Consider rearing guinea fowl

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Agriculture Reporter

GUINEA FOWL, apart from contributing to household income, play an important role in the socio-cultural lives of the people hence the increase in number of farmers rearing them.

They are mainly raised by subsistence farmers under rural backyard system of poultry production.

Guinea fowls are mainly raised by subsistence farmers under rural backyard system of poultry production.

According to the Veterinary Services Department (VSD), before starting a poultry flock, farmers should check local zoning regulations to make sure that raising poultry is permitted.

This is particularly important when raising guinea fowl because they will range and cross the boundaries of a small plots. 

“Although guineas are typically quiet, they can be very noisy if disturbed,” read an article by the Department.

“Guineas are more active than chickens and not as easily tamed and they seem to retain some of their wild behaviour.”

According to VSD, a guinea fowl house is required to protect them from high winds, rain, cold, sun and predators. 

“The floor of the pen should be covered with paddy husk, wood shavings or chopped hay or straw,” said the Department in its article. 

“The litter should be kept dry. 

Guinea fowl prefer to roost, so it is necessary to provide perches. 

If you want to keep your guineas from wandering in a specific area, you must keep them in covered pens.” 

Guinea fowl are able to fly at a very early age.

They are also very good runners and prefer to move on foot, including when escaping from predators. 

Therefore, according to VSD: “If you are keeping guineas for egg production (for hatching or human consumption), you should provide nest boxes. 

Nest boxes designed for chickens are usually acceptable and to reduce the likelihood of hens laying eggs in hidden nests outside, keep guinea hens confined to a hen house until noon each day so that they will lay eggs inside.”

Under free range, adult guinea fowl forage for themselves and are able to meet most of their nutrition requirements on their own. 

They also consume a variety of insects and arachnids (mosquitoes, ticks, beetles), weed seeds, slugs, worms, and caterpillars. 

“Guineas need to consume some greens in order to maintain good digestion, and so they eat grass, weeds and other vegetation,” said the VSD. 

“Guineas do enjoy a little scratch feed on the ground and they like wheat, sorghum or millet grain and will ignore whole corn kernels. 

If you are keeping the guineas for pest control, restricting their feed will encourage them to spend more time eating insects.” 

Farmers contend that under confinement, guinea fowl can be fed a commercial poultry diet.  

They need a higher protein feed than chickens, but do quite well on regular poultry diets.

The VSD further assert that: “Guineas should be fed mash or crumbs while pelleted feed is not recommended.

Provide clean water at all times and be sure to provide fresh warm water to keets as they cannot tolerate cold water. 

New-born keets are susceptible to drowning, so provide water in a shallow bowl filled with marbles at first.”

Guinea fowl usually start laying in March or April and may continue to lay until October and information obtained from the VSD says a hen from a carefully managed flock may lay 100 or more eggs a year: “Breeders generally produce well for two or three years and they can be kept four to five years in small farm flocks. 

In such flocks, hens usually lay about 30 eggs and then go broody. 

The eggs are deeply flavoured, with large golden yolks and surprisingly tough shells and they are smaller than standard chicken eggs.

A male often stands guard, and guinea fowl will share their nests and, as with chickens, they usually lay a clutch of eggs and then go broody, but if eggs are collected regularly the birds will keep on laying.

However, make sure there are no guineas around when you take the eggs and leave a few pot eggs in their place, or the guinea fowl will quickly find a new (and probably even more inaccessible spot) to nest.”

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