The Duck Dilema

I want ducks! I really do, but Paul brought up a good point, our property is pretty small and ducks will turn anything into a mud puddle. We had plans to build them a secure area with a pool, and we still might, but for now, I think we will be duck-less.  I have mixed emotions about this but for now, I think it is for the best.

We still want a different egg and meat source other than chicken, so after a bit of research, we decided to give quail a try. Quail are a common backyard bird that have many benefits on a homestead.

Quail are smaller and quieter birds.  They require significantly less room (1 square foot per bird, vs. chickens at 3-4 square feet per bird) and quite content living in a caged hutch.  I had reservations about keeping any critter “caged” up, but apparently, quail do much better in such habitats.  They don’t free range without running or flying away and they can actually do more harm to themselves in a big space.  They tend to fly into things and if their habitat is too tall, they can break their necks.  Apparently, they are pretty low on the totem pole of poultry intelligence.  It is common to keep quail in a green house and most likely, they will be one of the occupants of our green house.

quail2

quail

According to the available literature, quail eat less per body mass ratio and are very healthy sturdy birds.  They do not roost or lay their eggs in a nesting box (they pretty much lay where ever they feel like) and start to lay at 6 weeks (versus a chicken that usually starts laying at 6 months).  Male quail do not crow, so keeping both sexes is possible in a backyard setting (no pissed of neighbors is a good thing) and allows for fertilized eggs and hatching of eggs.

quail chick2

baby chicks

Quail eggs taste similar to chickens eggs, although about three times smaller.  They make an adorable  egg salad or egg drop soup.  Quail meat is lean and tender.  One quail is a serving size for one adult meal.

quail-egg

qauil meat

*All pictures are courtesy of Mother Earth News and Wikipedia.

I am looking forward to welcoming quail chicks to our homestead.  They are super cute and make the cutest little chirping noise.  It will be fun to have the kids collect teeny-tiny eggs.

Progress in the making

December flew by, the holidays are over and its already January 26th! Oi!! Time is rushing and we are starting to feel things heat up on our to do list.  We have chickens to put in the freezer and a green house to build (the ground has officially been broken).

jersey gian

A few weeks ago, I cooked our last two birds…soup was good and the cutlets were enjoyed by all!  Our kids tend to do well with minced meat the most, so our options tend to be meatballs or cutlets, which ultimately is the same thing only cutlets are fried on a skillet.  We have six broilers that will be harvested for spring eating, and a batch of new birds will go into the brooder hopefully by early February.  We are choosing a different breed this time, Cornish Cross. These are the most popular meat birds because they are HUGE.  They are ready for harvest at 8 weeks, versus the Jersey Giants we have raised in the past and took 8 months to mature

cornish2

There lots of pros and cons to raising these birds.  People tend to love them or hate them. We are curious and will give them a try.  Here are some pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Mature and ready to harvest 6-8weeks
  • Excellent foragers
  • Very meaty
  • If kept properly. very sturdy and hardy birds

Cons:

  • Tend to over feed, must restrict to avoid joint and heart problems
  • Intolerant of heat
  • And apparently, poop like no other!

It seems that all the cons mentioned in the literature tend to be upkeep issues such as over feeding and lots of poop.  All of these are very manageable if you are on a small scale.  I hope we that we wont find these to be as much of a burden.  As for being heat intolerant, Paul and I are aware of this have the chickens scheduled to be kept and harvested before and after it is too hot.  We hope that this breed will fit our needs as the feed to meat ratios are excellent.  I read that some of the dual purpose birds (who take a bit longer to mature) are more superior in flavor then the Cornish Cross. We will have to judge for ourselves.  Our Jerseys were delicious but it took too long for them to mature, not being very economical for us to raise them. We will see if we can taste the difference.

The green house is very much in its infantile stage, everything is purchased now its is just the matter of putting it together, which seems easier than it really is when there are three kids and full time jobs involved–we can do it!!   Once we start, I will have updates on our FB page!  The green house will aid us in raising our meat birds and also giving our starts a better chance of being a success.  As of now, we have not been successful in planting our own starts and utilize a farmers market.  We really want to learn to be more reliant on our seeds and starts–wish us luck!

For Christmas, Santa brought Paul and I soil blockers.  Special tools to form soil in making little cubes for seedlings.  We got a few sizes for different vegetables, we are itching to get started!  We also hope to have a little plant “garage” sale. So far, we are going to have strawberry starts, succulents and salad starts.  I think the kids would have fun having a plant stand–versus the lemonade stand.

soil bloker 1soil blocker 2

On a another note, we have been eating from our pantry and are getting pretty sick of zucchini salad, so if anyone local wants to try some, there is a lot! It is very good as a salad or relish, but there is just so much of it.

 

Thanks for reading!! We’ll keep you updated.