Guinea Fowl For Tick Control, Eggs, & Meat

The Guinea fowl is endemic to Africa but they are also gaining in popularity across the United States and Canada. These exotic looking birds are renowned for their ability to decimate tick populations more than any other bird or animal. But Guinea fowl are becoming more of a multi-purpose bird that is also being raised for meat, eggs, or even just the sheer enjoyment and beauty of them. And yes, they are very noisy, I have a video at the end worth watching to see them move and call.

Guinea Fowl Quick Facts

Size (Cocks):  3 lbs or smaller
Size (Hens):  3 lbs or smaller
Egg production (Annual): 100
Starts Laying: 20-32 weeks of age (seasonal layers)
Egg size: 2 guinea fowl eggs equals 1 large chicken egg.
Egg color: Creamy light brown, often speckled
Origin: West Africa

Top Reasons To Choose Guinea Fowl For Your Homestead

People primarily become interested in guinea fowl due to their unmatched pest eradication. Especially ticks. They are unrivalled when it comes to tick control and depending on where you live, this may be reason enough to get a flock of guineas.

It is a pervasive myth, by the way, (based on terrible science) that possums make a dent in the tick population. They do not — but guinea birds absolutely do.

(More on that below.)

They love to feast on ticks, caterpillars, snails, slugs, beetles, ants, cockroaches, fleas, crickets, weeds, and other small vermin.

However, unlike chickens, guinea fowl don’t scratch as much, causing far less damage to your vegetable and flower gardens. But if you mistakenly give them vegetable scraps, they may become vegetable patch pests. Thus, best to leave them oblivious of this tasty possibility.

They also act as a property’s natural alarm system and might even protect your other birds, such as chickens and turkeys (but they’re mean to roosters).

Much like geese, your Guinea will sound the alarm when something seems off or not right and that alarm may just very well save your other poultry flocks.

Lastly, while their eggs are slightly smaller than chickens (2 eggs equal 1 large chicken eggs), they are delicious.

Their meat is also tasty and lean but slightly gamier.

I have prepared and eaten Guinea meat (not eggs) and I absolutely love the flavor. I would describe it similar to pheasant or grouse meat or rooster meat. It requires special preparation but nothing complicated.

As for cons?

They are noisy. They can be very mean to roosters and other poultry occasionally too. They will absolutely leave your property (Guineas can fly very well) if not trained specifically to come home. They may decide to roost in your tree instead of their coop.

A Guinea fowl running towards the camera on green grass. Behind it is a kitten, sitting.

History & Origins

There are still wild Guineas in Africa! The ones you see on farms are the domesticated version of the helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) and they are closely related to other game birds such as pheasants, wild turkeys, and partridges.

The history of their spread across the world is believed to begin with the Romans, who were fond of their meat. however we do not know exactly who or when they were domesticated but it goes back at least several thousand years.

Their arrival into the Americas is believed to be due to two significant influences: the trans-Atlantic slave trade (especially for their presence in Jamaica and the West Indies) and Spanish colonists.

Appearance

Guinea fowls’ quirky beauty is also a pleasure to behold, with dark feathers dotted with white spots and a head that looks like a vulture crossed with a turkey. They move through the brush as if they were gliding.

The bodies of guinea fowl are stout and compact (like a rounded off rectangle) and covered in gray/black feathers with a profusion tiny white spots.

Domesticated varieties can come in various combinations of colors, including white, lavender/purple, yellow, and blue. A wattle (red fleshy skin) hangs on each side of the face.

The long neck is topped off with a small, featherless head resembling a vulture or turkey.

White breasted guinea hen in profile against a white background.

Telling Males & Females Apart

It is very difficult to tell the difference between Guinea hens and Guinea cocks, nearly impossible until they’re fully grown and then it is still difficult.

Guineas hens make a sound in a two-part call that sounds like “Good luck! Good luck! Good luck!”

Male guineas do not ever make that sound. The male is also slightly larger and has a larger, taller standing crest on top of his head. His wattles are also bigger and stick out farther than the female’s.

The best way to learn to distinguish the males from the females is to try to identify the ones saying “Good luck!”

Close up of the head of a guinea hen against a white background.

