Friday, April 20, 2012

Sexing Guinea Fowl.

Almost a decade ago, when my mother bought our first guineas, I have to admit that I thought they were the ugliest birds ever created. They looked like a wild, prehistoric chicken, and I was sure she had lost her mind for wanting them. But I quickly began to see the beauty in their unique appearance and the charm in their comedic antics. Now, I couldn't imagine our flock without them, and of course, their wonderful abilities at eliminating ticks and warding off snakes don't hurt either. When you're almost surrounded by woods and thick brush, guineas become a necessity.

Today, our flock consists of eleven guineas, including two of the original ones. One of my favorite things about them is what seems like the never ending variety of colors they're bred in from chocolate to royal purple to powder blue. The colors in our flock are: Pearl Gray, Pied Pearl Gray, Lite Lavender, White, and Buff Dundotte (I have plans to add Royal Purple this year). My second favorite thing about them is that it's hard not to laugh at their wacky shenanigans. It's amazing to watch them engage in a game of chase or keep away. 

The one thing that can be a little irritating to people about guineas (other than their loud voices, of course) is that they can be difficult to sex. It is possible to determine their gender by comparing their appearance, such as the size and shape of their wattles and helmets.

Both of these guineas are female. If you look closely, their wattles are sort of flat. 

This is one of our male guineas. His wattles are much more rounded (almost like a cup) and larger compared to the girls'. The helmet on top of his head is also slightly larger than the girls'. 

Of course, sexing guineas by their appearance isn't always easy, especially for a new owner, nor is it 100% accurate. In fact, I still have difficulty using this method to determine their genders.

Update on Sept 15, 2013: This post has proven very popular since I first wrote it, even among international guinea owners, and it's so interesting to see all of the different countries that are home to guinea fowl enthusiasts. It just goes to show you, no matter our differences or where we're located, a love for these wonderful, silly birds is universal! But I thought I would clarify that I am located in the United States, and because of our very large and diverse gene pool, our guinea fowl tend to be a little more difficult to sex by their appearance alone. So, if you are located in another country other than the US, you may be able to more easily determine your guineas' gender by their appearance and, especially your guineas' wattles may look a little differently than my guineas' do. Now, back to the rest of this post. 

A much simpler and more reliable way to sex guinea fowl is to simply listen to their calls. Males make a single syllable call that sounds like, "Chi, chi, chi!" Females make the Chi call as well, but they also make an additional two syllable call that is usually said to resemble the words 'Buckwheat' or 'Come back'.

Now, if you're a new guinea owner and have never heard either of these calls, it can be a little difficult to imagine what it actually sounds like. To illustrate the differences between the calls I made a video of our guineas doing what they do best. . . talking to each other.

By the way, if you notice a loud screech in the video that sounds like someone yelling, "Help!". . . ignore it. It's just Devreux, one of the peacocks.   

video
The boys decided to be a little uncooperative each time I tried to capture their call. Every time they began to vocalize, I never seemed to have my camera in hand. I'd rush into the house to get it and return to film the boys, only to have them stop not long after. So, their part of the video is more of a compilation for that reason.

Update: This has been the most popular post on my blog this year, and I thank each and every person that has visited. I remember how confusing it was to sex guineas when we obtained our first ones, and I'm so glad that our little farm could be of assistance to you! If there are any other guinea fowl posts you'd like to see added in the future or any questions you have, feel free to comment below ~ Thank you so much, Shell.

12 comments:

  1. Oh, my goodness! Guineas are sure noisy!

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  2. They are definitely loud, but so much fun to watch lol.

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  3. We have so many guineas, it's crazy! They keep multiplying haha. I do enjoy watching their antics and we have definitely seen a decrease in ticks out here in the woods, so they have earned their keep!

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    1. I completely agree, they're such funny birds. And I love that we hardly ever have to worry about ticks (or snakes) now lol.

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  4. Just now got my first guineas, 3 adults that I haven't sexed yet. Hoping that by keeping them caged for 2 weeks, then letting them out one by one till all 3 are loose that they won't fly away from my yard on 40 acres. Providing food and water in yard plus hoping to train them to go into secure cage at night, as I'm feeding them grain in that cage and have trained them to my call for food. While I would be thrilled if they roosted in a tree at night, I don't know if that is better or not, as the roost tree might be away from my house. I have EPIC numbers of grasshoppers in this new farm of mine, as it has been empty for years and the grass is hip high.

    Any particular advice, anyone? Hoping to add a few more whenever I can find them locally. Seems like breeding them would be a good financial move, although I've got to see what my losses are going to be out here first. Thanks so much!

    Reg in Fort Cobb, OK

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    1. Congrats on adding guineas to your farm, Reg!! They're such interesting birds and will definitely help you out with those grasshoppers lol.

      When we add new guineas to the flock, we usually keep them penned up for about 6 weeks, just to make sure they've learned that this is their new home. Once we do let them out, we do exactly like you've planned and turn them out a few at a time over several days. You're right that they are safer roosting in a secure enclosure at night than a tree and they can indeed be trained to go to their pen at night. In fact, they can be trained to do a lot of things that I've only recently realized ;) Check out this post I did a few months ago and you'll see just how trainable they can be: http://thecountrychick.blogspot.com/2013/03/friendly-guineas.html

      We breed guineas, and they're some of my favorites of all our animals on the farm. They're fairly easy to hatch, don't have a high mortality rate when young (or at least not as high as turkeys or peachicks), easy to sell (we advertise on our website & craigslist's farm & garden section & we usually sell out within a week of posting them) & they're great foragers. If you have some of the more unusual colors in your flock then they will certainly be even more in demand.

      Best of luck with your guineas, and I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoy ours!!

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  5. I have have chickens but i decided to get a couple of guineas this year i raised them with the chicken they hang around the rooster one on each side. they sleep where the rooster sleep i recommend chickens with the guineas they are not as loud unless they loose the rooster. they are fun.

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    1. They are so much fun - I love watching the funny antics that our guineas get up to lol. Congrats on adding them to your flock!!!

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  6. I just added a few to my flock as well. Now that I've been on your website I know that they are both female.....thank you so much !

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    1. Congrats on your new additions and glad I could help you out!!! :)

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  7. Hey Shell, can we talk about your peacocks?

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    1. We sure can :) What would you like to know?

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