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(guinea fowl), a family of birds of the order Galliformes. The body length is 30–75 cm. The body is compact, and the legs are strong. The head and a part of the neck are bare. The plumage is black or gray with light speckles or stripes. There are four genera, embracing seven species. Numididae inhabit Africa southward from the Sahara and the island of Madagascar; they have apparently been imported to the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Comoro Islands. The birds inhabit savannas, bushy thickets, and forests. Flocking birds, they keep to the ground except to roost at night in trees. There are seven to 20 eggs in a clutch. The birds eat seeds, shoots, bulbs, and insects and other invertebrates. They are hunted.
The domestic guinea fowl is descended from the helmeted guinea fowl (Numida melagris), which inhabits West Africa and was first domesticated in ancient Greece and Rome. It has a long, oval, horizontal body; the males are slightly upright. The almost naked head bears a leathery crest with a bony base (more developed in males) and white-red wattles. Over the somewhat hooked bill is a violet membranous vocal sac. The wings are rounded, and the tail is short and drooping. The gray or pink metatarsuses are long and have no spurs. The plumage is gray, light blue, and white, with shiny white spots that stand out even in white individuals. Young birds usually are covered with cinnamon-brown down; the coloration of the down is lightest on the abdomen. Guinea fowl can fly and run rapidly; they are timid and do not get along well with other birds. Adults tolerate cold very well and are not fastidious as to living conditions; the young do not tolerate dampness or drafts well.
Guinea fowl are raised for their meat. Sexual maturity is attained at six to eight months. The birds are used for breeding for two or three years. A breeding flock has one male for every four to six females. Adult males weigh about 2 kg, and adult females 1.8 kg. Broilers at 70 to 75 days weigh about 1 kg. The flesh of young guinea fowl is tender and gamy. The annual egg yield is 70 to 120. The light-brown eggs are pear-shaped, with a tough, thick shell. They weigh 42–45 g; their yolk has a high carotenoid content. The eggs can be stored for a long time without losing nutritional value. The incubation period is 28 days.
Adult guinea fowl are kept in poultry houses on a deep bedding with limited ranging in the winter or in sheds with green ranging in the summer. Laying hens may also be kept in cages. Broilers can be raised in poultry houses on the floor or in cages. The birds are fed three or four times daily. Rations include mixed feed and, to a lesser extent, green fodders, grass meal, minerals, proteins, and other supplements. The diet of laying hens must contain 16–18 percent crude protein and 3,000 kilocalories/kg of metabolizable energy; broiler rations, from the 45th day until the end of fattening, must contain 20 percent crude protein and 3,050 kilocalories/kg of metabolizable energy. Guinea fowl are more resistant to infectious and invasive diseases than other agricultural birds. The most dangerous diseases are trichomoniasis, plague, and heterakidiasis.
The leading guinea fowl farm in the USSR is the Tonguchinsk farm in Novosibirsk Oblast. Guinea fowl are also raised at the Prokhladnoe poultry sovkhoz in Kabarda-Balkar ASSR, the Priirtyshskii poultry sovkhoz in Omsk Oblast, and the Kargatskii poultry sovkhoz in Novosibirsk Oblast. The birds are also raised at the poultry farms of the Siberian Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture in the city of Omsk and at the Tuimazinsk farm in the Bashkir ASSR.
Guinea fowl are raised commercially in France, Hungary, Italy, Great Britain, the USA, and Australia. In many countries amateurs raise the birds in large numbers. Guinea fowl have been crossbred with chickens, pheasants, and turkeys; all hybrids are infertile.
REFERENCEVeitsman, L. N. Tsesarki. Moscow, 1970.
L. N. VEITSMAN