One of my coturnix quail has gone broody and is sitting. A Fred and Ginger production!

You know how it is, you've been hoping and planning for an event and just as you finally start to get ready for action, your poultry decide they've waited long enough for an outcome and take charge.

Organic Coturnix quail nesting
Fred and his best friend Dorothy keeping guard whilst Ginger is laying.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I started reading about fatal genes in the Golden quail.  There is a lot of conflicting  information because well it's genetics and thus exceedingly complicated. Even the nomenclature 'Golden' quail is somewhat controversial, in French these quail are know as Isabelle but in English there are two recognised type of golden quail - the Italian and the Manchurian. You will read in some papers and articles that it is the latter or the former that carry the fatal gene. This however, is further complicated by the fact that some articles I've read, insist that the Italian and Manchurian quail are one and the same! In my experience with purchased hatching eggs and through talking to other quail keepers, it is certainly true here, that all Golden quail seem very frail and have poor hatch and survival rates. My golden quail I've had now for three years from hatch and although they wouldn't get any prizes from purists, as all the feathers are patterned differently, they are gold and they are healthy.

Organic golden coturnix quail hatching


However, not to tempt fate nor F.B. Hutt et al, I have decided to steer away from crossing gold with gold of any sort. In France this makes even more sense, as the Isabelle are said to have been raised from a very small gene pool, just 20 original eggs brought in from Portugal. Thus on top of the fatal gene issue, we have consanguinity to add to and exacerbate the problem.

Organic English White and Tuxedo Coturnix Quail dustbathing

Some two weeks ago on a visit to our local organic dairy farm to collect our milk and where they keep quail, I asked if they had an English White or Range or any other colour other than gold to sell me. In fact they had a lovely Tuxedo, which I instantly wanted but could not have, as he was their only example of the colour. So I asked to borrow him for a week. In the event and just in case there was some friction between my quail and Fred, I brought his friend with him. This English White quail was of undetermined sex but I called 'her' Dorothy after Dorothy Lamour because she had a heart shaped pattern on the back of her neck. This complicated things rather as I always felt she was keeping a beady eye on Fred and perhaps rather cramping his style!

Organic domestic coturnix quail nest
One of last year's nests under the rosemary

In my reading around the subject of wild quail because this is the way I am sure I will get the happiest and healthiest creatures, I found that the female is drawn to start nesting by hearing the male cry. Apocryphal or not, last year when I had a male quail, my female quail made nests. This year when they started laying in early April, they were just laying in a random, devil-may-care sort of way, single eggs in different places each day. However, the day after Fred arrived I noticed one of my golden quail hiding behind the pallet wood vertical garden shelving in the greenhouse and I noticed her return there the next day too. On the following day I investigated and found three eggs in a row, it is a really tight squeeze in there, so every time she got up from laying she left the eggs in a rather haphazard way. However, on subsequent days I noticed she would gather them together before she laid and that she was going back in there, during the day, seemingly both to check on the eggs and to turn them too. This quail I now named Ginger, for obvious reasons.

Organic Golden Coturnix quail sitting eggs

I was now getting very excited, Ginger had laid six eggs in all but Fred was destined to go back to the farm the very next day when we went for the milk. From all I have read, I am still not totally sure how important the male is, nor exactly sure if he is involved in sitting. As wild quail, are  very private, shy birds, there is no great body of research on their behaviours. They do actually have wild quail on the farm but assure me they have never seen two birds together on a nest but my belief is, from watching Fred, that in the early stages of nesting even if the male does not sit he is very near by. According to a paper I read on the subject; Nesting and Parental Behavior in Domestic Common Quail, Orcutt and Orcutt (1976), the male sits within 30cms of the nest for at least the laying of the eggs and for some part of the sitting. This was true of Fred as you can see from the photograph above (top) and the film. So I decided to ask to borrow Fred for another week, just in case Ginger decided to sit. In the event Ginger started to sit that very same day.

Organic coturnix quail mating

I was really worried now, as it meant I would have to leave Ginger outside in the greenhouse all night rather than put her away with the others in their little wooden house. We have a variety of predators here but the worst for quail are rats, which although I shouldn't say it, I have not seen for several years. We also had a weasel here quite recently but I was hoping that Ginger was well enough hidden. I placed a board in front of her at night and a couple of bricks along the front of the greenhouse door where there was a slight gap. How happy I was the next morning to see her still sitting and in good health!

Organic Golden Coturnix quail eating weeds

With regards to how often she comes off the nest, this is rather a vexed question as the first day I did not see her move at all and I was, as you can imagine, rather a fixture in the greenhouse. One thing I noticed over the next few days though, was a complete change in attitude towards Fred. She became progressively more and more aggressive towards him and for that matter most of the other quail. She did not however, exhibit that 'puffed up' and erratic scratching of the classic broody hen. Orcutt and Orcutt on the subject write that their male had feathers missing from his head by the 5th day of incubation! Conversely however, she became more accepting of me and finally by the 4th day of incubation actually came from the nest and out to meet me at the greenhouse door when I was feeding the poultry in the morning.

A group of organic coturnix quail eating chickweed
Fred caught snacking again with friends

I also read in the Orcutt article, that they actually had to remove their male from the breeding pen, as he was showing less interest in the nest and he was being attacked. I did however, wonder at this behaviour from Ginger. She was particularly aggressive towards Fred when she saw him around the food bowl in the morning and I did wonder if she really wanted him to be guarding the nest or even sitting. In an Experimental Study of Nesting by Coturnix Quail, Vernon C. Stevens, The Journal of Wildlife Management, (1961) the author seems to indicate a more proactive role for the male. However, I was rather hoping Fred would not be that important to Ginger, as by the next weekend he would have to go back to the farm!

