Category Archives: Guinea Fowl

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Own Guinea Fowl

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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!

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Just look at that sweet face!  Mr. Cato Potato.

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Guinea Jeans: Buff Dundotte

The Buff Dundottes are a wild card.  Some things I read say the buff color is more sex-linked, others say it is not.  I have noticed, that with the Dundottes, the females are darker than the males.  For this posts sake, I’m assuming it is not sex-linked and am denoting the buff gene as recessive gene.  Dundotte just means that it is a full pearled version of buff. Like the blue and grey color, the less pearling visible, the darker the buff color gets.

If you missed the previous posts:

  1. Click here for the introductions to guinea genetics
  2. Click here for discussion of Pearl Gray genetics
  3. Click here for discussion of Lavender genetics
  4. Click here for discussion of Coral Blue genetics

In my Punnet Square, Buff Dundotte are as follows:

  • uu:  homozygous recessive for the buff background color
  • PP:  pearled

 

A Buff Dundotte guinea.  Notice the underlying buff but with strong pearling pattern.

Let’s see what happens when I breed my Buff Dundotte pair (uuPP x uuPP):

uP uP
uP uuPP uuPP
uP uuPP uuPP

Phenotype:  100% Buff Dundotte

Genotype:  100% pure Buff Dundotte guineas

This proves that the Buff Dundottes breed true, meaning I can breed two Buff Dundottes together and know that 100% of the time the offspring will always be Buff Dundotte.  So far, the only unstable color I have is the Coral Blues.

So, I’ll cross a Buff Dundotte with a Pearl Gray (uuPP x GGPP):

GP GP
uP GuPP GuPP
uP GuPP GuPP

Phenotype:  100% Pearl Gray guineas

Genotype:  100% Pearl Gray split to Buff

All the offspring of this pairing will appear Pearl Gray but will carry a copy of the recessive buff background color.  Again, they won’t be true pure Pearl Grays genetically, but will appear as so.  If two Pearl Gray split to Buff are crossed, there is a chance of getting Buffs.

Let’s breed the offspring together, 2 Pearl Gray split to Buff (GuPP x GuPP):

GP uP
GP GGPP GuPP
uP GuPP uuPP

Phenotype:  75% Pearl Grays, 25% Buff Dundotte

Genotype:  25% pure Pearl Gray, 50% Pearl Gray split to Buff, 25% pure Buff Dundotte

I just have to know what will happen if I cross the Buffs with either a Coral Blue or a Lavender.  The blue and buff background colors are both recessive and when one copy of each gene is present they should mix to create a new color.  Let’s see….

First, a Buff Dundotte x Lavender (uuPP x bbPP):

Right off the bat, I know all the offspring will be completely pearled, meaning they’re going to be a light color.

uP uP
bP buPP buPP
bP buPP buPP

Phenotype:  100% Porcelain guineas

Genotype:  100% pure Porcelain

A Porcelain Guinea.  Notice the prominent pearling.

Let’s breed the offspring….  Porcelain x Porcelain (buPP x buPP):

bP uP
bP bbPP buPP
uP buPP uuPP

Phenotype:  25% Lavender, 50% Porcelain, 25% Buff Dundotte

Genotype: 25% pure Lavender, 50% pure Porcelain, 25% pure Buff Dundotte

The Porcelain color gene does not breed true, but rather gives 50% Porcelain and 25% of each parent coloring.  Interesting.

Now I have to know what happens when you cross a Buff Dundotte with a Coral Blue.  Since the Coral Blue coloring gene doesn’t breed true, I could get some interesting colors and even some darker buffs since the Coral Blue carries a semi-pearled gene.

Coral Blue x Buff Dundotte (bbPp x uuPP):

bP bp
uP buPP buPp
up buPp bupp

Phenotype:  25% Porcelain, 75% Opaline

Genotype:  25% pure Porcelain, 50% semi-pearled Opaline, 25% non-pearled Opaline

The Opaline guinea.  You can see the Buff as well as Blue is expressed here.

The Opaline color is bluish-white, that it is hard to distinguish between semi- and non-pearled.  So, both genotypes “buPp” and “bupp” will be called Opaline.

I’m curious as to what I’d get if I were to cross an Opaline with a Buff Dundotte (bupp x uuPP):

bp up
uP buPp uuPp
uP buPp uuPp

Phenotype:  50% Opaline, 50% Buff

Genotype:  50% pure Opaline, 50% pure Buff

I’m starting to think that if I would cross my four different colors enough over many generations, I would eventually end up with all the existing guinea colors, and probably make some new ones!

