Friday, August 27, 2010

life of a guinea

My little red hen covering her keets that she hatched yesterday along side my 5 week old keets that I raised on the porch under a light. I have 4 pearl guineas and 4 lavender guineas under the hen and the early hatch is 5 pearl and 2 lavender guineas.

When grown they "prefer trees for roosts so the cost of housing guineas is slight. Any cheap shed for use in bad weather is ample. Some growers who have had fair success in domesticating guineas put high roosts and well-hidden nests under open sheds and by feeding them regularly close by induce them to roost and lay in the sheds" (Valentine). Lewis Wright adds that guineas "prefer" to "roost in a house . . . in really bad weather, and if brought up to it," but "If they are to lay in the house, some pains should be spent, as with turkeys, to arrange nests which are not only secluded, but look naturally so; otherwise care must be taken to regularly visit all likely places about the farm." Your hunt around the farm is for the guinea's nest, and you should take a stick with you. "The fowls have been known to make a deep, tapering nest, in which they would lay twenty-seven to thirty eggs," which are "remarkably fertile" and "small, about two-thirds the size of an ordinary hen's egg. The shell is very strong, of a dark color, and spotted throughout." Do not depend on the guinea egg money to meet the next mortgage payment, since "The guinea hen's habit of hiding its nest and of sharing it with other guineas until a large number of eggs have accumulated, make egg production a less satisfactory enterprise" (Valentine). You need the stick and a degree of stealth as you gather the eggs because guineas ". . . like to conceal their nest and will leave it if they see a person near it. It is said that they are able to detect whether the hand has touched the nest in their absence, and if so they will desert it. If eggs are removed with a stick or spoon, either some should be left or others substituted so as to leave about five in the nest" (McGrew). When you do market them, remember the importance of presentation: The eggs "if collected fresh, sometimes find a good and regular market at first-class shops, packed in dozen baskets with a little moss, like the eggs of some game birds" (Wright).
Perhaps before we plan to market any eggs, we should solve the basic conundrum of telling the male and female guinea fowl apart. The male "is generally slightly larger, has larger wattles, his voice is a more shrill shriek . . . and he has a peculiar habit of strutting on tiptoe and arching his back." Although neither guinea is very nice to other poultry, the male is "very pugnacious . . . chasing them away from their food" (Wright). Perhaps the female is easier to recognize, since, according to Browne in The American Poultry Yard (1850), "the hen alone uses the call note 'come back, come back,' accenting the second syllable strongly, from which they are often called 'come backs'."
Call them clingy, but the "come back" cry must work, for the males are monogamous, just as my aunt told me. Although Lewis Wright says "The wild bird is monogamous, in domestication two hens may be allowed to one cock; more than this sometimes succeeds, but nearly as often fails," Browne is more detailed on the subject of guinea family life, and he has a slightly different opinion: "There is one circumstance in regard to the habits of the Guinea cock, which may not generally be known; that is he is monogamous, or having one wife only, pairing with his mate, like a partridge, or pigeon, and remaining faithful to her, (perhaps with one or two trifling peccadilloes,) so long as they continue to live together." If one tries to put one male with two females, "it will be found, on close observation, that though the three keep together so as to form one 'pack' according to their original instinct, yet that the cock and one hen will be unkind and stingy to the other unfortunate female, keep her at a certain distance, merely suffering her society, and making her feel that she is with them only on sufferance." The extra hen's eggs would be all right to eat, but will only produce "disappointment and addled eggs" if set. The Guinea hen, presumably happily married, will begin to lay anytime from the end of March through mid-May, and will continue through the end of August, producing 60 to one hundred eggs. Lewis Wright advises setting the April and May eggs, although the guinea hen will usually not go broody until august.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These birds fascinate me. I have not been around them much. I did not know all this stuff about them. I did not even know you could eat their eggs! Great post. I learned something, too. Have a good weekend.