Guinea Fowl

"Numida Meleagris"

  Two frequently asked questions are, "Got grasshoppers?" "Got ticks?".  Well if so, you need to get guineas. Our Northern neighbors have more concerns about ticks and Lyme's disease and they get guineas. No matter why you get them they are a true adventure in raising fowl. 

The history of guinea fowl is a good way to start the adventure.

"Guinea fowl have been kept in captivity and used by man for thousands of years. Guinea fowl figures were inscribed on the temples and buildings of the ancient Egyptians as far back as 2400 B.C. By 1500 B.C. the Egyptians had incubators capable of holding tens of thousands of eggs and could claim hatch rates up to 70%. The Greeks were keeping domesticated varieties by 400 B.C. and both the meat and eggs were  considered delicacies by the ancient Romans.

There is a considerable period where guineas are absent from historical records in Northern Europe, but Portuguese traders reintroduced them during the 14th and 15th centuries. There was confusion as to their original source and records show that some people thought the turkey and guinea fowl were related species, thus the odd relation between their scientific names "Numida Meleagris" for guinea fowl and "Meleagris gallopavo" for turkeys.

Because of their abundance in the wild in Africa, there was no need to produce domestic flocks. Wild birds could be hunted as needed or could be captured and caged. Eggs could be gathered by raiding nests during the laying season. The only domesticated birds were imports belonging to white settlers.

Guineas were brought to the New World a mere 16 years after Christopher Columbus made his first landing. Birds were stocked from Spanish ships bringing African slaves to the islands of the Caribbean. The birds adapted so fast and were so well established that they were thought by many to be indigenous.

Early colonists brought guineas to North America and they were introduced to China in the late 1600's. They were eagerly accepted by the Chinese and were so successful that in India guineas are still known as Chinese Fowl.

They were always quite popular as a general purpose farm bird, but interest started dropping during the eary part of the 1900's. This was due mainly to the drop in the number of small farms and the focus on increasing chicken and turkey production.

A lot of work was done by the Italians in the 1920's and 30's to improve the breeding stock for guinea fowl. The resulting offspring from crosses between three subspecies of guinea fowl formed the foundation breeding stock for today's commercial European commercial flocks.

Up until 1939, the only colors of domestic guineas in the United States were pearl gray, white, lavender and pied variations of pearl and lavender. The white variation is thought to have been developed in Africa or on Madascar before being exported. The lavender variation developed around 1900, possibly from repeated crossings of pearl and white.

In 1939, the Italians brought seven new color variations to the United States for exhibition at the 1939 World Poultry Congress and Exposition in Cleveland, Ohio. The colors exhibited were Lilla (lavender), Fulvette (buff), Bluette (coral blue), Bianca (white), Azzurre (azure), Violette (Royal Purple), and pearl grey. These birds remained in the U.S. and provided the genetic diversity for the many colors seen today.

A long time breeder, Mr. Larry Greenwood of Parrish, Florida, obtained some of his first guineas from these Italian birds. He later worked with Harry Brown during the development of the coral blue, buff, and buff dundotte colors Mr. Brown was noted for.

Later colors were developed with the largest increase coming in the past 15 years. While variations have been developed by individual breeders throughout the country, much credit has  to be given to individuals such as Mr. Ralph Winter of New Vienna, Iowa for preserving and improving the colors available. Mr. Winter is the owner of the largest fancy color guinea hatchery in the United States and probably the world."

 

Need more information? How about caring for guineas?  How about caring for keets?Maybe you would like help with identifying colors. Visit Chic'n Chatter Message board for fast help with these and any other questions. We will be adding links to these subjects but we are ....... 

Guinea Fowl Color Charts

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