I’m becoming the mad scientist of guinea genetics!

Now didn’t you learn something!  This information will really come in handy when you’re “guinea shopping” and planning on breeding.  Many colors, like Lavender, Coral Blue, Porcelain, etc. can look very alike because of their underlying colors.  But now you can understand their colors on a genetic (genotypical) level and know that if certain birds are paired, you can get new colors, or that they breed true.  Pretty cool, huh?

I am planning on continuing this with the rest of the guinea colors as soon as I find good information and figure it out myself.

Guinea Jeans: Coral Blue

Like the Lavenders, the Coral Blue coloring is derived from the same recessive blue background gene “bb.”  On the other hand, Coral Blues are semi-pearled, or “Pp.”  Genetically, both Coral Blues and Lavenders have the same underlying coloring, blue, but the semi-pearling in the Coral Blues makes them appear darker and more blue than the Lavenders.

If you missed out on my first two posts and are confused with what I’m talking about,

In my Punnett Squares, Coral Blues are denoted as:

  • bb:  they are homozygous recessive for the blue background color
  • Pp:  semi-pearled

A Coral Blue Guinea.  Note the richer Blue color than the Lavender.

If I breed a Coral Blue x Coral Blue (bbPp x bbPp):

bP bp
bP bbPP bbPp
bp bbPp bbpp

Phenotype:  25% Lavender (pearled), 50% Coral Blue (semi-pearled), 25% Sky Blue (non-pearled)

Genotype:  25% pure Lavender, 50% pure Coral Blue, 25% pure Sky Blue

Now I know that the Coral Blue gene is not stable and does not “breed true” like the Lavender gene.  “Breeding true” means that I can breed two birds of the same color genetics and get 100% offspring of the exact same color every time.  In this instance with the Coral Blues, I can on potentially get 2 Coral Blue keets out of every 4 keets.  It is a mere assumption that the Sky Blue coloring is derived from mating two Coral Blues.  I am not sure is semi-pearling is a heterozygous dominant that can potentially create a homozygous recessive non-pearling.  I’m not ever sure if non-pearling is a recessive trait or a mutation all together, but at this point I am assuming it is a recessive trait until proven different.

A Sky Blue guinea.  Note the lack of polka-dots.

So if I cross a Pearl Gray x Coral Blue (GGPP x bbPp):

GP GP
bP GbPP GbPP
bp GbPp GbPp

Phenotype:  50% Pearl Gray guineas, 50% Royal Purple guineas

Genotype:  50% Pearl Gray split to lavender guineas, 50% Royal Purple split to blue

Since the Coral Blue guineas carry the “Pp” or semi-pearling gene, when they are crossed with a fully pearled, such as the pearl gray, all off-spring can potentially be pearled or semi-pearled.  This means they will be carrying the gray background color, but some with less pearling as opposed to the Pearl Gray parent.  If this is true, the offspring will be a darker gray in color in contrast to their parents, also known as the Royal Purple color (GGPp).

A Royal Purple guinea.  Note the dark color and no white spots.

Let’s cross a Coral Blue x Lavender (bbPp x bbPP):

bP bp
bP bbPP bbPp
bP bbPP bbPp

Phenotype:  50% Lavender guineas, 50% Coral Blue guineas

Genotype:  50% pure Lavender, 50% pure Coral Blue

So actually, letting my Lavender and Coral Blues mix breed won’t hurt anything.  Regardless, I have the same chance of getting pure Coral Blues than if I were to separate them and breed Coral Blue x Coral Blue.  But if I did, I have more of a chance to get some Sky Blue guineas, which are the blue background with no pearling.  And letting the Pearl Grays cross with the Coral Blues, I could potentially get Royal Purples but they would not be pure but rather split to blue.

Cool, huh?

Guys…?

You drooled on your keyboard…

Guinea Jeans: Lavender

Now, let’s get to the cool stuff.  Since Pearl Gray is the dominant in color and pearling, I know that when I cross them with any of my other colors the resulting keets will ALL be Pearl Gray, phenotypically speaking.  But their genotype… they wouldn’t be pure Pearl Grays, now would they?

If you have no clue what’s going on, you may have missed my previous posts…

I’m starting with Lavender.  Both Lavender and Coral Blue have to have homozygous recessive genes for the blue background color, which is denoted with “bb” for the lavender/blue color to be expressed.  Where they differ is the pearling.  I believe that Lavender are fully pearled, “PP,” and the Coral Blues are semi-pearled, “Pp.”  There might be more underlying genetically for the pearling, but at this point I’m not sure, so I’m just going with basics for now.

