keets in at night and keep them in a small cage.
I cannot guarantee the birds will not be chilled since some tropical regions can get cold at night. If you have a broody hen, you can put the keets with her but she might end up stepping on and harming the keets.
Bedding for Your New Keets
Wire cage bottoms are easy to clean and will keep predators away from your keets, but will cause you a lot of problems and may end up killing your new keets when they get their feet trapped. Your new Guinea fowl should also not be kept on sawdust because the keets will peck constantly and sometimes mistake the wood chips for food. Their small stomachs will soon fill up with wood and they will die of hunger.
Do not use newspaper, though, as it is too slick. Some Guinea farmers recommend paper towels and they are fine if available where you live.
The best bedding I have found is cardboard. Normal cardboard is too slick and the keets can slip and dislocate their legs; rip the cardboard in half so that the corrugated portion is visible. Put the slick side down and leave the corrugated portion on top.
In a few weeks, when the keets are larger, you can let them run on dirt. If you have a wire bottom cage, set it directly on the ground.
Feeding and Watering Keets
If you have turkey starter ration available where you are living, purchase that product and start your keets outright. Keets should not be fed chicken grower ration, but sometimes that is the only thing available.
Chicken starter ration is only about 22% protein, most of that coming from soy protein. If that is the only feed available, you should supplement feed with a higher protein ration. I purchase a fish ration, which is 40% protein, most of that from fish viscera.
It may not sound tasty, but the keets like to find the little fish granules in their starter ration and will eat with gusto. I usually add a few handfuls of fish granules for each 125 grams of chicken starter ration that I give at each feeding. (The chicken and turkey starter rations will already contain a coccidiostat. This medicine will help prevent coccidiosis and loose stools that will cause your keets to become dehydrated and die.)
Also, make sure you provide water for them throughout the day. Keets might drown if given a large water source so I started out by providing drinking water in a shallow “jelly jar” lid. As the keets grow, you can provide a regular chicken watering pan.
Adult Housing and Daily Care
Some producers choose to leave their birds out in the evening. Unlike chickens, Guineas will find a roost high in a tree and rarely suffer from predator attacks. (If you have owls in your region they can get your Guineas that are roosting in trees, so just to be safe, you should train your birds to sleep inside.)
I have fed my Guinea fowl in their coop each morning and evening so that it is easier for me to collect eggs. The coop does need to be covered since Guineas, unlike chickens, fly well and will search for a tree to roost in. Each evening, I close the coop up after their last feeding and have an elevated roost available for the adults to sleep in.
In the mornings, I let my flock loose to range. Since they are still mostly wild birds, they do not have specific “square-meter” housing requirements. Just provide enough space for your birds to be comfortable at night and let them free range during the day.
Except for twice daily feedings, Guinea fowl are remarkably care-free.
Guinea Fowl Health Care
Although mortality rates can be high in keets, once the Guinea fowl become adults they are hardy birds. They spend much of their time on the ground but fly when approached by predators so are not as likely to be injured as a chicken.
Since Guineas are constantly cleaning the land of all ticks and other insects, the main problem birds are faced with is internal parasites. A study done in west Africa showed a significant increase in egg production for Guineas that were wormed before the laying season, and since the cost is insignificant it is a good idea to keep them worm free.
They can be wormed with any compound used in chickens.
Consult your local feed store for dosage information. If you have a product available but are not sure about how much to give leave me a comment and I will get back to you. (Be sure to give details as to which compound you have available, the number of grams of product in the package, and the number of Guineas you need to deworm.)
Some Guinea producers raise their birds mostly for meat. I sell most of the keets I produce and the cost of their yearly upkeep is met from the income earned from the keets.
Guinea fowl, however, are not great mothers, and producing keets can be a challenge. When I was young, we allowed the Guinea hens to sit and raise their own keets. It was not unusual to start with 10 on the first day, 9 on the second, 8 on the third, etc.. If you were lucky you would end up with one or two live keets. Usually, you ended up with nothing.
I now collect the eggs and hatch them under a broody chicken. If you live in a region where electricity is always available, an incubator is great, too. Since the eggs are collected each day, the birds do not stop laying eggs to brood and will produce throughout the late winter and early spring.
If you are producing Guineas in a more temperate region, the birds will produce in the late spring and early summer. The eggs will hatch after about 21 days. Follow the tips given in this article and you can raise more keets to sell.
Get Started Now!
Since they produce eggs and some keets, my Guinea fowl provide a small extra income. It is not much, but it does pay for their feed and allows me to enjoy the birds free of charge.
The Guineas also take care of my yard, keeping it clean of insects. Tick-borne diseases are common in dogs in this region, and most of my neighbors find ticks in their dogs' ears or in their feet. I never see the little pests around here. Even if they did nothing else, that service would be worth a lot.
My garden area is fenced off to keep the chickens from destroying young tomatoes and other plants. Guinea fowl fly right over the fence, but they do not care about the plants and since they do not scratch like chickens they do almost no damage to the seedlings.
In the afternoons, I like to sit outside and read a book and a few of the Guineas like to come over and sit in my lap. They keep me company and are like having my own flock of watchdogs, ready to alert me if anyone comes to my gate, and a few times a day one of the hens will go to the pen so that she can provide me with fresh eggs.
All that for a little daily feeding!