In the wild, guinea fowl mate in pairs. This tendency also exists among domesticated guineas if there are equal numbers of males and females. As the breeding season approaches, pairs of guineas will wander off in search of hidden nesting sites. It is not necessary, however, to have equal numbers of females and males to obtain fertile eggs. For most flocks, one male is usually kept for every four to five females. When guineas are kept in close confinement, one male may be mated with six to eight females.
Guineas usually start laying in March or April and may continue to lay until October. A hen from a carefully managed flock may lay 100 or more eggs a year. Breeders generally produce well for two or three years. They can be kept four to five years in small farm flocks. In such flocks, hens usually layabout 30 eggs and then go broody.
The incubation period for guinea eggs is 26 to 28 days, similar to the incubation period for turkeys. If available, broody chickens can be used to hatch guinea eggs. Typical bantam chicken hens can sit on12 to 15 guinea eggs, while a large chicken hen can sit on 20 to 28 guinea eggs. Guinea hens do not always make good mothers. Chicken hens tend to be much better mothers, and a large chicken can brood up to 25 guinea keets.
When allowed to incubate eggs naturally, guinea hens normally do not go broody until the nest has around 30 eggs. A healthy guinea hen will lay an egg a day. If the eggs are removed from the nest, she will most likely make a nest somewhere else. If all but four or five eggs (marked for identification) are removed, she may return to the same nest and continue laying. Eggs from confined guineas, however, can be collected daily with no problems—you do not have to worry about going on a scavenger hurt every day in search of new nest sites.
Guinea eggs are smaller and have thicker shells than chicken eggs. As a result, it is difficult to candle the eggs until 10 days of incubation. Otherwise, incubating guinea eggs is similar to incubating chicken eggs.
One of the most frequent questions about poultry of any species is how to tell males from females. It is very difficult to sex young guineas (those 12 to 52 weeks of age) because pullets (young females)and cockerels (young males) look exactly the same. When the guineas are older, there are two ways to tell them apart:
Listen to the sounds they make. The hen makes a two-syllable noise that sounds like she is saying "buckwheat, buckwheat," "put-rock, put-rock," or "qua-track, qua-track." These are the only sounds that the hen makes that the guinea cock (male at least one year old) does not. When excited, both the hens and cocks emit one-syllable cries, but the cock does not emit sounds similar to the two-syllable noise of the hens. (The young keets start making one syllable cries at six to eight weeks, but some females do not start calling until much later.)
Look at the size of the helmet and wattles. The helmet is the protuberance on the top of the head of a guinea fowl. The wattles are fleshy appendages that hang from the sides of the head. The helmet and wattles of the male are much larger than those of the female.