My organically raised coturnix quail sitting her eggs - Update 2 - All Change

Everything seemed to be going well, Ginger, our golden coturnix quail had been sitting her second nest very seriously now for 14 days and Snow Queen, our Cochin bantam, had been looking after the quail chicks for a week. Ginger hardly left the nest at all except to have a few minutes at the food plate or in the compost bin, the film still below is of her coming back onto the eggs in the time it took me to put out the food and go for the camera!

Corturnix quail sitting her own eggs

In all, four quail had hatched and I was absolutely certain that these were from the four eggs I had retrieved from Ginger's first abandoned nest. The only problem was that the weather being terrible, I had not been able to take the quail chicks out even into the glass greenhouse for more than a few minutes. Even when in an enclosed cardboard run to cut down any potential drafts, the chicks had started shouting pitifully after just one minute of being down on the ground and Snow Queen had seemed uninterested in their cries and had just continued on with her dust bath.

organically raised Cochin bantam - very broody

When I returned with them back to the house, I noticed one of the quail looked as if it had sprained its foot. I did wonder however if this was the one who had been hatched last and that he had injured his foot when he fell from Snow Queen's feathers. I gave him some organic selenium in spray form directly onto his foot and then upped his B complex vitamins in the form of yeast flakes and sunflower seeds. He had already eaten quite a few woodlice, so I reckoned I had pretty much covered the usual supplements. he was moving quite well even though his one foot was turned inwards. Whilst broody Snow Queen has been quite flighty when out, literally, which for a Cochin is unusual as they do not fly very well. She just will not stay on the ground to eat. I have had to feed her once she is back on the eggs.

Cochin hen broody

I had been aware for a couple of days that Snow Queen was a bit blasé about the chicks, even to the point of using them as serviettes, wiping her beak on them after eating egg yolk and then eating the bits off them afterwards! I also noticed that, although I presumed the eggs to be infertile, she clamped herself down on them ever more. In the event everything went pear-shaped last night. Firstly I noticed Snow Queen using her beak softly but deliberately on the chicks, I thought she was trying to gather them under her but eventually realised she was just jabbing at them and a couple of times knocked them over. Then finally I saw her open her beak in a big broody squawk of annoyance right in the face of the little blonde (presumably) English white quail. Taking Snow Queen out for a break just before bed time, I found the injured foot quail, dead underneath her, he had been squashed. This sadly happens sometimes with quail chicks under hens, in particular in the first few days and having an injured foot would have impaired his ability to get out of the way as she moved.

Cochin hen sitting quail eggs
However, coupled with her obvious and growing indifference to or maybe even dislike of the quail, something I must say which has never happened in a hatch with a hen before, I decided I had to take action. It wasn't Snow Queen's fault she is a very young Cochin, hatched last year and she will make a fine Mother. She was very gentle with the quail at first but she obviously prefers sitting to hatching and was not ready to take on the mantle of looking after exacting quail chicks. I am very careful about taking chicks from a hen. I have done it only once before and with a young hen who hatched some chicks and then started to peck them. She was mortified and so was I but the year after I let her try again and she was a superb mother but I got the feeling in the first week after hatch, she was incredibly wary of me if I picked up a chick, I am absolutely sure she remembered.
Two golden coturnix quail organically raised

Well it was midnight and the dinner had been cooked and waiting but I had to make a quick decision. I decided to go and get the quail who had been guarding Ginger's nest (above left and still not making eye contact - the quitter!). I got a box of hay put a couple of quail eggs in the middle and sure enough she began to sit but when I put the three quail chicks in with her she was terrified.

Golden coturnix quail organically raised
I also tried one of the Pharaoh quail, who I knew had been adding eggs to Ginger's nest and even lingering on the eggs until shooed off by Ginger, again interested in the eggs, didn't want the chicks. So I bit the bullet and went and got Ginger, nest and all. I hated doing it, I felt like a traitor to Ginger who had been such a star sitting these eggs so well. Not only that but she was making a deep lugubrious mourning sound, over her nest as I took the eggs out and when I got her inside the house it continued at a more urgent frequency. As a precaution I had taken a sprig of rosemary with me so the nesting area would have the same fragrance. Even this didn't help, as when I put her in the hay box, she took just one egg under her but refused all the others. If a quail can look sad with just a beak to express it, then she was the epitome of tragedy. I felt a complete heel and in the end had to take her back to the greenhouse but by now she was so upset she wouldn't go back on the eggs and continued with the awful accusations. I felt like weeping!

organically raised coturnix quail brooding her chicks
I had one last card to play I took her and the eggs back into the house in the box. Then I put all but one egg under the Snow Queen and transferred the now squeaking babies into the box with Ginger the result was something utterly beautiful. Ginger began to clear a space in the hay beneath her creating a depression or 'scrape', whilst making interesting soft sounds. The quail chicks looked nonplussed but unworried. Ginger is not particularly tame but I could see she really wanted the chicks. She still hadn't got the idea of opening up her wings but I did it for her and just pushed each chick underneath. Then she gave a quick shuffle and they all instantly vanished. I put the box by my side of the bed and I could here her soft voice as I fell asleep. In the night I was awoken by her calling out and found one of the chicks was out and searching for food. So I gave him some and they stayed like that until morning.

