I’ve been talking to my good friend & former neighbor, Julie, about swapping her some guineas for a cat that looked like our beloved George. She was starting to think it was a pretty fair swap until she got to thinking about it and asked "What’s the difference between a guinea and a chicken?"
So, here without further ado, is my mini-essay on the difference between a guinea and chicken.
Exhibit A : Chickens & Guineas at the Hen House
You’ll notice the variety of chickens and then our gray guineas in this picture. Chickens have a cute little curve to their back, while the guineas have more of a humpback shape. However, they actually remind me more of Sherlock Holmes searching for clues than Quasimodo.
Exhibit B: Nuttin but Guineas
In this photo, you can get a better look at the delightful polka dots on our guineas. I believe our guineas are pearl grays. None of our chickens have polka dots.
Also, check out the little pointy things on their heads? Guinea folks call that a helmet. None of our chickens have helmets. (I wonder if they’re jealous?)
Plus, oh my word, they make VERY different sounds than chickens. They are no-ooo-ooo -oisy!
Exhibit B: Video of the Sounds Guineas Make
Listen closely. You’ll hear a lot of buck-wheat calls – those are the girls. And then you’ll hear a whole lotta loud Ca-Ci,Ci, Ci screeching – those are the boys.
Every week I have a phone meeting with some of the marketing staff at TOS and almost every week, those folks can hear my guineas in the background. Guineas are loud. Some folks actually find them to be very handy watchdogs because they are so loud. Ours don’t really announce when visitors are here or anything though, so I just call them loud.
Exhibit C: Guinea Eggs
You can see from the pics on this website that guinea eggs are much smaller than chicken eggs. You can eat them just as you would chicken eggs, but you’d just need more of them. The challenge however is finding the eggs! Most people allow their guineas to free range and since guineas aren’t as domesticated as chickens they don’t opt to lay their eggs in the lovely nesting boxes we have. Nope, instead they enjoy the privacy of tall grass near the edge of the woods. We’ve never found our guineas eggs, but instead were just surprised when they came strolling out with keets.
Exhibit D: Well, I don’t have an exhibit D, but here’s a few other things.
- Guineas can fly more than chickens. They’re actually more like turkeys in the how they fly. They mostly walk around, but they can fly up into the trees to roost at night or just to get from one spot to another.
- Guineas are more wild than chickens. They’re not as domesticated and while some people keep them in coops or chicken tractors, I think they’re meant to free-range. It’s nice if you can tuck them in to roost at night to help keep them safe from predators, but even though we have had a hen house with roosts, ours would rather sleep in the trees or high in the rafters of our barn.
- Guineas are famous for their bug-eating ability! Many people are getting them specifically to help keep down the tick population. Plus, they don’t scratch around like chickens so they don’t tend to tear up a garden or young flowers like chickens.
- Guineas like to admire their own reflections. We’ve heard of people having trouble with their guineas jumping up on their cars to admire their reflections in the windshield or pecking at the sliding glass door as they study themselves. You can often stop that behavior just by placing a large section of mirror specifically for that purpose out in your yard.
- Guineas must be kept penned for quite some time to acclimate to new surroundings. Otherwise they tend to wander off as they try to head for home. We kept ours in the chicken tractor as keets for about 6 weeks before we turned them lose. Furthermore some people suggest using their flock instinct to train them to stay close by only releasing a few at a time. Those few will stay close to the pen where the others are until you finally release them all and they’ve learned to stay close.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend backyard guineas like I do backyard chickens. I think they’re probably too noisy for most neighborhoods. But they’ve definitely helped cut down on the ticks around here and have added lots of polka-dot interest to our farmyard.
Further reading: Be Fair to this Fowl from Mother Earth News