 

In my Punnett Square, a Lavender is:

  • bb:  homozygous recessive for the blue background color
  • PP:  fully pearled

If I breed a Lavender x Lavender (bbPP x bbPP):

bP bP
bP bbPP bbPP
bP bbPP bbPP

Phenotype:  100% Lavender guineas

Genotype:  100% pure Lavender guineas

This means Lavender is a stable gene and it “breeds true,” meaning I know that when I breed a Lavender guinea to another Lavender guinea, I will always get Lavender keets 100% of the time.

If I cross a Pearl Gray x Lavender (GGPP x bbPP):

GP GP
bP GbPP GbPP
bP GbPP GbPP

Phenotype:  100% Pearl Gray guineas

Genotype:  100% Pearl Gray split to Lavender

With this crossing of Pearl Gray with Lavender, first generation offspring will all show up a Pearl Gray in color, but will not be pure and all will carry a copy of the unexpressed recessive Lavender gene.  This is important when breeding this generation back together.  This is where it can get tricky also.  Especially with breeding stock you purchase with unknown origin, ie: hatchery.  If the birds are not pure Pearl Gray and are split to another color, like Lavender, you have a possibility of not getting all Pearl Grays.  (As shown below).  This is where it gets interesting.

If I breed a Pearl Gray split to Lavender x Pearl Gray split to Lavender (GbPP x GbPP):

GP bP
GP GGPP GbPP
bP GbPP bbPP

Phenotype: 75% Pearl Gray, 25% Lavender guineas

Genotype:  25% pure Pearl Gray, 50% Pearl Gray split to Lavenders, and 25% Lavender

In lay terms, if I were to breed my pure Pearl Gray to one of my pure Lavenders, I would get all Pearl Grays in their offspring.  But, if I were to breed their offspring together, I can potentially get 1 pure Lavender out of every 4 keets hatched, or 25%.

What would happen if I bred the first generation offspring (Pearl Gray split to Lavender) to a pure Lavender (GbPP x bbPP):

GP bP
bP GbPP bbPP
bP GbPP bbPP

Phenotype: 50% Pearl Gray guineas, 50% Lavender

Genotype:  50% Pearl Gray split to Lavender, 50% Pure Lavender

Breeding a Lavender split to a pure Lavender increases my chances of getting more pure Lavenders than breeding two Lavender split offspring.

Aren’t genetics amazing!?

Or are you asleep right now….

Guinea Jeans: Pearl Gray

Let’s consider the Pearl Gray guinea fowl first.  Pearl Gray is a genetically dominant gene for both color and pearling genes.  The pearl gene is the “polka-dots” you see on most colors.  There is also semi-pearled and non-pearled but, I digress.  A Pearl Gray guinea would be homozygous dominant for both the gray background color and pearling.

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, click here for my Guinea Genetics Intro!

In my Punnett Square, a pure Pearl Gray guinea is denoted as such:

  • GG: homozygous dominant gray background color
  • PP:  Pearled

Since the Pearl Gray is a fully pearled color, it is the lightest of the gray background variations.

So, if you breed a Pearl Gray x Pearl Gray (GGPP x GGPP):

GP GP
GP GGPP GGPP
GP GGPP GGPP

Genotype:  100% Pure Pearl Gray guineas

Phenotype:  100% Pearl Gray guineas

IMG_3502

Cato & Primrose are pure Pearl Gray guineas.

Buying guinea fowl from an honest breeder rather than a hatchery is best if you plan to start breeding.  Buying from a breeder gives you the option to talk with the breeder and find out the parents genetics of the birds you are buying.  Especially in Pearl Grays, knowing they are pure promises you will have Pearl Gray keets 100% of the time.  Often, Pearl Grays are sold a Pearl Grays because of their phenotype, but in their genotype they are Pearl Gray split to another color, meaning that when these two birds are bred, there is a chance of getting a guinea of a different color.   Which isn’t bad, but is disappointing when you see one color, but they’re genetically another.

I’ll get into the split genes later.

I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am!

