“Being raised on the farm, I’ve always liked the lifestyle,” Aliza Novacek-Olson of rural Roseau, Minn., said.
She and her husband, Alan, reside on a small ranch with five horses, close to thirty head of cattle, five alpacas, and one llama. There were also three laying hens and a small backyard chicken house.
“Alan likes to free range but one night he forgot to shut the door. That night ‘something’ ate all three chickens.
“One of the hens was infatuated with Alan; she’d follow him around wherever he went. I’d tease him that he had this old hen (chasing) after him!”
Aliza commented that she spent a lot of time looking at other people who had such beautiful chickens running around their yards. “I missed ours – they were so fun to watch. I wanted chickens!!”
Last summer she was at a workshop in Central Minnesota where she was working with sheepskin felt using water, soap, and agitation.
“You ‘felt’ the underside of the wool fleece and when you do it right it looks like a sheep-skin rug. And, the sheep stays alive for another year,” she laughed. “These people had the old type of farm – they had sheep, chickens, ducks, and quail. They served us breakfast for two days. On the counter was this pallet with all of these cute little eggs. ‘Do you want to try quail eggs?’ they asked. “You bet! That was it … I was hooked. Quail eggs are a little bit richer and smoother – not eggy-tasting like chicken eggs. Quail eggs have a larger proportion of yolk to the white.”
Aliza called her husband asking if she could take some small quail home (with her). His reply was a ‘no’.
She wasn’t about to give up quite yet on the idea. “Oh, if I could just get a quail coop made,” she said to herself.
Deciding to do some research, she was delighted to find the wee ones didn’t need a coop – they can be in cages.
So now, the Olsons’ small ranch has branched out to having – you guessed it – quail!
Novacek-Olson started out by ordering eggs. The eggs were placed in an incubator that she has in her house.
She said quail eggs are very sensitive to temperature and humidity in the incubator. The average temperature is from 99-100 degrees. Humidity is somewhere from 45 to 50 except for the last four days. If the humidity is too high the egg shells gets too moist and too soft. If it’s too low, the shells get too hard and there’s difficulty in hatching.
“I started out with 20 eggs (in the incubator) – had 10 successful hatches. The gestation period is about 17 days. When they hatch it is almost like making popcorn … it happens so fast.
To see the complete story, read the October 17 issue of The Tribune in print or online.