THE OFFICIAL BLOG
Adventures in Quail
When someone you just met offers you a bunch of fertile Jumbo Coturnix quail eggs, two things inevitably happen: you make a new friend and you end up hatching a bunch of quail eggs before you have a solid plan as to what to do with them. (Or maybe that's just me?) That's how our adventures in quail began just a couple of months ago.
The eggs hatched pretty well for a first attempt, though I am a perfectionist and can never be happy with mediocre hatch rates. However, we started out with so many eggs that we were sure to end up with plenty of quail even if every egg did not hatch. The little buggers grew so fast that we scrambled to come up with facilities to house them.
Always loving a good experiment and knowing absolutely nothing about quail, we did a little research and decided to try three different methods of quail-rearing to find out which would work best for us and the new birds. First, we purchased a battery breeding cage from GQF to raise breeding quads and make egg collection easier. Second, we built our own long and low quail pen out of wood and wire for birds mostly kept for meat. And, finally, we decided to dedicate one of our chicken grow-out pens to some of the overflow birds to test the aviary approach to quail.
So far we are happy with the battery cages. Although it seems like such cramped space, the little quail seem perfectly content. I have begun providing them with an occasional plate of dust and grit for dust-bathing - which they seem to really like. And they get the occasional handful of grass or garden plants as well. The number of eggs these birds are producing just a few short weeks after they hatched is astounding.
The meat pen quail, as we call them, are doing just as well. There are no eggs from the meat pen though, but that would be because it is currently inhabited by all roosters. We have not yet gotten around to causing any of these guys to live up to their name. However, we are looking forward to that portion of the experiment. In the meantime, it is good to have some back up roosters in case something goes awry in the breeding cages and we need to replace a breeding male.
That brings us to the aviary experiment. Now, being a fan of free-range chickens and free-range everything... This particular experiment was my favorite. When we released a batch of about 30 little quail into the big, open pen, I was pleased as punch to see them darting here and there -- hiding under plants and exploring the rocks. Sunshine, fresh air, plenty of bugs to chase, and tons of room to stretch and relax seemed ideal.
As it turns out, the aviary has been the least successful pen so far. Every day for the first several days outside, we lost at least one quail to some completely unknown something. The casualties showed no signs of injury or distress. Most of them seemed to have just bedded down somewhere comfy and neglected to ever wake up again. Perhaps they had trouble finding the food. Or the water. Perhaps they spent too long in the sunshine. Who knows? But, in the meantime, we had not lost a single quail in either of the other pens. As the days went on it seemed that the number of quail in the aviary was decreasing even without continued daily discoveries. We had our suspicions... But they were not confirmed until we actually found the rat snake swallowing a rooster whole one late night.
We knew that snakes happened, but this was a huge surprise to us considering the number of chicken chicks we have grown out in exactly the same pen without losing a single one to being swallowed whole. Besides, the adjoining pen is full of young chickens, too. (Who were watching the entire spectacle with morbid fascination, by the way.)
Moving forward, we will probably abandon the large aviary idea. We plan on retaining the smallest of our grow-out pens that we usually use for very young chicks to serve as a temporary hospital for female quail recovering from mating-related head injuries. So far, the resident rat snake has not made his way into that particular enclosure.
Two months into this new adventure, it is decided that we will continue with quail here at LeChat Noir Farm. They are fairly easy to care for, even though they stink to high heaven. They don't take up much room, which is great even though that tends to amplify the stink. They hatch easily and grow quickly. They produce tons of beautiful little eggs every day which are a joy to collect. And we think the birds themselves are rather pretty.
We will officially be adding Jumbo Coturnix Quail eggs, chicks, and grow-outs to our offerings within the next few weeks, so stay tuned. And look out for our hints and tips for raising them which we will be adding to the website based on what we have learned.