IT FINALLY HAPPENED! OUR QUAIL ARE LAYING EGGS!
The last two and a half months with our little avian friends have presented us with many troubles and triumphs, but nothing is more satisfying after so many difficulties than picking up these tiny butt nuggets like an Easter egg hunt! We would get only one or two eggs a day in the beginning, but now we’re collecting as many as twelve!
A few weeks ago our quail started to become increasingly aggressive, not only to my husband and I but to each other as well. Suddenly they went from these shy, docile creatures, to wild, flighty assassins. Last week was certainly the hardest as they began attacking each other to the point of pulling feathers, drawing blood, and even scratching out eyes. We had two that were so badly injured that we feared they wouldn’t live to see the next day. They surprised us and are still with us, but unfortunately another two were hurt and we found them dead early one morning. I had no good explanation for the violent change in personality, so I took to poultry message boards for advice.
After much discussion with more seasoned quail farmers, I decided to try one nontraditional approach to curb their aggression: I put a white foam block in their cage in an effort to distract them from pecking at each other. The results were nothing short of astounding and aside from losing two birds, I saw a change in their behavior within the first day. I also added makeshift toys to their environment to keep their interest and avoid boredom that could lead to pecking, feather pulling, or worse.
Providing them with enrichment seemed to do the trick, if only for a short while. Occasionally we still find fresh wounds on our birds, but at least it’s getting better. Our next approach will be to take the advice of our local veterinarian and add a red light to their pen in an effort to keep them calm. We’ve chosen an LED bulb instead of the red brooder lamp we used when they were chicks so that we can keep the temperature of the pen cooler. We live in south Louisiana so even though we’ve just come into September, our temperatures still reach the mid nineties during the day. We’re willing to give any credible idea a try. While they’re just doing what comes naturally to them, it’s still hard to watch them get hurt and have a gnawing feeling that we’re not doing all we can to give them the best life possible. Even though we are using them for food, it’s only fair that we treat them with kindness and respect.
This weekend, Julian and I decided to take all the eggs we’ve collected during the week and make a batch of pickled quail eggs. Besides a few that became breakfast, we had thirty-seven eggs available. While our eggs boiled in a large pot of water over the stove, I began peeling and slicing cloves of garlic to add to our jar for extra flavor. Once cooled, Julian and I began the tedious task of peeling the tiny shells from the eggs. It’s slightly more difficult than peeling chicken eggs without damaging them because of the harder shell and thicker membrane, but we became pros at around egg thirteen! At this point we developed an appreciation for the different patterns of each individual egg and admired the stunning bluish, green color on the underside of the shells. Finally, I layered our eggs, cloves of garlic, and chow chow* that my grandfather and my great aunt made in the Spring in a one quart glass jar before filling the remaining space with vinegar. Our jar will stay in the refrigerator to season for an excruciatingly long two or three weeks before we’re able to enjoy them. The payoff will be well worth the wait.
With so many fresh eggs at our disposal, we’ve been contemplating what to do with them. Our plan for the moment is to experiment with the surplus of eggs that don’t get eaten to create new, interesting flavors of pickled quail eggs. I’ve been getting several requests for homemade pickled eggs and I think I can make a small profit from selling them. Any money we make from our birds will go directly back to them in the form of feed, essential supplies, and improved housing. We’ll periodically keep you guys up to speed on our quail adventures and share any recipes we think you’ll love. Thanks for reading and supporting the blog!
*Chow chow is a popular spicy pickled condiment in Louisiana. Ingredients will vary by region, culture, and tradition, but it’s essentially a finely diced vegetable and vinegar relish. The chow chow that I’m accustomed to is primarily made up of cayenne and jalapeno peppers, garlic, onions, and vinegar. It’s absolute heaven.