Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chickens and Guineas

Photo courtesy of Just chaos' photostream

I have been planning on raising chickens to supply eggs and meat for several years now, held back only by lack of funds (and a reluctance to visualize hauling fresh water three times a day in the dead of winter).

The only space I have to let them free-range is in the yard where the flower beds and vegetable gardens are. The photo at the top here
shows the exposure of a carrot root by a scratching chicken, and that idea poses a problem for me. I cannot afford to fence off all the garden areas, but I also do not want chickens always enclosed in a pen. To me, that defeats the purpose of having chickens!

I've come across several backyard poultry sites where they tout guineas, either mixed in with chickens, or just the flock of guineas.


Guineas are great for keeping down ticks, Japanese beetles and other bugs and at the same time, do not scratch up the dirt like chickens do... thus little to no damage to flower and vegetable gardens.

They make great 'watchdogs'!!

The birds are edible and a great alternative to chickens. The flesh is said to taste slightly gamey but less assertive than pheasant or grouse. The eggs are small but edible, and it takes 2 guinea eggs to equal 1 chicken egg. The positive side of the smaller egg size is there is more yolk per egg, and the egg yolk of any fowl contains the best nutritional values.


Guineas prefer to roost in trees, making them targets for predators. They also prefer to lay their eggs in hidden areas. However, I understand those traits can be changed by several methods. One helpful tip is handling the keets (babies) many times a day, and training them to come to you with millet treats. That makes them easy to train to a coop and cage at nightfall.

A tall cage around the coop fitted with tree branches inside gives them high roosting places. As for their penchant for laying eggs in hidden places... folks who have guineas AND chickens find the guineas will often lay their eggs in the hen boxes.

Guineas can be noisy, the hens more so than the males because the hens sing. An option is to have all males; unlike roosters, guinea cocks do not fight each other for dominance.

So my current thinking is to start with a half dozen or so males (if I can get just males), until I can afford to make my garden areas chicken-proof. That will get me back in the groove of the responsibilities of keeping domestic birds again, and help rid my yard of bugs, especially Japanese beetles. Guinea eggs are not essential for me; not many people eat guinea eggs anyway as they are more valuable as fertile eggs to hatch. If I have only males in the beginning, I will have time to decide if I want guinea hens, or chicken hens... or both.

If that doesn't work out for me, I can always butcher and eat them!


  1. My parents are fairly inventive when it comes to fencing off the garden areas to keep the chickens and turkeys out. Most of what they use is around knee high so they can step over easily. One portion uses snow fencing (which looks a bit odd). Usually the birds are too lazy to go over the fence so it works.

  2. Thanks; sounds like something to consider. :)

  3. FYI: I found your blog by searching for root cellar storing leeks. Now I'm going back through your archives. Fun and informative.

  4. Thanks. My first batch of leeks to store didn't store well, never figured what I did wrong. Last year I didn't grow any.

  5. Yes chickens are regular rototillers... have you thought of a chicken tractor? That way you can move them around... and they're out of the garden... It may seem to defeat the purpose of "free-range" to some, but keeping them contained actually in many cases keeps them healthier and safer.

    For instance, I have black copper marans which I do not want breeding with neighbor's poultry... if a rooster got any of those, the hens could not handle the size of eggs... and I want my fertile eggs to be b.c. marans... and since the feathered neighbors visit all the time, I have no control over it other than containment. Also, the feathered neighbors get picked off by hawks, raccoons, possums and who knows what else....

    I don't do tractors, but this is how I handle it: My chickens can be in or out, and the run (12x24 feet) is lined with deep bed of pea gravel so as not to have a chicken crap mud bath esp in winter.... hosed down every day to dissipate crap into the dirt underneath. Great way to keep any kind of bird without the bird doodoo. It is open on top so they have both shade and sky as trees are right there, and I just keep their wings clipped. They have a large bush to keep cool under, and an area left in dirt to have dust baths. They eat lots of leftover food and produce.... I have the exact same set-up for my brahmas... and I think my chickens have a very nice 'free' and comfey life... kept healthy and safe. They individually get a shot of "rooster booster" vitamins every day and are relatively tame. Know their names... They go inside by themselves in evening, and door is then shut for protection from raccoons etc.

  6. I must have collected 50 photos of chicken tractors since I originally intended to go that route; may still do so.

  7. darius, do you have neighbours with guinea fowl that you can visit to check out the noise levels? Guineas are LOUD....not just noisy. The males can be loud too. You will wake up from a deep sleep if one of them decides to sound off in the middle of the night.

    Guinea fowl males my not fight each other for dominance "like roosters", but I've seen them get into skirmishes. Perhaps the source of the conflict was something other than dominance or winning the eye of the hen.

    They may be a perfect fit for your situation. I'd just like to suggest that you spend a bit of time around them.

    Keep them away from your bee hives too. They'll park themselves at the entrance to the hive and snap up the bees as they come home.

    Of course if you have a ground level hornets nest that needs removing, these guys will do a great job! :)

  8. LOL about the ground nests! No hives here now, but good to know. I have lived around guineas several times growing up and I don't think they will be a problem. I only want a handful anyway.

  9. I've had Guineas for over 7 years. Most of that time I had 1 pair. However, for a time I did have 2 pairs and the males fought all the time. Mine are free range during the day and go into their house at night. None of mine have been very loud. Yes they do "sing" and "alarm" but it's no more noisy than a couple of magpie's. We hunt down our females nest, mark a couple of eggs that are in the nest and then return each day for the new egg. They are social and seek us out. Mine rarely "alarm" when people drive or walk up to our place. They may not scratch like chickens but they will scratch when eating bugs and they can make a mess when they prepare a piece of ground so they can take a dust bath, which they do frequently. I'd get a male and female if I were you. They seem calmer when they are "a couple".


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