Category Archives: quail


Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close - 22nd April 2012

Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close – 22nd April 2012

Last year was most definitely one of massive change for me; I moved house, my dad spent months seriously ill mostly in hospital and then died, I was made redundant for the third time from a job I loved and at a time when unemployment for people my age was rising each month and the relationship I had been in all of my adult life ended.

All of these things have completely changed the shape of my life forever and will carry on doing so for years to come I would imagine but it has also been the kick-up-the-bum I needed for me to take stock and decide what is most important to myself and what it is I really want from my life; a little hillside with my very own ‘hobbit hole’.

 This want is something that has been forming for years now but something over the last year has just clicked and made me realise I can make it real  and not just have it as an “if only…In a prefect world” dream.

Summer blooms - 20th August 2011

Summer blooms – 20th August 2011

I am a strong person and one of the things that makes me strong is the connection to the land I have. I feel most alive when I am out in *it*, cleaning out goat sheds, sowing seeds and watching the sky change. It is what I know and understand and when I am away from it I feel trapped and boxed in…

Willow capkins - 21st April 2010

Willow capkins – 21st April 2010

After my last redundancy I made some bad choices; I was so concerned with having a job I didn’t really consider the reason for working and told myself I could make it work. I was wrong and as a result the job/s I have had since November really haven’t been working, most weeks I worked six days a week and my only day off a week was as a result of me putting my foot down and even then that was often pushed with requests to work an extra shift; I am so much more than my job. I know it is possibly a thought that never even crossed others minds but I am a good carer*  because of the me that I am away from work and working six days a week for not enough money doesn’t leave much room for this.

However this has hopefully now changed and a few weeks ago I started a new job which will hopefully give me some sort of balance between work and home life as well as enough income, and so long as I am careful some left over to put into savings towards my hillside. It does of course come with its down sides; a week on week off rota so I shall be away every other week but hopefully these weeks can be used to learn the skills I am going to need e.g. green building and living off grid and maybe even extra time to blog and share what I learn.

Round house - 24th October 2010

Round house – 24th October 2010

Lots of things are going to have to change; the way I garden and allotment, the animals I keep… Thankfully I have my mother and sister who are happy to look after what I already have whilst I am away but thoughts of more chickens or some quail will need to go on hold for the forseeable future. I am going to need to learn and apply more permaculture methods to growing and storing food and I have questions about what to do about seed sowing next spring if I am going to be away. Growing in pots isn’t going to work as well as it did last year but it is all do able and feels like I might just be moving forward at long last.

*and this isn’t just me being big-headed about myself it is what I have been told by both my employers and something I believe when I have seen the way some others work

To hatch or not to hatch?

I am thinking about getting some quail eggs for hatching again.

I do enjoy having quail and enjoy the whole selecting a nice looking egg seller and haggling over the price to get myself a bargain, setting up and turning on the incubator in readiness, then waiting for the postman to deliver my carefully wrapped package, running final checks on the incubator before marking and carefully placing each egg inside, the heart stopping moments if the temperature changes and holding my breath to hear half-heard or imagined cheeps before hatching finally takes place.

Then the childish excitement when hatching time arrives; waiting for each egg to show signs of hatching, is that a little chip in the shell I see?  Will this chick be strong enough to make it from its shell? Should I help it?  Is that another chick I can hear?  Is it coming from the incubator or the brooder?  Will lifting the lid to take a peek again be too many times today?

Then later comes the guessing game of who is male and who is female, the surprise of the first long-awaited egg and that lovely summers day, jungly call they make to each other.

Now for the but (and where my ‘sensible head’ takes over)… I no longer have an indoor, as in in-the-house, space where I could keep them with enough light and warmth to keep them laying through the winter months, I also do not have the type of housing I would ideally like to keep them in and their lovely little eggs so often go to waste.

I know all of my ‘sensible head’ thoughts can be over come with some planning and commitment… But I do sometimes, and more often in the winter than the summer, feel over committed and sometimes a little tied down by my animals.

I wouldn’t change what I have for a second, I couldn’t stand the boredom or loneliness, the loss of identity and, well… I know it wouldn’t last long at all. None of that changes the fact that it would be much easier to fly the nest and start building my own home if I wasn’t committed but committed is just what happily I am.

 So to hatch or not to hatch still remains the question?

Once upon a time, many moons ago…

I was learning to knit again. It was on this day in 2008 that I posted my first proper blog post.This is my second blog, the first one was very much a warm up to this one. And having spent some time reading back through my posts I thought I had posted most of it on this one any way, and all not that long ago either! I began blogging in November 2007 with this: 

A place to begin…Last night I finally got the push I needed to start off, I was on a forum and someone said that they would love to follow something like this, there are already loads of popular TV series, books and magazines about self sufficient so that must mean that other people are interested to. So this is my two pence worth to add to. My idea is very simple: produce as much food for myself as is possible with what I’ve got, that said I already know that it isn’t as simple a task as it sounds. I also would like to learn how to live as cheaply as possible and make some money from the things I enjoy doing.

