Monthly Archives: August 2013

Broody Quail and Watermelon

Yesterday, one of my female quail (Hattie) decided she wants to be a mother.  She’s sitting on about ten eggs that she and the other females laid in the nest box.  She’s so cute and calm.  She doesn’t act all snarly and drugged-out like my broody chicken. When I open the top of the nest box and peek in at her, she just looks sweetly up at me.

I think she is keeping the other females away though – they have started to lay outside in the run.  She does allow visits from the male, Peabody – he goes in regularly to check up on her.

I hope she keeps sitting for the full 18 days, I hope the eggs are fertile, and I hope the chicks are mostly all females if they hatch!  I’d love to be able to give the boys in the bachelor pad some girls of their own.  I feel kind of sorry for them.  They keep calling and calling, but no ladies come to visit.

And while I’m hoping, here’s a wish for more summer weather.  I have a couple of mini watermelons (they are only about 3lbs when grown) that I’d like to see ripen.

Oh, and I don’t have a picture, but the rabbits had their surgery last week and came through with flying colors.  There will be no surprise baby bunnies in my hutch!  This is the first time I’ve ever had a rabbit neutered, and it was a lot easier than with dogs or cats.  The rabbits didn’t even seem to notice their injuries.  My last dog, Jacks, was completely traumatized by her surgery; it was months before she was mostly over it.

Advertisements

Quail Eggs

They told me that quail “like” to live in little wire cages, with a wire floor, raised off the ground.  They told me that quail won’t use a nest box, and will lay their eggs randomly over the cage floor, because quail won’t hatch their own eggs, and quail make horrible mothers.  They told me that quail are flighty, not friendly, and will startle and fly up and “bonk” their heads on the cage roof at the slightest provocation.  They told me that quail will always be wild, and don’t like any contact with humans.

“They” being the so-called experts.

Never believe what “they” tell you.

I’ve already told you how tame my quail are.  They don’t like to be grabbed, but they don’t run from me otherwise.  One of them, Imhotep, likes to sit in my hand and have his neck and back feathers scratched.   They love their big cage and are constantly taking long, luxurious dust baths…like normal birds do.  It is a cruelty to keep birds off the dirt.  They need it to keep themselves clean and healthy.  They stretch out in the sun and sunbathe.  Not only do they not startle, but they don’t fly because they aren’t afraid.  Not once have they come anywhere close to ‘bonking’ their heads.  They come over to the wire and talk to me when I approach the cage, and clearly like watching what I am doing.

And…two days ago, I noticed that one of the females had made a little nest in the corner of the nest box.  Yesterday, she laid an egg in it.  The angle I had to take the picture from really doesn’t show it very well.

All that day, the Ladies (and Peabody) were going in and out of the nest box to admire the egg.  First the two little Italians were snuggled in on top of it, moving the egg around with their beaks and discussing it in quiet little voices.  After they left, Peabody got in the nest and oh-so-gently touched it with his beak.  Later, I caught the Standard sitting on it as well.

Today when I got off work, I found this:

Yes, ALL of the females have chosen to lay their egg in the nest!  I still don’t know who the original nest-maker was, but I’m leaving the eggs there, in the hopes that one of the Ladies will decide to sit on them and hatch out the next generation.  After seeing this, and seeing how incredibly interested they were in the nest and the first egg, I believe the reason quail are considered such ‘bad mothers’ is because they are being kept unnaturally in cramped, wire cages.  Give them a little nature, and they will begin to act naturally, has always been my belief when it comes to animals.

People have asked me exactly how quail eggs compare to a chicken egg.  Here you are:

And speaking of chickens, SOMEONE was a very bad girl today.  Josie escaped from her Stop-Being-Broody-And-Go-Back-To-Laying-Eggs Pen, and made a bee-line for one of my cold frames.  This is the result.

Poor little lettuce seedlings!  At least she was being very systematic, and I caught her before she’d worked her way across the entire bed.  Sigh.

The boy quail are doing great in their bachelor pad.  I planted some ornamental grasses in there (which they love) and also two cabbage starts and a few beets.  The beets may survive, but the boys did a pretty good job and walking all over them and flattening the leaves.  I need to come up with a way of protecting them until they are grown large enough to defend themselves.  The cabbage (or at least one of them) is faring much better.

