By Richard J. Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Are you a frustrated gardener with insect pest problems in your yard, flower or vegetable garden? Do Japanese beetles typically have a field day at your expense? Do you have an abundance of ticks on our property? Have different methods to control or manage these or other insect pests been ineffective? Are you interested in a natural solution to garden pest problems? Having a few Guinea fowl graze your property may be just the solution. Guinea fowl are natural grazers as they will eat weed seeds, insects and worms. They are fairly easy to keep and quite effective in keeping your property and gardens clean of insect pests.
Before you try Guineas in your garden here are some factors to consider:
Guinea Fowl are native to Africa and have been domesticated as farm poultry all over the world. They fit well on small farms and with gardeners in New England. They are comical and entertaining to watch and are generally vigorous with little or no health problems. Males and females are difficult to distinguish until they reach maturity. The American Poultry Association recently recognized Guineas and now have a class for them at agricultural shows.
Starting with Guinea Fowl
To purchase Guinea fowl, locate a reputable breeder in your area or order a small batch from a poultry mail order company. Ask at your farm feed store for local breeders or check the Internet. The Guinea Fowl Breeders Association has a directory of breeders. Visit their website at www.gfba.org. You may find a supplier or Guineas for sale at local agricultural fairs in the “poultry pavilion.” The most common and inexpensive variety of Guineas is the pearl. You can start with birds ranging from day-old keets or mature birds. Mature birds will need several weeks of orientation to their new home and keeper. This means keeping them inside until they learn where they get fed and cared for. If you purchase day-old keets, the baby birds will need several weeks of inside care through their brooding period. Brooding is the time when the proper feed, fresh water and supplemental heat is provided in adequate amounts from the age of one day old to they grow their feathers (3-5 weeks). The keets must be kept dry and warm through this period. The feed used through the brooding period is “turkey starter” or “game bird starter.” Keets are easier than adult Guineas to train as they will quickly grow to recognize you as their keeper and your place as their home and territory. Guineas mix well and can be raised with chickens. Often a broody chicken hen is the one to naturally incubate and care for new keets. Thirty or more eggs can be laid by a Guinea hen during her laying period. They do not lay eggs year round. Learn as much as you can about Guineas before buying the birds from books, the internet or experienced keepers.
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Image Description: Guinea fowl; photo from wikipedia