The Good and Bad of Keeping Guinea Fowl

Reader Contribution by Jenna Tyger
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Before we bought our farm, I knew little about chickens, and even less about guinea fowl. Actually, I’d never heard of them before. My husband heard they were good guard birds, so we found someone selling them on Craigslist and nabbed six up. We lost one as a keet, and then two more were killed by a predator after we put them in the coop. For most of the last four years, we had three. We recently lost one to a raccoon, and are down to two.

I’ve met several guinea fowl keepers now, and they all love their guinea fowl. I’ll admit, though, that they aren’t my favorite birds. Here are some things that you should know if you ever consider keeping guineas. Some of these items could be pros or cons depending on your point of view.

– They eat bugs. They’re known for keeping the tick population down, and they’ll do it without hurting your plants.

– The females (called hens) produce small eggs that you can eat. I haven’t tried them, but my husband says they’re close to chicken eggs in taste, just tiny, so you need to use more. Many people eat guineas, but we never have, so I don’t know about flavor or texture.

– They come in a variety of colors, and their feathers are beautiful. The males (called roosters or cocks) have large wattles.

– They’re loud. This is one of the pros and cons. They will scream when predators or strangers come around and scare some of them off, as well as alert their keepers and other birds that something is wrong. Our chickens hide as soon as the guineas start screaming. The con is that their voice isn’t pretty, and can be annoying when they’re screaming at seemingly nothing (this happens all the time). The cocks and hens have different calls, and this is one way to sex them as they get older.

– They roam. They don’t stay as close to the coop as chickens do. They won’t disappear on you, but they may not be the best choice if you have close neighbors. I found this out the hard way, and all of our birds have to be kept penned now because our guineas disturbed the neighbors.

– They aren’t that bright. They are able to fly, but sometimes they’ll run back and forth across our fence line for an hour, unable to figure out how to get past it. Yet, sometimes (if there’s snow on the ground, for example, because they don’t like to walk through it), they’ll end up on the roof of the barn and refuse to come down and into the coop at night (they’ll roost in the trees if you let them). Ours also look at their reflections in glass and peck at them, thinking they’re looking at other birds. This is bad when your neighbor’s car is shiny.

– They’re bullies. They will beat up on other birds, particularly the cocks. Our cock has beaten up every rooster we’ve had, and taken on up to three ducks at once. They are the bad boys of the bird world.

– They are said to live 10 to 15 years. I’m not sure how accurate it is because ours aren’t that old, and it is a moot point if you plan to eat them, but it’s good to know if you plan to keep them long term.

This isn’t everything I’ve learned about guinea fowl in the last four years, but the main points that I wish I had known before we’d gotten them (poor planning on our part). Even with all of their faults (or what I consider faults), my husband does like them. They’ve got personality. However, if you have neighbors close and you want them to free range, they may not be the best birds for you. 

If you have guineas, is there anything you wish you had known before you got them? What types of things do your birds do that you love? What drives you crazy?

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