Tag Archives: coturnix quail

Towhees, Quail, and Lost Chickens, Oh My

I meant to do a regular update on the Rufus-Sided Towee eggs that were laid in my clematis, but as usual, time got away from me. So here is the story of the eggs, all at once.

So ugly they are ADORABLE. Resisted the urge to cuddle them, but I do occasionally give them a pet on their little fluffy mohawks. At a few days old, their eyes are closed, and they can’t distinguish me from their parents. Anytime I approach the nest, they start begging for dinner.

A few days older still, and their eyes open. Now they know I’m not their mama, and they tend to give me the closed mouth stare of disgust.

Occasionally, when they’re really, really hungry, they still try to talk me into a little treat on the side. (There are still three in the nest, though – one is just hiding in this shot.)

And a surprisingly short time later, they were ready to leave the nest. I happened to go out and visit just in time to see it happen.

They still can’t properly fly – which freaked me out big time when I saw them fluttering and flapping around at the base of the clematis. I actually tried to put them back in the nest, thinking they’d jumped out prematurely. But they weren’t having any of that! After googling it, I discovered that several varieties of birds (Towhees among them) actually do leave the nest before they can fly. It certainly didn’t slow them down any. Just a few minutes after I took this last picture, all three were gone with their parents, over the back fence and into the field behind us. I hope they survived. It must be hard, to leave the nest before you can fly!

In other news, I had a great hatch rate from my last batch of shipped coturnix quail eggs – out of 12, 8 hatched.

They are mostly grown up now, and are outside in the newest coop.  This is a terrible picture, and I still need to put on the roofing material, but here’s a shot of it.

It is divided down the middle by a removable screen, so I can either have two cages, or one big one. At the time of this picture, I had my older pair (Loki and Sweetie) in one side, and their son in the other. He was a solitary hatch, so he’s really happy now that the new quails are big enough that they can all be together in one pen with him.

Here’s a close up of his side:

And here’s the pair in theirs.

Speaking of the cages, everyone asks why I spray paint the wire black. The reason is simple: it makes the visibility SO much clearer. I painted one side, then took a pic, just so you can see the difference.

Totally worth the couple minutes it takes to paint!

Bobwhite quail video (with surprise guest appearance by Goldie!)

I had a chicken go missing the other day. It was right before I had to leave for work, so I was running around the entire property (inside and outside of the chicken yard) calling her and offering treats. Nothing. Not so much as a single lost feather. I asked my favorite hen, Ellie, where Booty was, and Ellie marched into the coop and stood there, cackling.

But Booty wasn’t in the coop, was she? I checked behind all the storage bins and buckets, in case she got somehow stuck. No sign of her. I was sincerely thinking she was gone, but if a predator found her, I wanted to know, so I could take precautions for the rest of the girls. I took one last tour around the yard, and when I finished, Ellie was still standing inside the coop.

“She’s not in there, Ellie,” I said. “I looked.”

Ellie stared at me, with what can only be described as a ‘humans are soooo stupid’ kind of expression. Might I add, that while Ellie was standing in the coop, and I was running around the yard looking, the other chickens were busy eating all the treats I had thrown around trying to call Booty? It was really strange that Ellie was just standing there, and not eating the treats herself. Really, really strange.

Could Booty possibly be in here somewhere? Was there any possible place I hadn’t looked? There wasn’t…unless…yes. The crates we use as nest boxes are slightly raised off the ground, and Booty IS a little hen. Could she have crawled underneath? I lifted up one of the nest boxes, and there was Booty, caught in the process of laying a stealthy egg…or two…or six.

And obviously one of the other hens had managed to squeeze under there too.

Ellie gave me one last ‘took you long enough’ glance, then stalked out of the coop to see if any of the treats were left.

Booty, you bad, bad girl! You had me so worried~

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Ducklings, Quail, and a Greenhouse, Oh My!

First off, the Indian Runner ducklings, Maisie and Millie, are now a week old.  Ducks grow so freaking fast!

We’ve been letting them out to run and play in the living room, and today, because the weather was so lovely and warm, they got to go outside and have a bath.

While I was outside with the camera, I also took a few pictures of the quail.

A gratuitous shot of Peabody because he is a camera hog:

And then I visitied Loki and Isis.  When I open the door to the coop, Isis always comes running right up, expecting treats.

