Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guinea Fowl Sleeping Locations

Let's talk about guinea fowl sleeping arrangements for a second.

If you have guinea fowl, where do they sleep at night?

My guineas always have roosted outside in a tree.

The guineas were raised in a coop, some of them were raised by chickens, some raised by humans, but all lived in chicken coops when they were keets.  All keets were released to the chicken pen when they were big enough to survive random pecks by curious chickens.  And all keets wanted to sleep outside in the trees in the chicken pen.  The ones that were raised by a mama (chicken) hen waited until the mama stopped mothering them and they stopped sleeping under her wings, then decided to sleep outside in the trees.  The keets raised by us humans, with no mama hen's help, decided to sleep in the trees on the very first night they were released outside into the chicken pen (versus being locked up in the chicken coop).  

It seems to be natural for guineas to want to sleep in trees.  
At least that's my opinion.

I want the guineas to sleep inside the guinea coop, but we have 5 adults guineas who sleep out in the trees and there's no telling them that they're going to sleep anywhere other than where they want.  They are free birds and do what they please.  They are fully free - no fences contain them.  It seems that predators attack at nighttime or in the late evening after the guineas have gone to roost in the tree or in the early dawn before the sun is fully up.  The guineas are blind when it's dark, they are easy prey.  

My idea is if I could make them sleep in the coop, I could close them in and keep them safe overnight, then let them free in the morning.  But that means someone would have to be home when the sun set every night to close the guinea coop door, locking the birds into the safety of the coop overnight, and open it in the morning.  The coop would have to be checked every eve to ensure no predators were waiting inside or got locked inside.  We have lots of random animals very closeby on our farm that may enter into the guinea coop, from opossums, woodchucks, raccoons, and fox to curious stray cats.  We've also seen mink less than a mile away.  If I put up a timer mechanism that closed the guinea door automatically at nighttime and opened it in the morning, my belief if that the coop still needs to be checked for safety before being closed.

And I don't want to make it impossible to go on vacation and don't want to bring additional work on us.

My husband's idea is that the birds should be free.  Let them sleep in trees.  That's what they want, that's how God made birds, to roost in trees.

What do you think?


So, lets discuss my current guinea keet flock.  I have 18 young keets who were released into the chicken pen last week.  On their first evening outside they all roosted in one of the trees inside the chicken pen, even though every other night of their life they roosted in the guinea coop (they had always been locked in the coop).  And so, at 8pm, as the sun set, I went out there and chased and caught all the keets and put them into the guinea coop.  It took an hour, maybe more.  I was frustrated.  The keets all made it in and were locked in the guinea coop till morning.  

The next morning their little guinea door going from their coop into the chicken pen was opened and they walked out into the chicken pen themselves like grown-up birds.  That second night they all roosted in the tree in the pen, and I again worked hard and got them all locked up in the guinea coop.  Do you know what it takes to catch 18 birds that can fly in a HUGE pen?  It's not easy.  But they were locked up for the night.

The third evening I went out to the chicken pen, ready for my evening job, and wonder of wonders, all the keets had put themselves away into the guinea coop themselves! Yeah!  I locked them in and gave them treats in the coop.  I was so happy.  I also had a very bad cold at that time and was a walking, coughing, miserable zombie, so let me tell you, I was happy they put themselves away.

And for the next 4 nights the keets mostly put themselves away into their coop, but every now and then a few would have to be caught.  Then last night, after one week, they all were out in the tree again.  It was a struggle to coop them.  They really want to roost in the tree.

My husband continues to tell me that nature is nature, let the birds roost in the tree.  He tells me that once the keets are adults, and we release them into the wild with the 5 other adults guineas, that the keets will roost in the trees with the other guineas.  Why go through this struggle if they are going to sleep in trees like they want anyway?  I'm starting to agree with him.

Please let me know your opinion.



Rae said...

The 7 keets we got this year were a nightmare to coop. The first week, they all crammed under the roots of an old stump every night. Then, they started roosting at the edge of a burn pile. THEN, they decided that the branches at the top of (and in the middle of) the burn pile were the way to go, as we couldn't reach them to catch them. We finally decided that they were stupid birds and could just fend for their own stupid selves. Within 4 nights, we went from 7 to 2... And surprise surprise, the last two started putting themselves to bed in the coop with the chickens. I guess at least two know what's good for them! They're gonna do what they want, and either wise up or get eaten. Maybe yours will wise up like ours did?

