I was asked a week or so ago about Guinea Fowl and I had to admit I had never kept them and only ever judged one bird in a show and a wild thing it was too!
These birds are a breed recognised in the Australian Standard and you can find pieces on them in all the old poultry books.
I have never been inclined to keep them as my grandfather warned me they were extremely noisy and tended to go high on the roof.
He had solved his guinea fowl problem with a shotgun, a solution not available these days.
They were always kept on farms in the early days as a warning against predators, being a fantastic early warning system.
Originating in Africa, the breed has been used in captivity for both eggs and meat for centuries.
It is said that the Romans brought the bird to England and from there to the Americas where it was quite common as a farm bird.
They are kept in pairs being a monogamous bird and are said to be good mothers.
Collecting the eggs can be problematic as they tend to lay a long way from home in the most inaccessible spots.
They also tend to keep away from home when roosting, usually picking the tallest tree where they keep an eye out.
They make a lot of noise when disturbed and for many too early in the morning.
Some enquiries have indicated that they are a joy to those that love them but even they recommend a large space and better still a woody area where they can roost and forage away from the main house.
They can be penned and will breed better this way, even to the extent of hatching eggs under a less flighty hen such as a Wyandotte or Silkie cross.
The breast meat of the bird is still favoured by those 'in the know' and they add a gamier flavour to the usual poultry meat.
In Australia, the Standard lists four colours - the pearl, the lavender, the pied and a white.
The pearl is the most common colour.
Birds are readily available over most of Australia and you should have no trouble in getting some but you need to have a fair amount of land and a willingness to tolerate their foibles.
As I stated before, they are an acquired taste but those that love them defend them heartily. Anyway they might be worth a try if you're after something very attractive, hardy when adult and unusual for your farm.
- Bruce Pattinson is a past president of the NSW Exhibition Poultry Association. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to: Chook Feed, PO Box 25, Kogarah, 2217, with your name and daytime contact number.