Wouldn’t you know it!?! The very first time my youngest son gets to show chickens…on his birthday, no less, I get sicker than the dickens over night. I will spare you the details and instead share a bit more about a couple of my favorite chickens as well as other chickens that are being shown today, by my son and my dad, at the annual Poultry Show in our area.
While sitting here, sulking and beating myself up for my darned luck, I decided to look further into my favorite little true bantam hen, and come share my newly gleaned information about them with you. I’ve named our pair of Dun Quail d’Anvers Mamas and Papas. Mamas stole my heart the day after she arrived on the farm. She is a rescue chicken, meaning she did not originate on our farm, but was given to us, in this case, by a suddenly overwhelmed grieving widow. Mamas and Papas are two of eighteen or more different chickens we were given stewardship over. Every one of the new chickens are unique and more unusual than your typical yard bird. As this particular blog rambles on, I may decide to talk about them too, but truly, I am all about Mamas!!
The night that they all arrived, she caught my eye, but her fancier cousins, the d’Uccles, a leopard-spotted breed of bantam quail, really peaked my interests due to their showy appearance. But even with their leopard spots and feathered feet, the d’Uccle couple quickly moved down on my list the next day, after Mamas practically hopped in my lap when I went to feed her and her spouse. I had only held baby chicks and adolescent chicks up to that point and had prayed for the courage to hold a chicken. And God answered with the ever sweet and eager Mamas!!
At this point, some of you have decided that I am a rather ridiculous Nelly, and I will give you that, but have you ever been pecked or spurred by a chicken or rooster? Well, I haven’t and I wanted to keep it that way. Chickens are kind of spastic and definitely are not predictable. With Mamas on the farm now, she is giving me the opportunity to get used to handling chickens, a little at a time. I think she may have me spellbound, as not a day goes by that I don’t think about her cute face and have to go hold her and pet her soft feathers. That is another thing about my sweet lady. Unlike the texture and feel of some chickens (crunchier than soft), Mamas, the Bearded Dun Quail d’Anver is so soft and pettable. She gently lets me know when she’s ready to go home and upon entry, her jealous husband gives her a good peck on the head. His unruly behavior has not stopped her from giving me a little company every day though, and for that, I am glad!
While walking the land one day, not long after we got our new boarders, I found these terrifically beautiful seeds on our land. I gathered them for a craft, and immediately decided to create Mamas with the seeds for a lil’ Ducky that I love. (My friend’s daughter, not a real duck, for crying out loud!) Mamas has become my muse.
So here’s what I learned this morning. Mamas, Papas and all the Bearded Dun Quail d’Anvers are true bantams. This means that there is not a regular-sized chicken counterpart. So she is an original…and if you know me, you know that suddenly made her even cooler. These d’Anvers also make great pets for children, although the male tends to be more aggressive, as I noted above…he’s a real pecker! Because they only need one square foot of living space, they are also great for suburban chicken enthusiasts and homesteaders.
When cooking with bantam eggs, one chicken farmer recommends using 2 bantam eggs in recipes that call for one egg, and 3 bantam eggs in recipes that call for 2 regular hen eggs. We also raise quail and I use 4-5 quail eggs in place of one regular hen egg. Quail eggs are more yolk than white and make the cutest little rich boiled eggs you will ever see. And upon hatching, baby quail are no bigger than your thumb…in fact, it is most likely smaller than your thumb.
Quail incubate even quicker than the 21 day incubation period of a bantam or regular-sized hen’s egg. When we have the incubator’s rotators in, they must be removed and all the various eggs (quail, chicken, and duck, this round) have to be hand-rotated, once the first chick hatches. Yesterday, a reader asked about the dashes on the eggs in my header picture. We mark the eggs with a positive and a negative sign to keep up with rotation. The eggs must be rotated every twelve hours by hand from that point on.
Once hatched, the chicks are very delicate and have specific needs. For instance, during incubation stage, the eggs need a humid 100 degrees Fahrenheit in order to incubate properly and hatch. After they move from the incubator into the hatchery box, they still require 100 degrees for another week, before dropping the temperature 10 degrees per week, for several weeks afterwards. This is done with heat lamps. All chicks also need to be baptized right away, okay, okay, they need to be dunked in their water in order to learn to drink and from what source. Otherwise, chicks quickly show their intelligence through drinking, feeding and socializing.
Another thing about chicks…they love greens! And greens are so very good for them. I can tell you from the shape our winter garden has taken, that they really, really, really love broccoli leaves!!! Our free range head rooster, Mr. M, brings his haram over for fresh broccoli and other assorted greens, every day. Well, except today. Today, Mr. M, our glorious Maran is being shown, along with Mamas, Papas, and a few other of our most prized birds. There is a definite hierarchy within our little society of chickens and Mr. M is the head honcho around here. He even has a tendency to remind me of it, from time to time. He creeps me out, so I only admire him from a distance.
Chickens are fascinating, and provide not only great sources of protein through their eggs and meat, but they also provide hours of entertainment, as you observe their little microcosm. There is a soap opera story in it for sure, which is why I am slowly introducing you to our chickens, so that you can enjoy future stories concerning their own little world, As Their World Turns with All Their Children.
So, until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OUT!
Vaya con Dios!