I put in a few stones to make a platform so the boys could walk up and see over the wood wind-break of their cage.  Cinna has decided it is his designated crowing platform.   In this video, he’s a little intimidated by my camera, but still can’t resist showing off.  I love how they vibrate while they crow!

The Continuing Quail Adventures (plus one frog)

I’m getting worried.  I”m afraid the squash are going to tear through into my coop and devour my quail.  Here is what’s been happening (again, pictures taken just a few days apart!)

It’s attempting to rip through the hardware cloth!

Even in the back, it’s squash gone wild.

And a day or two later:

Run, quail, run for your lives!

On top of the coop, it’s a jungle of plants.  Including the tomato that grew itself from seed.  It has flower buds now.

And I didn’t get a picture, but the White Soul Strawberries I grew from seed have flowers now too.  It looks like I might actually get a few berries this year!

I have also begun the landscaping around the quail coop.

The quail don’t care that the squash are attacking their coop.  They are happy in their squash jungle.  Look, here’s Peabody guarding one of the eggs laid.  Male quail will do that.  Also, I noticed he’s a good little guy to his hens.  I watched him find something tasty on the ground, then call one of the ladies over to eat it!  I’m glad I chose him to remain in the big coop with the girls.

In my last post, I talked about how he was being bullied by the other two males, so I was planning to remove those two bad boys and build them a smaller “bachelor coop” of their own.  I have that built, and the boys are in it.  They seem to be contented so far, so fingers crossed they continue to get along!

The bachelor coop is in a corner of my veggie garden, and I’m very proud of it.  I designed and built it all by myself.  There are two doors on the top that lift open.

The plan is to put  a couple of cabbages in there, so the quail have leaves to hide under, and I have a usable planting space.

Peabody is very happy to have them gone.  Next Spring, perhaps I’ll hatch some more eggs and give the two bad boys some females of their own.  I really like keeping quail; I love everything about them so far (except for the bullying.)  I love their sounds, and how the males stand on tip-toe to crow, and how easy and clean they are.  They are also settling and getting used to me being in their coop.  They are unafraid of me – I have to be really careful not to step on them because they don’t run away from my feet.  One of the ones that needed help hatching is particularly tame.  He’s one of the bachelor boys, and he’s so tame that last night he felt asleep in the palm of my hand while I was scratching his neck feathers.

I suppose I should introduce them all.  There is Peabody, the white Texas A&M.  His girls are two Italians, named Nefertiti and Nefertari (Titi and Tari.)  They are nearly twins – I can only tell them apart because Nefertari has a little white patch on her head.  Then there is Hatchepsut (Hattie) who is a Standard.

In the bachelor coop, I have a Standard male, Senusret (Cinna).  Then there is my sweet little male Imhotep, a Blonde.  It is *possible* Imhotep is actually a female.  The coloring seems to be more like a male, but he hasn’t crowed yet, which is odd.  Now that he’s in the bachelor coop, I guess I’ll know for sure if an egg appears!

And I promised you a frog.  I find quite a few little tree frogs in my garden, but this one is especially beautiful.  He looks like he’s been spray-painted with bright metallic gold!

When Good Quail Go Bad

Otherwise known as: When good boy quail grow up, join a gang, and become racist bullies to the lone white quail.

Poor Peabody.  He’s had a quite a week.  First there was his unexpected sex change from female to male (well, unexpected to ME) and now the two other male quail in the pen decided they hate him.  Yes,  I ended up yet another unexpected male, so I have three females and three males in my coop, and that is not a good combo.  It’s weird – it has to be his color.  They are both brownish and spotted, and they hang out together all the time, perfectly friendly together.  Poor Peabody has been spending all his time hiding in the nest box.

He’s my favorite boy.  I’ve decided HE gets the coop and the females all to himself.  The other two males will be relocated.  I’ve heard about keeping extra males  together in a bachelor pen (this works with roosters, too.)  As long as there are no females present, the males all usually get along fine.  Right before this bullying problem manifested itself, I had stumbled across a quail video.  This one:

Sometime, I hope to have a miniature hen who can raise my quail babies naturally like this!  The video also mentions keeping quail in raised garden beds.  This is what I’m going to do.