Farm Girl said...

Gosh Lynn, I wish I had a answer for your question. I should have my sister come and write a comment as she seems to be able to keep her guineas around. I think hers come back to the coop on their own. But she has to replace hers with new ones every year. My Dad said his always came back at night. I think though, that they would get picked off just like yours have. I think if you could keep them in the coop with the tree it might be okay but you still want them to eat deer ticks so I guess try not to get attached?
Kessie only had one Guinea she stayed with the hens but of course she died after she got bit by a black widow so I have never had the nerve to try it again.
They seem to like to stay outside in trees the best.

LindaG said...

Good luck with what you decide.

Chai Chai said...

Lynn - My guineas mostly overnight in the coop. The are mostly chicken raised so that really helps.

The males will occasionally stay out at night but if they make a habit of it someone normally gets killed. The females that tried to nest this year also got eaten, the lucky ones only lost their eggs.

If you can get your guineas to overnight in the coop it will be well worth the effort.

Country Girl said...

I have a question. Is there one leader of the keets? Does he make the decisions to sleep in or out? And do all the rest follow him? And, I never thought about the tree you have in your coop. How is it fenced off? Do you have it fenced up to a certain point? You certainly can't fence all the way to the top of the tree! I think I am tending to agree with Randy, although it is scarey to think of the predators getting them!

Lisa said...

I just got guinea keets this year and I had 2 broody hens sharing a nest of eggs so I tucked the 12 keets under the two mommas and one died and 3 more just disappeared so down to 7 in one group and I bought 2 more white ones with 9 favorelles and cochins. I kinda feel at the moment that they will remain with the chickens so that is why I put them with Momma hens to raise so they would teach them to roost in the coops at night and not in the trees. I hope they keep on going inside the coops at night. I feel as you do and understand what your husband is saying but I don't want them to die eiter.


CaliforniaGrammy said...

I totally understand the frustration of trying to get them into the coop after free-ranging all day. But I, myself, couldn't sleep well at night knowing that predators are freely roaming your woods/yard and the guineas are so vulnerable . . . it's such a hard call to make.

John Gray said...

I have just placed 12 eggs under some hens! hopefully a few keets will turn up soon eh?

Razzberry Corner said...

Rae - you went from 7 to 2 guineas in just 4 nights!!! :( I know it's impossible to make them do what you want if you free range your guineas like we do.

Kim - Every year I need to get more guineas. I have 5 from last year that survived an entire year, so I guess I'm doing good. You are right, we want them to eat bugs, so we let them totally free range. And they enjoy roaming around. They walk huge distances every day, but always roost at night back in the same tree overtop of the chicken pen where they were born. Kessie had a guinea die from a black widow bite???!!! My goodness!!! How did you know what caused her to die?

LindaG - Thanks!!

Chai Chai - My problem is that I let the guineas totally free range and the chickens are in a huge pen that's attached to a coop. We made a little door going from the guinea coop/infirmary coop/chick coop, which is a separate room from the normal chicken coop, out to the outside free world, but the adult guineas always chose the trees over the guinea coop at nighttime. Now I'm attempting to train the babies, but I don't think it'll work - I think they'll follow the lead of the adult guineas when we let them free-range when they're older. We will see. I agree with you, it'll be worth the effort, but I'm still concerned about having to close the guinea coop door...


Razzberry Corner said...

Country Girl - There is not a definite leader in the keet group yet. They all kinda walk in a mass group. If one or two decide to go in a certain direction the rest follow. Maybe there is one that makes the decision to sleep outside, I don't know. I notice there's a large female that honks alot. They are just starting to get their adult voices, although they are scratchy and not fully developed. About the big tall pine tree - the ceiling fence comes right up to the side of the tree. All the other trees were cut to the fence height, which is like 7 feet high, I think.

Lisa - 3 keets disappeared? What happened to them? We like to have hens raise our keets like you are doing, and the keets will sleep with the chickens. But when we let the guineas free range when they are bigger they always decide to sleep outside and not in the coop.

