A growing trend is the raising of both chickens and guinea fowl together. The question is not so much, “Can chickens be kept alongside guinea fowl?” as it is, “How can I successfully keep chickens and guinea fowl together?”
There are many benefits to having both chickens and guinea fowl within the same coop (and some complications to consider), but before addressing those it should be discussed what exactly a guinea fowl is and their legality should be examined.
What Are Guinea Fowl?
Guinea fowl are sometimes referred to as guinea chickens, with females at times specifically called guinea hens. They are in fact a genetic relative of chickens, but originate from West Africa. They generally have gray plumage with white dots and a head reminiscent of a vulture’s head. Guinea fowl are larger than chickens and are not fully domesticated, and for all intents and purposes, they are still classed as a wild bird.
Like chickens Guinea Fowl are as good as flightless (but can go about 500 feet or so) and are considered less intelligent- and that’s putting it politely, many remark that without their superb hunting skills they would probably long be extinct due to lacking in smarts. They live on average 10-15 years and males have a distinct (and loud), “Wattle,” that commands attention.
While chickens are well known to live in flocks, guinea fowl are happy to be solo or part of a flock depending on their individual circumstances. It helps to introduce them to the flock-concept at a young age, as once fully grown they can be be stubbornly antisocial if not already adjusted to a group-setting.
The Legality of Keeping Guinea Fowl
Just as laws vary on chickens and roosters, there may be special legal requirements to consider in regards to keeping guinea fowl in your coop. Sometimes laws may be written in such a way that guinea fowl are not expressly forbidden, but also not clearly defined as allowed either.
Likewise there may also be occasions when chickens are clearly a-okay but anything beyond hens is against the rules. As there are simply too many State and local laws to consider for a single article it’s recommended you consult with your county, city, and neighborhood legislators to determine whether keeping guinea fowl is legal, preferably before you try to integrate them with your chickens and find yourself in trouble!
Advantages of Having Chickens and Guinea Fowl
Guinea fowl excel at eliminating bugs, hunting mice (who can ruin eggs) and even killing snakes.
The fact that guinea fowl are simply much larger than (most) chickens, and can be quite loud and imposing when they choose to be, makes them much more likely to scare away a would-be predator that realises chickens aren’t such easy pickings in the presence of a not-so-weak and very loud guinea fowl.
They Produce Eggs and Have a Tasty Meat as Well
While guinea fowl lay eggs at a lower rate than chickens they still do produce them, and better still they are extremely rich and creamy thanks to a higher ratio of yolk than white compared to hen’s eggs.
If it is allowed where you are raising them, Guinea fowl can be slaughtered for their meat which is dark and flavorful. While not very popular in North America yet, many Europeans have a fondness for guinea fowl and their meat.
Guinea Fowl and Chickens Generally Integrate Well
Although guinea fowl are not fully domesticated and can be a bit more aggressive than chickens it has been observed that if they are integrated together at a young age, then in general there isn’t much conflict between chickens and guinea fowl.
In fact, many who have tried integrating these two types of poultry have found that the chicken’s more laid-back manner can, “Rub-off,” on the guinea fowl, resulting in them being a lot less aggressive in general, and even gentler with fellow guinea fowl, towards chickens, or even their human keepers.
Do be aware that sometimes they integrate EXTREMELY well, developing enough ease with one another that guinea fowls and chickens may try to mate. This will on rare occasions actually result in a hybrid guin-hen (generally a male guinea fowl with a female chicken has the highest chance of survival and hatching). As with other hybrid animals however (such as the mule) guin-hens will be sterile, so don’t expect to have a flock of them.
Also, be aware that the external reproductive organs of the two creatures are not adapted particularly well to one another, so you may find your hens will be injured by the advances of a male guinea fowl. If so this may be a good reason to keep them separated.
Possible Disadvantages of Having Chickens and Guinea Fowl
Too Much Aggression
As guinea fowl are not actually fully domesticated they are a wild bird. This means that it can be difficult to get them to cooperate in the same manner chickens do. Also, because guinea fowl are larger and stronger than chickens, should they get into a disagreement with a chicken a guinea fowl will basically always win any fight–be it a minor squabble with some pecking or a more serious brawl resulting in a mortal injury for the chicken.
Most often chickens are willing to demure to a guinea fowl as an authority figure, but should it be mating season males can get especially aggressive.
Hence, a male guinea fowl and a male chicken (i.e. a rooster) that both are eager to mate and unwilling to back-down will likely engage in a nasty brawl that leaves the rooster severely injured (or even dead, sadly).
Making sure that male guinea fowl are kept separate from hens may be especially wise during breeding season if you have roosters present, although even outside of mating season guinea fowl will be violent towards roosters.
The fact that guinea fowl can be extremely loud is at times helpful. The noise scares away predators and can alert you if there is danger nearby. However, this excessive noise level can also become a nuisance, especially to nearby neighbors.
Should you live in close proximity to other people you may find yourself facing a load of complaints about noisy guinea fowl. Not having too many guinea fowl can help, but even just a couple is an order of magnitude louder than a chicken.
Guinea fowl may desire their own private space away from chickens and without it fights can break-out. Also, guinea fowl in general are big on roaming around like to wander. Should they feel too confined this can be an issue (again, aggression), but letting them be free-range is not always the best solution either as they can wander off without ever returning.
Should they have been integrated with chickens at a young age guinea fowl may behave a bit similarly and want to return to a coop or hang-around food and water, but this is never guaranteed.
Put simply, you need to be sure that guinea fowl are given plenty of extra private space as well as the choice to roam within the hub of the coop, but also are kept somewhat constrained lest they escape and completely disappear.
Also, should a neighbor be nearby, the fact that guinea fowl have no exact concept of what space they are welcome in can result in them getting into places you would prefer they didn’t–just be prepared for them to roost in all manner of odd spots and politely ask anyone living nearby to be patient as you work at encouraging your guinea fowl to stick with the flock as much as possible.
Introducing Guinea Fowl to Your Flock of Chickens
As has been touched upon in the various sections, it is important to integrate guinea fowl into your chicken coop early. By, “Early,” that means when they are babies (also known as, ‘Keets,”).
If the chicken coop is full of chickens who are relatively new to it, then that’s preferable to trying to suddenly introduce guinea fowl (or even keets) to an already well-established chicken coop. This early introduction will help to level-out some of the less desirable attributes of guinea fowl, and goes a long way towards ensuring you have a harmonious coop.
Even once guinea fowl and chickens are well integrated you must always monitor the situation lest a violent altercation occur (which, as stated, is a fight a chicken will almost always lose, sometimes mortally). By working guinea fowl into a coop in a manner that feels natural and less-obtrusive you will have already gone a long way towards having a happy cohabitation between the guinea fowl and chickens.
Chickens and guinea fowl can be kept aside one another, the key is to make sure that when such an effort is made that the proper steps are taken to assure a harmonious coop. By being aware of how guinea fowl differ from chickens one can be prepared for the possible challenges they bring and also excited for the advantages provided by keeping guinea fowl alongside chicken. Having guinea fowl and chicken kept together is by no means easy, but it is undoubtedly rewarding and adds a fun element to the already exciting art of keeping chickens.