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Guinea Hen for Dinner

By: Tommy B
I guess I will start this article with a “disclaimer” similar to what Everett did on one of his posts a few months back…

Disclaimer: This post contains words, information and pictures on killing and eating a live animal. I make no excuses nor do I feel guilty about my current omnivore diet. I have, in the past, been a vegetarian and see a lot of value in it, but my current lifestyle and place in life is embracing meat – espeically meat that I raise or harvest myself. I never buy meat at the grocery store, and rarely eat meat that I don’t know where or how is was raised. I believe happy animals make happy meat and sustain happy people. I eat some factory farm meats on occasion and it only takes my body about 30 minutes to let me know it is the worst thing I could put in my body. I feel sluggish, bogged down, half sick and pretty lousy for at least a few hours afterwards. This is proof enough for me to stay away from the mass-produced, factory farmlots, not to mention all of the negative environmental and economic impact it has on the earth and its inhabitants. Anyway, that’s for another post some day. Now, let’s get back to the Guinea Hen I had for dinner the other night.

Last summer a friend (Everett, co-writer and founder of this site) was moving and gave me some guinea hens. I have a lot of experience raising chickens and had never lent my hand to keeping guineas, but I had always heard they were excellent tick eaters so I thought I would give them a try. I always knew guineas were hard to domesticate, but was hopeful I could get them to at least lay their eggs in one area for collecting. It only took me 3-4 days to realize I was being way to optimistic!  From the start, they were fairly wild and driven hard by nature and instinct (roosting in trees, avoiding dogs, cats, etc.), but they pretty much kept to the property and did a good job at eating a lot of bugs. For the first few months I didn’t feed them at all. I knew they were getting enough food on their own and I’ve always had a problem keeping and/or feeding animals that didn’t give my homestead some kind of real return (like eggs).

The week before Thanksgiving I finally broke down and bought the guineas some feed. I knew the snow would start flying soon and that the summer/fall prolifera of bugs was about to cease. Again, I didn’t quite like the idea of buying semi-wild animals food, but I am not so heartless as to see the fowl go hungry, especially since I am part of the problem of continuing the evolutioin of trying to fully domesticate guineas like we do chickens.

Anyway, after feeding the guineas for several months I decided it was time to thin the flock a little and I was especially motivated because I had always heard that guineas were good eatin’. So, I thought on a plan for a few days – mostly how to catch one, because they are so wild I can’t get within arms reach of them – and finally decided I would have to use my shotgun, like one would for a wild turkey. One beautiful, sunny day, while my daughter napped, I got the old trusty shotgun out, loaded it with a turkey shot and took out one of the guineas. If you don’t know anything about turkey hunting (I barely do) you shoot them in the head as not to damage the precious meat. It was a clean shot and it was over instantly; the bird didn’t suffer at all. I grabbed the bird and immediately started to skin and gut it. I was amazed how quickly and easily the skin peeled off. It took little effort; literally about 4-5 minutes to deskin the guinea and I was ready to gut it. It took me another 5-10 minutes to remove the innards and the head/legs and I was taking it to the outside facuet to wash it off. Fifteen minutes after the gunshot it was chilling in my fridge waiting until I could find a recipe for the night’s dinner.

Guinea for Dinner Post Image 4

Getting ready to start skinning and gutting.

 

Guinea for Dinner Post Image 1

After skinning and gutting

 

Guinea for Dinner Post Image 3

Getting ready to go in the oven.

 

 

Guinea for Dinner Post Image 2

After being in the oven for a hour.

The guinea hen turned out pretty good even though I am a terrible cook.  I imagine it would have turned out a lot better if I had more experience cooking whole chickens and was better using herbs and spices.  Nevertheless, my two daughters and I enjoyed it for dinner along with some potatoes and greens.  We even had a few pieces left over that I put in a soup the following day.

 

Category: Animals, DIY Projects, Food, How-To

Comments (9)

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  1. Anna says:

    I’ve found that birds roast a lot better skin-on. Yes, it takes an extra few minutes to pluck instead of skin, but the fats make the flesh much more juicy and delicious. (And why waste that free range fat full of omega-3s?)