Guinea Jeans: Intro

I have to admit that I’ve been really nerding out lately.  Sorry, this post isn’t about denim, but rather genes.  (See what I did there??).  I absolutely love poultry genetics, especially when it’s regarding their color.  With the impending breeding season coming in a few months with the guinea bugs, I’ve been quite curious what I’ll be getting if the different colors cross with each other now that I have 4 different colors.  I figured it’d be interesting to my fellow aspiring geneticists (ha!) to make a few posts about it as I learn more.  Keep in mind, this is MY understanding, and while it probably is correct, take my information with a grain of salt.  I can be wrong and am allowed to be wrong.  And if you have helpful information, I’d love to hear it!  The only way I can prove what I have figured is to breed my birds and keep track of what I get.  This is also my way of learning as I go.  By typing these posts, I’m mapping their genetics out in my mind and putting it down to share with others that are wondering the same things I am…

I currently have Pearl Grey, Coral Blue, Lavender, and Buff Dundotte guineas.  Therefore, these are the color patterns I am focusing on.  I am also assuming at this point that none of the genes are sex-linked (meaning different expressions between males and females).  What I really want to know is what will happen if these colors mix amongst each other, as in a Coral Blue breeds a Buff Dundotte.

First, when trying to figure out the possible phenotype and genotype of the first generation of keets is to understand what the underlying genotype of the parent birds is and also to understand what phenotype and genotype mean.

Phenotype:  the physical appearance of the bird.  You can see this.

Genotype:  the genetic make-up of the bird.  You cannot see this.

Example:IMG_3502

 

By looking at Cato, my Pearl Gray guinea male in this picture, I see that he is gray in color with white spots.  This is his phenotype.  Genetically, I know that he is a pure Pearl Gray guinea, meaning his parents were pure Pearl Grays and were not mixed with another color.  Pearl Gray is considered the dominant color of all guineas, because if Pearl Gray is crossed with any other color, only Pearl Gray will be seen in the first generation.

I used Punnett Squares to help me cross my different colors of birds to find the genotype and then interpret phenotype of possible cross-pairings.  I used the most basic genotypes (color and pearling) to use in the Punnett Squares, because I’m not going to do the 64×64 square one to guess leg coloring and wattle size and eye color, etc.  Right now, I just don’t care about those things.  I want the basic feather coloring and pearling.  When figuring genotype, I use capital letters for dominant genes (AA) and lower-case letters for recessive genes (aa).  There are three possible pairings between alleles:

  • Homozygous dominant (AA): there is two copies of the dominant gene, meaning the parent will always give their offspring a dominant gene.
  • Heterozygous dominant (Aa): there is one copy of the dominant gene and one copy of the recessive gene, meaning the phenotype will always show the dominant gene but the parent may pass either a dominant or recessive gene to its offspring.  In the poultry world, this is also called a “split.”
  • Homozygous recessive (aa): there is two copies of the recessive gene, meaning the recessive gene is expressed and a recessive gene will always be passed to the offspring but not necessarily expressed.

The two main things I am considering with my guineas are their background color and their pearling.  The amount of pearling that a guinea has affects their background color.  The main background colors I am dealing with in my guineas are gray, blue and buff:

  • Gray (GG) is dominant and can be expressed homo- or heterozygous
  • Blue (bb) is recessive and is only expressed homozygously
  • Buff (uu) is recessive and is only expressed homozygously.
  • Blue/Buff (bu) is a mix between a blue and buff bird that possibly creates the color opaline (buPP, buPp) and porcelain (bupp) depending on the pearling (PP, Pp, or pp).

As for pearling, there are three options:

  • Pearled (PP) means the guinea is fully pearled with prominent “white spots”
  • Semi-pearled (Pp) means the guinea has pearling but it is not prominent
  • Non-pearled (pp) means the guinea is a solid color with no spots

Thus far, I am unsure about the semi-pearled, if it is expressed as such, since my only semi-pearled birds are my Coral Blues. My assumption is, if a bird is Pp rather than PP, they will appear much darker in contrast to the full pearled since they have less white spots on their feathers, which is true when comparing my Lavender guineas (PP) to my Coral Blues (Pp).  The Corals are a much darker blue color in contrast.

How interesting is this?

Betcha can’t wait for the next post?

Right?

Anyone…?

Guinea Goons.

IMG_3502

 

I once had six guineas

Ended up with two

Now I have twelve

And here Cato’s telling me “I hate you.”

Cato’s not much on the fatherhood idea of having 10 keets running around under his supervision.  He’s wanting it back to the olden days of just he and his lady lover, Primrose.  I never told him he had to but he’s taken his new “job” very seriously, and now, instead of chasing the keets and pulling their feathers out, he protects them.  Except for my new buff pair of keets.  He doesn’t like them yet.  YET.  They’ll grow on him just like these last ones did.

You just wait and see Cato Potato.

IMG_3865

Proof he loves those keets.  Cato is the dark fella on the farthest to the right.  The keets are the light gray.  He follows them around wherever they go, breaking up their tiffs and protecting them.