Guinea Fowl Farming Tips
A good number of homesteads are rearing guinea fowls mainly for domestic consumption.
Guinea fowl also known as Numida meleagris is a bird native to the African continent. The bird derives its name from the coast of Guinea, where it is believed to have originated.
There are three strains, including pearl, white and the lavender guinea fowl. The common strain found in Africa is the pearl guinea fowl. It has purplish grey feathers dotted with white.
Most farmers adopt free range system of rearing the guinea fowls. There is no systematic feeding regime followed by the farmers and the birds depend on free range where they gather grass seeds, vegetables and other available green leaves, insects, worms, bones and eggshells for consumption.
Reasons farmers rear them
There are many reasons people raise guinea fowl such as security. The birds can sound an alarm whenever anything unusual occurs on the farm.
While some people find this noise to be a nuisance, others find it to be an effective tool for protecting the farm and makes guinea fowl the farmyard watchdogs.
The loud noise of the guineas has also been shown to discourage rodents from invading the area.
Keeping guinea fowl is also an effective means of pest control because flocks of guineas kill and eat mice and small rats.
In addition, guinea fowl can be used to control insects because wild guineas eat mainly insects and domestic guineas can consume large amounts of insects without affecting garden vegetables
Guineas have been used to control wood ticks and insects such as grasshoppers, flies, and crickets and they usually scare aware snakes.
Guinea fowl can also be raised for meat and egg production. The meat of young guineas is tender and tastes like that of chicken. The meat is lean and rich in essential amino acids while its eggs can be eaten just like chicken eggs.
Guinea fowl are often left to fend for themselves but it is best to provide a shelter to protect them from high winds, rain, cold, sun, and predators. The shelter can be a purpose-built facility specifically for guineas or a room allocated in them.
If a farmer confines guineas, it is important to provide the birds plenty of room two to three sq. ft. per guinea.
The more room the guineas have, the less likely they are to become stressed. The floor of the coop should be covered with an absorbent bedding material such as wood shavings or chopped hay or straw.
It is best not to insulate the shelter or space where the guineas are kept because insulation tends to keep moisture in more than it keeps cold out and allowing moisture to accumulate in a poultry house can lead to respiratory problems among birds.
If a farmer wishes to keep the guineas from wandering in a specific area, you must keep them in covered coops.
If you are raising guinea fowl to control ticks and insects, you are better off purchasing adult guineas because they are easier to care for than young guineas and do well on their own.
It takes guineas a while to get settled into a new home. It is best to keep them confined for a week or two to let them become accustomed to their new home.
If you let them out right away, they could run away. The guineas should be confined in a coop where they can see the area where they will be living. After an initial couple of weeks, let one guinea out. Guineas hate to be alone, so the single guinea will not go far and will learn its way around the area. After a few days, let a second guinea out to run with the first. If they stay near the coop, it is usually safe to let the rest out.
Some farmers prefer to begin with keets which are young guinea fowl offspring that are younger than 12 weeks old. It is important to provide them with feeds to enable them grow faster.
Feeding and nutrition
Adult guineas forage for themselves and are able to meet most of their nutrition requirements on their own.
They consume a variety of insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, beetles, and so on, weed seeds, slugs, worms and caterpillars.
Guineas need to consume some greens in order to maintain good digestion and so they eat grass, weeds and other vegetation. Because the birds are consuming vegetation, it is important to make sure grit is available for the birds.
Provide clean water at all times and they like wheat, sorghum, or millet grain and will ignore whole corn kernels.
If you are keeping the guineas for pest control, restricting their feed will encourage them to spend more time eating insects.
Keets need a 24 percent to 26 percent protein ration as the starter feed. The protein level should be reduced to 18 percent to 20 percent for the fifth to eighth weeks. And thereafter they can become free range feeders.
Brooding and rearing
Guinea fowl are native to Africa, and as such, are very susceptible to dampness during the first two weeks after hatching. After those initial two weeks, guineas are widely considered the hardiest of all domestic fowl.
Keets can be raised in the same type of brooder houses and brooders as chicks or poultry. A farmer may provide lighting system or not depending on affordability.
In the wild, guinea fowl mate in pairs. This tendency also exists among domesticated guineas if there are equal numbers of males and females.
As the breeding season approaches, pairs of guineas will wander off in search of hidden nesting sites.
It is not necessary however to have equal numbers of females and males to obtain fertile eggs.
For most flocks, one male is usually kept for every four to five females. When guineas are kept in close confinement, one male may be mated with six to eight.
A hen from a carefully managed flock may lay 100 or more eggs a year. Breeders generally produce well for two or three years. They can be kept four to five years in small farm flocks. In such flocks, hens usually lay about 30 eggs and then go broody.
The incubation period for guinea eggs is 26 to 28 days, similar to the incubation period for turkeys.
If available, broody chickens can be used to hatch guinea eggs. Typical hens can sit on 12 to 15 guinea eggs, while a good breed local chicken hen can sit on 20 to 28 guinea eggs.
One of the most frequent questions about poultry of any species is how to tell males from females. It is very difficult to sex young guineas because pullets (young females) and cockerels (young males) look exactly the same.
When the guineas are older, there are two ways to tell them apart by listening to the sounds they make. The hen makes a two-syllable noise that sounds such as “qua-track, qua-track.”
These are the only sounds that the hen makes that the guinea cock (male at least one year old) does not. When excited, both the hens and cocks emit one-syllable cries, but the cock does not emit sounds similar to the two-syllable noise of the hens.
The young keets start making one-syllable cries at six to eight weeks, but some females do not start calling until much later.
What you need to know
Guinea fowls prefer free-ranging (as they eat insects and grains) to regimentation
Their preferred nesting location is in long grass or under a bush.
Compared to chickens, guinea fowls are low-cost and low-maintenance and virtually disease-free