If an aspect of permaculture is the search for self maintaining agricultural systems, and is always appropriate to certain localities, then for me one of the best stock to have on our plot of land seems to be guinea fowl.
It may be best to summarise the benefits of these fantastic fowl with a simple for and against list. This is how I usually decide what to rear or grow and seems to serve me well when evaluating the labour, impact and return that a certain practice will involve.
Always one eye on the sky in case of predators.
Guinea fowl prefer to roost up high in trees. Therefore once they are old enough there is no need to enclose them in a coop or electric fence to protect them from Mr Fox. They are more flighty than chickens being only recently domesticated (100 years or so) and seem very predator aware.
They wander through my veg patch picking bugs off plants and scratching in the soil for grubs unlike chickens who, given the chance, would decimate the veg. Guinea fowl do need green stuff, but seem to prefer grass and weeds to my cultivated crops. Historically the French kept guinea fowl in their potagers to control insects and bugs but leave the crop intact.
Being a naturally wary bird they are great warning alarms for both predators and strangers. As the flock wanders through our land there always seems to be one or two who are on look out, and the alarm call of a flock of guineas is loud, unmistakable and a wonderful deterrent.
The eggs are delicious if you can find them and you are not seen collecting them by the mum. When I find a clutch of eggs I mark them with a pencil or marker pen and I then know that any future unmarked eggs are fresh. Also by leaving some eggs it encourages the laying of more eggs in that location.
They are hilarious to watch. When they are keets (young chicks) they run around like bumper cars, very different from docile chicken chicks. As adults they can run very fast, fly and glide with surprising grace for such a big bird and move around the land in large flocks as if migrating together. They love nothing more than sun bathing, dust bathing and can often be seen lying with their legs shooting straight out from behind them as if playing dead. I am often followed by the flock as I walk to their feeder; a long line of waddling, feathered fowl keeping pace with me as I bring them their feed.
They are a hardy bird that does not carry many of the diseases and germs that turkeys, chickens and geese are susceptible to.
In the summer months they can get a large proportion of their daily rations from grubs and insects which saves on bought in feed. In the winter they eat less grain than other domestic fowl.
Guinea fowl meat tastes delicious and can command premium rates if sold.
They produce wonderful, nitrogen rich, muck that is great for the garden and cultivation.
Guinea fowl with one day old keets.
They will not lay eggs where you want them to and searching for their nests can be difficult. If they see me taking the eggs they will generally not lay at that location anymore.
The alarm call is loud. We are very isolated where we live but they are probably not the best bird for establishing good relationships with your neighbours.
If you want a docile bird that will sit on your knee guinea fowl are not for you. If I need to inspect them up close or dispatch one then a net is needed to capture the individual.
They need more room to roam than chickens. If intensively reared in a run (something I could not really do as I like our fowl to free range) it is advised that you need two meters squared per bird.
Sexing the birds can be difficult as size of wattle and comb are not definitive factors. You must listen out for the unique calls that the male makes.
They can have a quite brutal peking order. A good balance of males to females is advisable.
Both male a female share parenting duties.
Despite the drawbacks, in a permaculture system they can be incorporated in annual cultivation and perennial cultivation to great benefit. If a good forage plant like a Siberian pea shrub is planted the need for importing feed can be greatly reduced. Siberian pea shrubs are also nitrogen fixing so add more fertility to your system.
A keet still damp from its struggle out of the egg.
This is mumble, the baby guinie foul, or keet. ISN’T HE CUTE! he is called mumble because he looks like a penguin and there is something wrong with his feet, they all clumped up. But he gets around ok. just hops around a lot, like he is dancing to his own beat.