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Agriscaping Week 12 - The Adventures of Lucky...the Aptly Named Quail

Like most people, I’m a fan of naming my pets. Often they’ll get silly names, like the chickens (Charlemagne, Scoot, 9-Mil, Thor and Chuck, if you remember). But when you have a box full of 50 (plus or minus) adorable squirming brown fluff balls...there’s really no point. Baby coturnix quail are literally identical, and if you name one, you’ll lose him in the crowd the second you set him down. So at our house, the quail have really become a collective...nicknamed “The Quasars,” “The Quazies” or other silly names, but no specific bird has an identity of its own...except one.

There is one lone quail who stands out in the crowd. Her name is Lucky. I originally named her that when she hatched because one little yellow chick in a sea of brown seemed awfully lucky for us. Little did I know she would soon live up to her name in other ways!

Lucky started off a bit sad - she seemed to be searching for her flock among all the brown feathers. I can understand. Nobody likes to be the only different-looking one - especially flocking birds, it would seem. But eventually she settled into the idea she belonged with the sea of brown.

In the beginning, we had a bit of a hard learning curve with small hands and baby chicks. It’s fun teaching the boys about animals and farming but they are still very young (3 and 5), so the concept of being gentle with the babies (especially when they could get into the brooder box when Mom and Dad weren’t watching) took some repetition. We actually ended up losing one bird to an accidental dropping injury (not sure how or when, but suddenly he wasn’t doing well), and this was sobering to me - I was the one responsible to teach those little hands how to care for these babies! So when my younger one ran in shouting to my husband, “We can’t find the yellow one, we can’t find the yellow one!” I immediately figured we’d been playing with her (no surprise she got handled 5x more than any other chick) and somehow not put her back in the box. There were lots of places to hide in the office where the brooder box was. My husband ran to save the day, and instead of a free-roaming Lucky, he couldn’t believe that he found her squashed under the food dish!! She was really living up to her name. Despite having been under there for a while, the wood chips underneath had given enough that she wasn’t permanently injured and could still breathe. We were so thankful! She unfolded from her prison and dazedly wobbled out, recovering completely over the next few hours. She had really started living up to her name. And needless to say, no more little hands were allowed to touch the food or water dishes - putting them down while carefully clearing out a space in the sea of birds was actually a challenging task! I ended up learning how to swing the dish around on entry to clear a large bird-free circle before putting it down, just to be sure.

I thought we were done with the quazy adventures of Lucky, the now aptly-named quail, but the very next day, we looked and she was gone...again!! It was only because she was yellow that we would ever notice her disappearance and go to help her. (As I said last week, I’m not even certain exactly how many birds we should have had, and counting them was impossible without taking a picture of the box and counting that, because these little guys move, so determining a runaway would have been basically impossible aside from Lucky!). I quickly looked under the water under the food wait! Tiny, confused feet caught my eye as I was putting the food dish back down. She had been so eager to eat out of an emptying food dish that she had jammed her head and then her whole body into the feeder jar in the middle. Bewildered, she couldn’t find her way back out again! While she certainly wouldn’t have died in there because we opened it to change the food regularly, it was nevertheless lucky, once again, that she was yellow and we had noticed her disappearance.

Now that you have met the most entertaining bird in our Quasar flock, stay tuned in future weeks to see the failures and successes of trying to raise them in our small backyard, and you’ll likely see Lucky again when she’s basically the only one who decides to start laying eggs for us!

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