Varieties

Guinea fowl varieties are debated as between eight to ten. The most well-known are:

  • White-breasted (the only variety whose status is vulnerable)
  • Black
  • Vulturine
  • Helmeted
  • Plumed
  • Crested

However, there are primarily only three types of guinea fowl in North America; all are variations of the helmeted guinea fowl, which is the only breed to be “domesticated” with any sense of success.

The three main versions are:

  • Lavender
  • Pearl
  • White

Lavender guinea fowl have a light blue to gray plumage with white dots.

Pearl guinea fowl is one of the most popular colors in North America. The birds have dark plumage with white dots.

White guinea fowl are generally all white, looking like a small goose or duck with an odd head.

However, breeders are selling other varieties that broaden the color spectrum. However, not all of these colors and hybrids are officially recognized.

And then there is the Vulturine Guinea fowl. You can occasionally find eggs or keets of these truly striking and odd creatures which have an eery, off-putting beauty.

Check this guy out!

I kinda have a feeling these will one day be on my homestead. I mean, look at it?!

(My poor husband puts up with a lot.)

The Vulturine Guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum) is the largest species of guinea and it is only distantly related to other guinea fowl. Its closest living relative is the white breasted guineafowl, which inhabit primary forests in Central Africa.

Personality & Temperament

Guinea fowl are not fully domesticated; thus, they have a primitive wild streak and remain skittish around people, even those who like their owners. Unfortunately, guinea fowl also has a knack for making chickens look like utter geniuses in comparison and can be hilarious to watch.

Thus, these highly independent-from-humans birds need lots of room and are unsuited for small backyard or suburban living. Even homesteaders might want to consult neighboring properties if they mind feathered visitors, as guinea fowl have no respect for boundary lines.

Their loud, distinct calls are more frequent and potentially more obnoxious than a rooster; the noise is plentiful and will last throughout the day.

They will alert their owners to any disturbance on the property, be it an approaching car, person, strange dog, or bird-of-prey. It’s like having a feathery herd of watchdogs.

Like most birds, Guinea fowl detest being alone and will be unhappy if they do not have guinea fowl friends. You will need at least two guineas, preferably 4-6.

Guinea Fowl Eggs

Guinea hens lay around 100 eggs a season and they are seasonal layers much like geese are.

The eggs are smaller (2 guinea eggs to equal 1 large chicken egg) and have thicker, harder shells. Try to set out nesting boxes near their coop for the hens to use; otherwise, you’ll be hunting for their clutch.

Their breeding season begins in spring, around March and April.

They lay eggs in the same box as a family, and one will go broody if the numbers get to 25-30.

The eggs taste richer and creamier than a chicken’s but can be used similarly.

If you want guinea keets to survive and thrive, you will likely want to brood the chicks yourself.

Guinea Fowl Meat

Guinea fowl meat is like eating a leaner, richer, slightly gamier chicken.

Those who enjoy pheasant will find the taste similar. Meat from a younger hen will remain succulent when broiled, roasted, or fried.

But meat from an older hen is drier and will require additional fat to keep it from going tough, with plenty of braising or stewing. Another trick is to wrap it in bacon before roasting it.

You can also treat it like rooster meat and make coq au vin or guinea au vin.

Care, Feeding, & Housing

Guinea fowl are naturally wild birds that get on with life without much human support. They are very healthy, disease-resistant animals that are excellent forgers. The challenge is getting them to consider your property as “home.”

Cold Hardy

Guinea fowl are considered cold hardy. However, they have a massive dislike for wet and snow, although they can handle temperatures slightly below freezing.

Housing

The same wooden sheds we use to house our chickens, ducks, and geese, can be used to house Guinea fowl.

Like chickens, they need roosting bars (as high as possible) and some type of bedding/litter on the floor.

We use and recommend the deep litter method.

A lone guinea fowl on green grass at a farm.

Training Guinea’s To Come Home

It is challenging to raise guinea fowl as anything other than free range.

Despite the American breed being “domesticated,” the guinea fowl haven’t fully embraced the concept. Thus, they love free-ranging. However, unlike chickens, they do not naturally come home to roost. Therefore, it is essential to train them in the notion of “home” before letting them roam or they will fly away and likely never return.

