Guinea Fowl Emerges As a Livestock Species

Guinea Fowl/Picture Courtesy

Commercial farming of guinea fowl, raised mainly for their flesh and eggs, is at its outset stage in Kenya, generating quite an interest among local farmers.  The meat, believed to be tender and nutritious, is rich in vitamins and low in cholesterol.  The growing interest in guinea fowl farming has seen other people raise them for their unique ornamental value.

Speaking during a webinar, organized by the Directorate of Research, at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) on Wednesday July 14, 2021, Dr. Sheila Ommeh, a Senior Research officer at the University’s Institute of Biotechnology Research (Animal Technology Section) said, although they share many characteristics, it’s a mistake to treat guinea fowls like chicken because chicken are much more inclined to domesticity, and can be tamed, whereas, guinea fowls tend to be wild and more flighty.

If regularly handled from day-olds, guinea fowls may be reasonably friendly towards their owner, but as a rule they hate being picked up or even touched. Guineas whose origin and domestication is sorely in Africa unlike chicken, don’t automatically go into a house to roost either, much preferring to fly to the tops of the tallest trees, which can lead to many losses due to predation.

“If the guinea fowls are obtained as youngsters, it should be possible to get them used to living in a house. A shed or outbuilding can be easily adapted for their use, and is likely to be more successful than a standard chicken house,” said Dr. Ommeh.

Dr. Sheila Ommeh

“Allow more space than for chicken and an extra room. Furthermore, make their doorway large enough to prevent bullies from keeping out the lower-ranking birds. Unlike chicken, the shyer guineas won’t wait their turn to get into the house, but will simply fly upwards. Once a few have tasted the delights of outdoor life, the rest are likely to follow and the battle will be lost,” she added.

Advising that we should not replace guinea fowls with chicken, but instead complement them as other poultry species as a protein source, Dr. Ommeh said, Guinea fowls are way better than chicken due to their numerous benefits to human beings. These include; the ease to keep as they are independent birds, self-sufficient foragers who will find much of their own food, the birds sound an alarm whenever anything unusual occurs on the farm, are credited with killing small snakes and mice and that they lay anywhere and everywhere, particularly favoring large clumps of nettles, among others.

“The eggs are deeply flavoured, with large golden yolks and surprisingly, tough shells. Guinea fowls are often kept for their meat and eggs which are regarded as healthy supplements,” she noted. “Guinea fowls are considered good sources of protein. Its yolk contains a high proportion of sodium, potassium and iron. Its meat can be recommended for infants and children for proper growth and good bone development,” she pointed out.

Further, she told the participants, despite the long process of rearing in the country, interested individuals should not fear guinea fowls’ farming since they do not suffer from many pests and diseases as compared to chicken and other poultry. Guinea fowls, she said, are more tolerant to New Castle Disease (NCD) virus than chicken, emphasizing that, generally, most chicken diseases do not affect guinea fowls. She told the gathering that despite the fact that there was a lot of potential market for them, the product was scarce.

Due to lack of a proper breeding programme, she said, the Government of Kenya through the Directorate of Production under the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation was trying to set up an elaborate breeding programme for guinea fowls alongside other emerging poultry, like quails, so as to boost guinea fowl farming in the country.

On his part, the Director of Research, Dr. John Kinyuru congratulated the day’s speaker for having recently received several awards among them being named the top female scientific author from JKUAT and for the great research she has continued to carry out on guinea fowl.

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