 What I already have/where I’m at: I already keep goats, two of whom are in milk but I’m not milking them at the moment for no really reason other than the fact that I haven’t sorted myself out into doing this. I have quail; I got some for my last years Christmas present (in April, but I said I wanted to wait to get what I really wanted rather than having something else) from these there is one male left and I brought four more the other day, two females and two males and I brought 24 eggs, 12 of two types, for hatching from ebay last night, they should arrive on Tuesday next week.

 I’m a vegetarian, but others in my family eat meat, and I’ve got most of a vegetable garden up and running now but ‘the family’ have just been told that we can use part of a field we keep donkeys on as a vegetable garden as well which is quite a big space. I’m going up there tomorrow to start clearing the ground and covering some of it with manure ready for the summer.

 “The Family”: that is me (eldest daughter) my parents, my two younger sisters, a younger brother and my boyfriend. ‘The Family’ also includes a whole host of dogs, cats, ponies, donkeys, cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits and a guinea pig. I don’t think I’ve left anything out but I might have.

 So there are a lot of us, some useful others not so useful. I plan to be adding more very soon and to start adding some photo’s when I’ve got to grips with how to do things on here.

I changed blogs as I wanted to have more control of the way that it looked, and in particular a banner that I could add my own photos to.  A train track in the middle of nowhere is nice… But it wasn’t really what I was looking for. 

So what has changed since my first ever blog post? Well, I have almost finished my first own-spun and knitted project… more details coming soon. 

I have grown my own potatoes for the first time, and leeks, and carrots, and some other thing too; I have made butter and cheese from our own cows milk and cream. I have started keeping chickens, and am having another break from keeping quail, mother has the remaining trio that I had. 

‘The Family’ has grown, my baby sister will be eighteen this summer, we all have boy/girlfriends and although we are all still one big family it feels like we are also splitting off into our own little families as well. 

I am a published magazine writer… Twice. 

I have a much better job and am in much better health then I was back then. I have survived no less than two redundancies. I have become much more of an ‘outdoors’ person, even in the pouring rain I am still happy enough (cue a week long down-pour, sorry) and have much more of an idea of who I am and what I want to do. 

All this sounds very fluffy and… Picture prefect, but the thing is the milestones for ‘this kind of life’ are more woolly or yearly events than anything else. Lambing is followed by shearing, sowing time is followed by the growing season, followed by harvest time… Each year starts with hopes and dreams of building on what has been started the year before, which is followed by successes and failures, wet muddy times followed by the smell of grass cutting and fat happy animals sun bathing. It is a circle that keeps going and has no really ending. 

So here I am again, writing a blog post, in the middle of lambing. It has been raining outside and it is probably not all that different to the very first time I put fingers to keyboard for the first post of this blog and that is just fine by me…

Stupid birds

It often amazes me how long birds have lasted when they so often seem to have a complete lack of common (or anything kind of) sence.

Mrs Goose’s eggs started to hatch yesterday, she has been sat very well on them for a month now and been doing what a mother goose should be, until the first gosling appeared damp and wet out from it’s shell, that is when she left the nest. She wouldn’t have anything to do with it or her other eggs, the chick didn’t survive and the other eggs have been put into the incubator.

It’s not just the geese though, the quail are being completely birded brained as well today. A few weeks ago I moved everyone around putting all the young hens in with a younger male and took out a pair that I’m going to sell. The male hasn’t been being the best with ‘his girls’ and is very rough and today I have had to take two of the females out as he has broken the skin on their heads and made them bleed. Quail have a horrible habit of just pecking at any wound and just keeping going, alot like turkeys.

A few seconds of calm


I’m both emotionally and physically wrung out, life at work is far from pleasant and I’m spending my time from waking up each morning counting down the time until I can leave and go… to another job. I’m working three different jobs at the moment, it’s interesting though. And I am enjoying two of them, if only I wasn’t so tired and drained from the third. Yesterday I had a ‘funny turn’ and just blacked out for a while, I’m not the only member of staff having a hard time which I think makes it easier. At least I have support and without that I know I would be having a much harder time.

