R.I.P Alvin

2014-02-08 - Alvin

The Assistant Manager of the Backyard, the rooster named Alvin,  passed away today.  He was a great representative of the Ancona breed, and, above all he had personality and presence. He was like a friend and kept  me company as I toiled in the yard. I tried everything I could to save him – regular worming, the best food, fresh water, warm house, company and ……free range access to the garden during the day.  The last part is what did him in,  I think.  Alvin loved picking up every little thing he saw on the ground, working over the garden from end to end. In my efforts to establish a vegetable garden, turning over the soil to work in compost and lime as well as manure and I keep finding rubbish – bottles with dubious contents still in them, plastic, strange substances and whatnot. I cart everything away on discovery but that has not helped.

I have a lovely ngaia tree in the garden and know that the leaves are poisonous – that probably means that the berries and flowers are, too. I have not observed Alvin eating those, though. Some weeds are a worry and I shall have to check with neighbours to see which are poisonous. I still want to free range my chickens but fear for their safety.


The SIX golden RULES of keeping quail and other poultry

2014-05-13 - Baby Quail 2014-05-09 - Clean Food and Clean environment2014-01-21 - Happy Quails

Treat them well and they would reward you for your efforts !

Give your birds :

1. A balanced and specie specific correctly formulated diet

2. Clean water and fresh feed at all times

3. Optimal environmental conditions with correct temperatures, dry and drafts free with correct lighting patterns and intensity

4. Enough space with clean dry bedding in well designed cages providing proper ventilation

5. Well bred animals housed in the correct male to female ratio

6. An owner that enjoys keeping and attending to poultry

It is easy and enjoyable to breed and keep poultry



6. Free of insects and other vermin



2014-02-19 16.18.20

In New Zealand I have fed my Quails a diet “corrected ” for Quails starting off with a  commercial Chicken Starter Mash. This seemed to have worked fairly well as the growth results were acceptable. As my enterprise expanded it became more time consuming hand mixing feed all the time and I inquired with various feed companies, as to the availability of a specialised product for Quails, to no avail. I have however found a standard product off the shelf from a reliable feed company that claims, on the bag, to be adequate for quails. Having purchased it and used it for the past weeks, the results are shockingly bad. A specific batch of Quails, consisting of about 80 birds,, received this diet from day one. I normally supplement young Quail diets with boiled eggs for the first two weeks, which I have also done for this group.

Apart from excessively poor growth and survival performances I have two birds showing severe signs of Enephalomacia (Vitamin E deficiency). The inherently low level of vitamin E in the the cerebellum makes it very susceptible to Vitamin E, Selenium and Antioxidant levels. The problem is normally associated with diets high in unsaturated fats as often found in poor quality fish meal as well as poorly processed blood and bone meal. Also the rations are normally supposed to be adequately supplemented with a vitamin and mineral pre-mix appropriate for the specific application. I dare to say it was not the case with the product I have purchased at high cost.

The signs of Encephalomalysia is imbalance, staggering and uncontrolled movement. Treatment is by supplementing Vitamin E and/or Selenium in the water and feed. Should the brain damage not be too severe, remission is possible.

I also have a video of two birds affected but cannot upload it – if you are interested I could Email it to you. I am busy setting up a YouTube account which will resolve this problem in future.


My diagnosis of the deficiency was unfortunately a few days too late as I firstly did not expect it from the purchased diet and secondly I initially thought it to be Wry Neck, a genetic disorder for which I select and cull very strictly against

The performance for this group are as follows (Figures in brackets depicts all previous batches):

Average mass at 21 days of age for top 20 % of birds – g – 108 (113)

Average mass at 21 days of age for the bottom 20 % of birds – g 57 (78)

Birds alive from eggs placed – % – 42  (69)

As can be seen from the above results there was a great number of bids affected as can be seen in the large number of underweight bids as well as the high mortality, even though only a few show the excessive diagnostic behavior found int the two birds photographed. Interesting enough the one bird showing signs was by far the heaviest bird in the group (Maybe the fast growth required higher levels of nutrients??) I am now supplementing the entire group with Vitamin E and hopefully shall save the rest not too severely affected.