I had 3 guineas: Penny, Marcia, and Kelly. Being game birds, they tend to be very high-strung, even as chicks. Their basic reaction when anyone got within a couple of feet was to run away and if I needed to corral them for any reason, they behaved like I was going to rend them limb from limb. Drama queens, one and all.
Even so, I became fond of them. They eat bugs. They are funny to watch. You can get them to respond to food (in our case, Japanese beetles). And they lay a surprisingly crazy amount of eggs!
Because the girls look so much alike, I was never able to tell them apart. There seemed to be one that was the “odd man out,” so much so that I thought I had a mated pair for a while. To be fair, because I couldn’t tell them apart, maybe their roles in their little group changed from time to time. I am assuming it was always the same guinea that was slightly apart.
And one of the girls seemed especially “challenged.” She could never figure things out. Again, I’m assuming it’s the same guinea and that she was also the odd man out.
Last winter, we had an escape from the hoop house, where the flock was wintered. You can click through to their Polar Vortex Adventures here. You think that would have nudged me to get a bird net. But no, not me. I thought I had it all figured out after that little escapade — not!
Just before the storms starting hitting New England with a vengeance, I prepped the coop; basically I covered almost all of it with plastic. (Normally, we winter the flock in the hoop house. Unfortunately, we lost it early in the season with a snow fall of particularly heavy, wet snow and just have not been able to repair it yet. So the flock was stuck in the summer coop this winter.)
I did not close the front door of the coop as I felt our security was good (lights and radio) and have not had problems since the fisher cat incident. I made a little ‘tunnel’ at the entrance with some fencing and plastic. While it’s a pain to get in and out, I am able to water the flock twice a day and keep them fed. They definitely are getting fresh air and with the insulating snow 5 to 6 feet up the sides of the coop, it tends to stay reasonable temperatures in there, even with the opening.
Now that you have all the background… here’s the adventures:
I went out to refresh the water (it does freeze and I like my girls to be hydrated) and saw a guinea on the fence of the pen. I tried to knock her in the snow since it would make her easier to catch. Instead, I freaked her out and she flew to a tree. See? I should have had that net!
She spent the next five-six days moving from tree to tree. After about 5 days, I was able to reach some blocks in the yard (keep in mind the snow is up to my hips by now) and put some food on it. My hope was that if she could at least eat, and stay in the trees, she may survive until she could figure out how to get back in the coop.
Sadly, when I went out the next day, I saw feathers, the food, but no tracks. And no guinea talking from the trees. Even the flock was silent. Near as I can figure, she tried to eat and got caught by an air predator. I’m sad, but not surprised. Guineas are tough, though. She made it that long without food or water and through at least one of the storms.
Then a couple of days later, I’m putting Snoop out, at 5 a.m. and see a dark lump in the path. Getting the flashlight, I see it’s a guinea! My first thought is “it is lost girl!” I quickly run outside (after putting on boots, coat, gloves, etc. — it’s cold!) and walk up slowly to her. She doesn’t move. She’s sitting in the path, on the snow. And while cold, it did keep her out of the wind. I pick her up. No movement, no sound, and no drama.
My first thought is she must be really cold to let me approach her and pick her up like that so I need to get her warm. I bring her in the house and while I’m running around setting up a dog crate, lining it with paper, and putting her in it, she doesn’t make a sound or try to get away. This from a bird that talks in her sleep and is scared of humans.
Unfortunately, it’s not the lost girl but I am SO glad I found her. I put the crate in the warmest spot in the house with food and water and kept her in for a day and a half before putting her back out. I knew she was good when she was talking and hiding from me (well trying to hide).
So I’m down to two guineas instead of three. The flock is doing well enough, even trapped in the coop. Now if only the snow would go away…
I have 7 Guineas and I just love them. Loud, crazy and annoying, but first rate grasshopper and tick eaters. They also don’t steal veggies in the garden and just feast on the bean beetles and other pests. They will some eat veggies, but much prefer the bugs. Good watch dogs, too.
I’m hoping I have at least one male in the group. They actually end up being a 60% to 40% female to male hatch. I want fertile eggs because I am going to move. Adult Guineas don’t move well.
Here is the secret I have found with Guinea keats (chicks). If you buy adults, you need to make sure they are always confined or they will simply be game birds and fly away. They can fly to the peak of my 2 story house, so yes, they can fly. I don’t need to confine mine because I hatched the fertile eggs and raised them with the chickens. In 2 years, they have been dependable homebodies. One thing that helps when they are chicks is to position the brooder at waist or chest height. They freak a lot worse if you are above them, I assume because of their innate fear of hawks, etc. They will beat themselves silly as adults if they can’t get away when you approach them in a pen. Mine come running when I throw out corn and call “Chick, chick, chick” just like the chickens. I do this once a week so I can lure the majority of them into the chicken yard if I need to close it up before dark.
