Button Quail Have Hatched!

DSC_0033Yay! My shipped button quail eggs were viable! So far I have 11 chicks hatched out of 36 eggs, and I think that’s all I’m likely to get. Still, that’s not too bad for eggs sent through the mail. I also have about 50 coturnix chicks hatched out and for now everyone is in the brooder together. I would have had a higher hatch rate on the coturnix, but 36 of the eggs were also shipped here to bring some fresh genetics back to my covey.

Seeing as the last place I saw button quail for sale locally was charging $23.99 each, I now have $263.89 worth of birds. That’s if they all make it to adulthood.

Button quail chicks are small. I thought coturnix chicks were small but buttons are half the size. Below is a comparison with a coturnix on the left and a button on the right, both white chicks. It makes the coturnix look gargantuan!

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Size comparison between Coturnix (left) and Button (right)

I’ll probably separate the buttons into their own brooder within the next few days so I can keep a closer eye on them and make sure they aren’t getting trampled. It’s not like they need much space. Right now I have the same nipple waterer in with them that I use with all my newly hatched quail but I’m not sure the buttons can peck the nipples hard enough, so I’ll be giving them an easier alternative to make sure they’re drinking.

The buttons have hatched out in a few different colors. There are pure whites, a dark brown with white wingtips and a white face mask, a wild type and some silvers and silver mixes. Here are a few shots. The dark brown bird is my favorite so far.

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DSC_0007The button quail act a bit differently than the coturnix do, they race around more, and they treat my hand more as a mother bird instead of a “scary hand of doom” like the coturnix sometimes do. If I peck at the food with my finger, the buttons watch intently and then copy my movements. If I pick them up, they don’t peep their heads off and struggle to escape like the coturnix, instead they snuggle into my palm and go to sleep. It’s very endearing.

I was also happy to see some Manchurian coturnix hatch out, as I used to have some of these but they gradually phased out after my last male proved infertile. Golden/Manchurian is a dominant trait so it’ll be nice to have this color in my lines again. It’s also a color that can be sexed by plumage like the wild types, and that’s good too.

Unfortunately the two broken button eggs I “fixed” with beeswax did not hatch. Of course, neither did 25 other perfectly intact eggs, so the experiment will continue. Bring on more hatching eggs!

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A Golden/Manchurian Coturnix chick

Hepatic Coccidiosis in Rabbits – Graphic Photos

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Notice the white spots on the liver

Coccidia is a parasite that exists pretty much everywhere in the soil. Young rabbits are generally more susceptible to infection, and will show symptoms of diarrhea, loss of appetite and listlessness.

Coccidiosis is very contagious in an environment where feces from a sick animal are present and can be consumed by other rabbits. It’s such a common killer of young rabbits that many rabbit breeders medicate their rabbits against it every few months, whether they show symptoms or not.

In a situation where rabbits are pastured, coccidiosis can be a very real concern. Since I tractor many of my kits I had a couple of cases of it turn up this year. Although nobody died, it left an impact on them physically. I thought it would be interesting to show you the damage that this parasite can cause to your rabbit’s liver.

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A moderately infected liver

The most obvious thing upon opening up an infected rabbit is that the liver is spotted with white. The amount of spots will vary according to the severity of the infestation. These white spots are actually the hardened edges of small tunnels that the coccidia carve into the liver. If you slice the liver in half you can clearly see the small tubes.

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The tunnels visible in cross-section

Whenever I see symptoms of coccidiosis in my pastured buns, I immediately add apple cider vinegar to their drinking water, feed blackberry bramble daily, make sure they are moved to fresh pasture frequently and ensure everything is kept as clean as possible. So far I’ve been very successful at clearing it out of my herd this way, without resorting to medications.

Usually even if a kit has been infected, once they overcome the parasite and fight it off, they can still lead a perfectly healthy life. Still though, there is obvious damage left to the liver which may or may not heal over time. I’m not a rabbit biologist after all… I’m a whale biologist.

Below is an example of a nice healthy rabbit liver with no white mottling. Infected livers should not be eaten but the rest of the rabbit is still safe to eat.

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A healthy rabbit liver

Rabbit Double Pregnancy?

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All my does were due to kindle today, but Bluefin was the only one who came through on time. Since there has been some fur pulling from the other girls I expect there will be more full nestboxes tomorrow. In the meantime, Bluefin had a bit of strange litter.

Bluefin was bred to Scorch this time around, a first for her. She kindled nine healthy kits, all of which look to be blues or blacks. Since she doesn’t build the greatest of nests, I decided to fix it up a bit after I saw the babies had all arrived. I didn’t want them to end up at the bottom of the wire with no insulation underneath them.

