Popular homestead birds, gums provide eggs as well as a delicious, gamey meat. They are excellent if allowed to run wild, and don’t scratch for feed, so they are less destructive in the gardens than chickens. They can also be raised in hen house.
Guinea Fowl Breeds and Varieties
There are three varieties of guinea fowl available – Pearl, Lavender and White. There is little difference among them except in color. The Pearl variety has purple gray plumage dotted with white. Lavender guineas are similar but their plumage is light grey or lavender dotted with white. Whites have pure white plumage and a lighter skin.
Guinea Chicks (Keets)
Guinea chicks, called keets, can be mail-ordered. Brooding procedures are the same as with chickens.
If you wish to raise keets from your own guineas, it is best to incubate the eggs yourself or give them to a domestic chicken hen to raise since guinea hens are poor. Hens usually lay one egg a day, and will lay 30 before becoming broody. Often several hens will lay in the same nest.
To keep the hen laying throughout the season, remove eggs from the nest but leave half-a-dozen marked eggs to encourage laying.
If you are incubating the eggs, treat them like chicken eggs. If one of your hens is on guinea eggs, keep her lice-free and change the nesting material regularly. The incubation period for guinea eggs is 28 days. Keep the eggs lightly water to aid the keets in breaking their shells.
Guinea Fowl Housing
Few guineas can be kept on farm with hens, or allowed to go wild, but still do very well if left by themselves or can be fed twice a day to encourage them to come home to roost.
If you want to raise more than a few, provide them with a coop. Guineas will require a run, the larger the better, with six-foot-high walls of poultry fencing tight covering of the same material. Facilities should also be provided in Guineas raised on range should be provided with shelters like chickens on range. Stand warned, however, that unless the birds are pinioned or the six primaries of one wing removed, guineas will quickly fly out of their range enclosure and live in the wild.
Guinea Fowl Feeding
Guineas will feed themselves if allowed to run wild, eating grubs and insects. If kept inside, the birds are fed the same as turkeys. On range the birds can also be fed similarly to turkeys, but should be fed twice a day. Feed in the late afternoon if you want them to return to their shelters for the night.
The first feed for keets may be turkey starting mash. When you are going to put the keets in your brooder, dip their beaks in turkey starting mash and then in water. Starter mash should contain 25 percent protein, and may include oatmeal or finely chopped green feed.
Growing mash and grain should be fed to the keets after they are about six weeks old. After the first ten days, keep mash constantly in front of the keets or feed four or five times daily.
Guineas in captivity need a constant source of fresh water. For keets, put pebbles in the trough so the keets will not drown themselves in their drinking water.
Guinea Fowl Sexing
Guinea hens and cocks resemble each other, and sexing is often difficult. General advice for sexing is that the female guinea emits a cry that sounds like “buckwheat, buckwheat,” while the cry of the male is mono-syllabic. Males have higher and darker combs, longer wattles, and the white, skin like covering of the head extends farther down the neck than on the female. If a pair is disturbed during laying season, the male will utter a shrill cry and fly away while the female remains on the nest.
Guinea Fowl Slaughtering and Using
Young birds are usually marketed when they reach 1.5 to two pounds live weight. At this stage the meat is tender and resembles the flesh of quail or partridge. At six to ten months the flesh closely resembles that of pheasant and is slightly gamey. Guineas may be prepared for the table as are other poultry of a corresponding size or age, and may also be prepared as game birds. Indeed, in England and Europe guinea fowl are often hunted as game birds.
The easiest way to slaughter domestic guineas is to take a sharp knife, sever the artery in the roof of the mouth, and pierce the brain by pushing the knife into the skull cavity. Birds should be hung upside down to drain. Piercing the brain this way aids in loosening the feathers, and guineas then can be dry-plucked. Never scald the birds. After they have been plucked, chill them quickly.
Guinea eggs are smaller than chicken eggs, and can be fried, scrambled or hard-boiled. The whites are lighter when whipped than the whites of hens’ eggs and are therefore good for cake baking. Sixteen whites from guinea eggs equal 11 whites from chicken eggs. Be sure the birds do not see you gathering the eggs, or they are likely to move their nests.