A week ago we had over 500ml or 20 inches or rain. 19 days ago one of the young Japanese Coturnix quails laid a small clutch of eggs under a miniature peach tree. I hadn't noticed her there. There are over 100 quail living amongst our 40 miniature fruit trees and berry vines in our anti-avery. Being on a slight slope, the rains flow through this enclosure, down into the dam.
Now, here’s the miracle, in fact three miracles. Coturnix quail have been bred in captivity for over 1000 years, some say 4000 years. It is virtually unheard off for them to brood on their eggs, so they are hatched in incubators, as all of mine were. And yet, this one little quail hen went broody.
Miracle two, although she is only a small, young hen, only around 10 weeks old who has only just started laying, she not only went broody but she was somehow able to keep her eggs warm through this very cold and wet time.
The eggs needed to be kept at 37.5 degrees for 17 days, at around 55% humidity for the first 15 of those days. Moisture is the enemy of eggs because they are porous. Inside the egg is a small air sac that is there for the small hatchling to breath as they peck a circle of holes around the egg to escape through. If water gets into the egg and fills the space of the air sac, the chicks will drown.
So, despite having 20 inches of rain, Mum must have worked out a way to keep the eggs dry! I have no idea how.
Miracle three. Not only one, but two eggs hatched under the peach tree, despite these perilous conditions. How do I know? I found the open eggs. When I entered the anti-avery in the pouring rain to fill the food containers I heard cheep! cheep! cheep! and next to the food box, in a sheltered area, was Mum, with one lone chick. Unfortunately, halfway between the peach tree and the feed box was a dead day old chick. Mum had decided to move them to shelter in the rain and one didn’t make it - but one did. Unbelievable.
I picked up Mum and chick and gently tucked them into the pocket of my puffer-jacket and rushed them to the incubation shed, to dry them out under and a warm lamp. The wet and cold are a quick killer of day old chicks. I told Kinchem that if the chick survived overnight it would be a miracle, and it was, it not only made it through the night but it is running about, thriving, eating and drinking.
This Mum is going into our breeding program as a champion, as is the chick. It warms my heart to know that my quail must love the environment they live in, for all of this to unfold.