What are guinea keets?
While a baby chicken is known as a chick, the term ‘keet‘ is the unique name given to the baby guinea fowl. Keets are so named until they are 12 weeks old. From 12 weeks to 52, they are known as ‘Young Guineas’.
Beyond this, the sexes are then differentiated when at less than a year the female is known as a ‘Pullet‘ and the male as a ‘Cockerel‘. Over a year old, adult guinea fowls are known as the guinea cock and guinea hen, respectively.
With optimal temperature, humidity, and a healthy growing embryo, keets should start to hatch between 26 and 28 days, averaging on day 27. Don’t be surprised if you’re waiting more than 30 days for some eggs to hatch. It occurs and therefore you should not be in a rush to discard eggs that have not hatched after 28 days.
By day 25, the keet is in the hatching position, usually opposite the pointed end. The first thing the baby keet does is perforate the air sac, which, filled with oxygen, stimulates the lungs to start working.
The keet immediately begins to create its first air hole through the egg. The next 48 hours will be the toughest in the life of young birds up to that point.
With the egg tooth, which is the tooth-like protrusion at the top of the keet’s beak, the keets will start to ‘pipping’, that is, chipping the shell to break out.
You don’t need to be unduly concerned if some keets seem to break out in a couple of hours and others take much longer. Each keet will take as long as it needs. In some cases, this can take up to 2 days to complete.
Problems with hatching keets
Weaker keets struggling to hatch should be helped if they seem to need your help. In many cases, a struggling keet may rest for a while, because it is exhausted, but it will continue.
The keets you help should be monitored as during the first few days, they may need special help and attention. These keets can prove to be strong and healthy if given the chance. I would never recommend leaving a struggling keet to die if you can help it. If he dies later, at least you did everything you could to help.
What is an expected hatch rate?
Commercial hatcheries claim that hatch rates are about 95%. These large companies run extremely precise systems, where everything is controlled from temperature and humidity to strict artificial insemination procedures. So don’t be surprised if you experience a hatching rate that is much lower.
What hatching rate can you expect?
You will have done extremely well if you have a 100% successful hatching rate. Most hatches have at least some partially developed or infertile embryos that die for any reason.
An average success rate will be between 50% and 75% and, of course, you will experience or hear fluctuations beyond those numbers.
Whichever incubation method was used (natural or artificial), keets will need some kind of brooding. Naturally, this is cared for by a broody hen. But if the eggs were hatched in an artificial incubator, you will need a brooder.
Once hatching has started, or if you are getting them from a hatchery, you need to prepare the brooder. In case you didn’t know, the brooder is where you transfer the newborn keets. In essence, the brooder provides a safe, warm and dry environment that allows them to live when they are at their most vulnerable.
The brooder must be set up in advance, which must have already been cleaned and disinfected. Ideally, the brooder should be running at optimum heat before introducing the keets.
Ideally, this should have been for approximately 24 hours. Unless a broody hen is used, a heat lamp is usually fitted as the keets will need to maintain a comfortable body temperature and will certainly not be allowed to chill.
On the 27th day of incubation or the day before the hatchery keets arrive, switch the brooder on so that it can warm it up. If the keets have started to hatch before day 27, then switch on as they begin to hatch.
Feeding The Keets
In the early days, young keets should be fed at least on paper or cardboard so that they can easily feed. After this, we recommend that you start using a suitable chick feed dispenser. Beyond this, as the keets mature, larger dispensers can be used such as hopper, cylindrical types similar to the ones they will use as adults.
How much food and water should you give the keets?
Keets should never have restricted availability or access to food since during the first weeks and months of their lives they are the most in need of high protein content and are growing at a rapid rate. The same goes for daily freshwater.
How often should keets be fed?
Again, it is advisable to feed the keets ad-lib, that is, as much available food as they can eat. If you prefer to feed them in small doses throughout the day, then that is your choice. However, be prepared to do this 6 to 8 times a day.
Introducing keets to food and water
Keets usually start feeding within 24 hours but don’t worry if you don’t see this right away as they can comfortably survive for 2 days. Within 48 hours of hatching, the keets will still be benefiting from the yolk that has fed them until then.
However, it is always a good idea when you first introduce them to the brooder to place the beaks of each keet in the food and water. They will probably find it for themselves anyway, but by doing this they will obviously realize it sooner.
Then you need to put them under the heat lamp and leave them there. If you decide to use a tray or paper for food, again only do it for the first day or so.
Keets will walk on food and possibly drop feces on it, which of course you should avoid. You certainly don’t want to give them water in a shallow try, for the same reasons, but there is also a risk that they will drown.
Drinking water for keets
Water is essential for guinea fowls of all ages, but special attention should be paid to keet. During the first few days, the keet is vulnerable to dehydration, mainly due to exposure to the heat lamp.
