Life with Guinea Hens – Part 8
We are continuing our series about life with guinea hens that was started on Wag ‘n Woof Pets in the Summer of 2018. Just search “life with guinea hens” in our sidebar if you’d like to read any previous stories!
Flock Dynamics – Guinea Fowl & Chickens
You can read all the books and websites you want before raising poultry, but you’ll learn the most from experience (and your own mistakes). While it can sometimes be frustrating to figure things out as you go – much information found out there is unclear and often conflicting (all chicken keepers seem to have their own way of doing things!) – it’s really the only way to do it!
However, it’s fun to watch and learn as you go, especially to see the difference in the species of birds and how they get along and interact with each other.
Before this year, we had raised our groups of chicks and guinea keets (baby guineas) separately. This year was the first time we hatched some eggs together in the incubator, and then raised them all together in one brooder cage.
We had two hatchings this year; the first were only chickens (4) but the second was a combination. We ended up with 7 chickens and 2 guinea fowl in the second group. It was interesting to see that even when the young birds were integrated with our adult birds and the other pullets, the guineas stuck with the chicks they were raised with.
In the past, when we added the new guineas to the older birds, the new ones joined the older guineas and became part of their group. While all the birds get along and are together in the coop, they still have their own groups, and the guineas cruise the yard all together.
We wondered at what point the two young guineas in this group would join the older group. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t want us to find that out this year. A mink found it’s way through a flaw in our coop one night, and it killed all our young birds from the two hatchings, except one guinea and two chickens from the first hatching of 4.
We were devastated and heartbroken (as many have experienced, 2020 has been such a bad year in so many ways!) not just for ourselves but for that poor guinea who had lost all its friends. The one good thing was that one of the birds from the first hatching (Annie Oakley) had taken to watching over the young ones. Would she watch over this lone guinea now, or what would happen to this poor little guy, the only newbie left?
It was only a matter of two days before the lone guinea started hanging out with the other 6 guineas we had left (two older birds, one guinea and one chicken, had been killed by the mink as well). At first, he was kind of on the outskirts of the group, but as time has gone by, he’s become one of their flock.
That made us happy. We still wonder if it might have gone differently, had he not lost his buddy (especially since that one was a female), but we’ll have to wait until next spring when we’ll try all this again. Will it just take longer for the young ones to join the older, or will they hang out more with the chickens they were raised with?
In our experience so far, while chickens sometimes tend to stick more with whatever birds they were raised with, cliques if you will, the guinea hens join into one group of all ages. That has happened every time we added new birds, but we had never raised the keets with the chicks before. We’ll most likely be doing it that way again though. We will be buying some as well as trying to hatch some next spring and summer.
We are also considering adding a goose (for more protection from predators) or maybe some turkeys to our flock. We’ll do research over the winter before deciding if it seems right for us. I imagine if that happens, we’re going to have a lot more flock dynamics to learn about!