Letter Re: Guinea Fowl for Bug Control in Your Garden

Hi Jim,
In an e-mail, you had asked me “can guinea fowl can be kept in the garden or do they exhibit the same characteristics as chickens?” Our guineas free range into our open gardens all summer. They will eat small shoots, such as garlic and chives, and they do eat bean plants so we do need to protect them while young. They don’t seem to bother either tomatoes or squash/pumpkin plants. Once the garden plants reach mature height, they tend to leave them alone. I think they go after the small plants early in the season because there is a lack of insect food around. They do love garlic and chive plants and I have chives planted all over the place just for their enjoyment.

Overall, I think you would be okay with guineas once the plants matured. They will randomly check out your plants, rip off a leave or two, but I never get any significant damage. We have lots of Japanese beetles here and they do a great job taking care of them. Our area also has a large deer tick problem but I rarely see them on ourselves or the dog around our property. Guineas also love to kill snakes. They don’t eat them but go after them with a vengeance! I often have to rescue small garter and brown snakes from the angry mob. I think they would very much enjoy the grasshoppers you have.

They do make quite a bit of noise when spooked and anyone within a half of mile from you will know you have them. They are also great watch dogs and will let you know if anything is different on the property. I had a couple of C-130s do a terrain profile fly over the other day and my birds went nuts for a half hour. They are fun to watch as they have a definite routine they go through every day. Mine raid our wild bird feeders in the morning, head over to visit the neighbor’s (who feed them and enjoy having them visit) by noon and then take their afternoon dust baths by three pm.

My dog is a Yellow Lab/Australian Shepherd cross and it is her job at night to round them up and put them in their pen. They tolerate her herding instincts and obey her pretty well. The guineas are her responsibility and she takes it very seriously. She won’t let any visiting dogs anywhere near them.

If you plan on raising them from keets, make sure they don’t get damp. Being African birds, they don’t take well to it. Chickens will raise guinea fowl chicks as their own without a problem. When they grow up, the hens tend to be the wanderers and the cocks are very protective if one wanders off too far. They will separate into small groups during mating season and the hens tend to lay a large clutch in the brush. I had one hen disappear this last September. She walked back in from the woods with 19 fluffy keets following her, a month later. Guineas tend to not be good parents but this hen has raised a brood for me nearly every year.

Pretty much everything in the “Gardening with Guinea Fowl” book is spot on. They are very interesting birds. I have never ate them but they are supposed to be very good meat birds. I’ve seen Guinea Fowl on restaurant menus at some high end places. The eggs are also edible but they have very thick shells. I can throw one across the yard and it bounces like a golf ball.
Let me know if you have any other questions. – Rob