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Other name(s): Crested Guineafowl
Scientific name: Guttera pucherani
Country / Place of origin: Africa
History: There are five subspecies of the highly successful Crested Guinea Fowl distributed across much of the wetter parts of the African continent. However, these striking birds are not seen as frequently in aviculture as the Helmeted and Vulturine Guinea Fowl, and since their care is similar to the Vulturine's, it might be advisable to get experience with the more available species first. One subspecies, Kenya Crested Guinea Fowl (G. p. pucherani), may eventually be accepted as a separate species. If so, this form will take the name G. pucherani, and the other four subspecies will probably be renamed Guttera edouardi. It's currently believed that most Cresteds in aviculture in the United States are in fact the Kenya Crested species or subspecies. A few G. p. edouardi, Edward's Crested Guinea Fowl, may remain in the U.S., but they are reportedly close to vanishing. If you obtain any of these rare birds, you are taking on a responsibility to help them recover for the enjoyment of future generations.
Current Uses: Ornamental
Appearance: The elegant body feathers of the Crested Guinea Fowl feature pale (white or very light baby blue) pin dots on a rich black background. All subspecies possess a curly black crest, but there are sufficient differences in the face and neck among the five subspecies that you should be able to correctly identify and pair your birds. For instance, the Kenya Crested Guinea Fowl has a blue nape and a mostly red face. The South African subspecies, Edwards Crested Guinea Fowl, (G. p. edouardi), has a white nape, gray face, and scarlet eyes. The sexes are much alike.
Average weight: 3.5 - 4 lbs.
Lifespan: 10 - 15 years
Grooming: As a dust bather, Crested Guinea Fowl should have access to clean sand for bathing. Some breeders add food-grade diatomaceous earth to the sandbox.
Diet: Crested Guinea Fowl may be considered omnivorous birds who aren't afraid to eat almost anything that doesn't run away fast enough, be it seeds, insects, ticks, small frogs, snakes, lizards, and even rodents. However, they have a huge appetite for insects and similar “bugs” like ticks, which is one reason they are so highly regarded on lawns, in gardens, and around the farmyard. Obviously, for many people, these birds prove most useful (and most beautiful) when allowed to free range around the property for their own food. However, be prepared to supplement the diet with a high quality game bird or laying crumble, as well as plenty of greens and grains. Adult females generally require a calcium supplement. Clean water should always be available, and it's worth noting that wild Cresteds prefer a much wetter habitat than Vulturine's, so you might expect them to drink more water.
Housing: Because of their exotic appearance, Crested Guinea Fowl have been kept in pairs in large well-planted mixed species aviaries as well as free-ranging on estates. Aviaries should have plenty of cover, to protect the female from her mate when he's feeling too aggressive. Train free-ranging birds to return to a secure roost or enclosure at night, so that they won't be a victim of night-time predators. It is important to start from an early age, so that the birds will follow you pretty much without question. Experts suggest having a light on a timer in the coop that goes on automatically before sunset, since guineas are chary of entering a dark place. And, considering their rarity in aviculture, you may want to think twice before you free-range them at all. They are from a hot climate, so you need to be able to provide heat to the shelter when the temperature falls below 45 degrees F.
Health issues: Crested Guinea Fowl, like any other poultry that ranges over the ground, may be susceptible to worm infections. A good veterinarian is your best advisor at how to de-worm your birds. Coccidiosis should be battled by providing a scrupulously clean coop and probably also by consulting with your avian veterinarian about preventive treatments. Be aware that these insect-eaters have a very high need for protein. If you are raising the youngsters, known as keets, you must be careful to supply crumbles with the right amount of protein to prevent sudden death. Some breeders advise providing live mealworms.
Behavior / Temperament / Activity level: There are mixed reports on the personality of the Crested Guinea Fowl. They are monogamous birds with a strong pair bond, and the male can be very solicitous of his mate and chicks. They have also been sometimes kept successfully in large, mixed-species aviaries with unrelated ornamental birds like the pheasants, although you must avoid housing them with other Guinea species or subspecies because they don't know better than to hybridize. Despite such successes, they may be capable of aggression toward perceived rivals or even their human keepers. One breeder said that they required the use of protective clothing, because the males attacked him so often. Another breeder has countered that his birds are indeed bold, but their confident nature simply made them easier to tame. It's worth bearing in mind that the Crested Guinea Fowl is likely to be happier in a large pen with plenty of cover than in a small pen where the birds may fear being trapped.Written by Elaine Radford