I’m building a raised bed in my garden, about 2X6 foot. and I’m going to put the bad boys in there.  If they won’t lay eggs, and won’t behave themselves, the least they can do is earn their keep by weeding my bed and eating the bugs.  I plan to grow tough-leafed plants like cabbage in there, and I’m hoping it will work.  If it does, I might build another matching quail garden bed, split the two males up, and hatch them out a few females in the Spring.  I’ll keep you posted – I’m building the raised bed tomorrow.

These boys!  If I weren’t already bonded to the little guys (and if they weren’t so darn cute) I’d give them over to my quail-raising partner to eat.

And speaking of male quail, I LOVE the sound they make.  It’s so different and exotic.  The below quail video is not of my quail, but that’s the sound they make.  Note: the first sound you hear is a regular rooster.  Wait for the quail to crow – it’s very different.

Quail Eggs!

My quail are 7 weeks old – and laying!  Yesterday I found two eggs in their coop.

For fun, we decided to fry them over-easy.

They are so tiny and cute!  And tasty, too.  Each egg was a perfect bite-sized snack.  Hopefully they’ll lay more today, and I can try them hard boiled!

Chicken Food

In my last post, I mentioned that I don’t feed my girls commercial layer food, but rather make my own feed out of grains.  Someone commented to ask what my recipe is, and I thought I would make a quick post about it – just in case anyone else is curious!

042

It’s really not much of a recipe!  Since the Girls get to forage for bugs and greens on their own, I simply give them a mixture of about 70% wheat and 30% oats.  I tried adding kelp into the mix, but they wouldn’t eat it, so I stopped.  They say that hens “need” to eat the balanced layer food, but I’m skeptical.  Wild chickens don’t get layer food, and they have managed to survive!  I think grains are more natural, than processed soy and GMO corn (which is in most of the layer mixes.)  And like I said, the Girls are large and healthy, but not at all fat.  And their feathers are lovely and glossy, which is a sure sign they’re getting enough good stuff in their diet.  And even though they are three years now, and supposedly they are getting past laying age, they are still laying wonderfully in the summer.  They don’t lay in the winter, but I also don’t believe in forcing winter laying by putting lights in their coop.

And while I’m talking about feathered beasties, it seems that the quail formerly known as “Amelia Peabody” is now going to have to change his name to “Emilio Peabody”.

Yup.  This little mystery white quail is all grown up…and crowing.  Good thing I can keep more than one male quail in my size of coop, because I really like her…er…him.

Little Bit of What’s Been Going On

A couple of weeks ago, I took the Coops and Crops tour in Anacortes.  They give you a map and let you drive around to several chicken-keeping folks and tour their coops and gardens.  I was more than a little surprised at two things:

1)  Hardly anyone had bothered to build predator-proof cages.  Chicken wire is meant to keep chickens in, not predators out.  A raccoon will rip through that stuff like it’s gauze, and quite a few people said raccoons were often in their yards.  One lady even said that a raccoon had come for four nights in a row and stolen a hen.  The fourth hen they managed to save, but her solution?  They ‘keep an eye out’.  And they buy more hens.  I can’t figure out that kind of logic.  Even if you don’t care about your hens as pets – why go through all the expense and bother of raising them if you’re just going to feed them to raccoons?  Get some hardware cloth and protect your investment!

2) That my hens were so much more healthier-looking, and their feathers were so much more glossy.  And it wasn’t just that they were different breeds or ages – several hens were the same age and breed as mine.  It must be all the love and snuggles they get from me!  😉  Either that, or it’s the food.  We’ve taken our girls off the processed layer food and put them on a mixture of natural grains (in addition to whatever bugs and greens they forage.)

More impressive were the gardens.  I’m totally going to get a few dwarf fruit trees and train them into espaliers.  I saw the cutest little pear tree….

And I saw a turkey.  A turkey hen, kept together with the lady’s chickens!  And it lays eggs, which are (according to the owner) way more delicious than chicken eggs.  There will be more about turkeys later in this post….

Before the coop tour, we went to the beach for a hour.

It hasn’t been summer until I’ve had my feet in the sand and smelled the salt.

And on the way to the beach, we saw a deer relaxing in someone’s front yard.

I’m lucky enough not to have deer in MY garden, but how brilliantly cool it is to see one just hangin’ out like this.  I could almost be jealous, if I didn’t know the devastation deer cause in gardens.

