Guinea fowl were introduced into the Indian sub-continent during the slavery era of mediaeval centuries. Preliminary survey of guinea fowl showed its distinct popularity with marginal farmers and other vulnerable groups as small-scale poultry enterprise. The indigenous germplasm seems well adapted to the diversified agro-climatic conditions prevailing in semi-arid regions. Guinea fowl population rank third after chickens and ducks. It is referred to by different regional names in this sub-continent ‘Titari in northern plains; and ‘Chittra’ in the Majority of guinea fowl are raised in\ semi-arid pockets of Punjab,Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu. Present production status in this country is best summed up as widely spread and highly fragmented.
The descriptions of guinea fowl breeds/ varieties are essentially based on the plumage colour variations. Pearl, Lavender and White are the three main varieties recognized world over. In India, Pearl guinea fowl are most common among village stocks and usually referred as the 'local' breed. Pearl individuals are characterized by dark-gray feathers with uniformly distributed white spots that present a pearl like appearance. Pearl plumage, colour is also regarded as the ‘wild’ mutant. Levender birds are identified by their light gray distinctly spotted feathers. White variety possesses completely white plumage. Guncari guinea fowl stocks developed at the Central Avian Research Institute, Izatnagar are selected for high early body weight and breed true to their plumage characteristics. Some minor plumage mutant varieties, viz. Violet, Lilac, White breasted pearl and White breasted lavender also available.
The ecogenetic characterization is identification of species specific potentials to survive under non-conductive harsh environments. Evolved in tropics, guineafowl is considered to possess relatively higher level of tolerance for rigorous tropical climatic conditions. Although no detailed studies are reported but preliminary observations indicate existence of better potentials.
Body conformation and plumage cover are the two important factors in determination of heat tolerance potentials. Light in body weight, long-legged guinea fowl present greater surface area for heat dissipation per unit body weight. Low feather weight estimates (7.8%) at 12-week to 16-week age are comparatively lower than the average values reported for different domestic fowl classes. Long neck devoid of feathers, poorly feathered thighs, exposed and highly vascular nares, cere, wattles and helmet play important role in thermoregulation. Its more fluffy monotype plumage covering and potential to elevate feathers permit better circulation of air through plumage, more efficient dissipation of internal heat. Normal respiratory actions and stress panting with outstretched wing help dissipation of internal heat through vaporization movement. The normal respiratory frequency for guinea fowl is not different from that of chicken (18-30 breaths/min). Experiments revealed comparatively little polypnea during moderately high ambient temperature (85ºC – 110ºF) among guinea fowl vis-à-vis chicken. Mycotoxin contamination of feed grains is more common in tropical and sub-tropical countries, particularly when coupled with poor handling operations. The higher aflatoxin tolerance of guinea fowl indicates it potential to utilize lower quality feed ingredients.Production systems
Guinea fowl may be raised in the modern intensive system characterized by high input, good husbandry and hygiene and supply of balanced feed, however this system is confined largely to Government / public sector farms. The traditional extensive system of rearing is most popular in rural areas. A limited survey showed that birds are maintained in complete harmony to the village environment; housing and management is completely traditional and birds are raised on free range. Average flock size varies widely (15-200) in guinea fowl producing pockets. Droving is the most popular form of husbandry. Birds offer no management problems, primarily due to their flocking instincts. In semi-extensive system, birds are maintained in pens communicating with spacious well-fenced enclosures. Management is entirely through incorporation of family labour; two persons can easily manage even large flocks. In the traditional rearing system, the nutritional requirements of voraciously omnivorous guinea fowl are met through its catholic feeding habits; birds accept fallen grains, leaves, weeds, root-bulbs, fruits, diversified insect fauna and flora and even carrion. Supplementary feeding, if any, usually consist of waste grains, household waste and crop residues.