This summer we bought four itty-bitty baby guineas at our local feed store. I was smitten with my little keets.
We had just returned from being in Texas all spring, where we saw guineas EVERYWHERE in the rural neighborhoods. When we asked about them, we were told “they’re for killin’ snakes ya’ll!”
Snakes? Sweet! If bad@ss Texans trusted ’em for THEIR crazy snakes, then the Kellys were totally on board for help with our California rattlers.
*FYI, my husband and I both grew up having feathered amigos – chickens, ducks and turkeys. I even had several parakeets if you want to get serious about it. We are not bird rookies*
I’ll admit right now- I didn’t do my due diligence on researching these friggin’ creatures. I read a few cons online, “they’re noisy, they’ll roam, they’ll eat your plants, and may bully your chickens.”
“Psssh, big deal,” I thought. “Not MY precious guineas. I’m gonna love ’em, and they’re gonna love me back, and live in perfect harmony with our animals! Besides- I’m HAND RAISING them, so they’ll be TAME just like our chickens!”
For 8 weeks I excitedly cared for my little guinea keets. I even kept them in our laundry room the first 3 weeks, to be sure they didn’t croak on me. My hands were in their guinea box at least twice a day – cleaning, feeding, watering. Each time was like an apocalypse to them. I was convinced they were all going to die of miniature heart attacks. I had to sit as still as a statue just to get pictures.
When we moved them outside to a small pen within our chicken coop, I was optimistic; until they screamed for two hours straight at their new environment. All of our animals looked at them (and then us) with extreme hatred. Anytime anything got near the guineas, they’d screech and bellow and freak out. Like me, on WebMd.
When they were about the size of our chickens, we released them into the main coop to learn the ropes. Luckily, we had no issues with them bullying our chickens. Soon, I was letting the guinea girls outside the coop to roam with our veteran hens. I was confident the chickens would teach and tame them up for us. Nope.
This is where the negatives of owning these crazed ding dongs began to stack up. I will try to keep my “WHY YOU SHOULDN’T GET GUINEAS” list short, but there are no guarantees. I’m bitter.
1. They are loud. ALL THE TIME Loud. “Noisy” doesn’t come close to covering it. Think nails on a chalkboard, a toddler tantrum, a rabid elephant all shoved into a rusty trumpet…making one awful, annoying, “what-is-your-problem?!” sound (that has several volume levels). Even if you live on acreage like us, your closest neighbor will be able to hear them, and will soon be looking up guinea fowl recipes. Guineas squawk if they get seperated from each other. They squawk if you wear a new hat. They squawk if they see anything “unusual”- like a stink bug, a squirrel, or the Amazon delivery fella. Ours liked to go by the side of our house to screech at a pile of wood they didn’t like. Try getting a toddler to nap through this.
Ironically, they did NOT make one tiny peep the day they saw the ginormous rattlesnake my husband killed (the snake was still moving aggressively without it’s head). We watched from a distance, as they walked over to it, looked at it for several minutes, walked around it, and left! What in the…? They also made ZERO fuss when they saw a live gopher snake. Way to go girls, way to go.
2. They will NEVER be tame. Our chickens are so tame, it’s almost obnoxious. They are constantly following us around, and even tolerate our toddler picking them up. They know when it’s feeding time, and are easily gathered into their coop like feathered cattle each evening. With slow, gentle herding, guineas will run into every direction BUT the coop… plowing into the barn wall, dog kennel, propane tank. Over, and over and over. These are wild birds, and you ain’t never gonna tame them, or catch them, or coop them easily. It was difficult for me to accept.
Why not just leave them outside each night, you ask? Because they only roost on the edges of our water troughs, filling the horse’s drink station with guinea turds. Coyotes also come around at night.
3. They are stupid. Dumb. Idiotic. Brainless. I thought chickens were extremely pea-brained, but I was mistaken. Chickens are brilliant compared to these gray bimbos. Like I said, a guinea hen will continuously run into a wall attempting to get into the coop when a wide open door is 6 inches to the left. They will also get their heads stuck in feeders, chain link fences, and under/behind just about anything. Then, they will lovingly claw your face off while you try to free them from their self inflicted stupidity.
4. They are messy. Not duck level messy, but pretty dang close. They leave doodoo and feathers in all the places you don’t want it, or expect it to be. Because they can sorta-kinda fly, they reach spots hens can’t. Like our haystack, water troughs, on top of the coop, cars, trailers, fence rails, you name it. Nothing like a handful of sticky, slimy poop when you’re opening a gate. We did clip their wings once, but they are still able to jump and flap to no-no spots quite well.
5. They don’t provide any more pest control than a chicken does. We got these birds for a specific purpose: snake control. Not only did they fail our rattlesnake test, and ignore another snake they saw, but they didn’t scratch around searching for bugs as well as our hens did. They mainly roam, and if a bug was out in the open, they’d eat it, MAYBE. They did a better job sticking their necks through/under our yard fence to destroy the edge of our lawn, and a few succulents.
If you want pest control via feathered critter, stick with chickens. They’re tame, 96% quiet, eat less, can’t fly, and you get fresh eggs daily. They’ll eat your old veggies/fruits, and keep your property free of bugs. They may not “hunt and eat” snakes, but in our experience, neither do Guineas.
The final straw was after one rogue guinea ended up at our neighbor’s place, screeching her lungs out wondering where her girlfriends were. I was mortified, my poor neighbors. My pregnant-with-twins self wasn’t about to journey all over timbuktu to retrieve un-retrievable birds more than once. After about 15 minutes of trying to get it home, my uterus waved a white flag, and I let my husband’s cattle dogs out. To hell with guinea emotions, I wasn’t going to go into pre-term labor over this damn bird. Needless to say, we replaced the four guineas with two barn cats, and it’s been the best trade, and longest blog post ever.
***In case you were wondering what happened to the guineas, they all nearly ended up in my cookpot after the neighbor incident. Instead, they got a one way ticket to a remote canyon on the ranch. There is a creek, bugs, grass, trees and no humans or coops. Wild guinea paradise… well, besides the five million coyotes. Good luck girls, may the odds be in your favor.