Quail and permaculture
The March storms had passed and our 4 remaining quail were enjoying spring sunshine and tall grass. I kept an eye on their food and water but apart from that they became self-sufficient and independent. They didn’t eat much and didn’t require any additional care or attention.
However, time was passing by and there was no sign of any eggs. The quail reached 8 week mark and became fully mature and ready to lay eggs at the end of March, but I could never find any! I kept giving them the benefit of a doubt, thinking that perhaps the cold spell we had earlier in the year somehow affected their hormones or stunted their growth but I was also becoming impatient and increasingly aware that we were keeping birds that brought no added benefit to our smallholding.
One day at the end of May, when quail were 16 weeks old, we decided it was time to cull them. If they were not laying eggs, at least they would fill a drawer in the freezer and we could determine if we like their meet and if they were worth incubating again later in the summer or next year. Also, we decided to repurpose the quail cage into a fruit cage, so we ordered many varieties of fruit bushes to plant in the area and found our old hanging baskets which we used to sow many varieties of beans in.
James was volunteered for a job of dispatching the birds so he watched many tutorial videos on YouTube and got the butchering equipment together. I was going to help him catch the skittish birds, but as we went into the cage with the intent to “harvest” our birds, we found a clutch of tiny speckled eggs!
We were so excited! We finally got to try quail eggs and they were most delicious - they have larger yolks and are far creamier than chickens eggs! It also came at a very welcomed time, just as as old hens become broody and stopped laying! It is also a nice trade commodity in our local community as everybody loves the rare quail eggs and really appreciate them.
We carried on with our plan to add fruit bushes and hanging baskets into the quail cage and at the moment the area is used for both plants and birds. This is working well as the bushes provide additional wind protection and hidey holes for the quail and in turn the quail keep fruit bushes well fertilised and bug-free. The way I see it is the cage is now dual purpose and both the bushes and quail benefit each other.
Dual purpose and mutually beneficial - isn’t that what permaculture is all about? Quail are also the most productive birds on our land at the moment, laying not one, but two eggs a day!
Next, I will explain what options are available for keeping quail and explain why we chose to set it up the way we did.