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Winter is coming–how to winterize for your quail

The leaves are turning here in Ohio, and the night are getting cold. Thus I am forced to face the fact that winter will soon be here, like it or not. I am an “or not” person. The thought of tending to the animals in snow, or wind, or wind and snow sounds downright awful. So we prepare. We prepare now so there are fewer minutes spent fumbling around the barn LATER.

Think about your flock- Now is a good time to inventory your flock and decide who stays and who goes. Extra males, and older weaker birds that may not be able to survive the winter are sent to freezer camp– along with any trouble makers (you know who I’m talking about). Try to leave around 15 birds in your covey or per cage so they can cuddle up for warmth if need be.

Thoroughly examine your cage/coop/quail area. Patch up any holes that can create drafts, fix that loose latch, and dig out that old tarp. Tarps are great for small rabbit hutch type designs. you can leave it open in the front during the day and close it off at night without much fuss. Coturnix quail are quite cold hearty but won’t fair well left exposed to harsh wind, rain, or snow.

 

 

Have a plan for waterers. If you are in a below freezing area, keeping waterers thawed out can be the worst part of animal husbandry. Water lines that freeze, or waterers that won’t dispense because they are frozen solid make for a bad morning. Plan ahead! If you are going to purchase a water heating “pad” that the water can set on, you should be set for the winter… these are wonderful and I highly suggest them if your set up allows…. but if you have no electricity or have cages stacked, you may need to get more creative with your winter war of the waterers. If you are using the mason jar waterers, switch to the plastic jars that can be bought at your local feed store. In case they freeze at least they won’t bust and create a potential fatal accident for your quail. I also suggest that you have replacements for all waterers so that when you go out for your morning chores than you can grab the replacement and swap it for the frozen one. Take the frozen one inside, and it will be thawed and ready to go for tomorrow, when you can swap it out again. Then you don’t have to put the time and energy into thawing a single waterer out in the cold winter mornings.

 

 

If you are using bedding, that will help insulate your birds. A thick layer of pine bedding will help to keep heat in, as well as some straw to burrow into will provide an added layer of protection. Just make sure that is doesn’t become to soiled that it becomes damp. Damp + cold = unhappy quail.

 

It you are using light to extend your laying season, take note on when your birds lay everyday and collect eggs shortly after. That way you can avoid frozen busted eggs.

Most of all use good ‘ol common sense. Notice your quail’s behavior and determine wether or not they are handling the cold. Birds that are puffed up are liking trying to tell you something!

 

So stay warm, plan ahead, and please share if you have any tips for lasting the winter!

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The tricky business of adding more quail to an existing covey

If you have had quail, then you know they will fight. And when they fight, they fight dirty. For some reason they like to go for the eyes and head. It can be quite gruesome. Generally these fights are between males over females, or when a new bird tries to join the current group. The term pecking order is not for nothing! Hens are just as brutal, the top lady doesn’t take to new birds (male or female) entering her domain. This can be quite problematic when your teenage quail are all grown up and ready to join your layers, or when consolidating groups. So how do you do it with minimal bloodshed? These are a few tried and true methods I use.

1. No ones land… territory is a main reason quail fight. If they are moved to a new pen, even the next pen over, and there are new birds that join them in the move, they are unlikely to take offense. If a new pen is not an option, pull all the existing old birds out into a box, and put the new birds in the box with old birds. Then you move everyone back in to pen together. All the confusion usually dulls the territorial issues.

2. Entertainment. Nothing like a distraction to take their mind off the new guy (or gal) Try to use something they don’t already have in their pen. A dust bath, mealworms or crickets or even some grass clipping or hay to play in will serve as a temporary distraction while you stealthily add in the newcomers. After all the excitement of the new entertainment they usually don’t may too much attention to the new guy.

3. Make sure your ratios are right. We put in 1 male for every 4 hens, excess of males will fight and overbreed hens. Overbred hens loose back feathers and neck feathers. Prolapse can also be caused by overbreeding (as well as other issues- age, weight, ect) On the flip side however, if you do want eggs to be fertile you cannot house too few males per hens or your hatch rate will drop significantly. This is a delicate balance that may need constant attention. Keep in mind your hatch rate and hens health when deciding who stays and who goes. Another thing to consider is if birds are overcrowded this can also lead to fighting especially if new birds are introduced. Check and make sure ratios are correct,and everyone has enough room, as this is an easy fix for fighting.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Hope this helps in your addition of new birds to you flock! If you have other ideas please share with us!

