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Guinea Hens and the Farmstead

We have several Guinea Hens and have for many years. These birds are aloof but patrol our yard diligently every day. They chatter as they stroll and notify us of a predator with a screech that doesn’t stop. Just today, the Guinea Hens were boisterous in the early morning hours. I went out to see what the trouble was, and they were surrounding a racoon that had strayed into the yard. They are not fearful when defending their territory. The raccoon was searching for an escape route and when he saw me, he skedaddled out of there. The Guinea Hens didn’t quit until I arrived exactly where they were and then they declared themselves off duty.

Guinea Hens are not cuddly birds. They don’t follow you around but instead give you a thorough inspection with every step. They are about the size of a large chicken and weigh 3-4 pounds. The head and neck of the Guinea Hen are bare skin for temperature regulation. They are adorned with blue, red, and black hues on the head and neck. There is a bit of a horn on their head which makes them look rather curious. There are many different colors of Guinea Hens. They can be pearl, white, purple, blue, buff, chocolate, or bronze. Their beaks are short and curved.

Guinea Hens are social beings with their own kind. They travel as a flock and if one strays, it calls until the group finds it. They mate for life and lay about 100 eggs per season (March to October) but frequently do not lay in the nest. It’s often that we do not find their hidden nest until the keets are hatched. They love bushes, deep grass and being concealed within a flower garden (currently behind the tall iris plants here).

Guinea Hens are often poor mothers. They leave the nest and their keets behind, and it isn’t uncommon to find Guinea Hen keets wandering alone in the yard which can bring deadly trouble. If we can find the nest early, we remove and incubate them to preserve the life of the chicks and the parent. We’ve lost some Guinea Hen parents though when the nest was attacked by a predator because they refuse to leave their eggs prior to hatching.

Surviving egg snatching is a challenge. The mother, surrounded by the surrogate parents, guards the nest around the clock. They are fierce with claws and wings flailing when their eggs are removed. You almost need to wear head to toe gear to get in and out of their nest unscathed. Their scratches are meant to inflict a strong warning.

Guinea eggs are smaller than chicken eggs. The shell of the egg is very hard and is pointed at one end. They are light brown and slightly speckled. The eggs are as delicious as a fresh chicken egg. The yolks are vibrant.

They are great at eliminating ticks, insects, rodents, and small snakes. A farmer told me years ago that a Guinea Hen can eat its weight in ticks every day. It’s a rarity for us to even see ticks so perhaps that is true. They are characters and entertaining. They can also be bullies to other animals on the farm. They roam further than a chicken ever does and can fly into the top of your tallest tree. Getting them into the coop at night is always a challenge but you don’t leave them out because owls love them for dinner. The alarm call of the Guinea Hen is worth the antics they bring to the farm. If there is danger, we know it immediately because of the exceptionally loud screech. We’ve saved many birds because of the Guinea Fowl warning.

Purchasing Guinea Hens requires careful thought. They aren’t for everyone, but we really love them. Learn all you can about them before bringing them home. You’ll be hard pressed to catch and relocate them should you change your mind. 😊

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