Hatching Guinea Keets under Broody Hens
Letting Chickens Hatch Keets Results in a Quieter Flock
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Angela Greenroy – Guinea fowl should be a welcome addition to any farm or homestead. They are relatively low maintenance, probably eat their weight in ticks and other bugs (likely the reason they cost less to feed), and are considered flock guardians because they sound a loud alarm when anything that doesn’t belong comes near. But some will avoid adding guinea fowl to their land because of the level of noise despite the list of benefits.
Over my years of keeping guinea fowl, I have learned a few things. They will roam. They will nest in the worst places. If something messes with that nest, they may move closer or further away. They are creatures of habit. They are dedicated foragers. During their egg-laying season, each female will lay one egg every day until the season passes. The males can be aggressive to other flock members of different species. The females keep to themselves. The males and females can be distinguished by their wattles, body shapes, and calls.
Guineas scream for several reasons, but most commonly because they have either wandered away from their flock or perceived a threat. Sometimes, especially in young keets, that threat is as simple as the wind blowing. Other times, they may see or perceive something we do not. But can a guinea be raised not to sound the alarm at the small, inconsequential things? Yes.
In my first year finding guinea eggs, I stuck them in the incubator and experienced a decent hatch rate. I think I hatched out three sets of 15-20 guineas each time. Unfortunately, due to circumstances, I could not control, like electricity outages and a broken thermometer, some keets had a chicken foot injury such as curled toes or splayed leg. Besides incubation issues, they were raised in a brooder and acted skittishly and scared every time I walked near them, which eventually erupted into a cacophony of warnings to each other. Because of the broken thermometer and how cautious one must be with humidity and incubating guinea eggs, I decided to put some eggs under a hen the next year.
One hatch under a hen and I was hooked. Not one hatched with feet or leg problems. Toss aside the Band-Aids and teacups; you will not need them to correct hatching problems if you trust a hen to the job for you. As the keets grew, I soon realized they were quieter. The lack of screaming meant sexing them by their calls took longer. They never scream when they are with their chicken mama, and the noisemaker alarm in them only comes out after mama leaves them. I have found that an older hen will raise a keet until they are three to four months old, but even a younger hen that raises them for five to six weeks will still result in a quieter guinea. I try only to give guinea eggs to my seasoned mothers.
Is a quieter guinea a plus? To me, yes. To many potential guinea keepers, probably. A guinea that screams because the wind ruffled a branch is a guinea that may keep you on your toes, running outside every five minutes to see what is in the yard. A hen-raised guinea that sounds the alarm is one you can trust to scream when there is truly a potential threat.
One day a service repairman came to my house and did not believe me when I said I had guineas. He said he had kept guineas, and there was no way they would not warn of his arrival. I explained mine were hen-raised, and he left saying he might consider getting guineas again if raised by a hen.
I recently decided to add some fresh blood to my guinea line and purchased five from a feed store. I gave them to a broody hen, at night, under complete darkness (because some hens can be finicky). She took them as her own until they were about six weeks old. Even still, as I mentioned earlier, these guineas are quieter, only making a call if they get separated from the others or perceive a threat.
As an experiment, this past year, I sold some of my hen-raised guineas to a friend. They were a couple of months old when they left my farm. After she had integrated them into her flock for a few weeks, I asked her how they were doing and if they were constantly screaming. She said they were not any noisier than her chickens.
My farm will never be without guineas. For the last three years, I have grown or replenished my guinea flock by hatching their eggs under broody hens. I have hatched ducklings, a gosling, turkey poults, and chicks under hens every year since my incubator thermometer broke, and I will likely never go back to the incubator, especially for guinea keets. I can walk around my guineas’ patrol area knowing I will not walk back inside carrying ticks and other bugs. But the best part is, they patrol quietly, beak to the ground eating the creepy crawlies, ears and eyes to the sky watching, ready to call out a warning if necessary.
Originally published in the April/May 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.