Guinea fowl

A guinea fowl is a small poultry that looks like a chicken or a pheasant. There are several types of guinea fowl and all of them originate from Africa, but they can also be found in Europe. Guinea fowls are easily recognizable by the distinct white dotted pattern of their pearly gray plumage, as well as their bald, vulture-like head.

Origin and Description

Photo: Guinea Fowl

Photo: Guinea Fowl

The guinea fowl is a member of the Guinea fowl family (Order Galliformes), an African bird that is alternatively placed in the Pheasant family. This small and hardy bird is related to the chicken and partridge. The family consists of 7-10 species, one of which, the common guinea fowl, is widely domesticated and lives as a “watchdog” on farms (it makes loud noises at the slightest alarm).

Video: Guinea fowl

Interesting fact: The largest and most colorful species of guinea fowl is the vulture guinea fowl from East Africa – a bird with a long neck and feathers of long spear-shaped feathers striped in black, white and blue, which has red eyes and a bare blue head.

In ancient Rome and ancient Greece, these birds were imported and were great favorites of the nobility. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the bird’s popularity faded with it. It was not until the sixteenth century that the Portuguese, who by then had conquered Guinea, introduced the guinea fowl into France. In France, the guinea fowl is eaten so often that it is called the “Sunday bird”.

In Europe, the annual consumption of guinea fowl is about 100 million birds. In the New World, guinea fowl first appeared in Haiti. It is believed that they were transported alive, in cages, on ships carrying African slaves.

Appearance and features

Photo: What a guinea fowl looks like

Photo: What a guinea fowl looks like

Wild forms are known like guinea fowls because of their large bony crest. The guinea fowl has many local varieties, widely distributed in the savannas and bushes of Africa, which have been introduced to the West Indies and elsewhere.

About 50 cm long, the typical shaped guinea fowl has a bare face, brown eyes, red and blue beard beards, black plumage with white spots, and a hunched posture. They live in packs and walk the ground, feeding on seeds, tubers, and some insects. When alarmed birds run, but when pushed off the ground, they fly on short rounded wings for a short distance.

At night they sleep in the trees. Guinea Fowl — noisy birds that make sharp, repetitive sounds. The nest is a depression in the ground, which is sparsely covered with vegetation. It contains about 12 finely colored brown eggs which require about 30 days of incubation. Young furry individuals are active immediately after hatching and accompany their parents.

Distinctive features of females and males are as follows:

  • males have stronger features – usually a large “cap” and beard, and the bridge over the top of the nostrils is more prominent than in females after a few months when they are fully grown;
  • males make one sound, females — two. Both birds — but usually males — make one syllabic sound, a very sharp knock, but females can also make two syllables. They find their voices around the 8th week;
  • Female clutches have wider pelvic bones. If you can catch them, check their pelvic bones — when the bird is lying down, its pelvic bones will be 1-1.5 cm apart, while in males they will be 1 cm less.

Where does the guinea fowl live?

Photo: African guinea fowl

Photo: African guinea fowl

Guinea fowls are a group of wild and domesticated birds. Their natural range is in most of Africa. Today, these birds are raised on farms around the world for their meat and eggs.

Guinea fowl is adapted to vagrancy in any habitat. Most of them prefer meadows, blackthorn and agricultural land. They do well outdoors. They are not migratory birds, but move more during breeding.

There are several types of guinea fowl:

  • Numida meleagris guinea fowl is the main species from which domesticated guinea fowl originated. The natural habitat of this guinea fowl — these are meadows and shrubs in Africa, south of the Sahara. This bird has a large backward curved bony “helmet” on its head;
  • The vulture guinea fowl (Acryllium vulturinum) is the largest and brightest species of guinea fowl. This bird, which lives in the grasslands of eastern Africa, has a longer neck, legs and tail than other guinea fowls. She also has beautiful blue chest feathers;
  • white-breasted guinea fowl (Agelastes meleagrides) — a bird that lives in the forests of West Africa. She has mostly black feathers, except for a bright white chest;
  • the feathered sea guinea fowl (Guttera plumifera) and the crested sea guinea fowl (Guttera pucherani) have tufts of black feathers on their heads;
  • the black guinea fowl (Agelastes niger) is completely black except for the bare head.

What does a guinea fowl eat?

Photo: Guinea Fowl

Photo: Guinea fowl

The guinea fowl has an incredibly keen sense of smell and has no problem detecting bugs, insects, and other critters in the garden. Guinea fowls tend to prey on insects that live close to the surface, on the top of the grass or on the branches and leaves of some plants. Guinea fowl will quickly catch these creepy crawlers and eat them in minutes. Chickens are less likely to hide under grass or soil to find their prey. However, gradually a flock of guinea fowl will be able to control the situation with insects in the garden.

Guinea fowls will occasionally peck at and destroy smaller seedlings, but it is perfectly reasonable to allow the herd to patrol more established gardens. After all, guinea fowl is probably the best natural way to prevent these nasty insects from ruining fresh spring greens.

That being said, if you’ve recently planted your precious crops and are waiting for them to grow big and strong, don’t leave a guinea fowl in your garden. Wait until your plants become more resilient, in spring and summer, otherwise your guinea fowl may end up destroying the garden without thinking about it.

Fun fact: One fun trick with insect killer worth trying at home, — it is to mow the lawn while the guinea fowl is grazing on the grass. Some guinea fowls will realize that the lawnmower is pushing different types of crawlers to the top of the earth, attacking these little animals and destroying them.

Guinea fowls prefer to hunt insects in a large group, but they sometimes split into smaller groups. However, the guinea fowl tends to keep the entire herd in sight, as at heart they are team players who like to stick together to the very end.

