Cassowaries & other Rare Exotics

               Keeping and Breeding Exotic Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl are a barn yard favorite among many people for their comical personalities, their watch dog qualities, and pest control. The domesticated Guinea's that we all know and love are a member of a large family, and in fact are a member of a Genus called "Numida" or Helmeted Guinea Fowl. They derived from 5 subspecies of wild Helmeted Guinea's, which most all of them have blue heads. Im not sure why the blue disappeared in our domestic Guinea's. The next genus is called "Agelastes", which consists of the White Breasted Guinea Fowl, and the Black Guinea Fowl. Neither of these are kept in captivity. Another genus: "Guttera", are the Crested Guinea Fowl. The Kenya, Edwards, and Plumed Guinea's make up this Genus, with a subspecies or two included as well. The Plumed is very poorly known, and none are in captivity. The last Genus is "Acryllium", which only has the Vulturine Guinea Fowl, the most striking of all the Guinea's. There are only 5 of these species of exotic Guinea Fowl kept and bred in captivity here in the US. However, they are all very rare, some more than others. They are all rapidly declining in captivity due to lack of interest, and breeding. New blood lines are critical to keep the future generations going in the United States. Given this, I have become more interested in promoting and breeding these exotic species. I have kept all 4 species at one point. The key to successful breeding of the exotic species are large pens, and plenty of brush, bushes, or cover to hide and nest in. Domesticated Guineas do quite well in smaller enclosures, because it has simply been bred into their nature over the generations. The wild/exotic species do not like confinement. Most pens I keep my Guinea Fowl in are 25 foot by 50 foot per pair or trio. These exotic Guinea's all need shelter of some sort through winter months. They require good high protein feed. Don't expect as many eggs as you would get with the domesticated breeding machines that can lay 20+ eggs per hen in a season. The exotic species will do well to lay 10 per hen, if not less. The species varies greatly. More information for each species is listed below. For anyone keeping or breeding any of these species, I would love to get an email from you, and establish a breeding relationship, or trade birds for new bloodlines.

                        Vulturine (Acryllium vulturinum)

These are considered by many to be the most beautiful of the exotic kept Guinea Fowl. They are one of the rarest kept exotic birds in captivity throughout the world, and one of most difficult to care for. This particular species is the least hardy of any Guinea Fowl, and one of the most difficult exotic birds to keep in captivity. They are extremely intolerant of cold weather, and must be kept in winter proof enclosures with heat above 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. They also easily develop respiratory and sinus infections in cold and wet weather. The most common problem is frost bite to the toes and feet. If the temperatures get much less than 50 degrees, the toes will lose circulation and fall off, and the rest of the feet will be next causing the bird to become worthless and have to be put down. So if you are planning on keeping this species, make sure you have adequate winter proof housing for them. The other thing in keeping this species is dry ground. They are desert birds, and do not like wet ground, or standing water. Large enough pens that drain well will work fine. Otherwise, at least 4 inches of course sand or rock should be covered over the bottom of their pens to walk on. They like lots of brush, or thick bushes to get into for nesting, and 2 or 3 hens for one male is a good match. Usually males will fight one another like all Guinea Fowl. Laying varies, it can begin as early as April, or as late as September. Incubating takes 28-29 days, and 50% humidity. Chicks are usually strong, and begin eating well. Just keep them warm, and very dry.

              Reichenow's Helmeted (Numida Reichenowi)

  Reichenow's Guinea Fowl These are the Jungle Fowl of domesticated Guineas. All domestics with the large goofy facial wattles, and white heads came from various wild Helmeted species of Guinea Fowl. There are several subspecies of Helmeted Guinea Fowl in the wild, but Reichenow's are the most common in captivity, and probably the most impressive of the Helmeted. If there are any subspecies besides this one in the US, I am unaware of them. These are hard to find in captivity, and rarely seen for sale. They are the strongest of the exotic Guinea's and seldom get sick. They also tolerate cold fairly well. I keep shelter for them to get into for extreme weather, but I have never had to heat them through the winter. They are not very vocal at all like domesticated Guineas, but they do make the exact same sounds, you will just seldom hear them. Sexing is easily identified by their sounds. The hens still make the common sound that domestics make. Also, males have a much larger helmet, are a bit larger, and have a brighter blue head and neck. Females tend to be duller in appearance, with alot of dark fuzz on their necks. Males also stand on their tip toes and prance around like all male Guineas. These are a particulary aggressive species and usually males cannot be kept together. They will also attack other species of birds.  Below is all the subspecies of Helmeted Guineas in Africa.

                   Crested (Guttera Pucherani Pucherani)

                      

These are extremely hard to find, and are nearly gone in the US. This species is more of a sub-tropical bird. Therefore, they love a lot of plants and bushes in their pens. They are hardier birds than the Vulturines, and I never have to use heat for them much in the winter here, which rarely gets below 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night. However, on extra cold days I will hang heat lamps over top of their perches inside their shelter, and they will get under the lights gladly. They at least need wind proof shelter, with 4 walls, and a small opening to go in and out of, and wooden perches. Metal perches absorb cold air much more, and could run a risk of freezing their feet. I would not allow them to walk in snow or ice, or even go out on extra cold or rainy winter days. If a day like this occurs, lock them inside. This species isn't very hardy to sickness. These along with the Vulturines and Edwards are especially prone to Coccidiosis, and great care should be taken to keep unknown birds away from them. If a new bird is obtained, I would quarantine it and treat it with a Coccidia medication for the number of days recommended before putting with the other birds. There are several strains of coccidiosis, and when a bird becomes immune to one, it can still catch another strain. Weakness, hunched posture, runny droppings, and weight loss are all signs that they have this. These are one of the tamest Guinea Fowl, and least aggressive.

          Edwards Crested (Guttera Pucherani Eduoardia)

               

This species is a personal favorite of mine. They are non-existent in European captivity to my knowledge, and are probably less than 30 left in the US. In my experiences, these are the tamest of all Guinea's, and will get tame enough to even fly on one's shoulder or arm. Other names for this species are Zambezi, and Mozambique Crested Guinea's. They are more of a dry forest species, and like Vulturines, they can't tolerate a lot of wet mushy ground, or standing water because of the risk of bacterial or respiratory infection. I wouldn't recommend keeping any birds in enclosures like this because water is a breeding zone for bacteria.

   Plumed Guinea Fowl (Guttera Pucherani Plumifera)

Unfortunately, this species is not in captivity to date. It is my favorite of the Guinea Fowl, and is the 4th known species of the Crested Guinea Fowl family. The picture below is the only good one I have been able to get of them. This species is purely a tropical forest bird. There are two of this species, one supposedly has orange wattles.                                                                                                                                                

               Black Guinea Fowl (Agelastes Niger)

This is another very elusive and rarely seen species that lives in the forest. They resemble a Turkey more than a Guinea. None are known in captivity.

                        

   White Breasted Guinea Fowl (Agelastes Meleagrides)

This is the last species of Guinea Fowl, not kept in captivity. I knew of only a few imported into captivity years ago, and they were eventually sold off due to family problems. They ended up dying off, and no more have ever been imported to my knowledge.                                

                                                 

I currently only breed Reichenow's Helmeted Guinea Fowl, and Kenya Crested Guinea Fowl. I do not sell eggs, and I do not know of any breeders that sell eggs from any species of exotic Guinea Fowl. These species sell between $500-$2000 a pair, and given the rarity and cost, it is not profitable to sell eggs.