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Introductory Care Topics For Guinea Fowl

A Guinea fowl walking in tall grass outside.

Guinea fowl originate from the Guinea coast of West Africa, where many are raised for agricultural purposes. They are also now being commercially exploited in the United States, Europe, and India. Behaviorally, they are much more wild than the chickens and turkeys you may be accustomed to caring for! Understanding this about them will help you develop care protocols that are better suited to their needs. Guinea fowl are likely to wander and care should be taken to ensure that are safely housed, along with access to large protected outdoor spaces to explore. While this resource isn’t an exhaustive guide for all aspects of caring for guinea fowl, it strives to provide an introduction into guinea fowl care for rescues and sanctuaries.

First, Consider This:

  • Guinea Fowl can be rather noisy! They will often sound an alarm whenever anything unusual occurs.
  • Guinea Fowl like to wander. For this reason, the more space you can provide them, the better. But their space should be enclosed and protected from predators.
  • Guinea Fowl are more wild and generally more flighty than chickens and should be expected to behave as such. Care should be taken to approach them calmly and daily routines should attempt to minimize disruption.

Housing

Like many bird residents, guinea fowl require draft-free inside enclosures in addition to outdoor living spaces. Heated living spaces, heated water dispensers, and perches that allow them to lay their feet out flat can all help guinea fowl stay warm enough during cold weather. Guinea fowl may prefer more height in their living spaces than chicken residents, as they may prefer to roost higher, so a variety of perches at different heights perches should be made available. A roof or overhead covering is important for shelter, protection from predators, and to prevent wandering. Guinea fowl enjoy a nice walk about and will often wander off and roost in trees if given the opportunity. Netting is a good option for outdoor living spaces, as it has enough give to prevent serious damage if a resident takes flight and flies into it, while still preventing predators from above.

Be sure that resident guinea fowl cannot stick their heads through the fencing, as this can cause injury and exposes them to possible predators. Placing chicken fencing around the bottom of their living space can prevent this. Some predators may also try to dig under the fencing. Consider burying fencing further down to prevent digging predators. As always, safely secure those gates and doors! Raccoons in particular have nimble little paws and clever minds, and can work out how to undo an easy latch!

Check for sharp protrusions and nails and screws to prevent external damage, and be sure to carefully check their surroundings for things like dropped coins, bits of metal, and loose fabric or string, to prevent hardware disease. Guinea fowl appreciate a good dust bath too. Efforts should be made to ensure there are stumps, dust bathing areas, and a variety of places to perch.

Guineas often don’t automatically go into a house to roost at night. You may find it easier to get them into their indoor living space for the night by turning a light on in their indoor housing, as they tend to dislike dark spaces. As with any other resident species, you must ensure you have an area adequate for any quarantine needs that arise.

Nutritional Needs

In the wild, guineas will eat many insects, and will even eat mice, rats, and snakes! They will also eat some grass and weeds to help their digestive systems. As with chickens and turkeys, it is important to make sure grit is available for guinea residents. Like chickens, guineas also enjoy a little scratch feed on the ground, though they tend to scratch less than chickens. They also enjoy wheat, sorghum, or millet grain, and may ignore whole corn kernels. They can be fed a commercial poultry diet. Guineas need a higher protein feed than chickens. There are guinea fowl diets available, but other bird foods can be used as long as they are high in protein. Keets need a 24% – 26% protein ration as their starter feed. The protein level should be reduced to 18% – 20% at 5-8 weeks. After 8 weeks, the keets can be fed a 16% layer mash. If your feed mill does not sell food in the proper protein levels, you can mix a higher protein food with a laying-hen mash to get the proper protein level. Guineas should be fed mash or crumbles. Pelleted feed is not recommended for guineas. You should also provide supplemental greens, such as leafy alfalfa, for the guineas to peck. They will eat the leaves. It is important to remove any leftovers daily to prevent a mold problem.

Medical Care

While guinea fowl are considered less susceptible to illness, they can certainly contract diseases that chickens and turkeys may suffer from. Like other birds, guinea fowl are susceptible to both external and internal parasites, and should be monitored for and treated for both if they are found present. Viruses such as Fowl Pox, Newcastle Disease, and Marek’s Disease are all potential threats to guinea fowl, as are many bacterial agents. These include, but are not limited to, Fowl Cholera, Avian tuberculosis, and Staphylococcus. Protozoan diseases are also a potential health risk.

All guinea fowl residents should be routinely given a health exam. Be sure to first observe the behavior of the resident and their mobility then move on to feather, skin, crop, abdomen, wings, legs, nose, mouth, and eyes. Check out our resource on turkey health exams to give you an idea of how to begin. Note any changes in their usually vigilant behavior and changes in food and water intake, as this can be an indicator of illness. Other things to look out for are solitary behavior and looking fluffed and hunched up when it isn’t cold.

Handling

Ask An Expert

If at all possible, have a veterinarian or care expert give you hands-on training for safe guinea fowl handling! Failing to use appropriate technique can gravely injure guinea fowl.

If regularly handled from day-olds, they may be reasonably friendly towards a caregiver, but as a rule, guinea fowl dislike being picked up or even touched. Catching and holding guinea fowl is likely to be a very stressful experience for most guinea residents. You may have found that some of your chickens tolerate or actively enjoy interactions; this is much less likely with guinea residents.
If you’re caring for guinea fowl, it’s very important that you know how to safely handle and hold them. Some guinea fowl are more receptive to being held than others ,depending on their size and how they’ve been socialized. Each resident in your care might have their own special handling requirements depending on their breed and health needs.

Unsafe Holding

NEVER pick up guinea fowl by their wings, feathers, legs, feet, or neck. This is an unacceptable practice that can harm guinea fowl. Do not allow anyone else to pick them up by their wings either! Some veterinarians have been known to do this as it is a standard practice in animal agriculture environments.


For guinea fowl without many health challenges, you can stand beside them and then hug the bird to your upper body, making sure to safely cover their wings. This will prevent them from injuring themselves or jumping away from you. You can place your other hand under their feet for an extra sense of security. Be mindful when setting them down. DO NOT let them jump down.

Social Needs

Guinea fowl can be bullies to other birds and don’t typically easily tolerate newcomers. They often seem to particularly pick on young roosters, preventing them for accessing food and water. Some sanctuaries have had success housing them with other bird species, but this should be done with extreme caution, and social groups should be safe for everyone. Otherwise, guinea fowl do well with a little family unit. An ideal grouping would be a single male with multiple females.

As with any group, sometimes disputes happen or bullying may take place. If this becomes a problem, finding a new grouping is better in order to prevent distress and injury.

Enrichment

Guinea fowl have inquisitive minds and enjoy exploring things in their living spaces. Rearranging and adding new perches and stumps can help break up the monotony. Hanging treats can also be an interesting way to engage with their food and environment. A small, securely fixed mirror may grab the attention of curious residents. Just be sure the mirror is not large enough for a male to see his full body, as he may begin attacking the mirror. Colorful balls that are large enough they can’t eat but small enough they can manipulate is also a fun enrichment option! While they don’t scratch for food as much as chickens do, they still make and love their dust baths. Be sure to include a dust bath area for them in their living spaces.

SOURCES:

Raising Guinea Fowl In Small And Backyard Flocks | University Of Kentucky Extension Non-Compassionate Source

Diseases Of The Guinea Fowl | Guinea Fowl.com  Non-Compassionate Source

Guide To Keeping Guinea Fowl |  Central Poultry Development Association Non-Compassionate Source

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on August 3, 2020

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