Guinea fowl owners from around the country met in late March at Texas A&M University to learn more about guinea keeping in a backyard flock setting. The newly formed Guinea Fowl International Association organized the conference, which is planned to be an annual event.
Hot topics for the group were: When and how Avian Influenza will most likely appear in the U.S. and the significance of the USDA's National Animal Identification System. We also learned how to do our own fecal floats to determine whether our birds need to be wormed, nutrition and incubation considerations for backyard flocks, and biosecurity for backyard flocks.
A commercial breeder, Michael Mason, talked about some new guinea fowl colors he is developing, including a rosy pink guinea and a bi-colored guinea.
Avian virologist Dr. John El-Attrache calls himself an optimist in assessing the threat of Avian Influenza to backyard flocks and even commercial flocks in the U.S. More damaging effects to flock owners may come from regulations enacted than from the pathogen, he said. For example, at least one country has already required that all flocks be kept confined indoors. That is a distressing thought to the many of us who keep guinea fowl primarily to help rid our property of ticks, grasshoppers, and other insects.
Dale Hyatt, Research Service Farm Manager for Texas A&M, compared different types of incubators for use by small-flock owners. For those who ship eggs, he also compared different packaging methods and even different carriers used by A&M in shipping eggs. The best, A&M has found? Greyhound Bus Lines! It seems there is less handling and fewer mechanized processes for each package shipped via bus as compared with more traditional shippers such as UPS or the US Postal Service.
A wide variety of incubation issues were covered, including eggshell permeability, what to do if the power goes off during incubation, humidity concerns early in the incubation process and especially during hatching, and effects of too hot and too cold temperatures.
Dr. Lee Cartwright, president of the North American Gamebird Association, discussed nutrition for guinea fowl and talked about the different requirements for their various stages of growth.
Dr. Morgan Farnell, an avian immunology expert, gave us an overview of federal and state programs to register and identify animals and premises. He also detailed steps the backyard flock keeper could take to help prevent disease in our flocks.
In addition to the seminars and hands-on lab session, conferences such as this provide an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other guinea fowl owners and backyard flock enthusiasts. Sharing coop designs - or eggs for hatching - is one of the best benefits of the Guinea Fowl Conference.
Plans are already underway for next year's conference, which also will focus on guinea fowl in a backyard flock setting.