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So your gunna be a quail parent….tips and ideas for a easy hatch

So your gunna be a quail parent…..

 

Below is a short list of ideas to help you with incubating eggs and your new babies.

  1. Let eggs “rest” overnight after your receive them in the mail pointy side down before setting them in your incubator. This lets the air sack in the egg go in the correct position in the top or fat end of the egg. This is also when you want to heat up your incubator (99.5) to stabilize the temperature BEFORE setting eggs. Humidity should be between 35%-45% in some of the more humid climates you may not need to add water to incubator. This is referred to as “dry hatch”
  2. Setting eggs is easy. Put them in turner pointy side down. If you have a turner made for chicken eggs, you can make holes smaller by adding paper towels to each hole. If you are turning by hand you should turn eggs 3x a day.
  3. Hard part- waiting! Day 1 – 14 eggs should be turned, kept at the 99.5 temperature, and the 35%-45% humidity.
  4. Day 15 take eggs off turner! They are now in “lockdown” This means that the eggs should no longer be turned because the chick is positioning itself to hatch out. Humidity is bumped up to 55%-65% Water should be added to the bottom of incubator a little at a time…its amazing how a few tablespoons can change the humidity so drastically!
  5. Day 17-19 The day you have been waiting for! Hatchday! Eggs will begin rolling around and you may hear peeping! Usuallyeggs are pipped and hatched within a few hours. Try your best not to open incubator as the humidity level drops and other hatching chicks can become stuck in their shells. The chicks will be just fine without food and water for their first day. (if you choose to take dry babies out during hatching spray inside the incubator with a mister-think old windex bottle- to make sure humidity stays up.) I usually take out dry babies every 12 hours.

 

If your hatch goes over day 18 it is probably because your temperature is low. They can still hatch as late as day 23…Hang in there!

You are a quail parent….now what?!

Baby quail are TINY because of this they need a little more care.

Food should be small enough for them to eat, so you may need to crush up your crumbles using a food processor, or save the crumbs from the bottom of your other feed bags. Quail thrive best on high protein. A game bird food or turkey starter will do the trick!

Water is the#1 cause of death for baby quail. They think they can scuba dive…I assure you, they cannot. Add rocks or marbles to water dishes for the first two weeks.

Heat is also a critical component for chicks health. Temperature under the heat lamp should be around 100 degrees for the first few days and then slowly decreasing. Make sure you have an area of heat, and one without.If you don’t have a thermometer thats OK! The babies will let you know! Babies piled under the heat lamp are too cold, babies trying to get away for the heat are to hot. You may need to raise or lower your light after the babies are put into the brooder after you assess their behavior.

They don’t stay small for long! You will be enjoying your very own quail eggs from your new covey in about 7 weeks!

Have a question? Email me at jenna@myshirefarm.com or message myshire quality quail on Facebook                                

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Quail is the new chicken

 

Yep move over chicken…. The quail is here to stay! It has earned top spot at Myshire, and I’m sure many more farms and urban homesteader will make the switch too. Here is the case for changing the way you do birds.

1) Space efficiency. They just don’t need a lot of space! The coturnix quail is quite content with 1 square foot per bird, and even then they still love to cuddle and sleep together. You will usually find them keeping the same sleep patterns. Everybirdy being awake playing and eating, and then all taking naps together in their odd sprawled out way. Most people keep them in rabbit hutches for added ease of cleaning.

2) Eggs. At 300 eggs a year, the chicken has a hard time keeping up. Add in the fact that egg to feed ratio is better with quail, and many claim the health benefits of quail eggs are far superior. Said to help everything from boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, to preventing cancer. Some people allergic to chicken eggs can consume the quail eggs without any reaction. And my favorite part….. They start laying as soon as 7 WEEKS OLD. Chickens take 20+ weeks to lay. 

