Quail Isn’t That Special

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.

pretty pullets

pretty pullets

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.

baby quail are itty bitty cuties!!

baby quail are itty bitty cuties!!

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!

Three week old quail note the temperature drop as I prepare their water

Three week old quail note the temperature drop as I prepare their water

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!

Mamacita and Papacito, the d'Uccles

Mamacita and Papacito, the d’Uccles

Until next time, this is the Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios!

 

 

 

 

Shameless Self-Promotion

Good morning, readers. I am miffed at how to gain readership (without spending a pretty penny) and I thought you might be willing to help.

If you are on facebook, I would love for you to LIKE my artist’s page and share it with your friends. Here you will find easy access to both my blogs as well as some of my art work and photography.

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Did you know that you can also find me on youtube? This is where, every once in a while, I will share my original songs as well as cover some old favorites.

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Further more, I have another harder-hitting, conspiracy/faith-based blog where I get into the less popular and darker subjects of the world and share my personal opinions on what’s going on around us today.

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Thank you for your interest in my writing. And thank you for stopping in today!!

me and my puppy love, Skaar

me and my puppy love, Skaar

Frosty Mornin’ To Ya

The robins are going berserk this morning, trying to keep warm.  Our country is currently being slammed by what the meteorologist folks are calling a “Polar Vortex”.  The tag just makes you feel all warm and cozy inside, doesn’t it?!  Global warming at it’s finest, lemme tell ya!  Robins migrate to Texas in the winter, because we are generally a two season location, hot and hotter!

Okay, occasionally a few cool days slip past the border, but normally, Texas winters are pleasant and mild.

The cold doesn’t affect me the same way it does most of the populous, because I wake up radiating heat.  The cool air is most welcome, at least first thing in the morning…as the day carries on, I know the chill will set into my bones.  I probably should take care of the chickens before that occurs!
Owning chickens is not for the weak.  They require much care to remain healthy, fertile and happy.  Because caged chickens have a tendency to defecate in their food and water, you have to stay on top of keeping the food and water containers clean and fresh.  You also have to keep their trays clean.  (Rabbits too…have I even mentioned the rabbits?  Probably not, but I love them and this goes for them as well!)

We have five rabbits, 2 bucks and 3 does

We have five rabbits, 2 bucks and 3 does

But back to the chickens.  Although, I could carry on about this fat lil’ male cardinal who is perched on a branch outside my window…so cute.  And yes, I may or may not have ADHD, but I roll with it.

When working with the chickens, I have learned a thing or two.  They like it when I sing to them.  Not every day is a happy singing day though, as you know, and on those days that a song does not depart from my lips, I talk with them.  The chickens and rabbits each have different personalities.  There are sweet ones, mean ones, goofy ones, and everything in between.  As for the quail, well, they remind me of the aliens from Toy Story.  I cannot differentiate between any of them and they all act and sound the same.  The rooster-quail’s crow is something else!

This past Saturday, I mentioned in my previous blog, that my dad and my youngest son went to show their chickens and eggs at the local annual Poultry Show.  Well, I am happy to report that they raked in the rewards for all their hard work.  1st place in Bantam egg content, 2nd place in Standard egg content, 2nd and 3rd place in best egg trio, 1st place for our Dominiques…you may know them from the unlucky story of Lucky…killers!!  They proved the ol’ saying “the bad guys always win!”

Mr. M was disqualified because Dad was misinformed of his breed…instead of a copper maran, he turned out to be a blue-copper maran!  By just one word missing, he was eliminated from the competition.  He would’ve received 1st as well, as he was the only blue-copper maran in the building…picky picky!!

Mr. M, our blue-copper maran

Mr. M, our blue-copper maran

My little Mamas and Papas received 2nd, Dad reported, but their ribbon was M.I.A.!  Mr, White, whom I have yet to introduce, also placed 1st, but his ribbon was M.I.A. as well…something about a missing judge and his portion of missing ribbons.

Some chicken people can be sneaky!  Someone also took off with a shirt my dad won in a raffle, as a man claimed to be my dad!  Last year that same man is probably the one who made off with Dad’s chicken coop he won.  Sneaky, crafty, snake!  My first chicken love, Leonerdo, won 3rd in his division.  They also won $100 in gift certificates and cards, and won 2 bags of feed and 2 bags of chicken treats.  Made out like real bandits, they did.

He did well for his first show...and on his 11th birthday no less.

He did well for his first show…and on his 11th birthday no less.

My son truly enjoyed his first experience showing chickens.  However, last night, he did confide in me that there were a few boys there that were chiding him and being really ugly towards him.  But thus is life, and I told him they were just jealous of him because he had the coolest chickens and grandpa in the building.  He always amazes me with how he handles things so well.  Sometimes I wonder if he was switched at birth, haha, because he handles things way better than his dad and I do, most days.

My lil' rooster with Leonerdo the third place winner

My lil’ rooster with Leonerdo the third place winner

Watching him handle the chickens with grace and assurance is astounding.  He was definitely made for working with animals.  I was made to learn that I could if I just gave it a shot.  Not something I ever thought I would actually do or enjoy doing though.  But chickens grow on you, with their daffy ways, sounds and personality traits.  Even ol’ Mrs. Dominique has garnered my love for her, though I know she was the one who hurt Lucky so badly…well, she and her husband.  I may name them Bonnie and Clyde.

