Several months ago Stonewell added ten Coturnix quail to its cast of characters. (Its curious that these ‘too-good-to-pass-up’ acquisitions, avian or herbaceous, always occur when I’m out of town). It seems that the new criteria which drives the expansion our flocks and coveys is ‘cuteness’, which, in Andrew’s mind, goes a long way in justifying the extra work. That said, the quail seem to be remarkably low maintenance and extremely well-behaved. They eat little, drink little, make no noise, do no damage, and produce beautiful, yet somewhat fragile, eggs.
“The Common Quail, Coturnix coturnix, is a small bird in the pheasant family Phasianidae. It is widespread and is found in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa with several subspecies recognized. They are also bred and kept as poultry in some parts of the world both for eggs and meat. It is a small (17 cm) rotund bird, essentially streaked brown with a white eyestripe, and, in the male, a white chin. As befits its migratory nature, it has long wings, unlike the typically short-winged gamebirds. This is a terrestrial species, feeding on seeds and insects on the ground. It is notoriously difficult to see, keeping hidden in crops, and reluctant to fly, preferring to creep away instead. Even when flushed, it keeps low and soon drops back into cover. Often the only indication of its presence is the distinctive “wet-my-lips” ( !!! Where do they come up with these free-associations?!!!-my insert) repetitive song ( Song? Hardly. Blurt? Crow? Hissy Fit?) of the male. The call is uttered mostly in the mornings, evenings and sometimes at night. It is a strongly migratory bird, unlike most game birds. Upon attaining an age of 6–8 weeks, this quail breeds on open arable farmland and grassland across most of Europe and Asia, laying 6-18 eggs in a ground nest. The eggs take from 16–18 days to hatch. Domesticated quail rarely set on their eggs.
Mostly true. We’ve hatched another 13 with the help of a borrowed incubator and they are all very sprightly and quite sweet in movement, bearing and demeanor.
We anticipate losing the original flock soon, as they have a lifespan of one to two years. At present count we have 22. The eggs are very delicately flavored and delicious. We hard boil them and add them to salads or we pickle them and offer them as gifts.
When newly hatched, the baby quail are incredibly small and feeble. Yet, through the glass of the incubator, make tremendous effort to stand on their virgin legs, swaying and falling over, they seemed to have imprinted when they saw my face and my eyes, and began peeping and pecking at the glass when I approached. It breaks ones’ heart, then. What can one possibly do to give comfort? I picked the miniscule creatures up and coddled them in my cupped hands held close to my chest for warmth and they stopped peeping and fell asleep. Too much. Too sweet. Too much for me to try to understand. A tiny creature born and instinctively calling out for something that I am not qualified to give. Now, older, in a pen, I try to protect them. When they jump out of their pen, I chase them around to get them back in; away from the hawks. When its hot I encourage them to drink the cooler water that I’ve replaced. Nothing doing. The chicks that ran to my hand to be picked up and coddled,when in their brood pen, now run away to escape the giant. I wish them well. I do love them.