Dear Readers, A word of warning to all you who have decided to offer a home to the guinea fowl. A mad guinea does not attack like an irate chicken does. Chicken roosters will try to spur you, jumping in the air and kicking at you with their feet. A chicken hen will attack with beak and wings, both sexes just trying to get whatever part of your body they are closest to. Their body language is usually good for some warning before they attack so you can avoid the pain and suffering they intend to inflict.
That is not true for a guinea hen with newly hatched babies that she will defend. She may lull you into a false sense of security, letting you work around them as they run everywhere, into other birds’ cages, out of sight of mom, but pull out a camera, bend down to take a shot of Proud Mama’s babies and you will soon find out that she can fly and knows exactly where to aim for, namely the face. Papparazzi, beware!
We have three guineas and were never even sure we had a female as they are difficult to sex. Two of them eventually paired up but even that wasn’t a clear clue as the third one had injured its leg somehow and was hardly able to walk for several weeks as it healed. When I would go out to take care of chores, the guineas would come running to follow me around, not looking for food as the chickens do but just seemingly curious about the dogs, the cat, and I as we made our rounds. You may also recall I mentioned they are noisy with loud warning calls for just about any thing that is out of the ordinary.
One day, one of the pair disappeared, and the two remaining guineas started being best buddies. The missing guinea showed up every few days in the morning, calling for the two who slept in the barn to come out where upon they carried on brief but extensive conversations. Clued in to the possibility that the missing bird was a hen with a nest somewhere we tried to follow her to find it but she never went directly to it like a chicken will but ran around in the weeds to lead us astray. Happily, I was able to outsmart her finally to verify she had a nest, built way back under briers where even the dogs didn’t venture.
One fine recent morning she appeared with lots and lots of keets, (baby chicks in guinea language) and the two boys fell in line, following her and helping to warm the babies when they needed a warm wing to rest under. A chicken rooster would never lower himself to such a task, rather he struts around providing a visible guard but little else in the way of help. These guinea men though are clearly taking orders from the mom as they try to keep the kids from scattering to all corners of the barn. They are also very quiet now unlike their previous behavior. A chicken chick when separated from mom and siblings will call loudly and pitifully which is unfortunately a call that notifies predators also. The guineas are so quiet they are hard to find and are foraging around the edges of the woods where the grass and weeds are tall and good cover for them to hide in. May they find many ticks, grow large and multiply, and learn to pose for the camera without attacking the photographer – they hate the paparazzi. Be sure to have a plastic surgeon on standby if you aren’t quick at getting out of the way of the Mad Momma.
The guinea hens are from Africa and they haven’t changed much from their wild ancestors, unlike the chickens and other birds. They date back to before the Egyptians as domesticated birds. There are different colors which are evidently from crossbreeding and some other relatives that are still in the wild. They have a reputation as being problems but ours have been quite delightful probably because they aren’t closed in with other birds. We had them several times before and got rid of them, the first time for eating the geese eggs and the second time for bossing around and picking on the birds they were penned up with.