FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Quail Coop Questions

I'm aware the blog is becoming very quail centred so after this I won't be talking about them if I can help it.

The amazing Mr Alviti over at An English Homestead asked if we'd done a post on  Building Our Quail Coop, as you can see I posted the initial build but never got around to showing us finishing it off, but you get the general gist of it. There has been a few other people interested in keeping quails so I'll try to give some of the reasons we built it the way we did and I'm happy to answer any questions people have.



One of the main considerations with quail housing is that if you give them too much headroom you might think you are doing them a favour but you could end up killing them. They startle easily and have a tendency to flush straight upwards, if you give them enough room to build up speed it is not uncommon for them to hit the roof of the enclosure and break their own necks, whereas if you keep the roof to around 12 - 14" then they don't have the room to fly upwards so generally don't attempt to. It also helps them feel enclosed and safe so you end up with much calmer birds.


If you've been following the blog you may remember the Poop post, this is the reason that the coop was built with a wire floor, if you use something with small holes, like 1/4" then it doesn't put pressure on the birds feet but still allows the muck to fall through. I would imagine you'd have to clean them out daily if you had a solid floor, and even then they'd spend a fair amount of time wading in their own filth, far better for healthy and happy birds to keep them on wire.

Using wire on all sides also goes a long way towards keeping things rat proof, which is essential as a hungry rat will be more than happy to kill and eat your birds, Unlike chickens quail aren't big enough to defend themselves from a fully grown rat.

I actually changed the wire on this front section of the cage for a different square type of wire as even after grinding with the Dremel it was a little sharp at the ends

Another thing quails love more than anything is to poop in their dinner. We've eliminated this fun filled pastime by having their feeders outside the cage and they put their heads through the holes and enjoy a poop free meal. Similarly we use a bottle/nipple drinker for the water and this is mounted externally too, so the Quails can be fed, watered and the muck cleaned away all without even opening the door to the coop, which means the birds are not disturbed and feel a lot ahppier with you going about your business. Some coop designs I've seen incorporate a sloped wire floor with a gap at the front so you wouldn't even have to open the cage to collect the eggs as they roll our for you, but I find this a tad too lazy, I like checking the birds then I collect the eggs and have started to hand feed them with mealworms so they are not so nervous around human hands and are far happier to be picked up and handled now, a few even let us stroke them now! To try to stop them getting bored in their we have a couple of cuttlebones mounted on the inside of the walls (which they LOVE to peck away at) and try to give them handfuls of dandelion and dock leaves, usually I poke these into the wire all around the cage and they have a whale of a time running around pecking at it and eating it.

In theory this coop could hold 2 dozen quail, we only keep them in the top half at the moment as I like the option of having a separate area in case one of them ever gets ill or injured. I also plan to build a tractor to let them semi free range when we're at home to keep an eye on them, plus it'll give me a chance to periodically disinfect the coop floor.


Hope this helps the people that are thinking of doing it themselves, please feel free to fire any questions you have at me :)







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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Weekend

Here's a quick flick through our weekend so far...

Saturday:

Fast-Momma was out at a business meeting in London for her company Lucky Sew & Sew so I took the kids out into town, we had a blast in the arcades on Logan's favourite "penny shooters" then went for lunch at an awesome pub called The Railway, they serve mostly vegan and vegetarian food so me and the kids thought we'd check it out 






We had Veggie burgers which turned out to be amazing! Logan told me they're made of vegetable meat, which seems pretty legit to me.

By the time we finished, went to a couple of shops for supplies and walked all the way home it was time to start dinner so me and the boy whipped up a stirfry whilst Aurora gave moral support



All boys should know how to cook and 3 years old is old enough to help out with plenty in the kitchen. After this photo my battery died so we'll jump on to Sunday now.

First up we mowed the grass, as you can see from this pic it was getting a bit like the Serengeti. 


After that me and Logan got our man on and put together a small raised bed, we're gonna use this one to plant some sunflowers and other fun stuff with the kids


All the hard work made us plenty hungry so it was time to scramble two dozen quail eggs for lunch


Sprinkled with some home grown chives and we were ready to rock! The kids LOVE scrambled quail eggs, goes down a treat

And of course what lunchtime would be complete without someone casually dressed as a power ranger?


Hope you have all made the most of the weekend, TTFN!
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Friday, 27 May 2016

Fast Five, or is it Fast Ten?

HAPPY FRIDAY FOLKS!