If I don’t immediately comply with a handful of seed or greens, she sometimes attempts to walk (always very calmly) out of the coop to go get her own greens.

It’s at this point that I give in to her wishes…

I really, really like these Golden Italians.  They are so docile and sweet-tempered.  Though Loki is always slightly suspicious of my motives.  He’s a good male, and protective of his girl.

Speaking of quail, I said I’d show you pics of my new coop.  It’s smaller than the others – I originally meant it to hook onto the from-scratch greenhouse I was going to build.  I wanted to make sure they had an outside area they could escape to if the interior of the greenhouse got too hot.

The entire top lifts, for easy access to the quail.  I wouldn’t have a top *quite* like this, if I didn’t trust my quail to be so tame they wouldn’t fly out.  As it is, one of the girls does *pretend* she’s going to fly out if I’m not quick enough with the treats.  But once I drop seed or greens in the pen, they all let me pet them, clean around them, and do whatever else needs to be done without fear.

Notice the chickens looking on.  They have severe quail-food envy.  The highlight of their day is when I scatter a few quail crumbles on the ground for them!

We aren’t doing a from-scratch greenhouse any more, for a variety of reasons.  The biggest one being that we found a kit that is everything we want, for a reasonable price.  It’s the Early Bloomer, by Solexx.  We have the frame up, but we were accidentally sent the wrong size of anchoring/tie down pieces, so we can’t put the skin on it until we get those in the mail.

The company, Solexx is AMAZING to deal with.  They are willing to answer all our questions over the phone, and after we bought one, the guy who gives help on building it gave us his personal cell phone number in case we had trouble and needed help after hours or on the weekend!  Wow.  That’s customer service you don’t often see.

If you’re looking for a greenhouse, I highly recommend checking them out.

And what’s new in the garden?  My beans are coming up like wildfire!

I’m growing so many different kinds of snap beans this year.  I want to can millions of them!  Seriously, those beans I canned last year are so yummy.  I’m also growing a couple of varieties for dry beans.  Black Turtle and Saxons, neither of which I’ve done before, and Scarlet Runner Beans, which I do every year.  The hummingbirds LOVE the flowers, they are gorgeous on the trellis, and the dry beans are wonderful.  Similar to a pinto, I think, only creamier.  Since I tried them as dry beans, I don’t bother picking any of them as young snap beans.

And here’s a picture of one of my favorite flowers, Forget-Me-Not.

Oh, and I almost forgot – we’re getting three new chicks this year!  My broody hen, Josie, went broody at just the right time this year, so I reserved two Ameraucanas, and one Speckled Sussex.  Every time I get an Ameraucana, it ends up being a rooster.  Every. Freaking. Time.  So this time, I’m getting two.  My luck couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Don’t answer that.

On Quail Monogamy & Remodeling a Garden

Loki the quail is being a bad boy.  Or a good one, depending on whether you are the female he loves…or the female he hates and was chasing all over the pen, causing her fly into walls out of sheer panic.

I’m starting to think coturnix quail are monogamists.  They’re fine kept in a group of a male and several females in the fall/winter, but once those spring hormones kick in…oh boy.  So right now I’ve got Peabody and wife together, and Loki and wife together.  I’ve had to put the other Italian girl in her own little wired off area, because she was going to hurt herself, trying to escape.  Cinna is still with two girls, but even he clearly has a girl he’s bonded with, and one he ignores.  I think once I either give away one of the pairs (or a male dies) I’m going to keep two breeding pairs, and one cage of only females for egg production.  They are definitely teaching me what they like, these quails!

And in spite of the fact that we are counting down to April 17th, and the arrival of three little ducklings, we haven’t started building their coop.  Instead, we are remodeling the back yard.  I’m of the persuasion that more than a small patch of lawn is a waste of space.  Mom is very attached to her lawn…or was.  I don’t know what I said, but suddenly she came around to my way of thinking, and we are getting out of the backyard lawn business.  Except for a few small areas.

We are also putting a paverstone path instead of the grassy area that always gets the most foot traffic.  In the winter, this area turns to mud, and I once used it accidentally as a very effective slip n’ slide.

