Guinea Hens/lots of questionsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
First, I hope that I spelled it correctly!....I need to know how to buy them, feed and water them, get wings clipped or leave them alone for free-ranging protection...folks have told me they do not need a coop or roosting place until Winter, others say this is not so...arghhhhhhh....I want them to keep the snake and tick population way down...have 8 acres of mostly woods with some clearings in NE Alabama...There are coyotes around (have not seen one yet), lots of other people's weird dogs,foxes,coons,...the usual cast of characters that hang out in the deciduous forest type place.The hens are advertised for sale here at $2.50 each for grown hens..I know absolutely ZERO about them...Please advise, and God Bless....
-- lesley Chasko (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 23, 2000
Lesley: I'm about to order some for myself so I'm not speaking from experience but from what I've read you're better off getting them a keets, housing them in a safe place, letting them roam during the day when they get old enuf and locking them up at night. As adults I think you might be disappointed when they start vanishing due to predation, because if they're adults they'll be harder to keep around. Guinneas can revert to wild if given half a chance.
-- john leake (email@example.com), June 24, 2000.
Guineas have about the human IQ equivalent of 1. They also have an extremely high attrition rate. I bought 30 keets, and ended up with three adults. These were given to a neighbor with guineas since they insisted on roosting at night on my deck. Unless they can be taught to roost high up, or in a coop, about all you would be doing is feeding other critters. I don't think they are practical unless you already raise chickens and can get some guinea eggs to put under a broody hen. She can then teach them how to come into the coop at night. Chickens and guineas can cross-breed, but the results will always be sterile (mules). In this area keets sell for $3.00 each and adults for $8 - $10. If they lay and you can find the eggs, they can be used like chicken eggs, but will be smaller with a harder shell.
-- Ken Scharabok (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 24, 2000.
Lesley, I have had guineas for several years. You will need to keep them in a coop for several weeks. I realize this probably isn't what you want to hear, as when they are in the coop they can't fight ticks and snakes. If you don't pen them though, they will revert to the woods and you will not have any hope of controlling them. After they have been in the coop for a while, especially in a coop with chickens, they will come back at night to roost there. Be sure to feed them some hen scratch or corn just before night even when they are in the coop. That way they get used to the idea that home=supper. You can feed them any type of chicken feed. They really aren't that fussy. After they are loose, some may not go back into the coop to roost, but will roost in the trees nearby. I would not mess with their wings. They do need them to escape predators. They are good flyers. I used to have one that loved to get up on top of the old dairy barn, walk back and forth, and scream his head off. The neighbors were less than amused, as they were the cause of the guinea's anxiety. He thought the neighbors shouldn't be sitting on their porch. After all, they weren't out there last winter. Guineas are not overly bright. They are excellent at insect control and I have seen them kill snakes, one that was over 4 feet long. The birds just took turns pecking the snake until they killed it. Most of the time when you loose a bird it is because she was sitting on a nest and something caught her or because they were roosting in a tree and an owl got it. Good luck.
-- Green (email@example.com), June 24, 2000.
We learned the hard way, by buying older birds, and they ran away. The neighbor saw them leaving his backyard and going up his hedgerow. Of course, he didn't tell us this until weeks later... My advice would be to buy just-hatched keets and keep them penned up until they know that the pen is home - with roosts, food, & water. Keeping them near the chickens helps them to get the idea that they are supposed to come in at night or when you shake the corn in the can, to come. Ours did lay their eggs in the barn and we got to know where they could be found. We fed them game bird ration, but our last one lives with the chickens and eats the layer mash. He's fine. We did not clip their wings. They rarely flew and did not try to roost in our trees, but we don't have a lot of trees and only large maples. We are buying more just-hatched keets later this summer because we do like the odd little things. Hope this helps! Good luck!
-- Jean (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 24, 2000.
Leslie, I am not an expert by any means, but would offer the following, based on our experence. If you get day old keets, brood them as you would baby chicks. When they are old enough to be moved, (12-16wks?), begin them exactly where you want them to be. I agree that it is best if you can "house" them securely at night. If you have a house for them, construct a small yard pen-let them out during the day and put them back in at night. Do this for a week or so and they will be trained to enter the house every night. The pen does not have to be large, just something to let them "enter & exit" from the house, (you may have to put a covering on the top, depending how tall you construct it). Again, this is temporary, so dont put in a lot of effort. After they are familiar with their "home", let them begin roaming your property. You may loose a few intitially, but there is not much you can do about that. You will probably need to shoo them back in at night, for a couple of nights. They will eventually come in on their own. Guineas work and roam as a "pack", you need at least 6 for them to kill snakes, it is a group effort! Also, the more you have the better able they are to warn and protect themselves. I would suggest you start with day old keets, I think it would be very hard to "train" older ones. If you can add a couple of baby chicks with them, it seems to calm them down a bit, and they "herd" easier (as chickens are calmer), later they will pretty much shun them, but at that point it will not matter. We use them for snakes, ticks and garden partol-to us they have really, really been useful! Also, when they begin laying-the eggs are great! No difference in taste from chicken eggs, but have something extra to make them wonderful for baking with. If you have gardens, mulch, etc that chickens tend to destroy, you will not have that problem with the guineas-they are not interested in the veggies-just the bugs! Anyway, as you can tell, we have become "sold" on the value of guineas on the farm, would not be without them now. I wish you luck, once the intitial "training, caring, etc.. is over, there is very little you have to do for them. Water, shelter and an offering of chicken feed, that is about it. Have Fun!
-- Wendy@GraceAcres (email@example.com), June 24, 2000.