CAGrammy - What's hard is catching those guineas. When they are free-ranging, it impossible to catch them if they decide to roost in a tree. That's why I'm attempting to train them, but I'm afraid they will still do what they want when they are adult guineas.

John - You will soon have yourself 12 more guineas! Yeah! I didn't think you liked the noise of that many guineas!


Anonymous said...

I love my Guineas, but do not make them tame because it seem the tame one also end up gone. I will say they are wonderful birds if you can get by the sound, but I find they only make that sound unless they are not happy with their surrounding. I do keep mind caged up, unless it the ones i intend to sell and I never let mine out to roam unless they are 5 plus monthes and the other Guineas seem to teach the the ropes. I have founf that my dogs that roam with the guineas which is a shealtie and a lab keep all other wild animals from getting to my Gunieas but I do realize that not many dog want kill a bird but I have train mind that that is a no no even to the point of running other dog off that seem to be a problem. I believe it is easier to train a dog than a Guineas because Guineas are not a very smart bird and I hate to say that because i love mine but it is what it is! Example my guineas love to peck my bumper on my truck and you would think after the first peck that metal would not taste to good but they do it all the time! Happy Guineaing yall I really enjoy it!

headpeace said...

I googled 'where do guinea fowls sleep' and found your interesting site! we live in a suburb of capetown, south africa and every year in about october, our spring, we see a couple of guinea fowl marching up and down our busy street, with what starts with about seven babies (I now know to call them keets) and then sadly because of their dangerous lifestyle the numbers are reduced to about one, whether from predators (mostly crows)or the traffic. well this last month three adults arrived in our pretty wild garden and we soon noticed 8 offspring, tweeting around the property. I decided to try and change the odds this year and we bought seeds and grains and have fed them silly for the last month, so they stay in our garden, rooting around in the mulch under the trees and shrubs for an endless supply of insects and seeds. the only worrying thing is that in the early evening they all decide to cross the road to the trees in a neighbour's yard to roost. well hello, this is peak hour traffic, and every morning when they return I count and lo and behold there are still 8 babies. they make a huge mess in my flower beds but it has been fascinating watching this extended family ( one adult has two larger keets, but they all muddle in to protect the little ones).

Anonymous said...

My guineas put themselves into the barn every night without fail. Their eyesight at night appears to be terrible and they are very cautious/fearful of dark areas. I light the inside of the barn until everyone has roosted. I also have cheap night lights in the barn so that it is not pitch black. I make it a point to close the doors at dark and have been fortunate that no predators have gotten into the barn. In my experience once the birds are frightened/threatened at a roost they move. Smart. I have made adaptations to my barn over the years so that predators cannot get in. Another thing that I have found is that plenty of roost space is required. If you consider what is required according to data you find based on bird size you will probably end up with too little roosting space. Sometimes what frightens a guinea is another guinea. Watch your birds and you will see that they form small sub groups. Make roosts at differing heights and on different walls so that subordinate birds can feel safe from dominant birds. If your birds always feel safe in your barn/coop they will roost there. I would like to add that the guineas have been extremely successful at eliminating ticks from my property. For that reason there is almost nothing that I wouldn't do to keep them safe and content. Best of luck with your birds.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to read all of these and if I missed the answer, I'm sorry. But growing up on a farm, my grandmother always had a set of roost boxes high up on two poles, outside the coop. This protected them from coons, bobcats etc. I guess an owl could still fly down and enter the box, but I never heard of it. What am I missing?

margot said...

Hi there, we have five gf males, they roam around all day pecking, enjoying their long walks around our farm, go off with our cows while they are grazing, ( that's abit alarming as foxes are still around, but I supoose our Angus cow is sort of a body guard. When we drive our tractor around, they run behind, follow us around the yard. So in all we have to say they are lovely pets. the males don't call like the females all night ' come back a million times is damn annoying ).
The thing is on your website, we are concerned that as they roost in our tall gum tree, it's raining here for nights & that can't make for safe bring; or maybe for them that's perectky fine. I'm thinking of two things, suspending a large umbrella top over where they roost, ( probably then go to another branch ) or making a shed a safe haven, with plenty of seed in there, to entice them, with a fox proof entry.
In the meantime, do you know that they can withstand a night of rain and then in the winter zero temperatures ?