I have amalgamated all my quail breeds for very good reasons. As a result of the very small gene pool in NZ and no importations aloud, all quails in NZ are inbred and related. I am in NZ for 6 years now and made great progress breeding four different breeds of Coturnix, but progress has flattened off as I have to have limited numbers and equally good genetic material is not available in NZ. My solution was to amalgamate all the breeds and only breed a Back Yard Special, resulting in 4 times as many birds to select from and one less selection parameter – colour. This allowed me to make some progress again. I am retired and do this as a hobby – my working background is in animal genetics
Housing for quails is fairly simple, but there are a few rules that would make there lives much more pleasant and productive
1. The housing must be 100 % dry AT ALL TIMES (100 % roof coverage with adequate overhang). Open on two sides with two solid walls protecting birds from prevailing wind and rain. The open sides need mesh of about 13 mm X 13 mm aperture as cats would put their claws through the holes if it is larger and kill the quail. As much sun as possible with shady spots if they want to get away from the sun. The cage roof must be a maximum of 500 mm high, otherwise the quails may injure themselves if frightened and take off hitting their heads on the roof
2. Quails need an area where they can hide from prevailing winds and drafts. Nooks and crannies and / or thick vegetation is required
3. Coturnix Quails are ground dwellers and would not roost and would very seldom use a second level upstairs – so all their food and water requirements need to be at ground level. They can be taught to go up, but it is not natural for them
4. Coturnix quail need a sand bath to keep them healthy, happy and clean – so if their cage is on the ground and DRY, it is all good as they would create their own sandpit
5. Clean water and feed of the correct type all the time (ad lib). They would eat greens and table scraps (love meat) and it can be fed to them all the time as long as it does not make up too much of the diet (maximum about 20%)
6. A floor area of at least 2 meter square per group of 4 – 5 females and 1 male for the ideal cage (meeting all the above specifications) or more if the cage is deficient
7. If you want the quails to lay eggs all year round, you need to provide light for 16 hours per day, alternatively they will molt when the days are getting shorter and stop laying until the next season.
My Coturnix coturnix breeding program provides me with lots of joy, satisfaction and brain food in my immediate and small environment where myself and Mrs BYF have an almost self sustainable lifestyle.
The scientist in me dictates to measure, interpret and use the facts to improve my own efforts.
I take many measurements from the quails as they proceed through their life cycle and use these to breed a better bird. Some of the measurements I take are :
- 3 Week body mass
- 5 Week body mass
- 7 week body mass (When I select Breeding Stock)
- 100 day body mass (Used as mature body weight in my index calculations)
- Daily egg production
- Daily egg mass
- Body conformation
- Feather quality
- Feet quality
- Beak quality
- Weight all birds at least once a month, irrespective of age
- Any possible hereditary defect is an immediate disqualification
I use all these to calculate a weighted index at seven weeks and again revise the index at 100 days
In the past I did these for 4 different breeds i.e. Golden Italian, Pharaoh, Tibetan and Texan White. This was becoming overly complex and limited numbers caused progress to plateau. With limited or no genetic stock of similar quality available in New Zealand, I decided to amalgamate all breeds into a new breed – The Back Yard Farmer Quail (If Coturnix japonica is accepted as a breed, maybe I can apply for Coturnix backyardia ). I now have four times as many animals to select from with one less selection parameter – colour. The interesting thing is that all Whites have disappeared and very few Tibetans are left as the Italians and Pharaohs take over on merit only. There is a new colour developing, being a dark cross between all the breeds.
I have several spreadsheets that automatically update as I collect data including dates and ages of all birds. The result is that I can provide all parameters and indices for any bird, updated, at any time. I also calculate averages over all parameters.
Some of the results of 5 years of selective breeding are :
- Increased body mass of about 80 g per bird
- Increased egg production of about 30 %
- Calm and contented birds compared to nervous non adaptable birds
- Drop of hereditary defects from about 20 % of the population to less than 1 % of all birds
- Increased fecundity
- Improved feather quality and body confirmation
- A very contented Back Yard Farmer!
Egg production is monitored on a daily basis and fluctuates from day to day as well as being influenced by the average age of the population. Normally egg productions hovered around 90 – 95 % over the past few months. I have increased breeding numbers to compensate for increased demand and when Corona hit, demand dropped off, resulting in me having MORE replacement females and a younger average female stock. The average age for all females dropped from the standard 160 – 190 days to about 140 – 150 days, but the most important is that egg production has increased as well, because of the younger stock and fewer low productive females. For the first time ever I have recorded 100 % PRODUCTION for 3 days in a row!!!!!