This is why i LOVE this forum..you guys are terrific and just saved me a bunch of grief....The snakes will just have to continue with their false sense of security for several more weeks...as an aside, this morning my husband and I were in the front "yard" admiring the birds when a four point buck decided to bound through it and around the house and into "our" woods....That was wayyyyyyy cool!!! Remind me I thought that was cool when next year he's munching up my garden! Thanks and God bless....
-- Lesley (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 24, 2000.
Lesley, there was a book review in the last Countryside (not this current issue) about a book on Guineas. It sounded good so you might check it out. good luck.
-- Vaughn (email@example.com), June 24, 2000.
$2.50 is CHEAP!!!! I am on my third batch and this time I think it did it mostly right. I purchased "Gardening with Guineas" and think it's a great book! Unfortunately, some of her advice was just too late for me to implement.
She says that you must keep them confined for 6 weeks and feed them at the same time then they will think of the Coop as a safe haven and not bolt straight for the trees.
I have possibly one of the worst grasshopper infestations of all time and they have helped to make a dent in it since I let them go. Unfortunately they have decided to roost in my barn above my milk stand, so I have to re-arrange things, but they are worth their weight in gold so long as you can keep them in a safe place during the night.
I highly reccommend the book as I unwittingly did some of it right with this batch.You could start with adults and achieve the same results.
-- Doreen (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 24, 2000.
I have guineas and I think they are the MOST interesting critter. You do need to confine them for the first weeks to keep them. The can be bullies to chickens but are amusing. I love their call and they come up to the house and yell all around it! My guinea woman hatched babies but the cat got them when she was out getting food (she nested in a brushy area) but I hope to try again. Mine are Buff Dundottes and a brown and a white. My lavendar woman insisted on crossing the road and a car intervened. Rats. Some of my guineas were hatched under a banty hen so they think it's great to roost with the chickens. They don't get as groggy as the chickens at night but you can still pick them up and pet them at night if you are quiet and careful. Enjoy them! Mine eat egg mash and bugs and other goodies they can scratch up. I've been told they are dark meat like a duck and are a delicacy. They are my people so I don't think I will eat them anytime soon....
-- Gailann Schrader (email@example.com), June 28, 2000.
The feed store called this evening & a friend of hers, had 7 keets hatch out today, she is going to go get them & I'll go pick them up tomarrow morning! I'm getting these for $2.00 each. We haven't had keets for many years --so this will be a fun experience again! I'll be rereading all the information--if I panick, I'll post then! ha Sonda in Ks.
-- Sonda (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 28, 2000.
Good Lord! Had I known it was you that posted this question, I would have responded more quickly. Ken is closest to the mark so far. I believe he is being generous in attributing an IQ of 1. These things make sheep look normal, and turkeys on the level with Einstein. Here are the attributes: They look kinda cool. They are good "watch-dogs" for your chickens. They will eat ticks and other "bad guys", but so will chickens. They look kinda cool. They taste somewhat like pheasant, but I personally prefer pheasant. In the summer, they forage, and feed cost is low. They look kinda cool. They are able to do very well without shelter, and prefer to roost in trees, at least until the snow flies (Right! You wimpy Confederate!) They look kinda cool. There is also a down side. They look kinda weird. They are great watch-dogs for your chickens, and will begin their watch-dogging about 1 full hour before first light, or about 1 3/4 hours before sunrise, EACH AND EVERY DAY! They will watch for coyotes, stray dogs, foxes, raccoons, possums, hawks, snakes, mountain lions, bears, yeti, and anything else that moves, including cars on the road, you getting up to visit the privy, ants and gnats. When their radar detects any of the above, and several non-mentionmed life forms, the hero (heroine) who noticed the movement will immediately create a raucus. All other guinea hens (roosters?) are required by guinea law to honor the noticee. Hence, ALL will initiate an ear-splitting cacophony to make damned sure you are alerted to the star-nosed vole they have spied. You must now (remember, this is about 0430, or in civilian parlance - pretty damned early!) arise and satiate the guineas, by dispatching the snake, mouse, hawk, worm, ant, or whatever set them off. Now they do lay eggs, and they are as tasty as any other. However, YOU WILL NEVER FIND THE EGGS if they free range. Raccoons will help you out here - they WILL find them, and the guinea if she is setting. Maggie advises against them. I advise for. I believe everyone should learn some things for themselves. Maggie is quite likely a better friend! GL!
-- Brad (Homefixer@SacoRiver.net), June 30, 2000.
I would LOVE to have Guineas to take care of the grasshoppers and snakes (don't have ticks). I have heard that they are almost as loud as peafowl, and I was wondering how you guys live with it. An acquaintance just GAVE a flock away because of the noise. I realize we all have different tolerance levels, so I'll ask this way: if we were outside having a conversation, would the Guineas drown us out? TIA.
~Rogo South Central Texas email@example.com
-- ~Rogo (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 16, 2000.
Rogo, it would depend on how many you have and how close they are. We have found that although they do come into the yard/house area, they do not stay long. They like to roam the whole property. So, yes if you were in your yard at the exact time they were, and something set them off, it would be hard to have a conversation. But I think this would be the exception. Maybe we have just been lucky, but it seems to me that after they got older (6months?), they did not "talk/scream" near as much! Don't misunderstand, they still do, but on a more reasonable "as needed" basis! Anyway, that is my 2cents worth, Good Luck!! Wendy
-- Wendy@GraceAcres (email@example.com), July 16, 2000.
Well, that's interesting, Wendy....that Guineas like to roam all the property. I'm on 30 acres right now, but if they would take care of the area around the house, it would be great. I can't see a neighbor from here, so at least that's one thing I wouldn't have to worry about! Since we all have different experiences, guess I'll only know if I try. Guess I'm back to thinking about 'em! Thanks.
~Rogo South Central Texas firstname.lastname@example.org
-- ~Rogo (email@example.com), July 16, 2000.