Why are my baby guinea fowl dying? Here are some things to double check...
Dying keets are likely from issues with three main things: heat, food, and water. Let's examine the proper application of these three things...
Feeding Amounts: Keets need to be fed free choice, meaning they should have a food supply 24/7. If you’re giving them limited feed at two or three different intervals through the day, simply switch to free choice feeding.
Feeding Method: The best method of feeding keets is to spread paper towels on a cake pan or cookie sheet and then sprinkle their feed on top of that. Guineas have a hunt and peck instinct and this is their instinctive way of searching for food. They do not always find food in bowls or feed trays so if you’re not using the cookie sheet method, switch to that method now.
Protein content: To grow keets as fast as possible you should use a starter feed with a protein content of at least 22% or higher. It’s OK to use lower protein feed, your keets simply won’t grow as fast. It’s important to remember to switch to a lower protein content (around 18%) when your keets are two or three weeks old. If you don’t, your guineas may experience heart attacks (they will be fine one day and suddenly dead the next). See our full feeding schedule by clicking here.
Medicated or non-medicated? We prefer non-medicated but I personally know some hatchery owners who use medicated feed to start their keets so it doesn’t matter which you’re using.
Availability: Free choice 24/7. Fresh water is very important to keets. Watch the keets and make sure they are actually drinking the water. Take a keet and gently dip it’s beak into the water. Repeat this for all the keets, several times if need be so they know where the water is (which will be indicated when they run to the water supply and drink voluntarily).
Electrolytes: It’s very important that you don’t overuse electrolytes. Say-A-Chik electrolytes require one packet per gallon. Most waterers that people will use for 15 keets take a quart of water. It’s tempting but don’t put the whole pack of electrolyte into one quart of water! Electrolytes contain salt and too much salt will short circuit the keet’s nervous system and will likely cause seizures and death. If you are using electrolytes and you’re not sure how much you put into their water, dump the water and start with fresh, lukewarm water that has no additives.
Temperature: Keep the water lukewarm. Cold water will lower the keet’s body temperature and can cause them to get too cold. Once your guineas are several weeks old, water temperature isn’t critical anymore.
Keets must be kept the proper temperature (and they are picky about this!) I don’t accept people saying “I put my hand in there and it’s warm.” You need to know the exact temperature. Put a thermometer on the floor of the brooder under the heat lamp.
First week: 90-95 degrees
Second week: 5 degrees less than the week before
Third week: 5 degrees less than the week before
Repeat this pattern until they are fully feathered or until the brooder temperature reaches the outside temperature.
When removing the heat source, keep an eye on the keets. If they huddle together (indicating they are cold) turn the heat source back on for a few more days until they no longer act cold without it.
Spraddled Legs? Make sure your bedding isn't smooth. For example, plain cardboard is too smooth for keets. Their leg muscles aren't developed and so it will stress their legs out giving them sprawled legs. Use pine shavings or straw chopped rough (not chopped too fine or they may get some stuck in their crops since they have a strong pecking instinct).
Splinting spraddled legs for a week in a straight position may help correct the condition. Culling may also be necessary. Or, some customers simply name that bird "Hoppy" in honor of it's gimpy foot.
2-3 Week Old Keets Dying Suddenly? Check the protein content of your feed. If your feed has a content higher than 19% and your weeks are 2-3 weeks old, switch to a lower protein feed, such as 18% chicken starter. They may be growing too fast and having heart attacks. It's safer to feed your keets less protein and have them grow slower than it is to feed them a lot of protein and grow them too fast.
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