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I AM HAPPY !!!!
Our attempt to buy as little as possible from the supermarkets is paying off! It is almost as if we had spent the past 5 years preparing for this lockdown event. We have not visited the supermarket since two weeks before lockdown started, and will go to get only white vinegar and body wash tomorrow morning as early as possible. The vegetable garden is now going into winter and everything has slowed down in the cool weather, we have some beans, artichokes, cardoon, lettuces, rocket, potatoes, leeks, spring onions, a few green tomatoes, lots of fruit and so on left to pick. One source of greens, however that is growing well now with lots of tender young shoots is stinging nettle. There are a few plants in the chook run that the chooks like to peck at, but they left enough for us to harvest. We love the taste and since today was leftover day, which means risotto with everything in the fridge, Mrs BYF pulled it all together by adding a handful chopped stinging nettle. The result was so delicious that I decided to share
Stinging nettle also makes wonderful pesto – just use nettle instead of basil
Risotto with everything and Stinging Nettle
1 Cup blanched stinging nettle. The blanching gets rid of the sting, if you use gloves you can skip the blanching
1 Cup diced leftover roasted lamb (home butchered) including the gravy left in the pot
4 Skinny leeks (out of the garden) chopped including the leaves
4 Spring onions (out of the garden) chopped including the leaves
2 Cloves garlic (out of the garden) chopped
1 Green chilli (out of the garden) chopped
11/2 Cup of Arborio rice
1 Litre of good unsalted stock, I used home made quail and vegetable, kept hot on the side
1/4 Cup or more of olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
1/2 Cup grated parmigiano to sprinkle at the table
Salt and pepper to taste
Mrs BYF uses her trusty medium sized cast iron pot which is good for everything
Pour the oil in the pot, add the chopped leeks and spring onions and fry gently until tender, put the garlic in towards the end of the process to avoid it burning. Add the rice and fry until the first grain pops then pour in a glass of white wine (home made). When the wine has evaporated, ladle about a cup full of stock on to the rice, more if needed to stop the rice from sticking. Now keep stirring to gelatinise the starch in the rice slowly over low heat to make a creamy risotto, intermittently adding a few spoonfuls of stock, not too much at a time. When the rice is almost al dente, it takes about 20 minutes, add the diced meat and the nettles. Heat through, check for salt and pepper and serve immediately in warmed bowls or pasta plates. Sprinkle with lots of grated parmigiano at the table.
Enjoy with a couple of glasses of home made red wine !!!
With temperatures rising and with possible water shortages looming we have to waste less food. What is viewed as food in today’s supermarket shopping culture is a good question. If you have your own garden and you don’t use insecticides, secondary harvests like beetroot and carrot tops, pumpkin and radish leaves and nettles are nutritious and delicious, doubling the harvest of greens in small veggie patches. The main harvest in my garden at present is broad beans and throwing away the lovely young fresh pods has rankled with Mrs BYF for ever.
What we did today was to remove the beans from the pods and save them for later. The pods were rinsed, cleaned and sliced sliced in about 3 mm thick pieces, much as one would slice green beans, to be used in a stew. The stew was so delicious that I had to share the recipe with you.
Broad Bean Pods Stew
500 g any meat, cubed or on the bone. Because I had to make room in my cages I butchered some birds and I used:
2 quails, wings, neck and the backbone of a chicken. I also added all the livers.
1 onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 1/2 cups of white wine
5 cups sliced broad bean husks
1/2 cup stock, more if needed
6 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of chili flakes or one small chili
sage, about 1/2 cup sliced
Large pan or dutch oven with a tight fitting lid that will take all the ingredients.
Soften the onion in the olive oil over low heat, do not let it change colour. Add the garlic and meat and lightly brown over medium heat. Turn the heat up and when bubbling add the wine, leaving it to boil the alcohol away.
Add the sage, chili and puree and turn the ingredients over in the pan until well covered. Add the husks and a few tablespoons of stock. Cover the pot tightly and leave to cook over slow heat. Check in 20 minutes for moisture and add salt and pepper. Cook for about 60 minutes or until the meat is tender, adding stock only if necessary. The dish should not be soupy.
Serve with polenta or rice to soak up all the lovely sauce, or enjoy with crusty home made bread and a glass of home made red wine.