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By Sharon Boundy

With their strange bald, wattled bare necked almost vulture like heads Guineafowl are odd but exotic looking domestic birds.

Many years ago I brought a few guineafowl eggs to hatch under a broody hen; little did I expect to start a lifetime dedicated to this unusual and fascinating bird.

Since my introduction it has become a business and I bred guineafowl or glinnies as they are called in Devon every year to supply to game keepers and hobbyist and commercial suppliers.

One of our most unusual customers are expats that have spent time in Africa and miss the sound and sights of the guineafowl in the UK also included are game keepers and people who just want something a little “different”.

They are kept for meat or egg production and provide a valuable premium carcass, the eggs slightly smaller than a large hen’s egg have very hard shells with a large deep yellow almost orange yoke that is highly prized as a delicacy.

Egg production season normally start in March and continues into September depending on weather and are laid one a day every day. Eggs are incubated for 26/28 days and the young birds called keets are raised in the same way as normal chicken and will be independent at around 4-6 weeks of age depending on again the weather, at this age they are ideal to be introduced to a new home as they will adopt it quickly and tend not to stray.

They come in a variety of feather colours, some of the newest being chocolate and buff, some of these originated from the USA where they have concentrated on developing new colours from stock that originated from Italy. No matter the colour they are all variations of the common domestic or helmeted guineafowl native to the west coast of Africa.

The normal as wild colour is a spotted grey called pearl but within our breeding stock we have lavender, white, mulberry, chocolate, porcelain and blue fuller descriptions can be found on my web page www.ukguineafowl.co.uk

There are other species such as Crested and Vulterine but these tend to be very specialist and expensive and are not covered here.

Although they look unique they have a lot of good plus points in their favour such as their use as living alarms as they will sound off whenever there are strangers or predators around and in sufficient numbers have been witnessed actually chasing off fox from a poultry areas, (as Mr fox likes to keep low profile and doesn’t like the guineafowl running towards him screaming).

They have another advantages in that they are very good natural organic pest controllers and we have supplied them to fruit growers to protect orchards from insect pest and are recommended in tick infested areas to clear and keep down this pest, this is made even better in that they do not destroy a planted area like most poultry preferring to pick off tasty creepy crawlies rather than dig or eat the produce.

Game keepers have guineafowl with their pheasants to act as living alarms and because they tend to stay in a smaller area, the pheasants are less likely to stray away from the areas where they are required.

Guineafowl are susceptible to very few of the normal poultry diseases and are very hardy even in the coldest winters and can live up to 15/20 years.

They are as easy to keep as any of the normal poultry eating the same food and can be left free range to find their own roost up a tree or trained to go into an existing poultry shed with other types of birds or kept in a suitable poultry type covered  pen full time.

They can fly and pens should be covered or one wing have the flight feathers cut to stop flight, this will need to be repeated when the moult out.

Sexing guineafowl is easy in the adult birds as the call of the female described as go-back go-back or top-hat top-hat depending what part of the country you are in.

They are often described as noisy but their normal run of the mill chuckling is only changed to the alarm calls when there is a potential threat.

Breeding guineafowl is very simple; free range if the hens are watched you will observe the cock standing guard around midday as they will community lay together in the same nest, eggs should be collected and incubated if there is a fox/magpie/crow risk if not one of the hens will sit when ready and make good mothers and will rear them successfully. In pens eggs can either be left with the hens to deal with or removed as laid leaving a dummy egg in the nest for continuous laying.

Over all if you fancy something a bit different but not difficult to keep and have with fantastic character you could do a lot worse than look at the guineafowl as an alternative.

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