Here is how you train your guinea fowl to come home:

  • Place them inside their coop and keep them locked up inside for up to a week with adequate food and water.
  • After a week has gone by, let them start to explore the run and give them access to coop and run for another week. If you don’t have a covered run, skip this step.
  • To allow them to free-range while still coming home, after their confinement period is over, start by releasing ONE and only ONE Guinea into your property. Leave food by the door to the coop that only she can access. The food and her desire for her flock will ensure she comes back to the coop.
  • The next day, release TWO guinea. Do the same thing as the day before.
  • Keep repeating these steps until all the guinea in your flock have been released to roam.
  • You don’t have to leave the food out for them all day but start brining it to them in the evenings only. They will get excited for the free food and will start to acclimatize to where and what home is.
  • If you get adult guinea instead of baby keets, it may be necessary to keep hem confined in a coop for a month or more before even allowing them to explore their run.

Feeding

Guinea fowl are excellent at forgoing for themselves, although it is essential to feed them during periods of confinement and during the winter.

Supplementing their diets is recommended, especially as it gives them a reason to come home.

You can feed your free ranged Guinea birds food chicken grower feed, fermented chicken feed is even better. In the cold months, supplementing with additional protein is not a bad idea either. Scrambled eggs or cat food works.

As for keets (baby Guinea chicks), they should be given a turkey starter or game bird feed. It is essential for their first few weeks to have 24-26% protein. Once keets are 18 weeks old, the protein content can be reduced to 16%.

Profile of a lone guinea fowl on green grass at a farm.

The Best Tick Control

Guinea fowl feast on ticks, helping reduce populations on your property to a immense degree. They are the most effective animal to do this, contrary to the possum myth.

The possum myth was spread from bad journalism that didn’t understand a study or its implications in the real world. (As is tradition.)

Basically a box of ticks was dumped onto possums in a controlled environment. They ate the ticks. Well, duh, what choice did they have?

It is true that possums groom themselves and often eat the ticks they find on their bodies. However, they do not seek out ticks to eat and thus are not proactive.

However, guinea fowl do hunt ticks. They keep their heads down and bums up, seeking out pests to devour. They want to eat your ticks and will do so with glee.

Thus, if you are serious about reducing ticks on your property, it is guinea fowl that will cause a significant reduction, not possum.

A group of three guinea keets on pasture in the day.

Living With Ducks, Chickens, Geese

Guinea fowl can live with ducks, geese, and chickens.

One way people tame their guinea fowl is by placing fertile eggs under a broody hen and having her raise the keets. The loyal keets will follow their adoptive mother back into the coop each night, which will not necessarily occur with a guinea hen mom who does not care overly much about her brood.

However, when fully grown, guinea fowl need a lot more space than chickens. In addition, the male guinea fowl are known for picking on roosters and running them off. Thus, if you have male chickens, giving them a separate coop or section might be best.

Ducks and geese usually do fine in the same coop as guinea fowl. But it will take time to find the perfect arrangement. Also, remember that during the day, everybody will need plenty of room, or fights will break out.

Guinea Fowl Are Noisy

Guinea fowl use their vocal cords with wild abandon during the day. Thankfully, they are not like roosters and will not yodel in the new day. Nonetheless, their chatter is a distinct, rhythmic call that will become a screech if alarmed. Consequently, they are best in homesteads rather than backyards in countries where they are not naturally around.

The male-guinea fowl has a rapid, rhythmic “Keh-keh-keh-keh” that sounds similar to a 1980s metal impulse sprinkler firing away.

The female guinea makes a two-syllable honk often likened to calling out “Good luck!” However, the hens can also mimic the male call, although the opposite isn’t true.

The calls help the guinea fowl to stay together. But anytime they are alarmed (which will be a few times a day, at least), it will turn into an ear-piercing racket.

Guinea Fowl Sounds (Video)

This video shows the Guinea and its distinct call while also discussing the amazing tick and pest control abilities.

Final Thoughts

Guinea fowl add excellent ambiance to a property while acting as a natural way to reduce pests like dangerous ticks. Their eggs and meat are also delicious, making them excellent birds for homesteaders.

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