What is a Guinea Fowl?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Guinea fowl are medium sized birds native to Africa in the Numididae family, strongly resembling partridges and existing in both wild and domesticated forms. Like other types of poultry, they are kept both for their eggs and flesh around the world, and live birds are available from poultry supply companies that specialize in exotic and unusual birds. Guinea fowl can also be found in a much less active form at the butcher's, and are available fresh and frozen.

Guinea fowl are birds native to Africa.
Guinea fowl are birds native to Africa.

Some people compare guinea fowl to army helmets, and they do have a rather rotund shape, marked at the top of the head with a distinctive crest of feathers, or, in the case of the helmeted guinea fowl, a fleshy comb like in chickens. The birds come in gray, white, and bluish tones, many of which are spangled with spots in contrasting colors. Their heads are usually bald, and the birds are somewhat peculiar looking, as a result.

In addition to providing a food source, these birds are also excellent watch birds. They are highly vocal avians, with both male and females frequently calling out through the day. The naturally curious birds will also comment on any visitors, alerting homeowners to potential guests or intruders. Guinea fowl are also voracious insect eaters, and are used on the farm and around the garden for pest control. Unlike some other pheasant-like birds, guinea fowl are not very destructive to gardens, and they can be safely allowed to wander as long as they have plentiful food supplies.

A young guinea fowl is called a keet. Female birds are responsible for raising the keets, although the birds do form monogamous relationships, and the males sometimes assist with caring for the chicks. Males and females are very similar in appearance, although males tend to be slightly larger, with bigger crests and combs. The birds spend most of their lives on the ground, foraging for food and nesting, and they are omnivorous, although they consume a large amount of insects.

As a meat animal, guinea fowl produce primarily dark meat, which can dry out if it is not cooked properly. When cooking the birds, they should be well basted to prevent the meat from drying out, and you may want to consider serving them with a dipping sauce to moisturize the meat. The birds are often served whole, as there is not a substantial amount of meat on the birds after plucking.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


My neighbor two houses down the road from me has a flock of guinea fowl. They are a big traffic nuisance. They have no concept of the danger of the road, and the whole flock will suddenly strut across in front of my car. I have had to slam on my brakes several times to avoid hitting them.

This is probably the only issue I have with people letting guinea fowl roam free around their yards. The noises they make do not bother me, and I wouldn’t even mind if they wandered into my yard to chew on some insects. I just hate having to watch so closely for them whenever I drive past his house.


My grandfather always kept guinea fowl around his farm. They were constantly pecking away at bugs. I remember being on the farm and never having much trouble with stings and bites from insects. I noticed a big difference in the bug population between his house and mine.

The birds always looked so funny, strutting forward with their necks outstretched and their beaks to the ground. They could move pretty quickly, too, and they seemed to travel as one unit, as though they were connected by an invisible rope.

Their feathers had that distinctive tiny gray and white dot pattern. It looked exactly like a dress my grandmother often wore to church. In fact, I believe that she got the idea for the dress from looking at the guinea feathers.


I can’t imagine killing and eating something that you have kept around your yard that will warn you of intruders and help you out by eating insects! It sounds like a guinea makes itself into a pet, whether the owner intends it or not.

I could really use some guineas in my garden. Some kinds of bugs are eating holes in the leaves of my flowers, and I am thinking that guineas could help me out.

It would also be nice to have warning if someone is in the driveway. My friends often pop by unannounced, and guineas could give me enough notice to throw my hair in a ponytail or change out of pajamas quickly.

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