Caring for Guinea Keets
Guinea keets are fascinating to raise, however, they are very delicate and require different care methods than chickens. If you’ve had trouble raising keets in the past, the following tips may help you safely raise them from a hatchling to a fully-feathered bird.
Get Their Home Ready
Guinea keets need a clean, enclosed area to grow up in. You can make them a box out of plywood, use a child’s swimming pool (the hard plastic kind), or even press a large aquarium into use. The purpose of having a solid-walled enclosure is that it needs to retain heat well. Keets require a warm, draft-free environment for the first 1-6 weeks of life, or until they are fully feathered. The temperature for their first week should be approximately 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and then decrease the temperature 5 degrees for each week thereafter, until fully feathered.
Depending upon the size of the flock, you can use a regular 60-watt light bulb to keep them warm. However, the pig-tail variety of light bulb may not provide enough warmth for the keets. Use the round-type bulb for keeping your keets warm. If you have a large flock, use a brooder lamp in the enclosure to keep the keets warm.
Beware of the “donut effect” when you place a brooder lamp in an enclosure. If the lamp is too close to the floor, the keets will only stay in the outer perimeter of the light source (laying down in the shape of a donut). If the light temperature is just right, the keets will lay down directly under it and in the surrounding area.
Make sure that there is an area far enough away from the lamp that the keets can get to if they are too warm.
The Right Food
Keets need turkey starter or wild game bird starter, not chicken starter. It should also be the medicated variety. The reason for this is that Guinea keets are VERY active birds and they need a high protein diet. If you don’t provide them with the right food, they will grow, but not as fast or as healthy as they could. If your local feed store doesn’t offer it, ask them if they could order it for you. Alternatively, some hatcheries sell the correct type of feed you’ll need and can ship it to you before they ship your keets.
At 6 weeks of age, switch to turkey or game bird grower. Then at 8-10 weeks of age, switch to chicken crumbles.
The Right Bedding
If you’ve raised baby chicks before, you’re probably thinking that you can replicate your success with keets. I thought the same thing, but found out I was wrong on so many issues. One of the biggest mistakes that keet owners make in the beginning is using wood shavings as bedding. Don’t do this! Keets will eat wood shavings and will die from it. They will choose the tiny pieces of bedding to eat before they’ll eat their feed. Instead, buy several rolls of paper towels and roll it out on the floor of the brooder each day. It provides a surface that they can easily grip, and it can easily be picked up and thrown away when soiled. Change the paper towels at least once a day, and you’ll have happy and clean chicks that aren’t in danger of dying from ingesting wood chips.
Alternatively, owners can make a brooder that has a hardware cloth floor. This allows waste to fall through the bottom of the pen so that the keets aren't walking on it.
The Right Water Source
Keets are very tiny when they first arrive, so they need slightly different care when it comes to a waterer. While some farmers may have the nipple-type waterers, the majority of bird owners have the familiar red-base chick waterer. To make this safe for the tiny keets, place clean marbles in the water trough. You don’t need to fill the entire waterer with the marbles, just a handful that will keep the keets from falling in and drowning. As the chicks grow, the marbles can be removed after the keets large enough not to fall in and drown.
Moving the Keets to a Pen
At 6 weeks of age, the keets are now ready to be moved to a pen, especially if it is during the warmer summer months. They’ll have a lot of energy and will want to start spreading their wings and finding a perch to sit on.
Don’t forget to put an inexpensive mirror in their pen, as keets just love to look at their reflections. They also love little tunnels to hide in and perches at several different levels, several feet off the ground to the top of their new pen.
Be sure to give the birds enough room in a pen. They will need 2-3 feet for each bird in the pen. Remember, they aren't chickens and they need plenty of room to run around.
Buying from a Hatchery
Most individuals who are just starting to raise keets buy them from a reputable hatchery. There are many to choose from, so select the one that is closest to you so that the keets will have a short trip. For biosecurity, many hatcheries will not allow pick-ups on their property, so in most cases you’ll have to wait for them to be shipped to you.
Your keets will arrive in a small box, peeping and ready to be placed in their new home.