I suppose my quail story started when my father started keeping them in an aviary he built in our backyard. They lived happily underneath the zebra finches and their babies were so small they used to escape through the wire. I don’t remember how long they were there or what happened to them. The next time I met a quail was at a friend’s wedding where their eggs were on a plate, I ate a lot of them and haven’t eaten them since.
The story ends, or perhaps it really starts, when I stood with the principal of one of the schools I work in and suggested quails as an alternative to chickens (it’s a small garden). I don’t know if it was the wedding food or the childhood memory but whatever it was, I mentioned quails, the principal thought it was a great idea and now here I am sifting through the compost for worms, slaters and maggots to feed the ever hungry quails.
I missed a bit of the story, it goes like this:
We bought the eggs over the phone and they were sent via Australia Post who were not careful, but some were incubatable so we incubated them, turned them lovingly three times a day, sent them off with friends when we were away and waited. On the designated day I checked the incubator to find one hatched and another hatching. We spent the rest of the day watching them hatch and have been watching them ever since.
Quails are great insect eaters. My father harbours a not so secret idea to release them in great numbers to cure any grasshopper issues farmers might have. Ours get particularly excited about cockroaches. They also don’t require much space, eat leafy greens (like the outer leaves of iceberg lettuce), are independent from birth and produce beautiful speckled eggs from 6-8 weeks of age. Ours are about 8 weeks old now and ready to move into their school environment. The plan is to let them rotate on the raised beds where they can dig up the soil, eat any insects, add in some fertiliser AND provide a few little eggs to be included in the kids kitchen cooking experience.
All in all, a fun and useful addition to small gardens.