Guineas on the Homestead | Pros, and Cons of the guinea fowl
My grandpa and grandma McDaniel had the best farm to visit growing up. My grandma loved chickens and birds in general. Peacocks? She had them. Chickens? For sure. Every breed and size. Ducks and geese? One of our most cherished photos of her is one where she’s holding her favorite goose. Ostriches, rheas, emus, oh my? You got it! And guineas? Yes! They were one of the funniest birds at my grandparent’s house. Loud and always on the hunt for something, they were hilarious to watch strut about the yard. And don’t ever try and sneak up on one. It’s impossible. They can hear better than a guard dog, and are lounder too.
Should you have guineas as part of your flock? While they can be highly beneficial to a homestead, there are definitely a few things to consider when having these feathered friends on your land.
Why have guineas in the first place?
One word: bugs. Guineas are one of the best fowl at bug population control. They seek out ticks, fleas, and all the bothersome bugs most people try and avoid like the plague. Because we live on the edge (I’m talking, the very edge of the forest. Actually we’re more like a clearing, the forest is all around us.) of the woods, and this homestead was not maintained well before we got here, it’s a bugs haven. And since I want this to be my family’s haven, the bugs and I have a conflict of interest.
I like to do things as organically and naturally as possible, but the bugs were sooooo bad when we moved in (As in, trying to eat and live in our home and build fire ant nests all over our yard, and basically eat us alive.) that we brought out the chemicals and had someone spray our home, inside and out. We personally treated the ants whenever we saw a mound pop up. This was needed at the beginning because I didn’t want my kids getting bit and stung constantly. That’s a big nope. And I didn’t want our cats and dog infested with all the things, which would then take months to combat and get under control.
However, now that we’re gaining a bit of ground on the bug front, we’ve cut down on the treatments and chemicals, and are raising our little guinea keets to take over the job for us. They’re actually better at it anyway.
What else do guineas keep away you may be wondering? Snakes, mice, rats, lizards, and more. They’re little raptors running around being carnivores. I 100% approve.
Guineas work as a team, meaning you need at least 10-15 for them to work properly
Teamwork makes the dream work, and guineas agree. They work as a group to notify and keep each other safe, and to gang up on larger predators, either killing them or forcing them to leave. It’s recommended to start with about 15 because some will die off from preditors or simply being dumb. (guineas are not the brightest of our feathered friends) someone once said that guineas look for inventive ways to kill themselves, so be prepared.
How do you train guineas to stay on your property?
When they are still young (4 to 6 weeks old) start transitioning them to your coop with an outdoor enclosure. Keeping them with chickens and other fowl is completely fine, just make sure your coop can hold the quantity comfortably.
After the transition time of introducing guineas into the flock, keep them in the enclosure for a few weeks so they understand it’s home. Guineas love light and like to roost within visual of the moon, so a coop light is a must. It will help draw them in at night, once you begin letting them wander.
Once it’s been established that the coop is home, it provides food and water, shelter and light, and you can begin to release them to the great outdoors. At first, let them go a few hours before dusk, so they have a short window to explore before heading in to roost. Slowly, release them earlier each day until you reach the time you’d typically let them out.
A few things to note on training guineas to spend nights in the coop
You might still have to go guinea hunting and heard a few back in the evenings. If you don’t care that much and just want them to do their thing, that’s fine too. Depending on the preditors in your area, it may or may not be an option. Also, some will go rouge, disappear, or die. Be prepared. There truly is no “domesticated guinea”. They are a much wilder bird than any chicken, and you’ll be hard-pressed to get one to enjoy being held or eating from your hand. It’s simply not their nature.
Guineas are mostly disease free
Vary rarely do guineas come down with illness or disease. They’re very hardy birds!
Do guinea fowl destroy gardens?
Guineas go great with gardens. Unlike chickens, which will destroy a garden in a matter of hours if given the chance, guineas largely don’t care about your garden. They’re just after the grubs. You may find one taking a dust bath in a bed if they find the room, but they won’t go pecking and scratching your precious plants to death.
Did you know?
Guinea fowl can walk while foraging over 5 miles a day? (Unless your property is fenced, expect them to wander quite a bit.)
Guineas are often lazy mothers and will “egg dump” and leave their eggs in others’ nests to hatch.
Guinea pairs are typically monogamous and mate for life.
Be warned, they are loud
Yes, guineas are a loud bunch. They don’t care if it’s a deadly predator or a friendly neighbor, they’ll alert you in exactly the same way each time. Screaming and clucking. Great for knowing when someone or something is on the property. Not great if you live in an area with a noise ordinance. I wouldn’t recommend guineas for a backyard bird. Or if a high maintenance neighbor is particularly close.
Can you eat guineas? What about the eggs?
If you want, you can enjoy both! Guinea meat is known to be very tasty and enjoyed by many. The eggs are also edible, though they don’t lay nearly as much as a chicken. Don’t get some thinking they’ll give you reliable, regular egg production.
Are guineas for you?
Only you would know! I hope the info above will help you make an informed decision. If you’re like me and bugs are a huge issue, there is a big chance that guineas could be a huge asset to your farm and yard. We purchased 25 keets that are about three weeks old, and we’ll be transitioning them to the coop and outdoor enclosure next week. Tiny at first, these babies grow fast and will soon be our nightly entertainment and bug busters. We can’t wait!