On Friday I got a call about a chicken that was found in a forest preserve. I asked the person how big, what it looked like, what size the comb was. “Well, it’s brown with markings, and it doesn’t have a comb.”
Hmmm… I decided that was not a chicken! When he brought the bird over, and it was a lovely little Japanese coturnix quail hen!
The word coturnix is Latin, and the Spanish word for quail is codorniz, which is derived by regular sound change (sorry, I had to work in linguistics!). Japanese coturnix quail are not indigenous to the United States, so wildlife rescues will not take them.
I used to hatch them when I was growing up. Incubation takes 17 days, and the chicks hatch all at once – you lift the incubator lid, and it looks like black and tan popcorn! The chicks have black and tan “racing stripes” – very appropriate since the babies are very fast and very high energy! They will sometimes trample each other, so they need ample room in a brooder box. Weak or slow chicks should be removed from the box that holds the lively ones until they are “up to speed.”
Back to the Quail…
Her back end had the feathers torn off, as if she’d been run over by a mower or caught by a dog. The skin was fine, and the feathers were growing back. As I was carrying her in, tucked against my chest, she started making these little contented quail noises. She was cooing!
I examined her away from the parakeets to prevent spread of disease and noticed that her eyes were rheumy looking and irritated; she had been scratching them. I put antibiotic ophthalmic ointment on them and washed my hands thoroughly. She was not lice infested and was eating and drinking well, so I put her in my bird carrying cage.
She loves to snuggle in the crook of my arms as I work at the computer and make little happy quail noises! We’re going for a vet check-up on Wednesday.