I haven't done a Fast Five for what seems like an eternity so I'm going to throw down a double whammy today.

We've been cutting down on meat and dairy recently and one of the things I've really struggled with is trying to find a milk alternative that is capable of making a decent cup of tea.

I started off with Almond milk, then came across the hemp milk whilst I was at the farm with the One Love centre. Both of these are really good, they taste great but they do have a distinct flavour, the almond makes a nutty cup of tea and the hemp milk has vanilla flavouring added so it does make a cuppa taste different, not bad, but different.


Next I tried Hazelnut milk, again this makes a great cup of tea but it still has a slight nutty taste to it, which doesn't bother me but I was trying to find a milk that other people wouldn't be able to tell when we have people over.


Then I found Oat milk and it was the best thin I had tried, tasted amazing, made a rich creamy tea with no after taste and I thought my problems were solved, except that unless you put the oat milk in the glass first it starts to separate, which doesn't affect the taste but it really doesn't look appetising.


Then we came across milk number 5 - Rice milk. it doesn't seperate, it doesnt have any real flavour/aftertaste, it makes a good creamy cup of tea. If you want to try a milk substitute I don't think you can go wrong with this one.  I gotta admit, the Hemp milk is actually my favourite, just be aware that it does have a vanilla flavouring added to it.



For my second Fast 5 here's a quick timeline of quail eggs, going from the very first egg our girls laid, right through to the mountains of quail eggs and other eggs we've bartered with the quail eggs. it's safe to say we'll be eating a lot of eggs from here on out, so expect to see plenty of cool recipes coming out on the blog to use up all the eggs! 






Hoping you all have an amazing bank holiday weekend!


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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Great Chickens Vs Quails Debate



Recently there has been quite heated debates between people on the Regenerative Agriculture scene about whether chickens are more productive than quails, going into detailed feed conversion rates, cost per egg etc etc

Now I don't keep chickens so I can only go off textbook data for that side of the argument, but based on what I have seen keeping quails I will weigh in to the argument with what I know:

  • Quail are quiet, you can keep a few dozen without your neighbours ever hearing a peep out of them, they are the perfect urban livestock. Even if you keep males. If you keep 3 chickens and a rooster the world is gonna know about it.

  • If we are generous and say it is 4 quail eggs is the equivalent of a chicken egg (despite the fact that quail eggs are WAY more nutrient dense gram for gram) Then a dozen quail will lay the equivalent of 3 chicken eggs EVERY day.

  • A quail starts laying at 8 weeks. A chicken starts at 20 weeks (if you're lucky). This means that by the time your 3 chickens lay their first egg, my 12 quail will have already laid 1008 eggs (12 Weeks x 7 Days x 12 Quails = 1008 Eggs) If we divide this figure by 4 to convert it in to equivalent of chicken eggs this is 252. Quite a bit of catching up to do, especially considering the quails will still be putting out the same weight in eggs as what the chickens will every day, and it is rare for a chicken to lay 7 days a week every week. 

  • If one chicken out of the 3 dies you lose 33.33% of your flock, if one of the 12 quails dies you only lose 8.33%

  • All of that is done on a lower feed bill, 12 quail eat less than 3 chickens

  • You can keep a dozen quail in a rabbit hutch.

  • You cannot keep 3 chickens in a rabbit hutch.
  • In terms of space requirements, you can have a tiered system allowing you to keep 4-5 dozen quail in the same footprint that you would need for one chicken. 


I'd love to hear peoples views on this, I'm not saying that everyone should trade in their chickens for quails, I intend to keep chickens and probably ducks myself in the future, I just don't think you can compare the outputs.
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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Quails & Eggs Update

This is your life on quails:


We have been overrun with beautiful tiny eggs!

All of the girls are laying now so we have a steady stream coming in through the kitchen.
All we have to do now if keep finding new ways to use them so we don't get bored.


The Quail eggs are now averaging 14g each so are already much bigger than a couple of weeks ago when we got the very first eggs, at this size they are roughly 4 quail eggs to a chicken egg. 

Another great development is that one of my work colleagues keeps chickens and has offered to swap a dozen quail eggs for half a dozen of his chicken eggs, a fair deal in my opinion and a great way to change things up a bit.

We also got another offer from a friend who lives 5 mins down the road that keeps ducks and chickens and asked if we'd swap eggs, I was over the moon I thought swapping 12 quail eggs for 6 duck eggs was an amazing deal for us, so as you can imagine I was over the moon when I went round to drop off the quail eggs and was given 12 duck eggs for 12 quail eggs!