Naming chickens just happens.  Normally, they are not named right away, as they must grow a little and show their personalities, but some chicks are pegged from day one, such as our newest incubated hatchlings.  We have a lil’ black chick with a white stripe on his head and he is an aggressive lil’ bully, so he got named Stripe, after the Gremlin.  But it was only yesterday that I gave a name to one of our female rabbits.  It was as if she told me herself, as I was getting her water set back into place.  Daphne is such a sweet and interactive lil’ lady, and she can put the drink away like nobody can!

Chickadee, Chickadoo

Chickadee, Chickadoo

Well, it’s time for me to put the laptop away for the day.  It’s time to start school with my youngest two and we still have those chickens to take care of as well.  So, may your day be blessed and your body and soul be warmed by the Sonlight!

Until next time, this is the Chicken Lady, signing OUT.

Vaya con Dios

And So It Goes and So On…

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!!

Have you ever seen a sweeter chicken face in your life?!

Have you ever seen a sweeter chicken face in your life?!

Here she is with her jealous husband

Here she is with her jealous husband

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.

With juniper berries for eyes and oats from Mamas and Papas feed and wild seed for her feathers, from our land.

With juniper berries for eyes and oats from Mamas and Papas feed and wild seed for her feathers, from our land.

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.

The ring around this little 2 day old quail's neck fits around my ring finger... cute and tiny!!

The ring around this little 2 day old quail’s neck fits around my ring finger…
cute and tiny!!

IMG_4159

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.

Mr. M and a few of his favorite gals

Mr. M and a few of his favorite gals

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!

New Year, New Blog…Welcome Readers

There are times in life that take you by surprise, and I’m in one of those stages.  I have worn many hats in this life: daughter, sister, wife, mother, singer, songwriter, painter, chef, preschool teacher, etc., but no one could’ve convinced me that chicken farmer was in my life’s blueprint.  That being said, I have gladly accepted the challenges and rewards of my newest “hat”.

In this blog, I plan on sharing my on-going experiences with chicken raising and gardening, and anything else I learn along the way.  For instance, I recently butchered a couple deer my son brought in.  Later, I further broke down the venison in our meat grinder, added pork and pork fat and then, my Dad and I pressed the mixed meat and seasoning into casings for sausage, with an old school grape press.

IMG_4652

Made in America

Made in America

My dad then smoked the sausage links three ways, with hickory, pecan, and mesquite.  After that, we vacuum-packed them and gave them out as Christmas gifts.  We have received rave reviews, with the most repeated compliment being, “BEST SAUSAGE EVER”.  That made us happy, because all in all, there was about 70 combined hours of labor that went into the 42 lbs. of pork-venison smoked sausage.

We have a beautiful array of chicken types, from marans, legbars, and ameraucanas, to sikies, d’uccles, d’anvers and quail.  We also have a fabulous organic winter garden full of nutritious and delicious root veggies and greens.  There is much work involved on the farm and I look forward to sharing my experiences, lessons, and yes, even trials on this blog.

our garden

For instance, on December 23rd, my husband and I were faced with having to “take care” of a rooster that was on the losing end of a fight.  After my husband beheaded Lucky (or Not-so-Lucky, as it turned out), I assisted in skinning the skinny guy.  My knife hit the leg bone and jumped right into my leg.  ICK!!!  Chicken germs are not to be toyed with.  This anti-modern-med chicky had to go to the ER for a tetanus shot, 3 staples (SO UNCOOL!!), and antibiotics, to ward off any infection.  I was livid!  AND I missed out on going to see my 2 living grandparents due to the fact that I couldn’t bend my leg for 3 days without excruciating pain.

Lucky...before his luck ran out.

Lucky…before his luck ran out.

I cried and cried at the thought of having to put Lucky out of his misery, but it was the humane thing to do, as the Dominiques who resided next door to him pecked him up pretty bad.  Other dramatic moments on the farm have to do with my sweet dog Skaar taking the blame for the mass murders that occurred all too often from November through early December.  While I cannot believe my awesome boy could do such a thing, I am in the minority with my consistent arguments in Skaar’s favor.  I truly believe it to be a combination of hawks, possums, and the bob cat that lives across the creek on our land.  However, Dad’s game camera caught Skaar as recently as Christmas, giving the hens and cocks chase.

When we lost my most beloved rooster, Chief, pictured below, the gig was up.  Skaar can only be outside when the chickens are in their coop, or he has to be chained up.  I hate that!  But Skaar happens to love it in our home, so I can’t complain too much.  I look forward to the day when the men around here finish the new coop and chicken run so Skaar can be free to roam the land again.

RIP, Handsome Chief

RIP, Handsome Chief

Well, that is about as good an introduction as you are gonna get from me today.  My youngest son turns 11 tomorrow and will be showing eggs and chicken pairs at the local Poultry Show, so I will be sure to have pictures and a report following his first big event!

Until then, live out loud and love every moment!

nothing sweeter than a mother's love

nothing sweeter than a mother’s love