Guinea fowls originate from Africa , but have been bred for food in many countries for hundreds of years, there are even drawings of them on the walls of the pyramids.
There are different varieties as a result of cross-breeding over the years . In Kenya though Guinea Fowls are found in the wild there are a few farmers who are farming them commercially both in the rural areas and peri-urban areas. However, there are those who keep them for aesthetic value.
The birds come in a variety of colors, some solid, some pearled, and some partially pearled. The colors are: – grey, pearl grey, white, lavender, pied and violet. In total around 20 colors variations are available.
Common Guinea fowl types
There are four types of guinea fowls found in Kenya, namely:
- White helmeted guinea fowl which may be of white or black spotted plumage and is commonly domesticated. The plumage has a wide variety of colour with a white headcap skin.
- Blue helmeted guinea fowl commonly found in the wild across all ecological zones. It has a black spotted plumage and its headcap skin is blue.
- Vulturine guinea fowl found in the wild and rarely domesticated. It is commonly found in North Eastern and Taita Taveta regions. It has a helmetless head, a cobalt blue breast with a black body plumage striped with white.
- Crested guinea fowl: it is commonly found in the wild in the North Eastern region. It has a distinct feature of a short, curly, “mop” of black feathers on top of its head, a red skin around the eyes and a bald neck with a blue headcap skin .
Keeping Guinea fowl is very easy, however in Kenya it is classified as protected species. This means you must obtain a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service before you begin to rear them. They can be kept alongside with chickens and can be housed together.. .
Guinea fowl do not like being handled; they will come close to you but will “explode” if you try to pick them up. If you do have to handle your guinea fowls, it’s best after dark when they are in the henhouse, using as little light as possible. They have very close feathers and are much more slippery than a hen so you will have to hang on tight when you do manage to grab one.
Guinea Fowl can be very noisy when upset, this normally only happens if a stranger is in view but can also be caused by a rat , hawk or carrion crow in the vicinity. They are as good as geese as an early warning system.
These noisy birds usually live in large groups. In the wild, there have been as many as 2,000 guinea fowl roosting together in a tree.
They are capable of flight, but prefer to spend most of their time on the ground. In some places, like forests, they will roost in trees at night.
The large flocks break up into smaller groups during breeding season. Females incubate 12-15 eggs for 24-30 days.
Guinea fowl are cheap to keep, they eat a lot of grass and other greenery, so if you can keep them outdoors they won’t need a lot of extra food.
They also eat layers pellets which is what the hens are fed on, and for a special treat the Guinea fowl get some mixed corn which is a particular favorite for them
Guinea Fowl start laying before the start of rains and can lay up to 100 eggs a year, although 50 or 60 is normal.
They are not fussy about where they lay their eggs and you will find them under bushes or even on open ground.
Guinea Fowls are impossible to sex as young birds. One way is by sound which they start producing at about 9 weeks. Female birds make a two note sound best described as “Pot-rack, Pot-rack” while the male birds produce a single note, be careful though because females can also produce a single call!
When the birds are a bit older the males can be identified by their larger wattles, and longer horn on their head.
The advantage of using a broody hen as a surrogate mother is that she takes care of keeping the chicks warm, teaching them how to scratch for food and warning them if they are in danger.
If you are going to use an incubator,it is important that you observe the right temperature and humidity’.. You can loose a whole batch due to a change in any of these parameters. e i.e.extreme temperatures and humidity. Keep the incubator temperature at about 102 degrees Fahrenheit. The incubation period takes 28 days.
Once the keets are hatched and have dried, transfer them to a brooder. Ensure that a heat source (brooder jiko, brooder pot, ultraviolet light, electric bulb or kerosene lamp) is available. If using a ultraviolet or electric bulb, raise it every week a few inches to decrease the temperature by about 5 degrees a week until 6 weeks when they don’t need heat anymore.
After 6 weeks change the food from chick crumb onto growers pellets, these have the right balance of ingredients to help the birds from 6 weeks up to about 20 weeks.
Once the birds are well grown, decide which ones to keep and sell the rest. You may keep several hens and one cock which all run around together as a flock. They are quite tame and join the hens and sleep in the hen house. Occasionally if disturbed at dusk they will fly up a tree or even onto a roof, in which case leave them there as they are quite safe off the ground.