But speaking of garden devastation, my two young pullets (Little Blue and Isabella) got into my fenced vegetable garden – and judging by the very large poo left behind, I think their mother joined them at some point.  She was wise enough to make a getaway before anyone could catch her in the act, but they obviously had great fun digging up my fall garden seedlings and trampling through my chard and radishes.  Thankfully, they left my brand-new asparagus bed alone!  I meant to take pictures of the disaster, but forgot until after I’d cleaned up the mess and replanted new seeds.  But here’s what left of a cabbage after hens get into it:

Sigh.  At least the other cabbages are fine.  I keep hearing authors say chickens can be allowed to free range in gardens year-around, but THIS is what happens to gardens when chickens free-range.  It really only works to let them in early in the season to clean out the bugs, and late in the season to clean up the unwanted remains of the vegetables.  But they are brilliant at their jobs during those two times!

This garden attack might have been an act of revenge.  Isabella and my accidental rooster Freddie were soulmates.  The bond they had was obvious, but I can’t keep a rooster in the city.  So Freddie went to another coop, where he will be in charge of a flock of feather-footed females.

Isabella is very upset.  The first couple of days she wandered the coop yard, looking for him and crying.  She has a mournful little voice at the best of times, so it was particularly sad to hear.

But at least Freddie didn’t have to end up in a stew pot!

I gave the girls a few plants of their own in their coop yard.  I noticed some Lemon Balm mint had seeded itself in their yard, and they hadn’t eaten it or dug it up.  Mint is great for keeping flies away, so I had a brainstorm.  I planted several different kinds of mint in corners of their yard.

To protect the plants until the roots get established, I put a few bricks around them.  The Girls haven’t touched them, so I think it’s going to be a success.  Plus, I noticed when Ellie jumped up on my lap to be petted, that her feathers smelled nicely of Lemon Balm!

The rabbits had some surprising news for us – our two little girls turned into one girl and a boy!  So now we’re going to have to get them fixed.

They are such sweet bunnies, though!

In quail news, the babies are all full-grown, and we’re waiting for eggs.  I heard the male crow (SO much quieter and more pleasant than a chicken’s crow!) so I think they’re getting really close.

They love their coop.

And so do the plants growing on the roof.  Next year, I’ll plant strawberries, but this year it’s squash and watermelons.  With all the chicken-manure compost and rabbit droppings, the soil is producing amazing things.  I can almost SEE it grow before my eyes.

Look at the photo evidence (these were taken only a few days apart.)

The one above these words and one below were literally taken one day apart.

And two days later, we have this.

The squash leaves are immense!

We have baby squashes!

And volunteer baby tomato seedlings.  On the quail roof!

Elsewhere in the garden, I’m letting a few of my favorite spring lettuces go to seed.  I’m going to try to save more of my vegetable’s seeds.  The plants adapt to your particular garden that way, and you end up with future generations that are perfectly suited to grow under your garden’s conditions.

Lettuce flowers are similar to small dandelions.

My fancy Italian Dandelions, however, surprised me by blooming blue.  They are very pretty, and could absolutely masquerade as ornamentals.

Let’s see…what else is gorgeous and/or unusual in my garden right now?

The sweet peas are still going strong.

Love this color combination.

I also think I am going to actually get melons to ripen this year.  Miniature ones, which only makes it more sweet.  These are Green Gem.

Today, we went to the local fair.  I was most interested in seeing the turkeys.  I don’t know WHAT it is, but I have always loved turkeys.  I had accepted the fact that I couldn’t have one, because I don’t have room for a separate flock, and probably a Tom would be way too big anyway.  But one turkey hen, mixed in with the chickens?  One of the small breeds?  Totally do-able!  They say that you shouldn’t keep chickens and turkeys together because the chickens can give the turkeys blackhead (a fatal liver disease.)  But from what I’ve been able to discover, blackhead is pretty much extinct, and the odds are not great that my small backyard flock has it.  Plus, by the time the turkeys are old enough to put outside with the hens, they are pretty much immune to it anyway.  It’s worth taking such a very slight risk, I think.  Just look at this sweet turkey girl I met at the fair!

Turkeys are just so friendly and personable.  I’m a little bit smitten, I must admit!