3)Meat. Sure they are small, but don’t let that fool you! These birds can hatch and get to butcher weight in 8 weeks with less cost and labor than the chicken counterparts. The quail meat is higher in protein and lower in fat than your average chicken broiler too. Their small size makes them easy to dress out without any fancy equipment. They are easy to store in the freezer, and fast to cook. The best part is quail are sustainable! No more ordering in cornish rock cross chicks for $2.50 EACH CHICK year after year. The coturnix is easily hatched out in your home incubator in just 18 days.

4)No ban! Most in-city ordinances ban livestock, this includes the chicken. Quail however, are not in this category and can be kept as pets. Coturnix quail are not “game birds” either so most states don’t require permits that are necessary for other quail such as the native bobwhite. This opens up the possibility for millions of Americans to have their own sustainable protein source.

5) Lots of personality. For little birds they come with a lot of spunk! They love their dust bathes and treats (mine are getting leftover cucumbers from the garden now and will eat it down to the peel!) They will pop around like popcorn and call out when their humans are near. They also come in lots of color choices.

Myshire Farm Quality Quail

 

WARNING: SWITCHING TO QUAIL IS HIGHLY ADDICTING.

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Top 10 tips for raising chicks…These you need to know!

I raise birds… Mainly quail, but with a few turkeys, geese, chickens, and ducks thrown in. I have come across some tips over time, some of them mine, some stolen from others. Here are a few of my favorite unconventional or $ saving ideas.

  1. To prevent water dish drownings from day old chicks, add rocks to water dishes
  2. Instead of grinding quail food for the babies, use the leftover crumbs from the adult quail feeders….I feel like it is free food!
  3. If you have a power outage, and hence no heat lamps, fill gallon jugs with warm water for chicks to huddle against.
  4. Make easy homemade no-waste feeders from tupperware container with holes cut into the sides. Leave enough room to fit their heads in, but not enough for them to scratch the food everywhere.
  5. If your chicks run out of water (which they shouldn’t-but sometimes it happens) fill up waterers with WARM water, to prevent them from getting chilled as they all rush into the water source.
  6. Old fish tanks and water troughs make excellent brooders
  7. Turkey poults are DUMB make sure the heat source is VERY close…. they can freeze to death a foot from the lights range.
  8. Goslings love grass clippings. Make them happy by adding it to their diet…plus its free food….I like free food….
  9. You must hatch babies in groups. A single healthy baby will not survive on its own
  10.  Wash hands after caring for your babies, and refrain from kissing them! I have to keep reminding the kids of this one! Nobody wants salmonella poisoning but it is so easy to forget when they are soooo cute!

I hope you learned a tidbit that will help you on your own homestead journey! Please leave a comment of your own tips for me and others!

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4 tips for a wood burning stove

Tips for a wood burning stove.

When I moved into my house 5 years ago. I didn’t know what the large black box metal box was in the kitchen. I knew it was ugly, and it took up too much room. That space could be used for something practical like cabinet space or extra seating…Then I realized what is was… a terrifying-i’m never- going-to-use-this- wood stove. After all, I had a 1 and 1/2 year old boy who was not so good at listening, and I preferred to keep out of the ER. Not to mention, I didn’t want to burn down the house while we were all sleeping. So it sat there all winter, a silent monster watching me cook all our family meals. We paid 1200 in fuel oil to heat the house over 4 months.

The next season, I had to reconsider my stance. MAYBE I could try and see if this would work. I wasn’t very optimistic, I mean, Our house is old, (like 100+ years) has 2 stories, and the windows are drafty on a good day. But baby was a slightly better listener, and 1200 in heat was not in the cards so I lit my first fire. To say it went badly, would be an understatement. I used a few pounds of paper, with some logs, and it never did get started. But try try again, and eventually I got the whole paper, small sticks, bigger sticks, THEN log thing under control.