As I was counting them, I noticed a bit of bloody bedding and placenta at the bottom of the nest. This is totally normal and I went to clean it out. I was surprised to see that it was not just placenta, but two amniotic sacs with two tiny, perfectly-formed bunnies inside. They were both about 1.5 inches long, and actually looked very peaceful, as though they were sleeping.

I have had kits born dead, but they’ve never looked like this. These babies look like they just haven’t had enough gestation time. It occurred to me that rabbits are supposed to be able to get pregnant twice at the same time, since they have two uterine horns. How could this have happened? Well, she had her previous litter of kits in with her until they were ten weeks old.

Ten weeks is super early for a rabbit to sire kits, and I never noticed any funny business going on, but could this be what occurred? If so, it looks like I’m going to have to start separating kits out even sooner.

A Lady For Bert

DSC_0020At long last, we have procured a female Chinese Pheasant as a mate for Bert.

This lovely little girl is from the same farm Bert is from, and she is still pretty young and small. She proved just how small by slipping through the 2 by 4 inch mesh of the chicken pen about a half hour after being released. Since she can fly very well already I was sure she would just be instantly gone and I would never see her again. I’m so glad I stayed around to observe!

I nearly had a heart attack while I slowly tried to sneak up on her with my bird net. I’m convinced my time at the Raptor Center helped me with assessing her body language. Luckily I managed to nab her right as Mushrooms the cat walked nonchalantly by and scared her up to the fence. One good swipe and she was mine. Now she’s temporarily in a cage while I arrange a more suitable place for her.

DSC_0037Bert of course is overjoyed, and is glued to the side of the pen where her cage is located, displaying his beautiful plumage for her.  While she was loose in the pen with him he was very respectful, keeping his distance and not crowding her, which was nice to see. What a bird.

Raptor Handling Apprenticeship

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This is Turbo, a young male Peregrine falcon we were flight training today

I have been busy for the past week attending a falconry apprentice course at The Raptors center in Duncan BC. An amazing facility with great staff caring for over a hundred different birds of prey. A good number of birds are on display for visitors and many of them are working animals, employed at chasing gulls away from airport runways and dumps and performing for film and television.

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Bell, a 17 year old female Saker falcon who is an absolute sweetheart

Among the more impressive species they have are bald eagles, golden eagles, a Maribou stork and beautiful white gyrfalcons. There are also many species of owls, lots of different species of hawks and falcons, a few turkey vultures and a tiny kestrel no bigger than a robin.

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Little Kessy, an American kestrel. So cute

I learned many things there, including how to man (carry on the glove) many different kinds of birds, how to replace (imp) a lost tail feather, clean aviaries, how to tie a falconer’s knot, and how to train birds with a flying lure. I learned that you need at least two years of experience before you can man eagles because they are very dominant and will do whatever they can to intimidate you. They also hold a grudge against you if you do something like trim (cope) their beaks and you will not be able to work with them for a few days if you do.

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Annie with Hera, a mature female bald eagle. Here she is tying Hera’s leash to her weathering station

I learned that Harris hawks are one of the only raptors to hunt in packs, and that turkey vultures can be among the most dangerous birds to handle. I learned how to make jesses, which are leather straps that tie into anklets on the birds legs and allow you to secure the bird in your glove, and also that weight is very important and the birds are weighed every day in order to find out if they are ‘keen’ enough to be flown.

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One of the young barn owls who later went AWOL

I learned about how things can sometimes go wrong, as while I was there a couple of young barn owls were taken out for flight training and were lost in the nearby trees for multiple days before they could be recovered. I also learned that feeding birds day old chicks on the glove can be messy business when they rip into the yolk sac and then spray the contents all over you!

All the mess and danger was worth it though, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was bitten once or twice by hawks, and it wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting. I handled a turkey vulture briefly and escaped unharmed. Luckily I was not footed (grabbed by the talons) by anyone which is what can cause real damage. Most of the birds are very well-trained and the staff are excellent educators. I really can’t recommend the experience enough.

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Elton, a spectacled owl and crowd favorite

I had such a rewarding time there that I’m planning to begin volunteering on a regular basis. Since I already have the apprenticeship course under my belt, I can be much more useful, although I do expect to spend a lot of time hosing down aviaries, cutting raw quail and rabbits into tiny bits and making jesses. For me it’s worth it to get to be around such magnificent predators.

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Gaston the Maribou stork performing in the flight show

My ultimate goal is to obtain my own bird and take up falconry. In British Columbia the only thing legal requirement is a suitable aviary or mews which has been inspected by the relevant authorities. My choice would be a Harris hawk which is also a very good beginner bird. Hopefully I can move towards this goal as I gain more experience at the center and see if it’s a good fit for my lifestyle. I basically already run a raptor feed supply company with all the quail, rabbits and pigeons I breed!

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This is Duck, a male Harris hawk resting on my car after some impressive flying exercises