Organic Cochin hen sitting quail eggs

So here I am with my design for a secure quail breeding area still in the workshop and Ginger already sitting and on her 6th day of incubation. Fred is still in the dog house and Dorothy possibly quite happy about it. Whatever happens, I have backup in the form of my little Cochin Snow Queen who is already sitting on some of the other quail eggs, which I am hoping are fertile by Fred too. If Ginger gives up then I will transfer the eggs to her.

Organic Golden Quail feeding from a compost bin

One of my most important precautions for Ginger though,  is in nutritional support. As you can see in the photos, now they are laying, I have been stocking up the greenhouse with compost and keeping the large compost  bins closed as the chicks have had their share. This is, however, part of my Spring schedule, spreading compost in order to get the greenhouse ready for planting. As our principal compost bins are chock full of arthropods, I have set up a 'holding bin'  actually in the greenhouse and Ginger gets the first pick of this every morning. I am hoping all the methionine and the B complex vitamins this food will provide,  will keep her stress levels down to a minimum and save Fred from a few plucked feathers.

Part Two the update is here 

Fingers crossed... and now if you'd like to sit back and watch the film:


Fred snacking again this time on a courgette/zucchini.
Organic Tuxedo Coturnix Quail eating a courgette/zucchiniThanks for dropping by and if you have enjoyed this piece and found it useful think about sharing it and also maybe about joining this blog. Please also feel free to ask questions or make comments in the section below.

All the very best,
Sue


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©  Sue Cross 2015



5 comments:

  1. HI, I find this a most interesting account of your Goldens. Some years ago I had a Japanese quail which incubated her clutch of 9 eggs under a clump of ferns in my aviary. I did not miss her as I had a dozen quail running around. One day much to my surprise, I discovered her with her brood of 9 chicks. I always believed that they would not incubate. That was the only hen of mine which would do so. Must have been a throwback. Who knows.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Henry,
      Well it happened again this year, although not quite in the same way. I had one of my Golden quail pair off with the male and start nesting but she never went properly broody. I think that was my fault because due to an incident at the beginning of the season, when one of my quail was injured in the quail house, I began to separate the male and the others at night. I think that stopped them bonding properly and becoming a monogamous pair. However, another of my females went broody although she did not pair up permanently, she began to nest on the same day I had a hen hatch 3 quail. So I swapped them for some hen chicks, which one of my mother hens had hatched but was not ready to raise and gave the quail chicks to the broody quail, I also added 5 more quail chicks a friend had in an incubator and everything went really well. My quail looked after them for 4 weeks after which time she went back to the flock. I think all coturnix have it in them to go broody and form monogamous pairs, they just, in my experience, need the correct wild food, which impacts on their nervous system. They also need the right environment. I think if we can get that right everything falls into place. The fact that my quail were themselves raised by a mother hen, I think made it easier for them to follow by example too. I wrote the experience up here: http://holistic-hen.blogspot.fr/2016/07/tips-and-strategies-for-hatching-and.html#.V9WEgtGli1F
      Good luck and hope you get some more chicks, Sue

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    2. Hi
      My name is jack and I was wondering if you would be able to help me? I'm currently in college studying animal management and am in my final year. I have to do a year long project of my choice and have chosen to do a study on What Influences Japanese Coturnix Quail to go Broody in Captivity? I see you have been very successful in breeding your Japanese quails. If you would be able to fill out a questionnaire for me that would be great as I need knowledge and first hand experience of other people to go towards my study. I have had a Japanese quail hen of my own going broody also and am trying to see if I can recreate it but also to see what caused her to do it in the first place. I already have my suspicions but need other people's experiences and idea to make up my project. If you would be willing to partake in my project please let me know as it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you wouldn't mind sending me your email address I could then email you an attachment of my questions and you could fill it in for me and email it me back.
      Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

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  2. Well don't know if this is unusuall or not but I have five hens (one Italian and Four Japanese and one cock bird called Quinton. He was a solitary hatching from a large bought in hatching tray from Auction. Have subsequently raised dozens of chicks to sell but kept two back as one was born with a deformed foot and wanted the other for company until they were older to intergragte with the main flock.
    One of the older bought in hens started to go broody which she had done before but lost interest within a few days. This time however she started terrorising Quinton and he was so freaked out that I removed him from her and separated him and the two younger Quail into a large brooder as them being so flighty they have to be kept in and averary with an outside secure run.
    I allowed her to brood just four and marked them and when she l laid more I took them away. After a few days she settled on the floor in the main averary but away from the others in a wicker igloo. She seemed to sit tight and the others did not disturb her.Then I thought it best to separate her.
    She hatched two inside a large Brooder still with the igloo, the other two eggs were not fertile but she is mothering them well and they are eating chick crumb and slightly ground micro pellets. I cannot find and fresh fruit or vegetable they will eat. Just Quail pellets sunflower hearts mixed seed and the adore meal worms! One of the Italian will peck at a floret of broccoli very occasionally.
    So these Quail have managed to nest and hatch in a completely unnatural environment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi
      My name is jack and I was wondering if you would be able to help me? I'm currently in college studying animal management and am in my final year. I have to do a year long project of my choice and have chosen to do a study on What Influences Japanese Coturnix Quail to go Broody in Captivity? I see you have been very successful in breeding your Japanese quails. If you would be able to fill out a questionnaire for me that would be great as I need knowledge and first hand experience of other people to go towards my study. I have had a Japanese quail hen of my own going broody also and am trying to see if I can recreate it but also to see what caused her to do it in the first place. I already have my suspicions but need other people's experiences and idea to make up my project. If you would be willing to partake in my project please let me know as it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you wouldn't mind sending me your email address I could then email you an attachment of my questions and you could fill it in for me and email it me back.
      Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

      Delete