BROODY GUINEA HENS
During the egg-laying months of March through October, your free-ranging guinea hens will be producing approximately one egg a day each. They will make nests in bushes and other hidden places. Often several guinea hens will share a single nest. A hen can go broody on a dozen eggs or on a very large nest of 40 or more eggs. These nests are usually so well hidden, you can walk right past one without seeing it. It is very important that you find these nests to protect your hens from predators! When a young hen first starts laying, she will probably make her nest near the coop--but as the season goes on, she may eventually make nest farther from the coop. To help find the hen's nest, watch where a lone guinea cock might be hanging out during the day. He will usually stay near his mate and her nest, but leaves her at night to go back to the coop.
When the guinea hen goes broody, she will sit on her nest day and night, only leaving for a few minutes each day to get food and water. A good broody hen will try and protect her nest--often being killed by predators in the process. In the rare case that a hen is successful at hatching her brood, many keets will be lost due to drowning in puddles, chilling, or by a guinea cock killing offpsring he thinks are not his. So it is in the best interest of the guinea hens & keets to either move the nest or build a safe enclosure around the hen. If you decide to move the nest, you can put all the eggs and the hen into a dog kennel, and she might stay broody, but in my experience she will lose interest. Another option is to collect the eggs and put them in an incubator. Or simply throw the eggs away. If you leave 2 or 3 eggs in the nest, the guinea hens will most likely continue to lay eggs in that particular nest.
Be careful when catching and moving the broody guinea hen! When she knows you see her on the nest, she will raise her wings up trying to make herself look large and scary. She will hiss. If you get close, she will peck violently to protect her nest. She may also let out a loud screech-to let the other guineas know she is in danger or possibly to try to scare you. You should use gloves or a net to catch a broody hen. Many guinea hens aren't very good mothers and will jump off the nest and give up fairly easily--while others will defend the nest very violently.
AN ABUNDANCE OF GUINEA EGGS
If you collect the eggs everyday (or better yet, a few times a day) you can use them for human consumption. Guinea eggs are smaller than chicken eggs and the shells are thicker. Another option is to collect the eggs to hatch. You can sell the fertile eggs, hatch the eggs in an incubator to increase your flock size or to sell keets. It is best to collect the eggs daily and store them in a cool place--around 55°--like a cellar or basement. The eggs will need to be turned once a day. You can do this by putting the eggs into a carton and putting on end up on a book. Put your eggs pointy end down in the carton.
If you are incubating the eggs yourself, make sure your incubator is at the right temperature and humdity level for 24 hours before putting your eggs into the incubator. For an incubator with a turbo fan, guinea eggs should be incubated at 99.5°. Keep the correct humdity tray full of water. You will need to turn the eggs 3 to 5 times a day, unless you have an automatic turner. On day 23, stop turning the eggs (remove the turner if are using one). Fill the other tray to increase humdity. At this time, the lid should not be opened, unless you need to put in some extra water. Candle the eggs around day 16 to see which eggs are developing. A fertile egg will appear dark. A non-fertile/undeveloped egg will appear clear throughout. Guinea eggs take 26-28 days to hatch.
* Don't wash eggs! If you do, it will block the egg's pores and will decrease your hatch rate quite a bit!
* For a forced-air incubator, keep at 99.5°
* Keep correct trough full for proper humdity levels
* Turn eggs 3 to 5 times a day (you can put an X on one side with a pencil to help you see which eggs have already been turned)
* On day 23, stop turning eggs (remove turner) and fill the other trough
* Around day 25-26 you can whistle into the incubator and you might hear keets whistling back!
* Around day 16, you can (very carefully!) hold eggs over a maglite to see if they are developing.
* If you use an egg candler, you can candle them earlier.
* Only handle eggs with clean hands--your skin oils can damage the eggs by blocking pores.
KEETS AND BROODER
A couple of days before your keets are due to hatch, you will need to prepare their brooder. You need to put them in a draft free area. You can use a cardboard box (for the first couple of weeks), cage, or a storebought brooder. You generally don't need a heat light bulb--just use a 40w or 60w bulb in a heat lamp. Make sure the brooder stays at about 90° the first week and drop by 5° per week until after the 6th week. I prefer to put down newspaper at the bottom of the brooder, with papertowls on top of that, and a rubberized shelf liner on top of the paper to help the keets have good traction. If the keets slip, it can cause them to get straddled-legged*. (*See injuries)
* Remember---guinea keets should *never* get wet. If they do, they will most likely chill and die. Even keets that are 2 months old can chill and die.
* Keep fresh water and medicated chick/turkey starter available at all times!
* Buy a specially made chick water (that will keep keets from drowning) or put marbles into the water so they can drink around them, but not fall in.
* Clean the keet brooder everyday.
* If the keets' bottoms get dirty, take a warm moist paper towel and wipe them off. You may need to dry them afterwards.
Let the keets dry off in the incubator before moving them to the brooder. Dip each beak into water and sprinkle some food on the floor. The keets will start eating and drinking immediately.
Keep keets under a heat lamp until they are 6-8 weeks old. After this you can move them into their permanant home. They should remain locked up for at least another 6 weeks before they are allowed to start free-ranging. (You may need to lock them up until they are 4 months old in some areas, due to predators such as hawks).
FREE-RANGING GUINEA FOWL
It is extremely important to bring guinea fowl in the coop at night, every night. It takes time to train them, but this will reduce their chances of getting caught by a predator dramatically. Guineas who are allowed to perch in trees at night, often become meals for owls. Guinea fowl almost go into a coma-like state in the dark and have a very hard time seeing, so they are easy prey. Bring them in before sunset by taking two sticks and directing them into their coop. Have food and/or treats waiting for them! Make up a call, like "Here Guinea Birds!" and say it everytime you feed them. They will eventually learn when feeding time is and readily go into the coop to eat. They may need occasional retraining.