So I got the whole staring a fire thing down, but regulating a constant temperature in the house, and keeping a fire going all night was another challenge. I would have it so hot in the kitchen I literally made my taper candles fall over into an “n” shape. It got so hot, the kitchen windows would be wide open-snow flying in- all the while upstairs would still be cold. I was up with a new baby ever few hours, so at least I was up anyway to put more logs in at night, but still, the wood burning stove was my nemesis. An alway greedy, unpredictable, enemy that had an insatiable appetite for logs. Heat bill $600

Winter 3: I found my new best friend the damper. There was these two little knobby things in the door of the wood stove.. I hadn’t thought much of them..probably should have paid more attention… they just screw in and out in order to let more air into the stove, or you can screw them closed so no air at all can go in. These dampers are kind of a big deal… and I finally mastered the art of the wood stove! I can keep the temperature an even 72 degrees! I can sleep all night without putting in more logs! I don’t have to spend a fortune on fuel oil! I can even cook on it! The black metal monster is AMAZING! Fuel oil $200

TIPS

  1. Take you time when building a fire. It is much easier to take a little extra time stacking correctly, then it is to try and light a fire the second time. I start with paper trash (cereal boxes ect.) then small sticks, larger sticks, small logs, once it is going nice and strong add on the big guys. Having to relight means trying to move hot, not quite lit logs to try and add more paper material. I do this more often than I would like to admit. It is not fun.
  2. Use dry logs. Dry logs start easier and burn hotter.
  3. Use a trio log formation. Two on bottom, one on top. Make sure air can get around all the logs.
  4. USE THE DAMPER. Open damper means lots of air and a fast hot fire. If you are trying to heat the room up quickly open them up. If you want a slow cooler fire close them up. If I am leaving the house for a few hours or turning in for the evening, the air gets shut off and the logs burn slow enough to last through the night. I have enough embers to get it going again with minimal effort again in the morning.
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The lost art of homesteading: I am TRYING to find it

I moved to the country five years ago. I didn’t know how to garden, can, raise any kind of animal, and defiantly nothing about processing any kind of animal. I knew nothing about greenhouses, cisterns, rain barrels, wood burning stoves, or smokehouses. I knew nothing about homesteading. All of this learning has been on hyperdrive, a whirlwind of books, you tubes, and asking neighbors. An on the fly education that is usually learned by first doing it wrong, and learning from mistakes. And I am okay with that. That is what I signed up for with this back to our roots dream of mine. But still I wonder, how did it come to this? How did all this knowledge get lost in two (maybe three) generations? Back before freezer dinners, and McDonalds we used to know all this stuff. We as a people tapped trees, stretched hides, and wintered over potatoes. We used to make our own soap, and grind our own flour. We used to homestead when all there was was homesteads. And now, children have no concept of what food even IS. Food comes from the store, or a restaurant and that is all they know. That is all they know because that is all their parents know. Now we are here. We have gotten to the place that our entire existence relies on someone else’s system. I am sick of it. I am ready to get back to knowing some stuff! I want to teach my kids how to get a chicken from the barnyard to the table. I want them to know how to save seeds, milk a cow, and tend to a hive. Maybe they will move to the city and never use these skills again, maybe they will stay and take over the farm, but at least they will KNOW. I can’t say we will ever be completely self sufficient, or live completely off-grid..but I am going to try to find this thing they call homesteading, and I encourage you to find it too.

