Country World Archives 2001-2008

 

Guineas lend a helpful hand around the farm

By MANDY JOHN | Central Texas Edition


Guinea fowl gather together to feed on a mixture of corn and milo (called scratch). Frank Cammiato feeds them this mixture in order to keep them close to his farm.
-Staff photo by Mandy John

August 22, 2002 -- A guinea fowl is a domestic fowl, native to Africa, with a featherless head, rounded body, and dark feathers spotted with white. Guinea fowls have been labeled as one of the best exterminators of pest insects. They spend a great deal of their time looking for various insect life and during the warmer months will pick up a great deal of their own food in the form of beetles, grasshoppers and other insects.

Frank Cammiato of Kerns, Texas knows full well the value of guineas around the farm. He's been using them for years to help control unwanted pests causing havoc in his gardens and around the barnyard.

For the small fruit grower, Cammiato says guineas are advantageous because they are not like smaller birds that damage crops, will not pick the fruits, and often are not inclined to even eat the fruit that falls to the ground.

According to Cammiato, guineas have an array of advantages for use on the farm:

• They act as very efficient watch dogs, are constantly on guard, and will alert its owner of any intruders.

• They do very little damage to either flowers or vegetables.

• In the winter they eat less grain than most domestic fowl.

• They make good companion birds for other domestic birds and tend to be non-aggressive to birds of a similar size.

• They carry few of the diseases dangerous to other domestic fowl.

Guinea hens like to lay eggs in secluded nests on the ground. In season, they will lay an egg a day, continuing to come home each night to roost.

Once there is a clutch of 20-30 eggs, a guinea hen will stay on the nest. Guinea hens will often share nests, which explains finding the addition of two or more eggs to a nest in a day. The nest is extremely hard to find, so, when this happens, there is a really good chance of losing a hen to a predator. The hen's mate might be seen guarding her during the day but will usually go home to roost at night when she needs his protection the most.

The eggs are heavy shelled and the size of a small hens egg. Guinea eggs have a large yoke and many people regard them as superior to a hens egg. The eggs take 25 to 26 days to hatch and are incubated in the same way as a normal chicken.

Young guineas are called keets. 

Colors of guineas range from pearl gray, pied, chocolate, white, and lavender. Pearl gray guineas are a dark gray with white dots throughout their plumage. They are the old fashion original color of guineas and are prized by many for their beautiful dotted feathers.

Commiato said when a farmer gets new guineas, it is recommended not to let them out right away or they may leave the property. The best way to get them use to the area is to pen them where they can see the area where they will be living. After they've been penned a week or two, let one out. Guineas hate to be alone, so that one won't go far, but it will learn its way around the place. After a few days, let another out to run with it. If they stay around it's usually safe to let the rest out soon thereafter.

Cammiato, who raises guineas for a living, recommends purchasing quite a few guineas in the beginning and then raising a few each year to make up for the ones that get killed by predators, such as coyotes. Cammiato's price for guineas range from $3.50 and up for young guineas to $10 for adults. To contact him about purchasing guineas, you may go to his website at: www.commiatofarm.com or you my call him at 903-396-2867.