This article was found on the internet. The article has some great information about guinea behavior.
As many f you know my first love was & still is Guinea Fowl. The the first 5 yrs that was mostly what I bred. If your doing something different, and it works for you keep it up. This is what I found out worked for me & my birds. This article is lengthy & dedicated to my best friend Glenda Heywood of the National Poultry News.
To raise sucessfully anything one must learn what the species is actually like before we intervene into this practice of production of them. That is not to say we are to reproduce the exact or copy the world they live in, but rather pick out traits that can not be dropped or can be dropped, both environmental & physiological. We are not trying to copy 100% of the way the species lives but rather enhance & breed more sp as to make more numbers of them. Basically we need only to find out what traits can be left out & what can not be left out.
Guineas I have always assumed to be mostly carnivores. That is to say meat eaters. Insects, bugs, snakes, tec. Due to this, they require high protein levels. You will also note the heading many articles & books give the Guinea fowl. In Africa they are wild & roam free. Guineas are also very social birds roosting in packs (flocks) during the evening yet traveling only in pairs into the woods or grasses to mate, hatch, set eggs. These birds are not mated for life, but rather for a season. Much like us humans, we go to work, socialize & interact with several from our own choice but at the hint of reproduction & or mating select a sole mate to do so in private, or that is how it is suppose to work.
Much like human species the Guinea parents both attend to the raising of the offspring(keets). While the female sets on the eggs, the male stands guard & remains celibate. Wish humans done the same thing. Guineas in the wild all eventually come back to the same area to roost. for about 15 minutes they will have sort of a role call to make sure everybody made it back & who is missing.
While to us they all sound the same, I feel that to them, they all care enough to memorize the slight difference in their society members vocal difference. Guineas roots are actually traced back to 3 colors, African White, Lavender & Peral. That is the Helmeted of course. There are many more species of Guineas but I don't feel that I know enough about them to write about them & with the amount they cost, special care & rarity of them. most will have the helmeted species. Nor that I wouldn't love to have a pair of Kenya Crested or Vulturines.
Guineas look for a place indiscrete to make the nest. It is not unusual for a nest to consist of up to 30 eggs. Mostly in briar thickets, bushes, high grass, along fence rows, you get the ideal here. The hen will often die before leaving the nest if attacked while the male will call out a approaching posible danger to her but will not die or attack to protect her, rather he will leave.
One must realize that there is the instinct for survival of a species in everything & that instinct will change depending upon the strength of the instinct & the role that particular species has. We all have role in survival of our very own species survival. Do not make the mistake of judging the importance of each role that one sex will take. Either to stay the course even thru death or turn tail & run, it is all natures plan & they are only following the manuel that has proven effective.
When roosting, Guineas will usually place themselves on the outer, skinny branches as predators can't get to them as easily, & if they do, the branch will bounce up & down from the weight. They seek the outer edges so much that they will overcrowd the other Guineas & even pushing off their buddy from the perch, not meaning to, but again preservation prevails.
Guinea stagger their position they face on the limb or perch giving them a 360 degree view when possible so as to see predators approaching. Once a predator approaches the call begins KA KA KA KA KA KA. The duration & intensity of the call is directly proportional to the location of the predator & the preception of the danger. Do they all see it, no, but all lerts are issued by the flock. If there is 2 or 200 Guineas, they will all call out so as all know to be prepared.
Here are a few facts:
1( Guineas breed in the wild or that is to say turned loose in pairs, not trios. When you buy Guineas to turn loose, do not buy trios, you are wasting a bird.
2( Make sure that you raise your Guineas there, do not buy & turn loose adults unless you wish to donate them to nature.
3( Do not tame or as some say bond with your Guineas. They ar not ment to be pets. They will do a great service to you & your farm if left as nature ment them to be, alert, carnivorous, skidish & fiercely independent.
4( Guineas must have a level of privacy in order to mate properly.
5( Guineas need some sort of perch to get on at night for their own psychological well being.
6( Guineas must have feed or food readily available to them due to their small crop especially when young.
7( Guineas need to be in a fairly dry, clean environment.
COMMERCIALLY BREEDING GUINEAS
To me commercially breeding means breeding anything out of what would be natural norm, tht is in captivity or for getting more than the usual offspring.
THE PEN: I found that the pens that worked best for me were 5-6 ft wide, 5 ft long & 7 ft high of enclosed area & a 8 ft long by 4ft high by 4-6 ft wide open run area. In this space we would often keep as many as 5-8 hens with 1 cock.
I used Lime (sandy type agriculural not horticultural powder type) about 4-8 inches thickall over the ground. No need for nest boxes as Guineas will burro down into the ground to make her own nest. The nest is one of the things you don't change in order for the Guinea hen to feel better. I placed a perch in the seculeded area about 2-3 ft high. Any higher in that smapll place could cause injury to the bird (bumble foot) The bedding should be earth or lime.