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How to dry birdhouse gourds

As the season draws to a close, some of you may have planted some of the elusive bird house gourds. (They seem elusive because I never can find mine until the vines start to die off.) But now what? How do you get these lime green beauties to turn into something for crafting? Well, its kind of a long road but in the end, worth the effort. Step 1) Harvest gourds. Leave a few inches for the stem, it looks cool and open punctures are bad.  You can pick them after the vines die off, or if you are having bug problems, as I often do, you can pick when you are happy with the size. ( If the bugs start making holes, you are in trouble. These buggy holes or other punctures often cause the gourds to rot. ) 2) Store. Some people keep their gourds outside over winter, I do not. I have had pest issues that way, so now I prefer mine to come indoors. I get the benefit  of keeping a closer eye on the drying process and they get moldier. (yes moldier is better) The mold creates beautiful patterns and hues on the finished gourd. Place your gourds in a barn or garage with plenty of airflow between each fruit. Mold is good, rot is bad. I lost an entire years harvest to rot and attribute it to lack of airflow. It was nasty to clean up, and I hope to never repeat that mistake! If one starts to squish up on you, pitch it out, so it doesn’t rot all the rest of your future beauties. So after your gourd have been sitting AWHILE like… until march … you can check to see if they are ready. Gourd skin should have changed to brown and will be dry to the touch, usually the skin is peeling. If you pick them up the gourds are surprisingly light weight, and may even rattle from the dried seeds inside. Then you know it is time! 3) Take off skins. This is the worst part. The skins just don’t want to come off. I filled up 5 gallon buckets and soaked mine (the best I could, it is kind of like trying to keep a balloon submerged) until the skin was more workable. Then I took a brilow pad and scrubbed until I could scrub no more. After the skins were removed I allowed them to dry and then cut in holes for the bird, a landing stick, and some at the top to hang it from a tree.  Then me and the kids had a painting party, and hung them in the back yard. I feel like they turned out beautiful, apparently the neighborhood birds were not as impressed, because none of them were chosen as a nesting place last spring. (maybe birds don’t like houses painted like monsters?) Oh well, they still look cool! I hope you have success in your gourd adventure! I know we will be putting more up this year for next spring’s projects!

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Winter is coming

Yes we all know it is true, yet for a few more months we may flirt with denial. On the farm every season plays a key aspect in the whole of farm life. A season for planting and baby animals, a season for growing, a season for preserving and butchering, and now I am looking ahead to the season of planning. It used to be that winter meant only planning. Mornings were spent homeschooling in front of the always humming wood stove, afternoons spent creating different soaps, breads, or some grandiose mess of a school project. Evenings were spent looking through seed catalogs highlighting nearly every add, plotting out hatching schedules, and many other planning ideas that rarely went as planned. As our farm progresses, winter is starting to become an extra long, very cold spring. Where animals still have to be fed (the bad side of heritage breeds-wintering over all your animals) the greenhouse still has viable crops, and things aren’t quite as sleepy as they once have been. Yet there still is a lot to do before winter is here. Electric water heaters need tested, bedding needs deepened, food stores need increased. Wood for the stove needs moved, blankets taken out of storage, and can goods need one last look through. Never can be too prepared. Winter is coming. The last of the fall crops should be harvested in the next few weeks. The dead corn stalks a haunting ghost of a once bountiful garden. They too will be pulled and given to the cows and hogs as the pasture slows and stops growing. Everything is getting ready for a much needed rest. I am ready for a rest. I am ready to cuddle up in front of the fire, read some mother earth news, and get inspired again. There is a sense of peace that comes from a soft blanket and the sound of a crackling fire, a mental recharge. I hope that you and your family will get inspired to take the winter as a planning season. To take some down time and prioritize your next season whatever that may be, and get inspired again.

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Honey badger gardening gloves

So today I received a pair of Honey Badger gardening gloves. At first they looked like a costume piece for wolverine, or perhaps cat woman. I must admit, I was a bit hesitant. My sons age 6 and 7 were the first to break them out of the bag. “These are sooo cool! Are they for the sandbox?” Already their creative little brains were coming up with practical uses beyond halloween costumes. I informed them they were for gardening use–Faces looked disappointed..–“but you could help me garden…”–faces change to scared “..you can wear the gloves..”–faces change to excited– So I had some new recruits. Generally speaking gardening doesn’t excite my kids. Unless its time to pick something delicious, like strawberries, they usually have to be coerced in someway. But not today. Today, I found a new secrete weapon, in a strange looking pair of gloves. Game on! They dug all kinds of holes, they dug holes when I needed hole, they dug holes when I didn’t need holes, they dug holes just to fill them back in again. MY KIDS LOVE THESE GLOVES! And I love that they are gardening with me! I’ll admit my turn with the gloves did not last long, then they were passed to another eager set of hands(I do have 5 kids after all, and moms turn always gets cut short-unless its my turn for dishes) So for me, theses gloves are a win! A little unorthodox perhaps, but for us they are just what we needed to get gardening together. There is little else that brings me as much joy as doing things together as a family. So thanks Honey Badger for bringing out the primal in my boys to work in the dirt! P.S. I did let them take the gloves out to the sandbox when we were done, and they dug more holes for over an hour!