Meet Porkchop the coturnix quail (also known as Japanese quail). At the time this photo was taken, she was two weeks old. I think I should tell you, I have a colorful personality, a heart of gold when it comes to my animals and a knack for listing priorities others might call … off. So, when the team at MOTHER EARTH NEWS entrusted me with the care of four baby quails to participate in the Community Chickens project, the first thing I did was to name them: Doug, Beebe, Skeeter and Porkchop — all characters in the ’90s Nick cartoon, Doug (whose superhero alter-ego was, Quailman).
Each is identifiable by characteristic markings and personalities: Doug is the outcast who likes to be held. Skeeter is the squeeky one who hates being held. Beebe is the non-descript one who is afraid of being without Skeeter. And Porkchop is the fat, lazy one who plops down in the center of the food to eat and falls asleep on her back.
Having said all that, let’s not front: I know nothing about raising poultry; I never even had a cockatiel. But that’s the beauty of this project: People of all skill levels can come together to "new-fashion" sustainability and learn from each other. And for me, that starts with eggs. Tiny, speckled eggs.
Of 24 such quail hatching eggs sent by Purely Poultry, only four cracked open, and so they all came home with me. The night before they hatched, I set up a circular brooder with an infrared heat lamp, newspaper shreds, a water dish filled with rocks (so they wouldn’t drown), and game-bird starter food.
I had heard that quails are the wildest birds this side of Hitchcock, so my greatest determination was to have the calmest quails known to man. And because I take photos for a living, I was afraid these quails would be camera-shy. So, you can imagine my surprise when they were not only tame during the photo shoot, but downright "posey." Again, these shots were taken when they were two weeks old.
Can’t you just read their personalities through the pictures? Try to guess which is which, and find the answers by clicking the "comments" link below. And while you’re there, let me know what you think!
Click here for Part II in my series, Quail Keeping: Gender Differentiation.
Update: I lost poor Porkchop three weeks into the project when her leg was caught on the brooder cage and snapped. It was a great tragedy, a terrible accident, and I was devastated, to say the least. As I held my bleeding bird, wrapped in a warm towel, a few of my friends tried to find me a vet, and although I live in a somewhat metropolitan area, no clinics were prepared to handle a quail, and Porkchop had to suffer because of it. I did not want Porkchop to be in pain, however, and so my vet offered to put her down. She died on the way to the clinic.
Shake your quail feathers, she will be missed. <>
Photos by Taylor Miller