DO NOT USE SHAVINGS, HAY, WOOD CHIPS in any of the pens. Here is why. Hay can throw off spores & funguses when wet which can caue deadly diseases due to this. The main purpose in bedding is dryness right?
What is mulch used for? To hold moisture around gardens, trees & shrubs. Right? Why then would it act any differently in a pen, it wouldn't. If you feel the need for one of these beddings use clean Straw. there again, it will hold moisture.
THE COCK & HEN: not any cock will take more than 1 hen, but hens will take more than one cock.
Therefore I would keep as many as 5 cock birds & checking fertility of eggs determine if the cock bird would accept more than 1 hen. If he does not, replace him with another cock bird that has been pen raised & kept.
Do not destroy the cocks that you do not use rather let them go so they may be used elsewhere. This has mainly to do with raising keets in a large flock together. This forms a community & breaks the norm. If however turned loose they will eventually go back to their natural way of pairs. I also read somewhere that young cocks produced more pullets than older cocks.
At first i dismissed this as bull, then thought I'd try it. I found it to be one of the few old tales that were correct. Yes, I kept & still have records, back when I wasn't on the web, don't even know if it was avaialble then & we sold locally a printed cataloge. The time I spend filling orders etc replaced my record keeping.
NEVER add a new bird, especially a hen. Guineas hate strange Guineas, in the wild or in captivity.
EGGS & EGG GATHERING: I gathered eggs daily. I tried my best to get the hens to lay inside the enclosed part, mainly because it was totally covered & at over 6 ft tall, it made it easier for me to get tht eggs in a 7 ft tall building rather than a 4 ft tall pen. Eggs are hard shelled. Pointy eggs.
Some by varitey will be a shade darker or larger than others. These eggs if they are going to be collected for setting should be stored as all eggs SMALL END DOWN. Guinea eggs take between 26-28 days to hatch. One is often amazed by how these little keets can get out given the hardness of the shell. You must watch your humidity so that you don't drown them in the shell or have keets so large from too much moisture that they can't position themselves in the egg to break out.
It can't be too dry so that the hard shell sticks to them after they start piping the shell. I have never been a fan of still air incubators, so refer to your manual for proper temperatures but corculated incubators are 99-1/2 degrees heat. If you plan to ue broody hens they can raie them if you wish since Guineas are very hardy birds & usually don't transfer disease.
Know that they will however imprint on this hen & forever guard her, roost with her & pester the hen with too much attention. You should get from a young healthy flock ( well fed, well wormed) about 95-99% fertility rate. Anything less, you have problems. Set eggs no later than 7 days after collecting them if stored in a basement, earlier is preferred.
I worm my keets with Piperzine 17% at 1 cup per gallon or 58 oz jar which ever is being used at 2 weeks old, sometimes one week old.
Every 7 weeks there after. When they are adults a different wormer is desired. Keets must have food 24/7 or several feedings a day due to their tiny crop. I always kept a gamebird feeder that holds up to 5 lbs of feed, has a lid, small feeding area and 2 feeding sides or a 9 hole jar feeder, not the cheap lesser hole feeder that keets can get down into and become food. There is a new mini feeder now available. All uneaten feed should be tossed out each day. It is cheaper to toss uneaten feed than dead keets. You will know how much feed to feed by what is left when you feed the next day.
There must be SOME UNEATEN feed left each feeding or you need to increase your feed rations. DO NOT use poultry starter. It has a particular substance that when it builds up in the keets system can be poisonous. In adddition to this it is not enough Protein. Use a Gamebird or Turkey starter with a minimum of 28% protein, preferably non medicated. Also do not focus totaly on Protein, there are as in use many other nutrients that might be met in order to survive.
Keep fresh water and proper watering equipment. Change your water daily, I always use vitamins electrolytes in the water as a additive. I use drown proof bases. These have a small area for which to drink from and are all but impossible to get the keet wet. In addition they also have less surface area for bacteria to collect.
Do not use standard bases with pebbles. Birds can and will walk on pebbles and get dirt or worse in the water. They can also get their beak stuck or become spraddle legged. An old man once told me" if you don't have time to do it right the first time, how are you going to have time to do it again." There are waterers that you can buy 2 bases, 1 standard and 1 drown proof that fit in the same jar.
BROODERS are very important. Keets seldom walk they run. Do not use paper or a slick surface. If you can't afford or don't want to spend the money on a commercial built brooder, build your own. It will be just as good and cheaper. What you will need is a few 2x2's enough 1/2" x 1/2" wire to do the floor, sides and top (most of the time harware stores will sell it by the foot.) Some wood screws or nails and a stple gun.
Dropping pan ( can be a short metal oil catcher from an automobile store) or wooden, a brooder light. An option could be a wafer switch assembly or you could simply raise the light for less temperature, lower for hotter. All but the brooder lamp and optional wafer switch assembly can be bought locally. Make a wire floor for the dropping to go thru and sure footing to be obtained.
