And then there were quails...
Over my years on the farm, I have dealt with cared for and raised a great deal of animals, each and every one of them with their own unique set of demands, feeding requirements and habitual needs, however, and for no specific reason that I can think of, I have never owned quails, until now that is...
Recently tough, I stopped by a good friend of mine, and just as I was abut to leave, he offered me a big cardboard box, which I opened slowly to sneak in a peak, inside of it were eight odd looking midget chickens staring up at me. Their pale brown stripes almost blending in with the cardboard box. I looked up at my friend with what I can only imagine as a puzzled look on my face as I asked 'and this?'
He simply replied "It's for you"
Next thing you know me and my new feathered friends were making our way back to the farm.
How hard could this be right? I mean, I have dealt with a lot of chickens before, and they are easy enough to keep happy, I couldn't see this being any different. After all, I already had an available aviary that I could start off with. Fair enough it was one that I was planning on recovering with bird mesh, as the years had left it better for wear, but still, it was good enough to house the quails until I was ready to get that done.
Only after I got home and released the little quails into theirs, did I realize that the whole kernel corn that I feed my chickens was way to big for the quails to eat, and town was pretty far, and not an option for an outing so late in the day, so I decided that I would crush some of the corn up for them until I could manage to get them the proper feed that they were used to.
The next day I made the dreaded trip to town acquired the food, and then decided that the little feeding trays that we normally used when we were raising chicks would work just fine for the purpose.
At first I wanted to take out all of the sunflower seed husks left behind by the previous residents of the aviary, but just like the Green Ring-necks that used to live there, the little fowl seemed to enjoy scratching around in it, so I decided to leave that in place for now.
But then I started thinking, if the quails might have preferences much different from normal chickens, and I decided to read up a bit more about them. And it turns out that I was missing a few things.
I learnt that these little pheasants are quite curious little birds that enjoy investigating their surroundings, and the enjoy having plant life in their space. I am currently working on planting out some plants for them, that are not harmful or poisonous to them, but that will need a week or so to establish properly before I can set them out inside their enclosure.
I also learnt that they enjoy taking sand baths, and that it helps them to reduce any skin irritations, mites or other parasites that they might be hosting. So I went ahead and added some trays that I had laying around in the garage to their new home, and I filled those up with some sand for them.
This setup might not be ideal, but I am working at improving it as I go along. Which was why I thought the next necessary inlay to their habitat would be some nests. I scratched around whatever I had spare, but all the makeshift nests that I had were either way too big or too small. And the only way forward at this stage was to build them nests from scratch, and I was about to make them some wooden nests when I came across some old refrigerant gas cylinders in one of the store rooms. They looked about the right size for the quails to be comfortable in, and grinding off a few of their tops certainly seemed a lot less time consuming than having to build wooden boxes from scratch.
I ended up measuring and cutting five cylinders for now, placed them neatly in the enclosure and laid them out with grass, also adding some extra grass so that they have the option of modifying their nests to suit their comfortably. I decided that I would first see if they took to them before I decorated them with a bit of color paint - so far, they have wondered in and out, investigating these strange new items in their space, but they haven't really bothered to get comfortable in any of them, and after laying their first eggs shortly after arriving, they stopped laying eggs altogether, Not sure if it is just the stress of the new environment, or if there is another problem that I might be overlooking, I thought for sure that the nests would solve that issue, but no luck so far- I guess time will tell. Alternatively, it will be back to the drawing board on that one...
Have you ever housed quail, or do you know a little on the topic? Please feel free to share - because these tiny fowl seem to be a bit more picky than I initially gave them credit for.