Also, thanks to the influence/encouragement of Grow a Little Fruit Tree, I have planted two peach trees.  One Indian Free, the other Charlotte.

The boards are there because Dexter has discovered the joys of digging disturbed dirt.  Joy is a muddy, filthy corgi!

I also planted two cherries: Black Tartarian and Royal Ann, and have two plums on order: Coe’s Golden Drop and Mirabelle.  I’m especially excited about the Mirabelle, because there used to be house nearby with a plum tree producing mini yellow plums.  They were so good, but neither the owner nor I had any idea what they were.  Finally, though, I’m sure I figured the mystery out.  Since the house near me was sold and the tree removed, I’ll be so happy to have one of my own.

Also, I was in the local paper Sunday.  After being interviewed on keeping backyard chickens, a photographer came and took some pictures of my setup.  It’s too bad everything is in winter ugly mode right now, but the article did come out well.  I did not say I used ‘fine sawdust’ as bedding in my coop, however.  That would be a recipe for disaster!  Large flake shavings, that’s the ticket!

It was a surprise to find I’d actually made the front cover…sharing space with the human trafficers, no less!

Quail and Garden Update

I was so excited the other day when I discovered my millet is making seed heads!

So far this seems to be a really great crop for my area of the PNW.  It is fairly shallow-rooted, though, so in a recent wind-and-rain storm we had, I came outside to discover most of the stalks were flat on the ground.  I tied them up again and they don’t seem to be fazed by their near-death experience.  Next year, when I grow a much larger crop, I’ll be sure to put them up inside some kind of support from the beginning.

The test crop of quinoa is also doing well.  I have the beginning of flower heads on those.

It will be a lot of fun to feed these these crops to the quail, when they are ready.

The rest of garden is still going gang-busters.  It’s become a jungle out in the front yard vegetable garden!

I’ve harvested the last of the bush beans, almost all the turnips, and the early plantings of lettuce are bolting.  Some of the swiss chard is also bolting.  That’s okay.  Some of it I will let do its thing, so I can collect seed for next year.  Some of it, I’ve been feeding to the chickens and quail.

This weekend, I’ll start planting some fall crops in the newly available garden space.

Speaking of the quail, I’ve found each bird definitely has their personal preference when it comes to taste.  With the two newest girls (the golden italians) one is a millet/bird seed gal.  She comes running to me when I open the coop, begging for me to hold out some seed in my palm for her to eat.  Even if there’s some already scattered on the ground, she prefers “fresh” seed right out of my hand.  The other girl really couldn’t care whether I have seed or not.  She’s all about the greens.  While the first one is eating her seed, the second girl is dancing around my knees, pleading with anxious eyes.  When I pluck a leaf and hold it out to her, she rips into it like a Bengal tiger.

And the standard quail?  It’s worms, worms, worms, for them.  I can’t use the trowel or turn over any stones/bricks within view of their coop without them going crazy.  I think I’m going to have start raising mealworms.

Garden Update in Pictures

I’m going to have lots of new fruit this year!  The kiwi and grapes have buds:

The currants have actual unripe berries:

The fig tree seems to be ripening two entire figs…which is pretty impressive, considering it’s barely more than a twig:

And the strawberries I planted on the quail coop roof garden are doing wonderfully.

My from-seed ground cherries are doing very well.  I’ve never tasted a ground cherry before; I’m really looking forward to harvesting fruit.

The pear and apple espaliers have a long ways to go, still, but they are leafing out and looking pretty.  I found a cheap blackboard, and put it out in the garden.  I still need to find a place to hang it, but I think it looks really cool out there!

I have lots of little lettuces coming up.  I love all the different colors and leaf shapes of lettuce.  It’s such a pity some people only are familiar with store-bought iceberg.

And the names!  This next is called: Frizzy Headed Drunken Woman.  Who wouldn’t want such a disorderly lettuce in their garden?  I hope she doesn’t corrupt the beets….

The chicken’s kale patch is growing up – and soon I’ll be putting out quinoa seedlings in behind them.  I’ve never tried quinoa before, but if it’s successful, the quail will adore the seed heads.

Speaking of the chickens, my favorite girl, Ellie, likes nothing more than to sleep/sunbathe in my lap.  She’s been too camera-shy to let me get a picture before, but today she was just too sleepy to care.

