Monthly Archives: June 2013

It’s a Horrible Discovery…

…when you discover your toes look like worms, and you want to eat them, but can’t catch them!  At least this is a problem for little baby quails!

The action really heats up right about :50.  So funny – she was doing this a long time last night!

Garden Door

I am so doing something like this in my garden!

I can’t discover where this picture came from, unfortunately, but how marvelous!  A door with a little window that goes only into another part of the garden.  I know exactly where I’m going to put this….

Edit: Thanks to a blog reader, I know where this picture was taken!  It’s a garden cafe in Japan called The Blue Garden.

And the quail are growing so much.  Already the oldest ones have pinfeathers in their wings.  Since they are “pharaoh quail” (another name for corturnix quail, I had already decided to name them after Egyptian royalty.  But as a friend said, the little white Texas A&M chick (since she was an accidental inclusion) doesn’t really fit with the rest.  I still want her to have a name that fits the theme, so I am calling her Amelia Peabody.  Peabody for short.  And if you don’t know how that fits, you need to pick up a book by Elizabeth Peters!

Plus, she really does have a similar personality to the fictional Peabody.

Quail, Chicken, and Garden Update

Wow.  What an experience hatching quail has been!  Some good, some bad.  We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let me catch you up on the chickens.

Elizabeth/Bess  (who frequently goes by the name “Little Blue”) is a real sweetie.  If all Blue Andalusians are this affectionate, I highly recommend the breed!  She never fails to come over to sit on my lap and be petted.  She and Ellie (my adult snuggler) are now sharing space on my lap…at the same time.  They are little wary of each other, but willing to set aside their differences in order to be held.  The other day, I was holding both of them, and Ellie put her head down close to Bess to have a good look at her.  Mama Josie noticed, and came scuttling over, hackles raised, to give Ellie a warning growl.  You can look, but don’t you dare touch!

The chicks and the grown hens are now sharing a living space 24/7, and getting along great.  Josie, who used to be at the bottom of the pecking order, has now risen to the top, and is enjoying herself more than ever before.  I hope this change in status will last, since she’s a sweet, gentle girl who doesn’t abuse her power like certain other hens do *coughLedacough*These babies have completely changed her life.  Last night mama and babies perched with the Big Girls for the first time instead of sleeping in the nest box.  I think this means they are officially grown up.

In the garden, we had a super spectacular bloom – just a perfect rose.  This is Glamis Castle:

AND we have raspberries!  Yum!

And now – to the quail!

I discovered that baby quail really like to climb up and sit on things.  The humidity sponges in the incubator.  Unhatched eggs.  The thermometer.

Thanks, guys – now how I am going to tell if your humidity and temperature are right?

After four days of hatching, I think our last one hatched this morning.  That gives us a total of 16 chicks from 42 eggs.  I’m pretty happy with that percentage, since I was expecting at best a 50% hatch rate from the shipped eggs.  Three died in the shell of unknown causes, and four more probably would have died, had we not taken desperate measures and helped them hatch.  This is a last-ditch effort, and not recommended unless you are positive the chicks will die without help.  Remember that chicks can take a looong time to come naturally out of the shell, so you really have to watch them carefully and don’t just assume they’re in trouble when they are really fine.  It worked ok for us; all four chicks we helped survived, and are healthy.  One was really weak after the hatch; to the point where I thought her entire right side might be paralyzed.  She could not even sit upright, but kept falling over.  If she had been able to turn herself around in her shell and work herself free naturally, she would have strengthened those muscles and come out of the shell tired but good to go.  As it was, she was too big for her shell, and couldn’t move in there at all.  I had to spend a couple of hours working with her until her muscles were strong enough to allow her sit and walk normally.  Right now, she’s still a teeny bit unsteady on her feet, but every time I check her, she’s even stronger. I feel certain by tomorrow she’ll be completely normal.

It was a frightening thing, to hatch a chick!  You have to be so careful, because if the blood vessels aren’t completely detached, you can make them bleed to death.  Plus, you need to keep the humidity in the incubator high for the other eggs.  I took the whole incubator into the bathroom and ran the shower until it was like a sauna in there, before I opened the incubator for any reason.  That worked like an absolute charm!

And, the moment when the chick finally manages to hatch in your hand? Magical.  Even though you stayed up until the wee hours of the morning two nights in a row to help them hatch – because if you didn’t, you knew they would be dead by morning.

It’s hard to take a clear picture in a foggy bathroom!

Since the eggs took four days to finish hatching, we took the babies out in batches and put them in the brooder.

They are so small and so unbelievably cute.  They sleep in all manner of ways,

Stretched out:

On their stomachs (the fluffy feathers to the right is a feather boa, they love to snuggle into it and pretend they have a mama.)

And piled together in a puppy pile:

Among the sixteen chicks, we have six Italians, six Standards, and three Blondes.  And one surprise: an egg mixup.  See the yellow chick in the front?

I thought at first she was a  Standard, because she hatched from a “Standard egg”.  Only when all the other Standards hatched, and they were a difference color, did I google it.  I discovered she’s actually a Texas A&M.  She’ll be pure white when she’s grown.

Half of these little guys will be mine, half will go to my partner-in-madness.   I think I’ll keep the white one, as a reward for managing the incubator!  (Sorry Laura!)

As for cat Sookie, she’s never seen anything so marvelous as the contents of that brooder box in all her life!

(Yes, we do put a wire safety cover over it to prevent too much familiarity!)

Quail Hatchlings

Last night, as I told you in my previous post, we had our first egg pip.  By bedtime, nothing had progressed any further, but when we checked on them around 2:30am, the chick was completely out of the shell!