I don’t know if you have heard of the red blinking lights sold as a predator deterrent. They are called Nite Guard and are between $15 and $30. I have had fantastically good luck using a similar set up. My solar electric fence has a red blinking light, it also clicks audibly when it flashes. It isn’t terribly bright. I don’t even have it hooked to a fence currently. Just the unit near the door to the chicken house. Predators apparently think it is the eye of another predator and shy away. I hear coyotes just over the hill behind my chicken house nearly every night, but haven’t lost any of my 30 chickens to them, (knock on wood!)
This is a great blog and I really enjoy it. Glad to see someone else who loves their crazy Guineas!
BTW, Guinea, duck, pheasant, quail, peacock, and chicken eggs all taste the same. Feel free to eat them and use them as you would chicken eggs. Free range birds have darker more flavorful yolks, and Guineas have really strong shells, so it takes a good tap to break them.
Hi! So glad you enjoyed the article. I’ve actually since added cheap blinking party lights to the pen and moved the radio closer for predator control. With that and the flood lights in the back 40, I have few predator problems. My guineas are actually very good at staying home — they hate it when they confuse themselves and end up in a neighbor’s yard and can’t wait to get back. I’m fortunate that they’ve totally imprinted on the chickens. — Barbara
i have 3 babies. This week I’ve been letting them outside in a Caged area during the warm part of the day. The pen has a partial top but not fully covered. It’s very high. Today something got in there and stole one of them! The dogs were raising cane. But my kids could not figure out what was wrong. Something was in the tree above. Could have been the cat… Not sure! But I think that loud chatter alerts every critter around that lunch is ready! Lol. The line two are on lock down until the pen gets a top!
I was given seven guineas by a neighboring farmer. They are quite intriguing and, at times, exasperating. I also have one that is a little “special”; she forgets she has wings and paces back and forth behind the garden gate for hours, even though her wings were what got her in the garden in the first place. Their prehistoric looks and beautiful feathers have really endeared them to me. I use a special whistle to call them when I am giving scratch to the chickens. They come a-runnin’ when they hear that whistle, but they don’t let me handle them at all. The added bonus is … they eat ticks! I recommend them as an addition to any flock, unless you have close neighbors. They are VERY, VERY noisy!
So Sorry you lost one during the storms. I have 2 of my grown kids living in Boston.. so we’re familiar with the blizzards… was a rough one this year. I have 10 guineas and 3 Rhode Island hens. The where all raised together so the hens have taught the guineas how to coop at night. It’s a ritual every evening as the sun goes down, we chat, the hens cackle and the guineas, well, you know, they chatter… loudly 🙂 As they’ve grown it’s become easier to identify them as they each seem to sound a little different when they chatter or ‘purr’. It might help to train them with mealworm treats every evening in their coop. I give mine a late evening snack and now they come running in expectation. Best to you with your girls and enjoy the spring!
I so sorry about your lost. I have guineas, too, and LOVE them. I started with four keats that ended up being two males and two females. I was able to name the boys (Pat and Stu) because they were actually different enough to distinguish them, but the girls (Elizabeth and Jackie), like you, I just named them and knew that I’d be calling them as a group. I let them loose during the day and penned them up in the evening.
As adolescents, they had the run of the 17 acres, but they stayed close to me, wherever I was. One day, they found that territorial vigor and chased a vehicle down the drive to the hardroad. Before I could stop them, they ran into the road and the two females were killed. I stopped traffic, crying and flapping my arms trying to get the males off the road. I had to pick up the two dead girls to get them to follow me. From that moment on they remained penned up.
My father helped me build a HUGE pen for them, with a top as the hawks and owls are prolific where we live. And I got more keats (8 added to the two males). One two of the new ones were females and I lost one of them early on. I now have 9 guineas that provide hours of entertainment and relationship.
Losing those two was heart rending and I’m very protective of my guineas. They are so funny and let me know when anyone is on the property. My little female, Alta, rules the roost and has those males stepping high. It’s funny.
Any ideas, and conversation you can give me would be helpful. Alta only lays occasionally and I’ve never taken the eggs for eating. She isn’t very broody and I’ve often thought of bringing a hen into the mix (I have a rooster in there and he now thinks he’s a guinea – funny), but haven’t yet. Not sure if that would be good for the group. Any thoughts?
My guineas laid a ton of eggs last year. Only one was really broody although the other two took turns towards the end of the summer. None hatched, of course. And they laid them outside the pen, under a raspberry bush. I think it was because I have a rooster, even though he rarely tries to mount them. I’ve seen him try only once. Other than that, he treats them like the chickens. I don’t see that adding a hen would hurt, particularly if she was a broody breed. However, guineas can be bossy and if you have one hen with 9 guineas, she might get a bit beat up. Of course, you can mitigate by introducing her slowly. It certainly can’t hurt to try. And if you get a couple of eggs, you could try incubating, if you want keets. — Barbara