Starting With Keets - How to Raise Guinea Fowl Keets
Starting with keets? Here is some helpful information about their care.
When guinea fowl keets first hatch they are tired and will sleep a lot as most babies do. Keets are unstable on their legs and may squat a lot but in 24 hours you should note a big difference with them running around as if they had weeks of experience.
It's important to provide your keets with a non-slippery surface so they don't slide and injure their tiny legs. Do NOT use newspaper unless you layer textured paper towels [see NOTE below] on the top. A slippery surface can cause "spraddle legs" and can be permanent if not corrected right away. Guinea fowl legs in general are prone to injuries so take care not to capture them by their legs or feet, either as keets or adults. As they grow keets develop wing feathers first. They do not grow at a uniform rate, so don't be alarmed if you see wing feathers sticking out at odd angles, they will even out.
If you look into the brooder box and see your keets lying still as death with tiny orange legs and feet stretched out behind them, DO NOT PANIC! They are sleeping ever so peacefully. At even the slightest noise, they will scurry around like little jets. Talk to your keets often and slowly lower your hand into their box. Try putting some feed in your hand to get them used to the hand and feed together. Guinea fowl keets learn speed very quickly as well as the ability to jump very high and very soon. Be sure you have a screen or wire to keep them contained in their box.
Also important to remember: Watch for pasty bottoms or feet coated with feces (droppings). Pasty bottoms can prevent proper waste elimination and most often occurs with keets that are a few days old. Use a warm, wet cotton ball to gently clean the area. Be prepared as the warm wetness may stimulate a fecal ejection.
Poop shoes, as I refer to the buildup of droppings on the feet, can cripple your keets as it dries to a very hard crust which after a day or so the keet will start "high stepping" when walking becomes difficult. So it's important to know what causes it and what to do if it happens. Most often this occurs with overcrowding (too many keets or too small a box), or not changing the litter or paper towels often enough. If you have this problem, soak the feet in warm soapy water and use a cotton ball soaked in the solution and gently wipe the feces off. Do not pull or pick the matter off, as the very tender skin or a toenail will come off risking an infection. This is a problem that is best avoided by changing the litter often and making sure you have enough room for the number of keets and chicks.
What You Need
- Plastic or metal watering base for a mason jar;
- Metal feeder-round 8 hole for six keets or less , a long 14 hole for more keets or if you aren't there all the time to refill;
- Brooder box-I use the egg boxes that are free from the grocery store. They are approximately 16" x 28" and will hold 15 keets for a few weeks and haven't been sprayed with insecticides. You'll need a wire or screen over the top. Keets learn to jump very early and can get out without a top!
- Bedding: the textured shelf liner is good as it can be hosed off and line dried; after the first week out you can add wood shavings (not cedar). I like the artificial turf so I can hose it each day and reuse. I keep several of these and just clean and reuse. Newspaper can be used as long as it's covered with paper towels.
- A heat light, preferably with a hooded shade to maintain a 95-degree temperature the first week, decreasing by five degrees each week until the temperature equalizes with outside temperatures or the keets are fully feathered. In the summer, I find a 40-watt bulb is adequate and place it at one end of the box so the keets can get away from it if they get too warm.
- Miscellaneous: White millet seed for training (see note below); oyster shell (calcium) after four months for egg layers; and grit. If you have plenty of small rock around, grit isn't absolutely necessary.
Turkey starter if the keets will be raised by themselves. If turkey starter isn't available, a game bird starter will do. Chick starter can be used if you will also be feeding chicks, but it isn't as high in protein as the keets should have. Feed comes in a 50# bags or it can be bought in smaller quantities at some feed stores. By the end of the bag, the keets should be able to be switched to regular layer crumbles. A rule of thumb is to feed this for the first 10 - 12 weeks. By that time they will be ranging on their own and will require less commercial feed and should be switched to layer feed. Some prefer crumbles, while other people prefer pellets. It's a personal choice--the guineas and not necessarily yours. WHENEVER CHANGING OVER TO A DIFFERENT FEED, MIX HALF OLD FEED WITH HALF NEW FEED. This will avoid digestion upsets and the keets will be more likely to accept the new feed. There is a controversy as to the need for a medicated turkey feed, but if an individual breeder (as opposed to a large hatchery) keeps a clean poultry house and has healthy birds to start with, a medicated feed is not necessary.
Like any other poultry, guinea fowl need a building that is secure from predators and extreme weather. They need a place to roost at night. DO NOT LET THEM ROOST IN TREES, which is a sure invitation to night predators such as owls, dogs and coyotes. The building doesn't need to be large.
I use a covered pen so that I can confine my guineas if we are to be gone all-day or overnight. Guineas can fly and an uncovered pen will not keep them in. Some people leave the pen uncovered and train their guineas to fly back into the pen in the evening and enter the poultry house through a small opening. Again this is a personal decision - yours and not the guineas.
You will want your guineas to return to their designated roosting area every evening. This is not hard to accomplish, but does take some effort on your part in the beginning. The reward will be safe and healthy guineas that provide you with excellent tick and insect control and a lot of entertainment.
Keep your keets in a brooder box for the first six weeks--this may mean changing the box for a larger box as needed. If you handle the keets as much as possible they get used to it. If you can't handle them nor have no desire to, they will be quite fine. Just don't expect keets to be as tame as chickens. I keep keets in my laundry room for the first two weeks so I can handle them. Then I move them to the poultry house in a cage--again with a heat source if needed. There the keets spend 4 - 6 weeks more getting used to their permanent home. If you have other poultry, this will also get them used to each other.
After six weeks open the door in the late afternoon so they can venture outside. They will be leery at first and run back in when frightened. Eventually your guineas will look forward to being out and will return in the evening and periodically during the day to eat the feed. As adult guinea fowl, most of their diet will consist of weed seeds and insects.
Once they reach this age of 6 - 8 weeks, these older keets will be fairly self sufficient and only depend on you to give them fresh water daily and keep a feeder full for them.
Thanks to Arlene Burt (aka guineamom) for sharing this
handout she gives to all her customers
NOTE: Paper towels may not be a good choice for bedding material because they tend to break down or tear, which could expose a slippery surface. Also, pieces from a damaged paper towel could be ingested by the keets. Consider using old towels, cloth placemats, or rubberized shelf liner.
- Maquire Farm: Our First Guinea Fowl
- Dog Breed Info Center: Guineas - Getting Started
- eZine Articles: Chicks or Guineas? - 2009 Article by Kate Starr
- Guinea Keets from Claborn Farms: Starting Keets - Getting Your Keets (baby guineas) Off to a Good Start!