Water must be available at all times and preferably not cold. The ideal temperature should be around 20 ° C (68 ° F). Take no chances with the dispenser. The keet should be able to stick its beak into the drinking part, but it should not be able to get into itself as it could drown.
What foods should keets eat?
Chicken crumb or turkey starter should be given for the first 6 weeks, then turkey breeder from week 6 to week 14. From 14 weeks of age, the bird can be fed a turkey breeder or something similar.
Many keepers strongly recommend that the ideal is to initially feed them with medicated feed.
Medicated feeding is designed to give them the best start. The medicine in the feed acts as a preventive measure against certain diseases.
The chick feed or turkey starter is higher in protein than a more standard feed. The extra protein is vital as keets grow and develop at a rapid rate. Some of these chick starters are higher in protein than others and some breeders recommend the highest protein and insist that the chicks/keets are larger, stronger, and healthier as a result.
Also, this should be supplemented with soft vegetation such as chickweed or lettuce. Avoid hard vegetation like certain grasses. Keets are not yet able to deal with rough solid foods, which an adult would have no problem with and could lead to an affected crop.
Until you gain experience, it is probably best for keets growing from 0 to 12 weeks to use commercial feed mixes. These should contain the correct percentage of protein, carbohydrates, and all the vitamins and minerals the keet is likely to need. Only very experienced caregivers should substitute a custom-made mix.
Of course, as keets mature into adulthood, it is safe to substitute feed for corn and other grains under normal circumstances. Once the birds enter the breeding season, they will need a specific commercial mix to ensure they receive the correct nutrients.
Medicated feed for keets
As mentioned above, medicated feed is a recommended starter feed for chicks or keets. As a general rule, the ideal is to look for a medicated feed that at least combat coccidiosis.
Amprolium is one of those ingredients that you should be aware of. This is highly recommended in the early vulnerable stages of the life of the kees. You don’t need to feed them this forever, and you can usually stop after a few months.
Use medicated foods in moderation
Note that the purpose of any medicated feed is to stimulate the young keet/chick as it grows. Some breeders have been known to use this on more mature birds to keep them healthy. As you gradually wean the birds from the starter, you should have completed the changeover for at least 4 weeks before they are at the point of lay.
You certainly don’t want any medication to enter the food chain. If you were intending to eat the eggs, you may end up taking antibiotics and other medications, which is certainly not advisable.
What else should keets eat?
As mentioned above, at least in the middle of the second week of birth, you need to introduce the keets to the green vegetation. If you don’t have soft grass, chickweed, or the like available, then feed store-bought or your own lettuce.
Towards the end of the second week, you can test them on any available insects.
Grit for keets
It is also important at this stage to introduce them to the grit/oyster shell. You must have grit, which is suitable for keets. As with food, you may need to spread it on the floor at first. Then after a week or so you can have it available in hoppers.
You need to be specific when it comes to grit. Adult birds will need much larger grit particles and the larger particles will be too much for the young growing keets. So even if you have to go to the trouble of buying several different sizes, go for it.
One particular seed that guinea fowl love is white millet. This should not be confused with other types of millet, although they will eat other types. For some reason, they seem to like white millet a lot. Many caregivers advocate using this as the perfect training aid. However, you certainly don’t want to spoil them by giving them too much.
Caring For The Keets
Once the keets start to hatch, the first week will be crucial to their survival. Guinea fowls are hardy creatures and purists will insist that they survive in the wild without special treatment.
Why do some keets die?
In the first week, keets can die from dehydration, lack of food, excessive cold or heat, injury, drowning in a drinking container that they manage to get into.
Within the first week, you may experience one or two keets which unfortunately die. This could be nothing more than a congenital condition and you probably couldn’t have done much to prevent it.
As long as you have provided a clean and safe environment with food and water, you cannot do more. Keets develop rapidly and gain strength in a matter of days. You certainly need to keep them warm and dry at this stage, as they are still vulnerable to diseases like coccidiosis.
Make sure the keets stay warm and dry for at least the first 4 weeks. If they get wet or damp, they can soon chill and possibly die.
Watching the keets for signs of illnesses
Once the keets have passed the first 7 critical days, they will become stronger and more capable. If you see any signs of a keet with head drooping looking ill etc, you should isolate the keet in a hospital area. It can be an animal carrier or a box that you make yourself.
Obviously, the isolation area should be clean and sanitized. Have a heat source as well as clean shaving sand/sawdust. Of course, fresh water and food must be available.
Once the keet is isolated, it should not pose an additional risk to other birds. You should seek veterinary advice to establish what the bird may be suffering from. This should not be ignored as it could be something that potentially affects the entire flock.