How to hatch guinea keets

Guinea fowl, you either love them or hate them! I happen to love them and have been raising guineas since 2009. I started hatching guinea keets as soon as my guinea hens started laying eggs. I also started selling keets that first spring since everyone wanted my newly hatched keets! Thankfully it's easy to incubate guinea eggs so I hatched myself more, and have been hatching them every year since.

how to incubate guinea eggs

The first time I incubated Guinea fowl eggs I just popped the eggs in my incubator along with chicken eggs and used all the same settings as I do for chicks. It sorta worked, actually. Other than the longer incubation period, guinea hen eggs and chicken eggs are quite similar in incubation procedure. With a few tweaks though, I started to get a better hatch rate and I was hooked on hatching my own guinea keets.

Of course the easiest method is always to have a hen hatch the eggs out. If you have a broody hen that is. Even though many guinea hens are excellent at hatching their own eggs, they aren't the best mothers at all. I'm pretty sure they lose more keets than they manage to raise! My solution is to give the guinea eggs to a chicken to hatch and raise. If you don't have a broody hen though, you'll have to use an incubator. 

Before we get started...if you're not real familiar with hatching chicks or keets some of the terms I use can be confusing. Here is a list of Egg incubation terminology and their definitions to help you out.

How to incubate guinea fowl eggs


Chose clean, fertilized eggs that are less than 10 days old to incubate. Do not wash the eggs. Washing eggs removes the 'bloom' which is a natural, protective coating. Do not incubate cracked, damaged or misshapen eggs. Here's more information on how to handle hatching eggs before incubation

Tub of guinea fowl eggs ready for the incubator

Guinea fowl are a ground nesting bird that like to hide their nests and many times the eggs seem particularly dirty (compared to chicken eggs) Chose the cleanest eggs you can, or lightly buff off dirt with a dry cloth. 

Place your incubator in a draft free room out of direct sunlight. Turn your incubator on (and the egg turner if it has separate controls) 24-48 hours before setting eggs. Check the temperature several times and make sure it stays steady for at least 12 hours before setting eggs. The incubator should be kept at 99-99.5°F for forced air and 101-102°F for a still air incubator.

The temperature inside your incubator will drop when you first put the new eggs in it. This is normal. Don't touch the controls, it will come back to the correct temperature as soon as the eggs warm up.

Keep the humidity in the incubator between 45-55% for the first 25 days. If your incubator does not have an egg turner, turn the eggs 3-5 times a day.

I like to candle guinea eggs after 10 days of incubation, though you can often see development after just 5 days. Using a strong flashlight or a candling light, look inside the egg. It helps if you're in a dark room. You should see a darkened blob with what looks like a red spider inside. It might also have a black spot in it. Dispose of any eggs that are not developing. Return the developing eggs to the incubator. Try to move quickly so the eggs do not get too cold. 

Removing eggs that have stopped developing is important during incubation and right before lockdown. When an egg stops developing it starts to decompose. This can cause pressure to build up and the eggshell can pop open. If an egg breaks open inside your incubator it could ruin the rest of the hatch. You want to remove these before they have a chance to pop as they smell really bad and are hard to clean up

How to hatch guinea keets

How to hatch guinea keets


On day 25 stop turning the eggs. If you have a removable turner, take it out. Once you remove the turner make sure the temperature in the incubator doesn't drop, since egg turners sometimes have a motor that creates heat and adds to the incubators temperature. 

Make sure you do this by day 25 as keets seem to hatch early for many breeders, and you don't want to have problems with one getting stuck in the turner or falling out of the egg trays! You will have to carefully adjust the incubator temperature if it gets too low. If your eggs are in suspended turning trays (like in a cabinet incubator) move them to the hatching area. Candle the eggs one last time and remove ones that have quit developing. 

It's especially crucial at the end stage of incubation to remove bad eggs since the keets will be hatching soon and the will start running around inside the incubator. This movement can trigger a bad egg to pop.

Raise the humidity in the incubator to 65% by adding water to the water reservoir. If you can’t get the humidity high enough with the water reservoir alone, you can also add a piece of wet sponge. You'll probably have to add water during the days of lock down so try to position the sponge to make it easy. 

Guinea keet hatching in incubator from egg.

I like to put a piece of non-slip material in the bottom of the hatcher (under the eggs) so the keets can get a good grip with their little feet. It helps to prevent spraddle legRubber shelf liner works great for this, or a thick washcloth.

From day 25 till about day 31 is considered "lock down". This is the crucial time while the keets are hatching. If you open the incubator during this time it can let the humidity out drying the membrane of the hatching keets. Once the membrane dries, the keets are unable to move and can get stuck in their shells. This is called shrink wrapped.

The guinea egg hatching process starts around day 25 as the keet gets ready to hatch. Somewhere around day 28, the keet will peck a hole in the egg with the little egg tooth on his beak. This is called pipping. Sometimes you will hear peeping even before they pip through the shell! After they pip through the shell, they will slowly peck their way around the shell breaking through it all the way around. This is called zipping. They will then push the top off the egg and pop out.

There really is no 'typical' hatch. Sometimes a keet will pip and zip in an hour. Others will pip then rest a few hours before they start zipping. Others will partially zip then rest. A keet can take up to 24 hours to hatch but I find that keets pop out of their eggs a whole lot faster than chicks do! 

Leave newly hatched keets in the incubator until they're completely dry and fluffy. They can be moved to the brooder after 24 hours. Related reading: How to raise guinea keets.

You'll need to clean your incubator after each hatch. I have instructions for cleaning Styrofoam and plastic incubators. An incubator free of bacteria and debris gets a much better hatch rate and they're much easier to clean right after the hatch is complete.

Want to know more about guinea fowl? Check out my collection of guinea articles at: Guinea Fowl 101.

~L

Want to know more about raising chickens? Click here for my top posts on chicken keeping!


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