How can I tell the difference between male and female guinea fowl?

Written by sarah mcleod
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How can I tell the difference between male and female guinea fowl?
Guinea fowl protect farms from pests like rodents and snakes. (Getty creative)

Guinea fowl are native to Africa, but have been domesticated and introduced into countries around the world. While some guinea fowl are raised for meat and eggs, many are domesticated and serve the same purpose as watch dogs. Guinea fowl provide the benefits of rodent and reptile control and tick elimination. The birds are also kept as pets for human amusement. Socially similar to humans, guinea fowl are monogamous. Guinea hens choose their male partners and the two pair for life.

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Call

Although barely distinguishable, male guinea fowl calls are uni-syllabic utterances that sound like "wheat-wheat-wheat" or "chit-chit-chit." Female guinea fowl calls are multi-syllabic and have been likened to "buck-wheat-buck-wheat-buck-wheat," "qua-track-qua-track-qua-track" or "put-rock-put-rock-put-rock." Each bird utters these calls in fast, staccato-like successions. Both sexes start calling at around six to eight weeks of age but hens may take longer to begin calling.

Head

Both guinea fowl sexes have short, broad heads. The helmet on the head, a short, bony protrusion at the top of the head is a way to distinguish the sexes. All guinea fowls have helmets except for the Vulturine guinea fowl of east Africa. The helmet on the male bird is triangular-shaped and more elongated and broader at the base than that of the hen. Instead of a triangular helmet, however, hens' helmets have a pointed crowns on top referred to as casques, top knots or combs. Male guinea fowl helmets are always larger than those of female guinea fowls.

Nostrils

Nostrils of the guinea fowl sit on opposite sides of the beaks. Nostrils are wide open and prominent on both sexes. Trained eyes, however, can use the size of the nostrils to detect gender, as the female's nostrils are less prominent than the male's.

Wattles

Wattles are flashy flaps of skin that hang below the beaks of both sexes of the guinea fowl. Both wattles are stiff, wide and free of wrinkles. Male fowl wattles are more rounded, whereas the wattles of hens are flat. Another way farmers use wattles to distinguish the sexes is they try to either tuck the wattle under or cup it in their hands. Male guinea fowl wattles may be cupped or placed at a 90 degree angle to the side of the head. Guinea hens may be either cupped or tucked. Tucked wattles are laid flat against the side of the bird's throat.

Carriage

Male guinea fowls have an unmistakable upright stance or carriage when walking. Female guinea fowls have a less upright carriage. The crouched posture of the female guinea fowl places their bodies closer to the ground.

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