A litter material is placed on the floor in the brooder to help insulate the floor for the birds comfort and to absorb moisture. Litter also helps control disease and can prevent splayed legs which chicks and keets can easily suffer from if the correct flooring is not provided.
Suitable litter materials include;
- Wood shavings.
- ground corncobs.
- Rice hulls.
- Finely chopped straw.
- Wheat straw.
Whichever litter material is chosen it must be clean, fresh, not mouldy and 2-8 inches or 5-20cms deep.
Following the recommendations of Michael Roberts in his book Guinea Fowl Past & Present, I would also recommend wheat straw as the most suitable litter for guinea fowl keets. Roberts states that, “Wheat straw is the best litter as it is not as dusty as shavings and cannot be as easily ingested by the keets….The wheat straw is disturbed far less…than shavings would be, as it mats down flat on the floor, and consequently there is not so much dust and fewer breathing problems.”
Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry makes the important note that, “Chicks that are very hungry…may try to eat litter before learning to eat feed. To prevent this, put paper over the litter for the first 3-4 days after they arrive until they learn to eat from feeders.” Please note if using paper make sure that it is a rough paper as a slippery surface can cause leg weakness and crooked feet. Although I have used sawdust in the past, I have never placed the paper over the litter because when I move my keets from the incubator to the brooder I usually get them to eat and drink straight away so that they become accustomed to the feed and drink straight way.
Litter management is very important because wet, dirty litter can harbour bacteria and cause outbreaks of various diseases or ailments. Excessively wet litter can cause coccidiosis and wet, dirty litter may cause breast blisters or skin irritations.
Unsuitable litter materials include;
- Ordinary cardboard.
- Any slippery surface.
Guinea fowl keets have weaker legs than chickens and should never be brooded on newspaper or any slippery surface as splayed legs can occur very quickly and once the leg has become twisted it is almost impossible to get the keet to walk normally again.
Cloth, carpet or corrugated cardboard may be used as a flooring in a small homemade brooder as these surfaces can provide traction for the keets to get a grip on and not slip.
I have successfully reared guinea fowl keets on carpet, sawdust and straw.