Guineas, More Than Just Tick Control
Guinea Fowl or Guineas are very well known as tick-control birds – they seem to be the first fowl-based solution that comes to mind when someone complains about ticks. Indeed Guineas do voraciously feed on insects including ticks and many other bad bugs that plague our gardens and lawns. A flock of Guineas will actually line up and comb the ground surface looking for bugs. They are effective and very serious about this task and do a great job. People usually see an obvious decrease in tick and insect issues within a couple months of having an adult flock of guineas on the prowl. In a vegetable garden, Guineas can be a bit destructive as they do dig, and they can take a peck at a low-hanging fruit. But, in general, they don’t do as much damage as a flock of chickens and tend to leave the vegetation alone, focusing on searching for insects.
Why else would a person decide to keep Guinea Fowl? Before ticks started to become such a concern, Guineas were being raised for other reasons, mainly for meat production. French Culinary tradition reveres the guinea fowl and that tradition is very evident in high-end restaurants in the United States, especially in urban areas on the East Coast.
Guinea Fowl meat is dark and flavorful, much more like pheasant than chicken, and thus it has been called “Poor Man’s Pheasant” as it is usually a bit less expensive to buy. Guinea Fowl grow relatively fast and do well on forage, and the birds are actually meatier than they look with rich flavor like duck meat but leaner with less fat content. Compared to chickens that usually dress out to about 70% of their live weight, Guineas average about 75% of live weight. So with adult cocks weighing about 4 pounds and hens weighing about 3 pounds, you can expect table ready birds weighing between 2.25 and 3 pounds. Guinea hen meat is considered the better flavored of the two sexes and the younger the bird, the tastier the meat. 12 week old Guinea keets are considered the best flavored, but they are much smaller, providing a table bird that is only 1.50 to 1.75 pounds. French Guinea meat remains tender no matter what age the bird is when processed.
Guinea fowl are quite different to raise from chickens. They are much more independent and even more feral than chickens and can survive on their own in many environments without any human interaction. They still have their natural instincts intact, and they are smart and wary. On a big enough piece of property, with some sort of nighttime shelter against predators, and an extra ration of game bird feed in the winter months and/or during breeding, they can do very well and really are not prone to many diseases and issues.
They are good guard birds – actively alerting you if a stranger has entered their territory. They may not be a good choice though if neighbors are close by as they are very noisy. They make almost constant talk with one another, and, except for the alert noises, their regular talking noise is quite pleasant. They form tight bonds with one another, and the antics of their daily social interactions are truly fun and interesting. They are definitely cool birds to raise.