A dropping pan area for easier cleaning and less draft. Round the corners so that keets will not be as likely to pile up and suffocate each other, there again, the wire floor will aide in lessing this occurrence. A decent brooder would be 2-3ft wide x 3-4 ft high with the light being placed more in one side than the other, actually 2 lights would be bettter in case one light goes out, they won't pile up and smoother.
MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER
are fresh water, worming, plenty of food, worming, non slip flooring, clean, draft free, dry, Guinea keets can't tolerate dampness, Cold or Hunger. The dropping of a guinea are very dry and so lung disease can occur in both you and your birds. Aspergillis a terrible lung disease.
Other things for keets would be to keep them entertained. They will play with each other, one game is to pull out a feather and play chase. Suspend a piece of something that will grab their attention, from the ceiling. Don't attempt to alter their nature. Don't totally tame them by playing with or petting them. Don't feed vegatbles to them. Keep them in a large family atmosphere. If there are more than 50 keets, don't place a pair of chickens or quail or pheasants with them, else they become food and play things.
Extra Cocks and new adults. DO NOT place new birds in a penned environment or ever loose. Guineas hate strangers. Eventually they may accept them, but they may not. Extra unused cocks and or hens not needed, if raised properly may be used to kill small snakes ( takes several) drive away larger ones, alert other poultry to hawks, alert you to trespassers, eat bugs from crops without damaging crop plants. How guineas drive away larger snakes is to encircle the snake and each one screaming and pecking in a random turn until the snake has enough and leaves.
New Hens are always reluctant to continue to lay because nature tells her to go broody, that is, to set her eggs after a certain time so the species will continue to survive, much like all living things. It takes time to break her from this and patience. She may even flog or attack you but remember that she has the right and you will heal.
Striking kicking or beating her other than getting her off you will only make her fear you and your presence which will effect her laying since you will be gathering the eggs daily. Not to mention it takes the body time to heal. You must maintain respect from your animals and birds, but there is a fine line between fear abd respect.
Personalities of Guineas. Guineas should detest being held, so much so that they will bite and scratch. They should be ever alert to the slightest movement and ever watchful. You should have to use a net to catch them. They should remain wild. Ours will walk in front at times. I have found that lighter color guineas are generally quicker when walking around, while darker colors are more verbal.
In direct contrast I found darker guineas are less likely to bite you when caught than lighter colors. Guineas are the first ones on the ground starting their insatiable hunger for food, while making their way inadvertently to their nest, yes their nest. 1 male 1 female if should they see you watching them, they will lead you on a wild goose chase. This proves to me thier instinctive intelligence. Guineas fight in packs or flocks depending upon how you percieve it. They know that there are strength in numbers.
Sexing your guineas: the males and females can't be vent sexed. The only 100% way to sex guineas is as an adult. You listen for Pac, Rac, Pac, Rac,Pac, Rac. This is a sound only made by the hen. Both can do the scream type noise, Ek, Ek, Ek, Ek, Ek. Another true method is by looking at the backs and the way they are formed. The male has a beetle bug shaped back.
The female will look much like the male but if not looking from the back it will have a higher center with what I used to call mounting ramps on either side for the male to stand on. Another sure way to tell or use in conjunction with the other ways is that females will have a more femine face while males will have a more masculine, usually larger features type of face.
Yes, after you raise them a lot, you can do this, if you really love them enough to learn from and about them. I once walked thru a fair show where guineas were not caged by sex, but at random, I didn't miss not a single one's sex. The cards were hidden from me and with a brisk pace, not really slowing down I amazed several breeders.
It wasn't that I was smarter, only more observant. A customer came down from Newport, that primarily raises show dogs and without knowing what I have said here she said" most people think I'm crazy when I tell them that I can sex by looking at their faces." Even though this lady is primarily into dogs, I'll bet she is going to be a great breeder of birds. Another way is that the male will look at you from the side of his face, and making eye to eye contact. The female will look you head on.
All too often I hear folks say that a Guinea can be sexed by the waddles. (The things hanging down) not true. This can be very deceiving thing especially with Buff Dundotte & White. For some reason the Waddles are about the same on both sexes.
Typically the male waddles should be larger and end more in a point, but do not go totally for this. Another misconseption is that the "horn" on a male will be larger. Actually this is closer to the truth than waddles, but still not completely accurate. Again Buff Dundotte & white may throw this off, not to mention other varieties.
Too many times I have had people buy at a local farmers market, bring here to ask if I'll confirm that they bought pairs as told." Yep, they are pairs, identical sex, usually males."
Keets is the proper term for baby guineas. I could sex with about 80-90% accurately 2 methods. The stripe on the ehad is darker and wider on a female, If memory serves me right on the Pearl and Royal Purple.
I am a bit worried that it may be reversed but it is true. The best way I could tell is by picking them up. The female will call and scream out very verbally and even bite. The male may male a noise, but it is nowhere as intense as the females. Again with the stare, Males always look sideways, Females look head on.
Glenda L. Heywood