She’s a very smart chicken.  It took me awhile to catch on, but she communicates her desires to me by pecking me.  On the foot, if she wants me to go somewhere (like take her out to garden compost bin to dig for worms).  On the knee, if she wants me to sit down, so she can take a nap on my lap!  Since I figured this out, I’ve been testing it, and it’s definitely true!

Look at this sleepy face…

I also have healthy looking crops of potatoes…but we’ll have to wait to see how many potatoes actually grow.  I’m testing three different methods: in the ground, in grow bags, and in a trash can.  Here is a few in a grow bag.

And the bees?  They appear to be doing well, and I hope I’ll see some newly hatched bees soon.  They are definitely busy making comb.  They have four pieces in the new hive so far.

I really, really hope they survive – they are so incredibly awesome to watch.  I like just sitting beside the hive and watching them come and go.  They don’t seem to mind my presence at all.  Yesterday, one landed on my shoulder and sat with me for a little bit before buzzing off to work.

And I made a new quail video for you.  I ended up with three girls from that last batch I hatched.  One boy was lucky enough to find a new home with a friend – along with one of the girls.  They other two are staying with me, and Loki could not be more delighted to have a coop and girls all to himself.  The other four boys I processed for meat.  That was an experience I’ll save for a latter post.

Quail Love, Tomatoes, and Straw Bales

The tomatoes I started from seed outgrew the grow light.  There just wasn’t room for all of them underneath it, once I transplanted them into larger pots.  Plus, I wanted the light for Ground Cherries, so the tomatoes went into the kitchen window.  And the living room window, since there are so many of them.

This was about a week ago.  Today, I transplanted them again.  Since I didn’t actually have any pots the right size, I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of plastic Easter pails.

If you’re thinking that they look smaller now than they did then, it’s because each time you transplant tomatoes, you snip off the lower leaves and bury the stem up to top set of leaves.  The buried portion of stem sends out roots, and makes the plant much stronger!

There are still some areas in the front yard vegetable garden that I haven’t had time to build raised beds in.  This means that the soil is still very poor, as I also haven’t had time to put in a bunch of compost.  Since I really, really want to garden those areas this year, I decided to try out Straw Bale Gardening.  I doubt I’ll continue doing it in future years, because straw is not very cheap in my part of the world, but it will be an interesting experiment.  The first step is to “condition” the straw bales, so I’ll be doing that for the next couple of weeks.

At the very least, the straw will turn to compost, and help fill those raised beds!

Today I also finished getting the former quail Bachelor Pad set up in its new location, and moved Peabody and his wives into it.  I built a new nest box for it; basically a box with a roof that raises on hinges that fits inside the quail coop.

Here’s the view looking down into the nest box.

Here’s the view with the nest box roof lowered.

I’m going to put a piece of waterproofing on top to keep the quail (and their food) dry.

Peabody and two of the girls seem to like it.  Mama quail is Not Amused.  She is very shy, and was terrified out of her wits by this move, but she seems to be settling in.  Hopefully she’ll go broody again, but who knows?  Quail are often a mystery.

The babies inside are just two weeks old, and they are nearly entirely feathered out on their bodies.  And they can fly!  It’s not uncommon for one to helicopter straight up out of the brooder when I take the cover off.  They don’t want to escape; they are just full of high spirits, and they love it when I clean their box, because they always get interesting things like dirt to dig in, or buttons to pick at.  They need things to keep them busy and happy, so they won’t develop the habit of picking on each other.

Their legs are also getting insanely long.

I don’t think I ever posted this picture of them at a few days old.  I just reached into the brooder and scooped up a handful!  This was about half of them.

Moving Peabody and his girls out into the their new coop left Loki alone in the old one.  I was going to leave him by himself at first (it’s only a short time until the chicks will be old enough to join him) but he was clearly just too lonely.  Poor guy.  So I ended up temporarily “borrowing” one of Peabody’s girls and putting her in with Loki.

He loves her.  He’s on cloud 9.  It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen; he started running in front of her, neck outstretched, on his tippy-toes.  It must be a courtship dance?  I’ve never seen either of the other two males do it, though.