Work isn’t the only thing dragging me at the moment, this years lambing is the worst lambing we’ve ever had, it all started off fine with Lily and then the next morning Mophead had a nice sized single without a problem on her own. Both ewes were kept in with their lambs, neither of them a proved of this, especially Lily after we bought Mophead in. The long and the short of it is they both got into a sack of chicken feed, ate more them half of it between the two of them, got very ill and died. It wasn’t a nice few days with trips to and from the vets with different jabs and drenches to try. Lily Lamb was one of our original flock, all of who were bottle feed, with their own story of how we got them and special place. Mophead was kept after her mother died, she was our first Cotswold ewe who had been hand reared by the local special needs school until it closed down, she was a people sheep and if she didn’t like something that was going on, like a lose dog or too many flies, she was be at the garden gate standing in the way and stamping her feet until something was done about.

pict0067We’ve also had problems with the lambs and goat kids, who are all living in the kitchen at the moment (much to the older goat kids disgust, who aren’t going to sleep on the floor with sheep, what do we think they are?), one of the goat kids went down with bloat and had to be rushed to the vets and kept over night and the next day one of the lambs went down with it too, another trip to the vets all of two hours after collecting the goat kid. Touch wood, everyone seems fine now.


Ivy and her lambs, the black one is there if you look closely!

Lambing hasn’t all gone badly though, Ivy has produced our very first black ewe lamb, most years we’ve had a couple of black ram lambs but never a little girl before. All three of them, she had a white female too, are doing fine. Since then it has been very slow on the lambing front, all of the ewes are looking big, a few of them even look massive but no more so far.


Keris and her kid


There has been other good news too, Keris kidded for the first time. A single boy, who is very cute and already has the Anglo Nubian voice. I started milking on Wednesday after taking him away on Tuesday night and Keris has been so good at standing for milking. Today mother took him to be disbudded while I was at work. I still haven’t decided on a name, even though he is now a week old. He says something “Hu” to me, and maybe Greek, or maybe… I don’t know. Last year Felix asked to be named Felix, I looked at him and that was his name but this kid isn’t giving me so many cues. He is a love silver-grey colour, and very greedy too.    

The Silver Dorking has started laying again, actually we’re getting a lot of eggs at the moment considering most of our hens are older. I think later on in the year we might well get some more ex-chicken farm ones. We only have two left from the last ones we got a couple of years ago, and they still lay, the others were got by a fox. Also my new quail have started laying, I’m getting about six eggs a day now. This year I’d like to get them a shed so as they don’t have to come back into the house during the inter to keep them laying, I just need to work out how to afford it. Sheds are a little bit like gold dust on freecycle, so I think I’m going to have to buy one. I’m also going to build up my laying birds so as I have enough eggs each day to start doing something meaningful with them.  

It’s so very almost still light enough to do things when I get home from work now, not long now and I will be able to come home and spend so time on the garden, at the moment the only day I’m getting off is Sunday and there is so much to do before I’m back to work the next morning. Last weekend I did get to spend so time on the garden, I’ve manured the bed that I’m planning on using for beans and put in some more garlic, I just have one last bulb to plant now which I didn’t get to as it tipped it down with rain before I managed to get it in. There is a lot of garlic planted now, I missed quite a lot last year so the bed that I used is now full of garlic again, and it seems a shame to dig it up now so it might as well stay in place, and I planted another bed of garlic before this bed started coming through. My moon peas have been harden off too so they are ready to plant when I get chance.

Each day just has to be taken as it comes at the moment, I’m trying to remember to tell myself “today will be a good day and whatever happens is for my greater good” each morning when I wake up and I think it is helping.

Quail chicks

A & M Texas chick

One of my A&M Texas chicks

Close up of a A & M Texas quail chick

Close up of A&M Texas quail chick

A 'normal' quail chick breed from my own bids, this little chap is the smallest of the hatch but seems the mostly friendly, or he doesn't seem to mind people any way.

A 'normal' quail chick breed from my own birds, this little chap is the smallest of the hatch but seems the mostly friendly, or he doesn't seem to mind people any way.

The start of spring

This weekend really felt like it was nearing summer, or spring at least. It was warm and felt crisp and fresh outside, lovely weather for working out doors in.

There is still a little bit of snow here and there, in little sheltered spots and piled up in the corners of carparks.


About an hour after we started work

Me and Rhys sorted ‘that pile’ to move the meat chicken house and run so as the new goat house can start going up. When I was little we use to have a rope swing here, hung onto the chestnut tree, but as we’ve all grown up and stopped using the swing (which has now rotted through) this bit of the garden tends to get used as a bit of a storeage area, and not a neat storeage, this isn’t helped by the fact that it’s very close to the garden fence so it’s very easy to pile up tin roofing sheets we’ve been given, etc. ‘until we need them.’

With chicken house and run in place on Sunday evening

With chicken house and run in place on Sunday evening

By the time we’d finished it didn’t look to bad at all, there are still lots of piles of things, but they are sorted piles now, and we managed to get rid of about 20 sacks of manure through Freecycle as well which helped a lot. Rhys killed his first chicken too, one of the cockerals that was hatched out last summer.

