Raising Guinea Keets with a Chicken Hen

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Recently I wanted to increase my little flock of guinea fowl, so I confined the birds for a time and started collecting the eggs. Since guinea hens are notoriously poor mothers, I was hoping for a broody chicken hen to set them under (though I had an incubator as an alternative). Fortunately, by the time I had six eggs assembled, one of my Icelandic hens had gone broody, so I set them under the hen. Meanwhile, the infamous raccoon got both of my guinea cocks, making my need for new guineas even more urgent.

At candling, four of the eggs appeared viable, but unfortunately only two hatched. This hen — like others I’ve had — managed to soil the eggs, and I’m sure that was the problem since two of them were very dirty. For some inexplicable reason, she rolled all the eggs out of the nest box early on and placed them next to the feeder and waterer, where she sat on them the whole time, standing up to eat and drink every day but never moving away from the eggs! This hen will not be offered a permanent position as a broody.

Still, two keets are better than none, and the hen is doing a quite capable job of raising them. I was anxious to see how this would work, since a friend reported giving young keets to a broody hen and finding that they couldn’t communicate — the keets just ran off and didn’t respond to the hen’s clucking, she said. But others have had success raising guinea keets with a chicken hen, so I was hoping for the best.

On hatch day I was a little concerned because the keets didn’t respond to the hen’s urgings to come to the feeder and waterer; they just seemed to poke around aimlessly until they discovered them on their own. But they do seem to have accepted her as their mother, and, even if they don’t follow her instructions very well, they tend to gravitate toward her. To be on the safe side I plan to keep them all inside, at least until they’re about four weeks old.

The situation is complicated by the fact that I currently have another hen raising chicks, and the two have to be kept apart or they’ll fight. So before I let the other birds in for the night, I have to get the hen and the keets back into their very small pen and not let them out in the morning until the others are out of the coop, which is then shut up for the day.

I’m afraid I may have to keep the keets in until the chicks are on their own, in order to keep the hens from fighting. But in the meantime I bring them fresh greens every day, and they have plenty of room to roam and try out their wings. They’re already beginning to look like very promising little guinea fowl!