She was unimpressed, and even less so when he tried to mate with her…and let’s just say…he needed some serious practice to get the technicalities down!  😉

As soon as he finished, she pecked him around the face a few times to let him know she wouldn’t be putting up with any more behavior like that!  So he went back to his tippy-toe dance again.  Then she got involved in having a dust bath, and he snuck up behind her, and deliberated: did he dare make another attempt?  Would she scorn his attempt if he did?  But oh – she was just so seductive, down there rolling in the dirt!

Success!!!

I wish I’d been able to record this for you.  It was so hysterically cute and funny – especially when he celebrated by performing an especially vigorous tippy-toe dance afterward!

I did go get the camera and record a little bit for you – although he is not showing off the perfect form he previously had in his dance.  I think he was getting a bit tired by this point!

Almost a Tragedy (and a warning!)

Today seven of the eight quail chicks almost died.  Let me tell you the story.

I woke up about an hour earlier than I normally do, and it’s so fortunate that I really had to use the bathroom…and then, that I decided it wasn’t really worth going back to bed.  Instead, I came into the living room and checked on the chicks.

Seven of them (all but one) were laying stretched out on their sides, limp and completely cold.  They apparently had left the warmth of the Brinsea Ecoglow Brooder (as they frequently do during the daytime), and had wandered to the opposite end of the brooder box, where they had been unable to find their way back in the dim light.  Two of them were feebly opening and closing their beaks; the rest looked completely dead.  I thought it was probably too late to save any of them.  They were so cold.  They almost felt like they’d been in the fridge.

I picked them up and put them under the Brinsea Brooder, then found the old heat lamp I’d used for the previous hatchlings, and held that over them instead.  It was a more intense, focused heat, which was, I thought, the only thing that might save some of them.  And it worked.  After about five minutes, a couple of them started to move slightly.  I began to hope I’d be able to save at least one.

By ten minutes, all but one was starting to showing signs of recovery.  I was so sure that one of them was gone, though.  It was completely still and cold; no signs of life whatever.  If you’ve ever held a dead bird, you know what dead feels like; this one felt dead.  But you should never assume a creature that “died” of cold is actually dead, until you warm it up completely.

A few minutes after the rest were starting to move around, the “dead” chick opened its eyes and looked at me.

All seven survived, and tonight, they are all running around as if nothing ever happened.  Quail chicks look fragile, but they are surprisingly resilient.  Still, if I hadn’t drank so much water before I went to bed, or if I’d gotten up even a few minutes later…I know I would have only one chick left.  Miracles do happen.

Lesson learned.  From now on out, I’m leaving the overhead light on in the living room so the quail have enough light find their way back to the Brooder if they decide to go Crazy Quail Adventuring in the middle of the night.

And that eighth chick who had enough sense to stay under the Brooder?  If she’s a girl, I should name her Athena, after the Greek goddess of wisdom!

Besides rescue quail, I did a little work in the garden.  I’m in the process of making a small water garden inside one of my flower beds, out of a plastic tub.

The tub is sunken into the raised bed (I will eventually bury the front of the tub as well.)  It will be lined around the edge with bricks.

Inside are two concrete cinder blocks, to raise ledges for the plantings to sit on.

The holes in the cinder blocks will be nice hiding holes for future fish.

I also swung by the local nursery and picked up two more gooseberries.  One Black Velvet, and another of the Captivator gooseberries that I planted one of last year.  We got about four berries from it, and they were SO good.  An absolutely wonderful sweet flavor, right off the bush!  I knew I had to at least one more of this variety.  I also got a Petite Negri fig, which I will grow in a pot, and something I’d never heard of: an Apple Rose.

It is a very old type of rose that is grown for its large, flavorful hips.  They actually had it in the edible fruit area of the nursery, rather than with the other roses.

rosa-canina-hip

The garden is really starting to wake up.  Everything is greening out, and several types of early flowers are blooming.  I put my mason bees out, so hopefully they’ll come successfully out of their cocoons soon.  Oh!  And I saw my first bee today; a bumblebee.  I was so happy to see her buzzing around.  She appeared to be on a mission; I suspect she was a scout out searching for a new place to build a hive.  Hopefully her and her sisters will choose someplace very close to my garden, if not inside it.  I adore bumblebees.

In other bee news, Mom painted the new honeybee hive, and it’s out in the garden on its new stand awaiting its new residents!