By Cliff Chiduku
In a bid to commercialize rural poultry production, provide households with a rich protein source and improve livelihoods, the government last year embarked on the Presidential Rural Poultry Scheme.
The scheme is showing economic and social potency along the value chain as some villagers have started heaping praises on the Second Republic led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as they are now reaping profits from selling eggs, meat and chicks from the programme. Be that as it may, villagers can also diversify their incomes by venturing into guinea farming.
Guinea fowls, also referred to as guineas, are domesticated birds that can be raised on farms. Since they are inhabitants of Africa, they are increasingly becoming popular among keepers of small and backyard flocks in Zimbabwe. These birds are known to have their own peculiarities and differ from chickens in so many ways.
The three common varieties of guinea fowl are pearl, white and lavender. The pearl variety is the most popular and usually the one that most people recognize in Zimbabwe. Feathers from the pearl variety are used for ornamental purposes.
Raising guinea fowls in the backyard in urban areas can be a great way of ensuring constant supply of eggs and meat. Commercial guinea fowl production is quite profitable and can be a good source of employment for youths and women. The infrastructure that is required in starting guinea fowl business is almost similar to that of other birds. Just like chickens, it is advisable to provide a shelter to guinea fowls to protect them from weather-related vagaries and predators.
Although guinea fowls are often left to fend for themselves, it is encouraged to provide them with a shelter to protect them from high winds, rain, cold, sun, and predators. This shelter can either be a purpose-built facility or a room allocated in the barn. If the farmer is keeping the guineas for commercial purposes (as you might wish to do for meat and/or egg production for sale), it is crucial to allocate the birds plenty of room. The more room the guineas have, the less likely they are to become stressed. The floor of the pen should be covered with an absorbent bedding material such as wood shavings or chopped hay or straw. If the litter is kept dry, it can stay in place for several months. Keep guinea fowls in covered pens to keep them wandering in a specific area. Guineas prefer to roost, so it is advisable to provide them with perches.
Farmers should never confine male guinea fowls with chickens particularly if there are roosters in the same flock. The guinea fowls will chase the roosters and keep them away from food and water.
If you are raising guinea fowl to control ticks and insects, you are better off purchasing adult guineas because they are easier to care for than young guineas and do well on their own. It takes guineas a while to get settled into a new home. For adult guineas, it is easy to keep them confined for a week or two to let them become accustomed to their new home.
Guineas should be confined in a pen where they can see through the area they are living. After an initial couple of weeks, let one guinea out. Guineas hate to be alone, so the single guinea will not go far and will learn its way around the area. After a few days, let a second guinea out to run with the first. If they stay near the pen, it is usually safe to let the rest out.
It is safe to keep guinea fowls and roosters in the same barn for the flock that is free range during the day and is locked up only at night. Guinea hens should be confined to the house until noon every day so that they can lay eggs inside.
Farmers can choose to buy either chicks or adult birds, but purchasing chicks would be ideal because they are very easy to tame. Guinea fowls generally love to roam freely and forage for themselves.
Guineas normally start laying eggs in March up to October if they are properly managed. A hen from a carefully managed flock may lay 100 or more eggs annually. Breeders generally produce well for two or three years. The incubation period for guinea eggs is 28 days, similar to that of turkeys. If available, broody chickens can be used to hatch guinea eggs. Guinea hens do not always make good mothers so chicken hens tend to be much better mothers, and a chicken can brood up to 25 guinea keets.
Guinea fowl meat is known for its richness in fatty acids and is low in calories. It is also a rich source of vitamins, minerals, calcium, magnesium and iron. The meat is appetizing and full of flavour; it can be prepared easily in different ways – grilled, roasted or even pan-fried. Even the eggs are very tasty and consist of vitamins that are essential for good health. The meat can be cooked along with vegetables and mushrooms.
Feeding and care
If birds are confined to a pen where they not allowed to forage, they can be fed with commercial poultry feed. Providing supplemental grains will be good for them. Even though guineas are vigorous, hardy, and largely disease-free birds, always provide them sufficient clean water.
Since guineas can thrive well in drought-prone regions which is the case with most areas in Zimbabwe, it is agribusiness which is worth pursuing. There is no doubt that guinea farming can be a source of livelihood and can be crucial in pursuit of food and nutrition security as espoused in National Development Strategy 1.
Word from the market is a column produced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to promote market driven production. Feedback email@example.com or WhatsApp +263781706212.