My keets I hatched in July of this year. They’re about 3 weeks old in this picture.
As you probably know, I’m a lover of my guineas. I have 12 little goons that keep my funny farm in a constant state of noise and my feather collection full of polka-dots. That being, I’ve seen too many times people buy guineas having no clue what they’re in for. These little birds aren’t something that you just get and throw in a coop and toss feed to and leave. They’re a bit more difficult than chickens, unfortunately. I’m sure they’re nothing you can’t handle, but they’re a commitment. Which is why I’m writing this on why you SHOULDN’T get guineas…
1. They’re good for tick control. While this is true and fabulous, buying guineas solely for the purpose of controlling ticks is a terrible idea. They’re not a bird you just let loose to fend for themselves and they’ll fill their bellies with ticks and then sleep. They need a well-balanced diet, high in protein (which is easy in the summer, winter notsomuch), and plenty of space for exercise (free-range is the absolute best) and friends. One guinea will not suffice. They’re very social birds and no other types of birds count. Some guineas may do OK with the chickens, but you won’t get the full guinea personality and it will end up a sad life for that bird. They need access to exercise and shelter, because like chickens, they are hunted by the same predators (albeit they may help run some of them off); I’ve had guineas attacked by hawks and neighbor dogs just as easily as my chickens. So, all in all, buying them for tick control makes a lot of work for you that you probably really don’t want to do…. read on.
2. So stupid it hurts. I hate to say stupid about any of my feathered children, but my lord, my guineas are soooo stupid. Calling them pea brains is absolutely spot on. Especially in their first year of life, they are just so gosh darn dense it makes me hurt. Most of my time spent doing my evening barn chores is reminding my six month old keets where the barn door opening is to get to their pen. They so faithfully want to find it to go to bed like they were taught, but for some reason I keep moving the door! And don’t get me started about their fascination with the road….
3. They sing. That’s putting it nicely. Just make sure you’ve heard at least 12 guineas have an absolute meltdown over something before you buy some. Most people say “I know they’re noisy, but I can deal with it,” only to come back to me saying I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!, they’re driving me crazy, with a bald spot and blood shot eyes.. The hens are constantly “buckwheat-ing” (that’s what a lot of people call their noises they make) to keep contact with the other hens and the cocks. They definitely talk tons more than the males. That noise is tolerable. It’s when they make the window-shattering, ear drum bleeding, brain melting squawking fit over the UPS man that just pulled into the drive. All 12 of my guineas actually storm the UPS truck and the first time he was actually afraid to get out of the vehicle…. guess they are good watch dogs. Just be prepared for the noise. And make sure your neighbors, and their neighbors, and the entire neighborhood is ok with your guineas. Having guineas in town would be a really, really, really bad idea.
4. The goons are jerks. I always call my guineas, goons, because it’s super fitting. They are not very nice either. They definitely have this bird racial supremacy thing going on where only guineas are good enough for their group. Anyone else gets their feathers pulled out and ran over. Literally, ran over. Chickens and guineas together is a horrible idea. I’ve heard of VERY FEW people that have successfully kept chickens and guineas together without constant altercations. I even raised mine together from hatchlings and they still beat up on the chickens. So if you’re going to have guineas, they have to have a separate coop/perching area or you’re going to become a really good bird altercation mediator. Plus the guineas run in gangs. All 12 of mine are usually found together or split up in a group of 8 and group of 4. They’re flock birds so I really never sell anyone less than 3 keets because of this.
5. They wander. Guineas are really bad about staying home if you don’t take the time to train them. I have no problem with mine, because from a young age I’ve trained them to come to several different noises/calls and shown them approved areas to forage in. If they go out of range, I chase them back and scare their hind-ends off. If you don’t have the time to do this, half your guinea herd will be in Texas by noon tomorrow. They also like to perch in trees/roofs/etc. If they’re not trained to go to bed in their coop and given high perches, they’ll find their own, meaning feast time for the opossums, coons and coyotes.
I really didn’t write this to discourage people from getting guineas, rather I encourage it. But when I sell my keets to anyone, I make sure they are fully aware what it takes to get guineas because I had NO idea how much work they’d be when I brought my first six home. Or how much I’d absolutely love them. If anyone has any questions, you know how to reach me!
I also encourage you to read up on guineas, whether it’s books (“Gardening With Guineas” by Jeannette Ferguson is my favorite) or in online forums or from a guinea breeder like me before taking the plunge and buying some. They’re a joy to have!
Just look at that sweet face! Mr. Cato Potato.