There are very few bugs and pests that the guinea fowl are not will enjoy in your garden. From small ants to the most fearsome spiders, the guinea fowl will not hesitate to eat all of these creepy little critters.

Guinea fowl’s favorite treats are:

  • tiki;
  • grasshoppers;
  • ants;
  • other insects.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Guinea fowl in flight

Photo: Guinea fowl in flight

Guinea fowls tend to spend the night in trees to avoid predation. Adult males groom themselves during social gatherings and take dust baths in the soil. During calmer times of the day, these birds rest under cover. The females are mainly responsible for choosing the nesting site. They usually simply brush off branches and grasses and line nests with soft plant material and feathers. These nests will always be hidden.

Guinea fowls live in large communities and are very social. Males dominate the community and will reconcile their differences by chasing each other. In the end, the male with the highest endurance and fitness claims first place in the group.

It is interesting that both sexes will fight for territory in the community. Males guard the eggs prior to incubation, but will leave once the incubation period begins in search of other females. They will then return as soon as the eggs hatch.

Interesting fact: The male plays an important role in the training of the chicks. If he doesn’t return, many chicks will die as the mother won’t have enough time to care for them and herself after the incubation period. In large communities, chicks are sometimes bred by different parents.

Guinea Fowl — they are pack creatures in nature and it is very important to keep at least two individuals together. If a guinea fowl is feeling isolated and alone, it will most likely try to run away. Make sure your guinea fowl has company, otherwise you won’t be able to keep it for long.

Guinea fowls don’t always get along with other birds. They can intimidate chickens, and are not always fond of newcomers, even of the same species. They have a very low tolerance for roosters and will often chase away birds they don’t like.

Ensuring the safety of guinea fowl is an important step when adding them to a herd. These birds are notorious for their noisiness when they sense danger nearby. They also make noise when people approach them.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Guinea Fowl

Photo: Guinea Fowl

Guinea fowl lay eggs only when conditions are favorable for this. They prefer warm and dry conditions which means they can be stored for longer periods of time in the Australian climate. Although guinea fowl eggs are a good substitute for chicken eggs, they unfortunately produce less than 100 eggs per year. But what they lack in eggs, they make up for in pest control.

Male and female guinea fowl are usually monogamous — this means that they mate with each other for life and mate without other individuals. However, in some species, the male may mate with more than one female. When a male is courting a female, his body assumes a “humped posture” as he flaunts in front of her. The male may also cling to his back when he meets a mate.

The female usually lays a clutch of 12-15 small dark eggs in a nest dug in the ground, which may be hidden among weeds or some other hiding place. Some clutches may contain up to 30 eggs. Guinea fowl eggs are incubated (left to warm) for about 26 or 28 days before the young are hatched. Both parents care for the chicks equally. In the first few weeks of life, the chicks must remain warm and dry, otherwise they may die. However, once they are a few weeks old, they become very hardy birds.

On farms, newly hatched chicks are usually kept in an incubator, which is a box with a heat lamp, for about 6 weeks — until they are completely covered in feathers. The young birds are then usually moved to a secure area of ​​the nursery where they are introduced to the older birds of the flock while protected by a wire barrier. After a few weeks in the nursery, they are released into the main herd.

Now you know how to breed and keep guinea fowls. Let’s see who threatens this bird in the wild.

Natural enemies of guinea fowls

Photo: Female Guinea Fowl

Photo: Female Guinea Fowl

Social interaction with other species rare in the wild. Guinea fowls fall prey to birds of prey such as eagles and owls. Mammals, including wild cats, dogs, wolves, and humans, as well as large amphibians such as snakes and crocodiles, are the most common predators of guinea fowls.

Guinea fowls tend to be social birds and live in small groups. They are mostly monogamous and friendly for life, but there have been cases when a guinea fowl has chosen a different partner. They are very good runners and prefer to run from predators rather than fly. Their flight is fast but short. Guinea fowl can typically live 10 to 15 years depending on the number of predators in their range. The main predators of the guinea fowl are the fox, coyotes, hawks and owls.

Guinea fowl populations can also be affected by hunting and egg gathering, but generally speaking, guinea fowls are common wherever the land will support them. Birds sound the alarm whenever something unusual happens on the farm. While some people find this noise annoying, others find it an effective tool to protect the farm and turn the farm’s guinea fowls into “watchdogs”. The loud noise of guineas also prevents rodents from entering the area.

Population and species status

Photo: What a guinea fowl looks like

Photo: What a guinea fowl looks like

This species is considered one that is least endangered. Guinea Fowl — natives throughout much of South Africa. Guinea fowls are the main game birds in other parts of the world, but require careful management to prevent excessive predation.

The size of the current wild population is unknown, but likely small. The history of unsuccessful introductions of small, short-lived populations suggests that this species cannot exist naturally in New Zealand, at least not under current conditions. There are several registered farmers and an unknown number of pet owners in New Zealand that may be a source of intentional or accidental reintroduction.

These low-maintenance birds are lovingly protective of other farm animals and are free from the poultry diseases that plague most farmers. Their nutrient-rich manure can be pressed and used in the garden.

Working as a team, guinea fowls will eat any pest that fits their beak size, but unlike chickens, they do so without tearing or scratching the garden . Since guinea fowls are at a free distance, they will prey on ticks (or beetles, fleas, grasshoppers, crickets, snakes) all over your property. They are a more natural pest control option than pesticides.

Guinea fowl — indeed one of the most peculiar, bizarre and original birds in the world. These are unique creatures that need to be cared for in a special way, but the reward for keeping a guinea fowl is priceless. They will protect your garden from attacking insects, sing unusual, but nevertheless sweet songs, and you just can look at them with admiration.

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