Friday, March 2, 2018

Guinea hens: Everything you need to know

I've been raising guineas since 2009. My first set of guinea fowl was a trio of 2 guinea hens and 1 guinea cock. Since then I've had as many as 80 guineas at one time. Over the years I've become pretty well known locally as 'the guinea farmer' and because of this I get asked a lot of questions about them. Luckily, I have answers!

guinea hens

Everything you need to know about Guinea hens

Here is my list of most commonly asked questions about guinea fowl and specifically guinea hens, breeding and egg laying.

Do guinea hens lay eggs year round? 

No. Guinea hens do not lay eggs in the winter. They start laying for the year in spring and continue through summer into fall, stopping when the days get noticeably shorter.

When do guinea hens start laying eggs? 

Guineas start laying in their first spring as an adult. If you get keets this year, they probably won't begin to lay eggs until next year. Occasionally I'll have young guineas drop 2-3 eggs around December right as they mature. These first
eggs aren't always fertile and very rarely do they hatch. 

How often do guinea hens lay eggs? 

A guinea hen will lay an egg almost every day during her laying season except when broody. That's 6-7 eggs a week.


How long do guinea hens lay eggs for? 

A guinea hen will lay eggs almost every day for about the first 3 years. My older guineas produce 3-4 eggs a week after they get to be about 4 years old. They're still excellent at bug control though, so we keep them around! 

Can you eat guinea eggs? 

Yes you can eat guinea hen eggs. Guinea eggs have a higher protein content then chicken eggs. I compare different types of poultry eggs to see the difference. 

Are guinea hens broody?

Guinea hens are not particularly broody. If I were to estimate, I would say only about half of my guinea hens ever go broody. Generally they only go broody once a year, whether I break them or allow them to hatch keets. They're not very good mothers though, so I don't usually allow them to hatch keets.

Do guineas mate for life? 

Yes and no. Guinea hens will pair up with a guinea cock or even form trios with an additional guinea hen. They will refuse mating from outside birds. They will keep this mating group for the whole year. Many times they will form the same mating pair or group the following year. 

Guineas will look for and call their missing mate if something happens to him/her. If something does happen to one of the guineas in a pair, the remaining guinea will remain solo the rest of the season but will usually find a new mate from the flock in the following breeding season. 

Can you eat guinea fowl? 

Yes, you can eat guinea fowl meat. It sort of tastes like wild turkey. Guinea fowl has a higher meat to carcass ratio then heritage breed chickens. Here's an amazing recipe for Roasted guinea fowl with sage and blood orange. Guinea fowl meat is more common outside the states, so when looking for recipes you'll have better luck at sites like GoodHousekeeping.UK and BBC.

How long do guineas live? 

Guinea fowl can live up to 15 years. My oldest guineas are currently 6 years old, though my oldest guinea ever lived to be 8 years old.

Are guinea fowl cold hardy? 

Most people know that guinea fowl are a warm climate bird originally from the deserts of Africa, but can they handle our climate? Yes, guineas are actually cold hardy and snow and ice, or even freezing rain does not seem to bother them at all.

Why do people keep guineas? 

Most people keep guineas for bug control among other reasons. Guinea fowl are especially fond of ticks which is great if you live in a tick heavy area like we do. Lyme disease is transmitted to humans or pets through the bite of an infected tick, so guineas are very helpful in this area. Guineas are also popular as watch dogs since they alert to let you know if anyone or anything comes into their area.

I hope this answers all the question you might have about guinea hens. If you have any other questions about guinea fowl please check out Guinea Fowl 101 and if you don't see your answer there, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to help you!

~L

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guinea hens as pets

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