Our Guinea Adventure

By Oz Girl
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Thinking about adding some guineas to your homestead?  I’ve been interested in guineas ever since I moved to Kansas in 2008.  My friend has a few, and every time I visited her I enjoyed watching her guineas free-range on her property.  In addition, I had heard they were excellent at tick control, and I was tired of picking ticks off our dogs or employing chemical means to keep them free of ticks and fleas!

But our chicken coop had been severely damaged in a pasture fire, so before we could get any birds at all, it needed renovated from the ground up.  Guineas and chickens were on hold for now, until we had more time to fix-up the coop… or so I thought.

On September 2nd we walked into Orscheln’s for a few farm supplies, and lo and behold, they had new guinea keets and chicks in stock!  There were only 5 lavender guineas, which I wanted oh-so-badly.  Finally, hubby conceded and told me to go ahead and get them – he even bought them for me.  I was in guinea heaven.  I told Orscheln’s staff I would return on Saturday to pick up the keets.  Sadly, one of the lavenders drowned himself before then, so I took a pearl guinea keet to replace him.  FYI – drowning is a common occurrence with young keets – to prevent this, I put rocks in their waterer for the first few weeks.

1 week old guinea keets

Hubby spent all Saturday afternoon building a large brooder for the keets.  This worked out well, since I had decided I wanted to keep them on our enclosed back porch. And now this brooder will be handy when we get our first chickens this spring.

My goal was to tame them, but alas, I found out you really need to start this process from the day they hatch.  They were already a week old and sadly, quite skittish!  To this day, they squawk up quite a commotion when we enter the coop, but if I’m patient, and sit still with some millet, they will eventually peck it from my hand.

Next on hubby’s agenda:  the chicken coop renovation.  This was no small task, since the coop was severely damaged in our 2009 spring pasture burn.  Even before the burn, the coop was not a very sturdy structure.

Needless to say, it took quite a few weeks before the coop was ready to house the guinea keets.

In fact, we released them to the coop on their 6 week birthday!  My advice:  have your coop ready if you get new birds.  At 6 weeks old, they were too big for the brooder and we were anxious to get them off our enclosed back porch.

6 week old guineas

It took the guineas 2 days to come off the edges of their brooder and explore the coop.  We continued working on the coop — insulating the inside, painting the exterior, and building a temporary outdoor run.  This spring hubby will construct an outside enclosure, not necessarily for the guineas, but for the chickens we hope to add. The guineas will be allowed to free-range once spring arrives.

 We still need to build a separate nursery area for future new chicks and a ladder roost inside the coop.  In the meantime, an old saw horse seems to work just fine for the guineas.

9 week old guineas

One word of caution: young juvenile guineas DO make a lot of noise.  They squawk at almost everything.  I’ve been assured this is a “teeenage” phase they are going through, and they will quiet down as they mature and realize that not everything is a threat.

Our chicken coop has come a long way – before winter weather arrived, hubby finished stripping off the old roof and installing used metal panels, adding a vent on one side, and installing electric.

Old roof tear-off

New roof with salvaged metal panels

The internet proved to be a valuable resource for guinea information, as did Jeannette Ferguson’s book, Gardening with Guineas.  Do you have guineas, or are you thinking about adding them to your homestead?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject!