I’ve mentioned before this crazy type of bird that my parents have: Guineas. Well, not a lot of people have heard of them, so I figured I would enlighten the one or two people who view this blog. 🙂 First, because one can’t fully grasp how extremely ugly and endearing these birds are without seeing them, here are a few pictures!
Ok, so the last picture isn’t ugly. They are totally cute as keets (babies), but as they grow, their body seems to enlarge while their head gets smaller and almost vulture-like. They grow horn-like protuberances on the tops of their heads, and large, cup-like waddles adorn their jowls. They are about the same size as your average chicken, and get along well if mixed in with a flock of chickens. However, they have VERY strong personalities, so if you plan on mixing your flocks you should start the keets with the chicks at the same time, preferably as day-olds.
So why would anyone want these freaky looking birds roaming around their lawn? There are as many reasons as there are spots on a guinea feather. Guineas are tasty birds who lay eggs comparable in quantity, size, and taste to the average layer hen chicken. The eggs are speckled, so they are easy to differentiate from the brown to white eggs of chickens. See the picture below. Guineas dress out to provide 2.5-3.5 pounds of meat, which (pound for pound) contains only 87% of the calories of chicken. Guinea is therefor classified as leaner than chicken. It is also interesting to note that guinea meat is neither a red meat fowl (such as duck), nor a white meat fowl (such as chicken) because the composition of the breast meat is a mix of each. Guinea meat is truly unique, but you probably won’t find it in the U.S. at your local grocer unless you are lucky enough to have a Japanese or Western European specialty market nearby.
As for its other redeeming qualities, guineas are excellent bug catchers. They are absolute hell on ticks. With just two guineas roaming their ~5 acre yard, my parents have seen a drastic reduction of ticks. Before the guineas started working bug patrol, nearly every trip outside would result in at least one tick on our skin or clothes. Within a few weeks we couldn’t find a tick anywhere, even if we spent half the day wandering in the long grass at the edge of the property.
Guineas are also very entertaining, although sometimes their antics can get rather annoying. They act as the guardians of the flock if they are mixed in with other types of fowl. They familiarize themselves with everything around them, and if there is the slightest change they will lead the other birds to safety then confront the newcomer with loud alarm calls. The newcomer can be anything from a new wheelbarrow to a new person, a new car to a crane enjoying fallen fruit in the orchard. These birds are the chihuahuas of the barnyard. They are loud, and seem to think that they are big and bad enough to challenge anything that comes onto their territory, even if that something could swallow them whole. This big bad attitude of theirs seems to extend over the rest of the flock as well. According to my parents, the guineas are the masters of the flock now. They decide who will set the eggs and who will roam the garden. Apparently their two guineas have chosen one of the buff orpingtons to be the official egg setter. Any time this poor hen tries to get off the nest to join the rest of the birds in picking over the garden or yard, the guineas herd her back onto the nest. My parents have had to start feeding this chosen bird when all the other fowl are out of the coop.
All in all, I think guineas are well worth saving a spot for on the homestead. Of course, you would have to have either no neighbors within hearing range or very understanding neighbors, because like I said before – these are very loud birds. I would compare their alarm calls to that of a peacock. One final note, just to add some fun to this post, my parents have decided to name and keep their two guineas instead of butchering them. Their names, you ask? Spaz and Schizo. Very appropriate, if you ask me.