Here on the farm, we raise various poultry. We have our award winning chickens and roosters and their award winning eggs. We also have guinneas, quail, and our newest feathered friends, three baby ducks. Each of these birds have different needs and different problems. The guinneas pretty much care for themselves, and honk their annoying alarms on and off through out the day, while perching in trees, on the roofs, and occasionally bullying the chickens. They are a rather rogue gang of noisy birds that I really don’t have too much to do with.
Our quail, however, are another story. Quail are tiny and delicate and flighty. They operate under a cult-like mentality, and rarely, will you be able to differentiate between the hens and roosters, unless you catch them in action, as they look nearly identical, male and female. Some more avid, hands-on quail folk will tell you to squeeze their bottom, and if foam comes out, that means the quail is a girl. I’ll pass on that.
A few days back, my Dad noticed that one of our quail hens was egg-bound. In other words, her egg became stuck inside her on it’s way out. This does not bode well for birds, being egg-bound, but at the time, I didn’t know that. I did as instructed; we sat the lady in some warm water, and we could see that the worst possible outcome in such situations had taken place. The egg had broken inside her. The shell was most likely causing internal damage.
The bitty darling was not happy in the water and after cleaning her, helping to dry her, and moving her back to the infirmary cage, I knew things weren’t looking good. She was stiffening. She laid on her side with her legs unusually stretched out…she was dying. We put her in a small animal carrier and brought her into the house to keep an eye on her over night, but when my Dad came over for a visit, he said she was not going to make it.
Farm life is full of both life and death. Truly, there is no where else on earth that continually offers you all the aspects of life than the farm…besides a hospital.
Walking into the caged area often brings surprises, both good and bad. From new layers, and new chicks to baby rabbits who didn’t make it through their first night, and bloodied roosters who apparently looked at their neighbors the wrong way. Some days bring about sorrow, as one fine blogger pointed out, the other day, when she lost a kit of baby rabbits.
She wisely shared Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 here. Farming will help you grow a thick skin, but God’s Word will help you gently cope with the facts of life.
From the incubation stage forward, you deal with loss. As you candle eggs to see which were truly fertile, you cannot help but mourn what might have been, with the unfertilized eggs. No longer edible, these eggs are disposed of and forgotten. It was the day before Christmas when our first quail hatched from the incubator. Quail incubate fully within 16-24 days, depending on the breed. Ours usually hatch around day 17. They are a variation of Chinese painted quail and they lay the most precious mottled brown and khaki egg.
Our first quail hatchling did not survive the night. It’s enough to make you question your methods. But we know, from practice, that we did everything according to book.We dunked it’s little head so that it discovered water and consumption, we kept it’s box at a cozy 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Some babies just weren’t meant to flourish. Thus is life. Like many premature births in nature, nature took it’s course. Out of a dozen quail eggs in the beginning of incubation, 7 were born and 5 survived.
We feed our quail specified quail feed. You can get this at your local feed store. It is of the utmost importance with all caged fowl, to keep their water and food containers clean and fresh. This wards off disease and illness. During the cold seasons, these little delicate birds require extra warmth. With the use of heat lamps, you can keep your quail happy and cozy.
Quail eggs are such a rewarding, precious protein, and pairs will lay you an egg a day, if you offer them a comfortable environment. I use 4-5 quail eggs per standard egg in recipes. They are also fun to boil and peel, just remember to let them age in your fridge or in your cool cupboard for at least a week to allow air between the shell and membrane. This will help with peeling all boiled farm-fresh eggs. The tiny boiled quail eggs are fabulous uncut, in potato salad, but it’s hard not just to pop a few freshly peeled delicacies right in your mouth. YUMMO!
After a few weeks in the hatchery box, with a warm lamp and a small amount of ventilation, these little peeps are ready to move to the caged area. We have a pretty awesome assortment of chickens and roosters to keep our quail company. Within only a month we have received eggs from the hatchery graduates. They are of course unfertile, but even that changes quickly. Yes, quail roosters grow into their roles of dominance and seeding rather quickly, and if you have the time to watch for such action, you can then band the leg of your hens and roosters, respectively.
I have yet to enjoy a bacon-wrapped quail or any other prepared quail, but my parents say they are divine eating. We are definitely building our quail up for such a time. But in the meantime, I truly enjoy watching them hop around in their spastic manner, attempting the occasional escape, only to find a waffle wall of wire in their way. I love the rooster’s shrill-full crow. It never fails to take me by surprise and give me a rush of goose flesh.
The latest surprise on the farm came in finding our first d’Uccle egg yesterday. D’Uccles are an exotic breed of bantam quail, and are originals. So I’m curious to see if we have another egg waiting today. I just know my dad is going to want to whip out the incubator when he sees what has been collected while he was gone. So I better be off! The farm work calls!
Until next time, this is the Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios!