As I do every year at about this time, I’ve gone broody.
I need chickens.
Actually, what I *really* need is quail, but they aren’t available locally. Failing that, I’d like a duckling. Or two. Or six. Whatever. Ron is balking, but I’ve seen a couple of people in town raising them as backyard pets, and they appear to be thriving. Sure, their wading pool will probably add a coupla bucks a month to the water bill, but that’s still cheaper than buying eggs at the grocery store. Plus if I ever adopt that Border collie I’ve been thinking about since January, it will have something to herd, so it won’t get bored and spend all day annoying me. And if we end up hating them? Duck is DELICIOUS. I’m not seeing a down side here.
Anyway, one way or the other, it is that magical time of year when a Rubbermaid tub full of shavings and a screen are supposed to appear in my office, and a heat lamp is supposed to hang over them, warming a flock of stinky-yet-adorable balls of fuzz.
My favorite chicken breed, as anybody who’s spent much time on this blog knows, is the buff Orpington. Orps are good layers with great personalities — curious as cats and almost as friendly as dogs. They get along well with other chickens, they’re decent foragers, and they’re entertaining enough that I could probably cancel my Britbox subscription if I had a flock. WIN.
Tractor Supply — the only local source for chicks that I’m aware of at the moment — does not carry buff Orpingtons. Or any other variety of Orpingtons, for that matter. They do, however, have a few barred Rocks, and if I’m completely honest with myself, I’ll admit that Rocks are probably a better choice for our yard than Orpingtons, because they’re much more aggressive foragers, and I’m told this neighborhood is lousy with scorpions in the summer. A flock of feisty barred Rock hens would happily knock down the scorpion population for me.
I think I’ll head out to the shed to take a quick inventory of my chick-rearing equipment, and then I’ll cruise down 66 to Tractor Supply and see what kind of feathered friends I can rustle up.
As promised, here is the update on my quail project. As those of you who have been around here for a while know, I’ve kept quail off and on for two years now, with varied results.
Based on my experience, quail have three major drawbacks that make me hate the city’s anti-chicken ordinance with the fury of ten thousand Africanized honeybees:
1. Coturnix quail chicks are incredibly stupid, which makes them difficult and frustrating to raise.
2. In addition to being tiny, quail eggs have very thin shells and very thick membranes, which makes them difficult to crack without breaking yolks and getting flecks of shell in your breakfast.
3. Coturnix quail are messy and will waste more food than they eat. I spent an outrageous amount of money on feed and bedding last year after my poor little stupid birds threw their food all over their pen instead of eating it.
I solved the first problem by purchasing adult birds from an ol’ boy out near Little Grassy Lake who raises quail for hunters to use in training bird dogs. Babies are cute and fuzzy, but adults are the only way to go if you don’t want to drive yourself crazy.
I solved the second problem by ordering a pair of quail-egg scissors from Amazon.com. No more broken yolks, and no more eggshell in my sandwiches. Best eight bucks I ever spent.
The third problem took a bit of research, but I was delighted beyond belief to find the solution on YouTube:
If you’re considering quail, buy yourself a cheap soldering iron and a 99-cent plastic shoebox and make this little feeder. The whole project will pay for itself in less than two weeks. (I already had a soldering iron in the garage, so my feeder paid for itself in about a day.) My birds went from wasting a cup (or more) of feed a day to maybe a teaspoon.
I live too far from Wisconsin to buy this guy the beer I owe him for sharing this design, so I’ll do the next best thing and send some traffic to his website, Homesteading Ways. Seriously — go check it out. He and his wife have some good stuff on there.
I don’t have anything terribly inspirational or exciting to share today. I had an idea I might make some Christmas candy and finish up a sewing project when I got home, but I ended up staying at the office until after 10, working on a story and graphic for Friday, and by the time I finished, I was too wiped out to make anything more complicated than a grilled-cheese sandwich, which I had with a bowl of tomato soup I warmed up.
In unrelated news, I need to find a better feeder for the quail. The one they have gets water in it every time it rains, despite the fact that their coop has a roof that’s caulked and everything. I have no idea what they’re doing in there. I’m thinking a standard birdfeeder like you use for wild songbirds might work, assuming I can find one short enough to fit in there. Outdoor birdfeeders are designed to be pretty water-resistant. We’ll see what I can rustle up next time I’m at the feed store.