Time for Guineas
Our new brooder house got finished up just in time for its first occupants–guinea keets. We use guinea fowl as the primary insect control in our vegetable garden, as well as for eggs, and they make a delicious bird for the table. These babies will stay warm and protected in the brooder house for about four to six weeks, and then they will be feathered and hardy enough to move to their unheated coop in the garden.
Guineas have a voracious appetite for cucumber beetles, squash bugs, cabbage worms, potato bugs and all the other bugs that bother the garden. If managed carefully, the guineas will not scratch up the soil or eat the vegetables the way chickens do. The guineas should be penned when you have beds of freshly worked ground or tender seedlings starting, but once the plants have a good start the guineas can be released to hunt bugs. If your number of guineas is well balanced proportionally to the size of your garden, your guineas will need little to no supplemental feed during the summer. We’ve found that six to eight guineas is perfect for our main vegetable garden that measures 6600 square feet. As the insect population begins to wane at the onset of fall, you will notice the guineas beginning to scratch more in search of bugs underground. Then it is time to supplement feed to discourage scratching, or pen the guineas so you can finish out your fall garden.
Guinea fowl are an excellent game bird with rich flavor reminiscent of heritage turkey. They are more work to pluck than Cornish chickens, but they are worth it! Keep an eye out for free-range guinea fowl in our farm store this summer.