Life with Bob White

7 days ago, the Dixon household grew to 22 individuals. 12 bipeds, 4 quadrupeds, and 6 fish. 10 of the bipeds in question are Bob White Quail Cheepers. These little guys are quite an experiment.

They came to us via a friend who hatches quail for a hobby. I thought initially that since we have ample habitat and relatively few quail that introducing these little guys would be an interesting experiment. However, upon doing some serious research and asking some important questions of my DNR friends I realized that most pen raised quail barely see 1 year of age, and risk introducing parasites and disease into the environment. Therefore, I nixed the grand operation to release them into the wild.

This lead me to looking at raising them on a hobby level. With Travis’ expert carpentry skills and a little heavy lifting from my brother in law, we had a lovely hutch fit for a small covey.

My friend delivered me a box of smelly little cheepers on Tuesday, April 24. They were all quite small (7 weeks old), and very, very poopy. Having raised chickens, and pheasants as a child, I was expecting them to be a little more tractable and a tad less flighted. Let’s just say the learning curve was steep.

Lesson #1 in quail husbandry. Never open a box of quail fully and lean in to remove individuals. They tend to flush easily. However, even though they flush easily and fly rather well, they are quite easy to regather with a net.

They moved in rather well into the hutch and immediately made me laugh as I am using coke can boxes as their nest box all 10 quail, when startled, mush themselves into the box. And in the holes of the box you can see 10 sets of teeny, tiny eyes. It makes me laugh every time.

Each day I have taken it upon myself to provide them with a new enrichment forage. I have discovered that they absolutely devour baby block (a chick supplement); they love forsythia branches, and carpet weed. So the process of keeping them is already making the yard neater, one pulled handful of weeds at a time.

I had read that quail love tomato, so after a dinner this weekend when we had a leftover half of tomato, I put it in their hutch along with their dinner time weeds. The next morning the weeds had been devoured, but the tomato was being used as a perch. I turned the tomato over to show the seeds, and when I returned home from work the tomato had been ripped to shreds and the cheepers were inspecting the carnage carefully for any edible leftovers.

Lesson #2 in quail husbandry: When giving over ripened raspberries do not panic when you come home to find your birds covered in red stuff and sticky. This was a favorite experience of mine so far, for a period of about 12 hours, I had vampire quail, covered in raspberry juice, with red beaks, and drips of juice coming down their chin. It resembled a mass casualty accident.

Today was the first day of live enrichment. I picked up a container of super worms from Bowmans. I provided them with their normal evening handful of weeds and placed the carryout container in the hutch. One brave cock started pecking at the worms from outside the container obviously having zero success. A hen came over and started pecking at the worms but seemed frightened with every wormy wiggle. Then they spooked. Causing the container of super worms to spill. One brave hen picked up a super worm and as best I could tell, had a little hissy fit. She fluttered and made a series of unique noises and had a look of panic and disgust on her face. She did after several attempts manage to choke the wiggling beast down, and as if discovering the deliciousness of it, started attacking the remaining worms. However because they had been knocked over, the worms were slipping through the grates and landing on the ground causing me to have to pick through the bird litter to collect the yicky bugs. Quickly two of the hens developed the skill for eating them. However, they cracked me up with what happened next. They gathered a worm in their beaks, and then, fluttered and ran about the cage enlisting the other birds to chase them. The best way I could describe it would be like children who are given a football, and their only knowledge of the sport comes from watching it on TV without any sound or subtitles. They bobbed and weaved, and tackled and the worm would go flying and another one would pick it up and start the process over again. It was a great way of getting over the roughness of spring at the zoo.

My 8 week old cheepers are maturing rapidly. They have almost doubled in size and are getting their mature feathers. I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead to see how they grow and start laying! Next stop: Becoming a Martha Stewart with quail eggs and caviar!