At times, husbands get a bug up their butt for a new quest. I should be grateful it wasn’t gallivanting around the nudie bars or climbing Mt. Everest (as if he was able) but he wanted (me) to raise quail, chukars and pheasants. He pitched me that not only did they give eggs, but they were food bon vivant! A southern city girl, I was raised in a family of pot roast and Chef Boyardee spaghetti, but over the years, the other half’s persuasions worked and I was game (no pun intended) to a more adventurous palate. Little did I know the benefits, both emotionally and nutritionally to these little creatures.
We purchased the first 35 quail to start our flock (another blog for the subsequent chukars and pheasants). Did you know that quail can’t be free ranged? Neither did we. We opened the box and the first five were off like NASA propelled rockets to the wild blue yonder. “We are free, we are free” I distinctly heard them call as they soared over the fence. We still find the occasional quail egg in the weeds behind the fence so those Houdini birds lived to breed and lay on in the wild, mocking their cousins in the pens. With the remaining 30 quail we covered the pen and started our serious learning curve. I had committed my cardinal sin – acquired animals without doing an intense study on the art of quail husbandry.
The nutritional benefits are awesome but I am sure husband was only dreaming about quail meat, not those little coturnine pearls. About the size of a fat big thumb, quail eggs are packed with 3-4 times the nutrition of a regular chicken egg and low in cholesterol. Compared to chicken eggs, the yolks are mammoth in relation to the white. Regularly consumed raw on sushi as well as a common ingredient in Asian and western European cuisine, the eggs are light and delicate with no gamey aftertaste. I use them like chicken eggs and love in a nest of shredded potatoes and onions.
Reading that the color pattern of the egg to a hen is like a finger print to a human, I separated a couple hens to verify the claim. The beige and brown mottled pattern of each respective hen was identical day after day. It doesn’t take much to entertain me!
A chirp with a twang on the end, the sweet song of the cotournix quail is tantalizing. Quiet in the day but at their “laying” hours of the early evening, they become quite vocal, in a very soothing churtle. We have come to expect the sweet serenade to accompany the dusk each day to signal egg gathering time.
Generally quail raising has been uneventful, with the exception of the day we found a huge rat snake that had obviously consumed two quail and was working on the third but was too large by that time to slither back through the cage wire after nabbing the bounty. For even a condo dweller, a few quail in a cage on the balcony would render fresh eggs and no one would be the wiser that you are harboring miniature food producing livestock.