Here’s a video:

What’s really sweet is that she already wants to come to the sound of our voices…even though she is barely able to walk.  You can see that toward the end of the video.

The next day (after the first chick was starting to get really, really lonely!) a second egg hatched.  It was so fast!  I’d noticed it had pipped, but the crack hadn’t gotten any bigger in a few hours.  Then, all of sudden, the chick broke the shell all the way around the top.  After that, it was only a minute or so until complete hatch.  This one, I caught on film.

Part one:

Part two:

And part three, where the two chicks meet for the first time:

What really surprised me about the whole process is how active the newborn chicks are.  The first chick stumbled around constantly, bumping into, climbing over, and rolling around the remaining eggs.  She seemed to be especially attracted to the ones that had pipped – I couldn’t hear anything, but I bet she could hear the chick inside peeping!

The “unzippered” shell – she’s ready to come out!

The head pops out.

And finally, the entire body.  She’s so exhausted, she almost looks dead.  But she’s perfectly fine.

I thought originally, based on where the egg was when it hatched, that she was another of the Italians.  But her feathers are SO much lighter and golden than the first, that I now thing she’s a Blonde.  The first chick must have shoved her egg down into the “Italian Section”.  Pretty soon, with both chicks in there rambling around, it’s going to be impossible to tell what an egg is until it hatches.

They are so cute – only about one and a half inches!  I really, really want to hold one, but I can’t open the incubator until the rest hatch.  I can see pips on at least eight more eggs right now, and I figure there’s still more pips that I can’t see because the angle is wrong.

Quail Egg Hatching!

Their official due date is tomorrow, but one is slightly ahead of the game.  One of our little Italian coturnix quail eggs has pipped and is beginning to hatch.

See that black and white egg in the middle?  See the crack in the middle of the black near the left end?  There is a quail beak right behind there.  I haven’t seen the beak yet, but I did see a flap of the shell bounce outward as the quail pecked behind it!  So exciting to know that they survived the shipping and the incubation.

Perhaps by tomorrow, the chick will be completely hatched.  Right now, it seems to be sleeping.  It is tremendously hard work, being born.

Quails, Rabbits, Clematis, and Bamboo, Oh My!

It’s been a busy few weeks.  Here is just a brief update of what’s been going on in the garden.

First, a quick quail hatching update.  The eggs have been in the incubator for the last 15 days.  We tried to candle them, but with little result.  Almost all the eggs are too dark in color to see inside, and even the lighter ones are so small that it is impossible to see any actual life inside.  But, it seems hopeful.  I could clearly see that a couple of the eggs were duds (the light just shone through as with an unfertilized egg, but at least four others had a dark mass forming right where a chick would be.  So it’s impossible to say how many we’re going to get (many things could still go terribly wrong) but some are developing, I’m sure of that.

Anytime now, they could begin to hatch, but their ‘due date’ is the 20th.  I’ll keep you posted!

Their coop is also progressing – in fact, I venture to say it’s nearly done!  Here’s a few shots, showing the garden roof.  It still needs the gutter and the dirt, but otherwise that bit is finished.  We still need a few more bits of trim, the door, and the nesting area on the right side.


Here’s a tip for you: buy the regular silver hardware cloth, then use black outdoor metal spray paint on it.  It makes it so much nicer to look through – it’s much clearer and easier to see your animals.  Most of the time, it’s like the wire isn’t there at all!

The rabbits are adorable, in all the many ways that rabbits are.

That is Daisy.  Her sister Dandelion is behind her.

New things are going in the garden.  Our historical family rose the White Rose of York (Alba Semi-Plena) has bloomed for the first time, and WOW.  What a beauty it is!

Two of my early clematis have bloomed, and are now demonstrating a really cool thing about clematis: the seed-heads are nearly as beautiful as the flowers.

And this one has the most wonderful metallic gold shine to it.  I tried, but neither of these pictures really capture how gold it is.  Really spectacular!

The peonies are also in bloom.

And, my friend was remodeling her garden and had some clumping bamboo to give away.  I have this little space that I am going to turn into a shade garden, with trellises arching over it, and lots of ferns and hosta and lush green things inside.  With the quail adventure happening this year, this new garden project was slated for next summer.  But, one must always accept free bamboo when it is offered, and so….

…..I have the early beginnings of the new garden.  The very, very, very early beginnings!

Some day, this space WILL be beautiful.  But that day is not yet.

And in case you’re wondering, bamboo prefer the shade.   Hence the temporary umbrella.


Fertile Hatching Quail Eggs

The Great Quail Adventure begins…now!  I ordered the eggs from Stromberg’s, and they arrived today.  And just like when I ordered live chicks through the mail, the Post Office screwed up.

First of all, they were supposed to call me when the box arrived, and I was supposed to pick the eggs up at the PO.  I even made a point of calling the PO and letting them know the eggs were coming, and refreshing their memories on the procedure.

I did not get a call this morning, so I assumed the eggs would be in tomorrow.  Imagine my annoyance when I discovered they had been delivered to my house, instead.  I really did not want the poor eggs bouncing around in a mail carrier’s truck all day.

And then, despite this label being on the box:

The box looked like this:

Sigh.  I was so afraid the eggs would all be crushed.

They were packed nicely, though, and all seem to have survived.

We ordered three dozen eggs, one each of three varieties of coturnix quail.




My partner in the Great Quail Adventure and I speculated that perhaps the different varieties of quail would have differently marked eggs, but how odd it is that the eggs’ markings seem to be completely random!

The eggs are now “resting” from their shipping trauma, and after the recommended number of hours of rest, they will go into the incubator.  And then we will see if these little guys will hatch.

They are so tiny!