We gave half of the duck eggs to the Mother-in-Law Diane (who will likely be seen in the blog a bit more in the future) and she made Spicy Tiffin Eggs which we took to The Pagan Picnic.
They are SERIOUSLY delicious, the little Quail Tiffin Eggs look so cute next to the duck ones!



Another thing we've made with the quail eggs were these spicy wraps, it was amazing eating them and coming across the most delicious little eggs hidden throughout the wraps




You can do everything with quail eggs that you would with a chicken egg, you just need more of them, but since a quail lays an egg a day every day they are not in short supply, keeping a dozen quail is more than enough for us at the moment, especially when we're bartering other eggs with them aswell.

I'd love to hear how you use up your eggs, I've still got 6 duck eggs to do something fantastic with so any ideas would be great!



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Pagan Picnic

Sunday we were out all day with our company Thor's Threads at the 8th Essex Beltane Pagan Picnic at the Roundhouse in Hadleigh.

The weather was amazing and even though rain was forecast it held off until after the event finished. There was magic, drummers, belly dancing, live music, morris dancers, story telling and a great range of different stalls.


Carly just setting up our stall

Feeling very Green Man!
One of the things I love about this kind of event is that the whole family can be there and we get to "play" just as much as we work, things don't have to be so serious and we generally just have a great time.
Workin' Hard or Hardly Workin'?

One of the other benefits of this type of thing is we get to bump in to all kinds of weird and wonderful people, and this time was no different, we bumped in to the guys from Slim Pickings!

If you haven't come across them yet you seriously need them in your life, here's my personal favourite of theirs, Dem Fall:







Me  with Andy & Jack from Slim Pickings



After taking shameless selfies with the guys, we had to get back to work, so we started taking some more selfies behind the stall!


Modelling the stock




I hope you all had a magical weekend


Laugh, Love, Live! 
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Vintage Tool Trug

Following on from yesterday's post, I've done another bit of wombling that you might like.
 The hideous cheap plastic toolbox that I've had since I was a teen has finally given up the ghost. Since money is tight and I don't believe in buying new unless you have to I thought I'd get creative with some of the scrap timber we have lying around at work.


I drew inspiration from the vintage tool trugs that my great grandad used to have in his garage, he was forever making things for himself and I had a massive respect for the things he could do when I was a child. Long after he passed I would beg to play in the garage with all the tools and inventions every time we visited my great grandmother.

I stared by sketching up what I wanted and working out what length would suit me best etc, then cut the pieces and cut the corners off the sides


All that was left then was to cut a length of broken broom handle we had lying around in the yard to serve as the handle, and screw it all together.

I used glue aswell as screws as I have a tendency to overengineer pretty much anything I make, resulting in them usually weighing a ton and lasting a lifetime.


And there you have it! Now I'm no carpenter, and the scrap it is made from is far from perfect, but it suits me just fine. A little rustic and rough around the edges just like it's owner!

I'm sure my friend Mr Alviti could make something REALLY nice like this since he's a chippy and really good at this stuff, I'll probably stain mine and get Carly to pyrograph something cool on it so you don't notice how bad my carpentry skills are!




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Quail Eggs: Scrambled on Toast

Today's breakfast is the first time we've used our quail Eggs!


I used a dozen eggs for a  very hearty breakfast. Now since my girls have only just started laying their eggs are slightly smaler than what they will be when the birds get a little older. At the moment about 5 quail eggs equal one chicken egg, but once the birds have grown up a bit the average is 3 quail eggs to a chicken egg.


The eggs are so dainty! they really do look like little haribo eggs. A dozen eggs calls for a lot of egg cracking, and since quail eggs are so small they can be a bit fiddly to crack which is where the quail egg scissors come in to their own:


They are a specially designed set of scissors, you place the egg into them and literally snip the top off the egg so you can pour out the contents


It is such a clean and efficient way of processing the quail eggs, 



So once I'd finished having fun with the quail egg scissors I added some Pink Himalayan Salt, milk, scrambled them and cooked in a saucepan, I don't really believe in microwaving eggs I think it ruins them.


et voila! my very first meal with the eggs from our quails. They taste amazing, I can't quite put my finger on it, they are very rich and delicious, much better than an ordinary chicken egg that's for sure.



So now I'm on the hunt for quail egg recipes, would love to hear from you if you have anything to share on the topic, Happy Monday folks!
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Etsy

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