There will be a film in the next post.

Ginger and a little tuxedo chick enjoying a draught-free 
excavation in the cardboard run in the greenhouse.
organic coturnix quail and her chick
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All the very best,


©  Sue Cross 2015


  1. Hi Sue, that was lovely to read. I have two coturnix quail hens who are sitting together on about 24 eggs. They were in a group of 6 hens and one male. I went to collect the eggs and they flapped their wings at me and I thought ok I will leave them if that is the way you want it. Then they started to attack the male and he is a very sweet boy. I had to make a divider and left the two hens on the side with the house and eggs. They have been sitting now for about 6 days.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment and I'm so happy you enjoyed my article. How exciting! The co-parenting seems to happen quite a lot in coturnix. I'm still toying with the idea that both the male and female sit the eggs and the fact that your females chases off the male could be because neither is actually bonded solely to him but interestingly you have two broodies. If that is so then many maybe even all your eggs are fertile, mine weren't because my male was monogamous and bonded to the sitting female. (My other quail had all been laying in the nest). Did your male help with making the nest and was he guarding it? This is what happened with another sit I had, the female allowed the male to stay nearby and protect the nest for a week and then started to chase him off. Quail get very territorial when they are nesting and they can get aggressive in the breeding season. With mine it is normally the bonded pairs that will chase others off, even just their sleeping area. It will be interesting to see how things develop - I do hope you will write this up or film it as there is so little real research available and everyone who has nesting quail has different and valuable information for those wishing to raise quail in a natural way. I'm so pleased you told me about this and really good luck with your hatch and please do keep me informed of your progress. All the very best from chilly Normandie, Sue

  3. Hi Sue
    I am so glad to find your blog. I have a female quail Izzy 3+ years old and the last of a line. She has become broody. She sat on her eggs for 3 weeks but obviously they did not hatch. I bought some young fertilised eggs and put some under her and a day later some in the incubator. Hatch day today in the incubator. Female quail Izzy is outside in her coop making very similar noises to Ginger did with little chicks running around. However no hatch yet and this is day 18 for her.
    I really wanted to ask if you thought it possible for me to transfer incubator chicks to Izzy. I thought I might do it at night, but now I think I might line a cardboard box like you have and bring inside just to keep a close eye on developments?
    Thank you for your lovely posts

    1. Hi Annie, I'm sorry only just now to find your comment. For some reason I do not get notification emails and luckily I just remembered that and checked. Firstly thank you for your kind words, they are appreciated. Yes I would have a go with transferring chicks, it has worked for me and I do hope you took the chance and went ahead? I have found quail making those mothering noises are very reliable and committed to adopting chicks. She is also at a steady age at 3 years old - past the skittish stage! I'm so happy to hear that Izzy went broody, this is a rare occurrence and is testament to your care for her. 18 days is however not too long for quail eggs, I've had them hatch several days after that. Anyway I do hope everything turned out well for you and if you can please do get back to me and let me know. All the very best from Normandie to you and Izzy, Sue

  4. Hi Sue I love your videos and blog. I would like to share a cool story about my quail. I have 7 males and 7 females who all get along well. The hens have started laying eggs, but the males have not started to crow. So out of curiosity I played a male quail crow on my phone and in response to this one of my quail made a nest. There was one egg in it so far, so when she was close to the nest, I put tow more eggs in front of her, and she rolled them all together and sat on them. I hatched out 8 of them, but this one was not one that I had hatched. I bought this one and it had been kept inside a cage since it was born, this means that there instinct has not been lost for good, but just waiting for the right time to emerge. She is a golden quail, all the roosters are pharaohs and one hen is also a pharaoh,the rest are more goldens and British rang.

  5. Oh her name is spice and I will let you know if she is truly broody and if she makes some progress. All the best Jake

  6. She is doing good with her eggs. She has moved nesting sites twice but now she seems to be confident in this new spot. She only has two eggs now but still doing great. I think she is partnered with one of the male quails because I frequently see them together and he has been protecting the nest. The males still have not started to crow, but they are only 6 weeks old. I will let you know what happens.