Where late the sweet birds sang

Thursday, April 08, 2010

This blog title is the name of a great book by Kate Wilhelm.
This blog is inspired by JustJo's blog today and there's a link to it below.


My hubby and I raised bob-white quail. Lots of them. I incubated 1,000 quail eggs at a time. That’s a lot of little heads popping out within a few hours of each other! And quail chicks are so tiny. No bigger than your thumb.

They have to be kept in brooders at 99 degree temps for the first week. Temperature is then decreased a little each week, until they are about 6 weeks old.

We then put them into specially built pens that were 100 ft. long, six wide and six feet high with a covered, raised shed at one end where the feed and water was. (Built by us and our sons - ever dug a posthole? How many do you think there are in 6, 6' x 100' pens?) Sides were covered with tin/metal sheeting, buried into the ground about 6" so the “varmints” wouldn’t dig in and eat them! The top was covered too, so the hawks and owls wouldn’t have a buffet there, lol.

We had 6 of these pens. They held about 500 quail each. We had pvc tubing overhead with sprinklers attached, so we could “rain” on the quail several times a week. This helps condition them for release into the wild, which is why we raised them. Ranchers bought them to re-stock their acreage with quail that would be sturdy enough to survive and reproduce. When you see a bird turn his head around and “preen” his feathers, he is stimulating a gland on the top of his tail that releases an oil which “weather-proofs” his feathers. He then spreads this oil the length of each feather by running them through his beak once it’s oiled.

We let the quail dictate how many would live in a pen. Each time you add birds to a flock, there’s a bit of “discussion” among them, until it’s determined who’s at the top of the pecking order, and who’s everywhere else. (Yes, that’s where the term “pecking order” came from. It’s get’s a bit bloody sometimes, because the DO peck each other to determine the winners.)

Once you add that one bird that is one bird too many - they feel overcrowded - they start pecking each other a lot and do NOT stop until they’ve killed off enough to make what feels to them like enough room.

That’s Mother Nature when she’s not in a Disney movie.

Quail “circle their wagons” when they sleep. Maybe that’s where the settlers learned it, lol. They form a circle on the ground, everyone facing outward so they can see what’s coming, and they nestle down, on the ground, to sleep. In really cold winters, we found little circles of quail frozen in their sleep in the pastures.

Anyway, with 500 quail in a pen, there were many little circles. Actually, most of them were pretty large circles. At first we cut metal barrels in half, longways, and put them on the ground so the quail could get under them in really bad weather. Big mistake!

They would ALL try to squeeze under the barrels until they smothered the ones on the bottom. We had to cut away most of the barrel sides, leaving just enough to hold it up off the ground. That way, the birds couldn’t crowd under it against the sides.

Ok, I’m getting to the real purpose of this blog. JustJo wrote a blog today about the birds singing again. Please read it.


Well, when we were raising all these quail, those were days of backbreaking labor from dawn to dark. That’s the way most farmer/rancher types live most days. It sometimes got discouraging.

But no matter how down or how tired I felt, I would wake each morning, listening to every single bird, thousands of them, singing their hearts out!!

They were entirely at the mercy of humans for their very lives. When released into the wild, they would be in even more danger. Yet those birds never failed to sing. And sing, and sing.

The most beautiful memory I have of them, is waking one hot summer night, hearing all the birds singing at midnight! What? What was happening? I looked out the window and saw the moon was full. So full it simulated dawn.

And at just that little hint of a new day, a new beginning, a new chance at life, every bird was singing it’s little heart out in thankfulness! How can we do less?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I really enjoyed this blog and found all the quail info so interesting! THANK YOU for writing it!
    3477 days ago
    You know Karen, besides being a painter, you really should write! I have never raised quail, but coming from a farm in my childhood, I love animals, even the geese that used to chase us. But what I liked the most, was just sitting outside (when I could) and watch the little "critters" and sit by the brook and just listen to the water. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories. Sharon
    3478 days ago
    Kren I love reading your blogs they are so interesting and informativie. I didn't know any of that about quails only the beautiful sound they make. What a sweet melody to have heard at midnight. I had no idea they circled like that or why they preened the way bird do.

    Thank you teacher and spark friend.
    3478 days ago
  • JUSTJO66
    Thanks Kren for giving me a "plug" for my blog. :o) I love the memories you have shared with us about your quail. What a beautiful meomory of the birds all singing at midnight. Reminds me of Acts 16:25 when Paul and Silas were singing in prison and praising God at midnight. My daddy used to raise quail when I was a kid. He also hunted them and I remember how sad I always felt when he brought them home all lifeless. Beautiful birds. Great blog.
    3478 days ago
    As always you have given me some interesting new information. It is always educational to read your blogs. I really enjoy hearing how others lived their lives. Versatility makes the world go round. Thanks!
    3478 days ago
    Great blog.
    3478 days ago
  • GABY1948
    As always, Karen a beautiful blog! Thank you!
    3478 days ago
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