If you have found any of the information on our site helpful, please consider a small donation or a purchase from our handmade store

Guinea Hens, For Your Consideration
By Meg Lund

These are one of those homestead critters that are loved by some and hated by others. Some people just seem to hit it off with them, while others lose them into the trees before they even had a chance to get acquainted. We've had various experiences, mostly good, with just a little bad...

I'll start with the bad... these guys can be really bossy and sometimes downright nasty to the chickens, especially the roosters. Our poor roosters have, at times, suffered the humiliation of missing tail feathers thanks to guinea hen games. Some say they can be noisy when visitors come calling, but ours have been pretty good that way. They don't seem to "alarm" except for when the cause is real, as in an eagle overhead.

One trick that helps curb their naughtiness is to supply the guinea hens with a mirror. They entertain themselves endlessly by preening in a mirror... they are awfully beautiful, after all. Mirrors tend to keep free rangers in a general location and preoccupies them so they spend less time harassing chickens.

Now for the good! 

Guinea hens come in a multitude of beautiful colors. Here's a nice website that shows them off well: http://www.guineafowl.com/fritsfarm/guineas/colors/. According to this site, the pearl grays have all dark meat, but that wasn't the case with ours. The breast was white meat, and tasted a lot like turkey. I've never heard that different colors have different temperaments, but we started with a lavender hen and 2 white roosters, and they had sweeter, more docile and quieter natures than the pearl grays that we've known. We also think that the white and lavender varieties have less freaky looking heads, and are actually kind of comically cute.

Guineas eat ticks, which is reason enough for a lot of folks to keep them. They really do keep the tick population down around the homestead, which becomes obvious when a person ventures off into territories unguarded by guineas.

Guineas are also a lot lighter on gardens and they tend to eat a much greater proportion of their own wild-crafted feed than do chickens. They multiply at a greater rate, producing larger clutches than hens. We had a hatch out of 16 this past summer, while our largest chicken hatch out ever was 12. Their eggs are virtually identical to chicken eggs, except for being about 3/4 the size.

Our guineas do fine with the same care and housing that we give to our chickens, and live together somewhat harmoniously, though they are a bit bossy. It's actually kind of cute, as the guinea hens have a set bedtime when the lights start to go out, and they go around the barnyard corralling all of the chickens into the coop for the night. They consider themselves the smarter, big brothers of the roost.

FInally, if you find yourselves with more than you need, you'll be interested in hearing how they butcher out and taste. They're relatively easy to butcher and process,  though, surprisingly, provide nearly the same amount of meat as do roosters of the heavy egg laying breeds. They were easy to pluck without scalding (scalding is not recommended). And for the taste... we just had our first guinea hen feast, as part of our Thanksgiving dinner, and they were a huge hit!  More delicious and tender than the same age (1 yr old) roosters that we served at the same meal. We chilled them for one day after butchering, and then brined them in a 1 c. salt/gallon water brine and a small handful of bay leaves for 2 days, then stuffed and baked them uncovered at 350 for about 1-1/2 hrs. Remember not to salt the gravy when you've brined your birds!