  2. That’s awesome Tommy! We were debating how we’d capture ours to eat as well (once we get them, that is) and had settled on the shotgun approach as well. From what I’ve heard, guinea is more like wild game than domestic fowl, so a braising or pan frying approach would be how I’d cook it. Roasting can result in dry meat if there isn’t enough fat. Now I’m really excited to stock up on some guineas!!

  3. Thanks Anna, I appreciate that comment and it makes a lot of sense. I guess I skinned it because that is how I learned to process chickens and never really learned a good way to pluck them. But, I do love the skin and fat (especially on fried chicken)so I have something new to learn – how to properly get the feathers off fowl when getting them ready for the freezer!

    Erin, yeah, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a big flock of guineas so you could have some good meat readily available when you needed it! My mom grew up in a household of about 8 and they would kill and cook a chicken every Sunday! The only thing wrong with that is she got so sick of chicken growing up she won’t touch it now.

  4. Colline says:

    Tommy…
    Place recently killed bird (chicken, guinea etc.) in scalding water for about 20-30 seconds (too little will be hard to pluck, too long will start to cook the bird)… pluck feathers. Gut like skinned bird. Pretty simple.
    I like to keep a clean bucket of cool water to dip them in to clean off plucked feathers that are sticking to wet bird. Also since we process 15/20 at a time I keep a cooler with ice and water near by to store them in while processing the rest.
    It really doesn’t take much longer than skinning.
    As for domesticating Guinea… they get downright friendly when the temp drops to -4 here in northern NH. :)

    Now…I’m interested in moving to Floyd area in the near future… any suggestions to find small farmsteads?

  5. Hi Colline,

    Thanks for the tips, I will definitely do this with the next bird I take to slaughter! Speaking of, my neighbor sent over some amazing local chicken she cooked up tonight!

    Homesteads in Floyd, YES, I have a place next door! Email me at tommyfreerange at yahoo dotcom and I’ll tell you more about it.

  6. Carl says:

    Tommy,
    Found your site today. Very informing and entertaining.

    I’ve kept guinea fowl for 4 years now. I use them as working birds in our chestnut orchards. Not only do they like ticks, the will go after the chestnut weavils as well. That way, I can at least attempt to keep the orchards organic. We sell the raw nuts to markets, use them in cooking, and make lots of chestnut cookies and chestnut/chocolate cakes.

    We have domesticated ours to free range in the daytime and come back to the coop as dusk. Takes about 12 weeks to train them, following Janette (Frit) Fergeson’s book “Gardening with Guineas.”

    I’ve been tempeted to put one in the roaster, especially in the spring when they are constantly at each other, but haven’t eaten one yet.

  7. Everett says:

    Carl,

    I’m sure Tommy will be happy to know you enjoyed this article. I very much enjoyed it too.

    I would like to chat more about chestnut farming if you have the time by email or phone. You have my email address now.

    How many guineas do you have? We used to have about a dozen but I simply couldn’t tolerate the constant yacking, although it was fun to watch them chase each other around.

    Ticks are really bad around here and Lyme disease is spreading fast. Our dog just got it and we’re having to treat her with antibiotics. It would be good to have some guineas around again and I’ll be sure to check out that book.

    Back to the chestnuts… how many trees do you have? How long did it take to go from planting to harvesting for the market? I’ve heard it’s about five years before they produce enough to even begin to pay back the investment. But we have some Japanese trees around on our property and ridge line that seem to do wonderfully in our acidic, rich soil so I thought about trying to get a small plot of about 20 trees going. Anyway, I’d love your input on things like: What do you do with all of the husks? Leave them on the ground? Compost them? Do the nuts on your trees drop out of the husks (or is it hull?) freely or do you need to have to manually get them out (ouch!)? I could ask questions about this all day long. 😀

    Everett

  8. Stefanie says:

    We thinned out our guineas last night. We finally figured out we had to many Roosters and he was always going after our peacock yesterday he had him by the neck so my husband got the 22 and took care of it. I am looking for a recipe any suggestions?

  9. tommy says:

    Hi Stefanie,

    Uhm? I’m not the best cook,and just looked up “preparing guinea fowl” recipes on the internet. The one I found basically said to bake it like a chicken. It turned out pretty good!

    Tommy

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