Here's what happened...
Instead of doing the sensible thing and spending weeks researching quails and the many different types, I hit Gumtree and bought a trio for $15 - A bargain really! and so tiny. They are really just heart beats covered in feathers compared to the 3.5 kg chooks in the back yard!
I did organise a cage before getting the birds and I did spend a bit of time sorting that out but Quail Owning Tip #1 is to research the type of Quail you are getting and what their eggs look like before you purchase!!
I set up an old Guinea pig cage for my new babies. I put in a layer of dirt, a few grass plants, a layer of turf (hence the grass in the cage) and lots of logs, a wee house to hide/nest in, a dirt bath (that's the white square bowl) and had some shade cloth to make sure they didn't bake in the summer sun.
"The king quail (Excalfactoria chinensis), also known as the blue-breasted quail, Asian blue quail, Chinese painted quail, or Chung-Chi, is a species of Old World quail in the family Phasianidae. This species is the smallest "true quail", ranging in the wild from southeastern Asia to Oceania with 10 different subspecies. A failed attempt was made to introduce this species to New Zealand by the Otago Acclimatisation Society in the late 1890s. It is quite common in aviculture worldwide, where it is sometimes misleadingly known as the "button quail", which is the name of an only very distantly related family of birds, the buttonquails."
Here's a bunch of eggs from a cage clean out. They don't like you raiding the eggs and will lay in a different spot each time if you take all the eggs, so these days, if they are laying in a convenient (to me) spot, I leave three or four behind and they keep laying in the same spot! As the hens get older, the shell colour changes. So the oldest quail lays the darkest egg and the youngest, the bluest.
I found that they lay more or less like chooks do, one every day or so. It doesn't take long to get handfuls of eggs especially when you let them go broody to see what happens and next thing, you have babies running around (and falling out of the cage cause they are sooooo small) and in six weeks time they are sexually mature and rearing to go! Its fairly easy to tell the boys from the girls and so I've kept my original two boys as they have got on well and have no problems with fighting but taken all the other boys that have hatched to the local produce to become part of trios and pairs as the produce gets in other young quail. (Yes, that's how I ended up with nine quail)
I now take the eggs out when I spot one of the girls doing the broody thing as I'm not in the right place for raising more babies at the moment!
I have fun with the eggs from time to time in the kitchen. You can make bite size scotched eggs, tiny dukkah covered eggs, miniature devilled eggs and fairy sized fried eggs! I usually just boil them for a few minutes and peel them for salads. Always a talking piece!
The eggs also make the right size dose of tasty innocent looking protein to hide chicken/cat/dog medicine in - raw or hard boiled!
I love watching them as much as the chickens! Sitting on a stool and poking greens through the cage or changing out their seed bowl and having them run all over your hands is kinda fun! I love finding a bit of fruit they haven't seen before and popping it in the cage and watching the boys come and check it out before calling the girls over for a treat once they are sure its safe - its like a favourite TV show! The Quail Channel!
So, how much do you want quail now?? Leave me a note in the comment section, Id love to hear your thoughts!
Green-ness: If you use the quail as part of your backyard eco system then 5/5 for using the manure on the garden and for feeding them garden weeds and pests!
Frugal-ness: Quail are very cheap to run. Maybe $5 in seed for the month for all nine of them!
Time cost: The usual feeding cleaning and maintenance time of any pet but lots of time will be spent tuning into the Quail Channel!
Skill level: Very basic care - they are pretty tough wee critters but you gotta make sure they cant get out. They can fly!