It wasn’t all a good weekend though, on Saturday morning I found one of my new quail dead in the bottom of it’s cage, and then during the day one of the cats, most likely my cat, managed to knock the lid off the brooder and fished out and killed one of the chicks. We also had to rush a sheep to the vets, one of last years lambs, who wasn’t looking right n the morning, was sat all by himself on the green and just looked ‘odd but ran away when I tried to see what was wrong, then later when he came back to the house he was obviously in a lot of pain. The vet couldn’t find a problem, gave him some pain killers and some anti-inflamitries and we kept him in over night. He was dead in the morning.

The sweetcorn heap

I’ve come up with a plan to get more use and out of the muck heap I’m planning on growing sweetcorn and courgettes on, which at the moment is over flowing and about as tall as me possible even a little taller. So I spent Sunday evening reading all about timings for peas and sweetcorn and have planted a big tray of peas seeds which should just crop before the sweetcorn is ready to be planted out. And if they don’t then we haven’t lost much, I’ve got loads of pea seeds and am using a huge bag of ‘Feltham First’ which was only a couple of quid from Countrywide, so at worst the goats get a really good dinner in a few months. It wasn’t the right moon phase for planting pea seeds so I will plant the other half of the bag in a few days and compare results.

My middle-sisters goat kidded yesterday, a single boy. Lambing next and towards the end of that my goat is due. 2009 is all go already…

Not there yet… back to normal I mean

pict01591There is still snow on the ground here, and more fell last night. There was also a power cut, I’m not sure how long it lasted.  I woke up to the smell of a burnt orange candle and Rhys telling me that there was a power cut but not to worry, he’d already put a blacket over the chicks to keep the heat in. Thank goodness I didn’t put another batch of eggs in the incubator like I’d planned to, the weather isn’t at all warm at the moment and the temperature is all over the place as the stove doesn’t stay in over night so it’s very cold in the mornings and then much warmer later. Not good incubation conditions.

pict01471The quail chicks are doing well though, eating and drinking very well and feathering up well. I think they’re growing well too but it’s hard to tell when you see them everyday. I cleaned them out last week and took some photos, I couldn’t find a box without gap in, for handles etc., so I put them in the old tin bath we have for bring wood in.

I’ve got a lot of seedlings coming on nicely, cabbage, rocket and spinach. And I’ve potted up the last of the onion sets I had in a paper bag in paper pots ready to plant out when the snow has cleared. I really want to get out into the garden and start things, I keep telling myself that this weather is a very good start to the year, garden wise, as it’ll kill off lots of the bugs.


I’m a little bit last with everything this week, I went on a residental at the weekend which was great fun. It was in Wales by a beach, I haven’t been to the beach for ages and I also liked the beach at this time of year.


We spent loads of time on the beach and I collected one and a half carrier bags of cuttlefish for the quail. It made me really happy, and the quail love cuttlefish. They were all very sandy and some had bits of ‘meat’ on:


On Monday I was given some new quail as well. Someone contacted me about them a few weeks ago from a new quail forum I’ve joined. Any way, they are all lovely and I can’t wait for them to start laying.


And my quail eggs started to hatch yesterday. 

When I got home on Sunday night there was some babies in the kitchen:


They were born on Saturday night, their mum has been looking like she’s been going to kid any day for a couple of weeks now. I even spent last Thursday night getting up to check on her as she was looking ‘odd’. there really isn’t an easy way to explain how a goat, or anything else, looks before they give birth. There are all the signs you get once they have started but once you’ve lived along side animals for a while you just seem to know. It’s nice, it’s a part of living with animals that I really enjoy being able to communitcate without any sort of noise. And they do it back too, I often use to spend time in the goat pen/houses when I was younger just sitting or reading and they would know if I was up-set about something and always come and sit close and nussle my face. 

Any way, the kids mum wasn’t very good with them and kept knocking them across the house if the stood up so they are in the kitchen. Their mum is very up-set about it and crys everytime you walk past her house or go out to milk her (she’s also started drinking milk from herself) it’s very sad but if she’s going to treat her babies like that than nothing else can be done.

White Texas A & M Quail

I started some more eggs off in the incubator the Friday-before-last, I bought 24 White Texas A&M eggs to try and have 11 of my own eggs in there as well. The time has gone really quickly, they’re due to start hatching a week tomorrow.

I’ve only put in eggs from one of my quail houses as I didn’t have a very good hatch rate last time. Out of 22 eggs, 5 hatched (but only 3 lived), 2 dead in shell and the rest of the eggs were empty. When I started to think about it I realized that the male in the house with the most girls is about 2 – 2 ½ years old, which is very old by quail standards. I will see how this hatch goes and possibly do some moving around, I’m just not sure what to do with the old male if it turns out he’s no longer fertile. I don’t want to having him living on his own, but I don’t want to keep him with hens that I could be using for breeding. I’ll just have to see.   

I’ve started keeping a log this time as well, it’s part of my ‘be more organized in 2009’ plan.