Quail diary

Quail for eggs — life in a London garden

Archive for the ‘Ferret poo’ Category

Quail diary _ 79. Walking with dandelions

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Quail "hiding" - Oeuf with her favourite, unfortunately non-mouse-repelling ferret blanket

Quail "hiding" - Oeuf with her favourite, unfortunately non-mouse-repelling ferret blanket

Eggs: 19 – and all is peaceful in the quail house. Behind the perspex, the temperature is pushing 20C and the quail have stripped off to bikinis and towels in the oyster grit beds. When the door opens they stir and stare through the fug, like punters in a sauna. Quail really, really don’t like a draft – not even when it heralds a shower of mealie worms or dandelion leaves. But I probably shouldn’t broil them. Meanwhile, the mice are busily nesting again, showering the quail with flock filling which they push out through holes chewed in the lagging. Time to take it down, last frosts or no.

They are big buggers, these mice. Fat, glossy and well fed. Digging the garden the other day, my attention was caught by the cat suddenly poleaxed, nose to plastic against the run. The mouse was there, in full view, ambling about – filling his supermarket trolley full of goodies. The poor cat was beside himself, and I confess felt a tad put out myself. The cheek! But the mouse didn’t turn a whisker, or at least not until Junior Teen came galloping up on tip-toe for a peek. When the little beast (the mouse, not Junior Teen) finally shrugged and decided it was time to rediscover the exit, it ran over two of the quail. Right across their backs… The quail didn’t turn a feather. Stupid birds.

Baby mouse - bye bye Monty

Baby mouse - bye bye Monty

So I’ve got a problem: a quail house floor like the Mariana Trench, populated with butch rodents and their droogs,  and a baby mouse that can’t live in Senior Teen’s bedroom forever. Release loomed, but where? Monty is now four weeks old, which is probably gap year age for a mouse, but she’s only little. Junior Teen pleaded for the shed (!?), but Himself and I settled on the park across the road – beside the dog poo area (to keep the cats off) and on the right side of the stream, to ensure she can come home when she wants. We did the deed yesterday. In the sun. She looked heartbreakingly small as she scampered off into the undergrowth, with a scatter of seed to tide her over the next few days. It’s hard to let them go.

So I took a deep breath and went to pick dandelions.

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Quail diary – 74. War on terroir

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Cat straining for a whiff of ferret under the quail house eaves

Cat straining for a whiff of ferret under the quail house eaves

The quail love it – pecking daintily at interesting smears and stray hairs; the cats love it, clambering over and round the quail house roof for a delirious sniff under the eaves; and even I have grown to like the lingering, musky, earthiness. It’s just the mice that don’t give a damn (and frankly, their best friend ought to have dropped them a hint long ago too). Alas, the breath-snatching fragrance of Wallfishwife’s ferret blanket has had no effect whatsoever on the activities of The Family.

Worse, the mice seem to have graduated from shovels to a small JCB and invited in all their chums.  For the quail it must feel like living on the San Andreas fault. Every morning new tunnels have been torn into the earth floor of the run. And every morning the wellies stamp them shut, in a blur of tiny darting grey bodies. The camera is full of useless not-quite shots of tails vanishing down holes or up strings.

The cats can’t tear themselves away. In all weathers they crouch outside the quail house, shoulder to shoulder, noses to perspex, heads twitching in unison, left, right, left, right, like spectators on Centre Court, Wimbledon. And inside, in full view, the mice dig, apparently trundling the spoil away in wheelbarrows, because I can’t find it. The quail just tut quietly among themselves, and dust bathe in the freshly turned earth. Or maybe they’re taking bets. (“Two mealie worms she doesn’t spot the second entrance on the back wall” – “I’d be robbing you…” – “Six says the flash rave under the hutch is on”)

It’s David and Goliath all over again. I certainly shan’t be leaving any rubber bands lying around this lot.

No eggs yet. Daylight: 9hrs 56mins.

Quail diary – 73. War and piss

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It arrived in the post; an innocuous brown envelope containing a plastic bag and a card. “Biohazard!” read the card, in thick black ink. “Handle with gloves, mask, tongs … enclosed one small section of minging ferret bedding for purposes of rodent eradication.”

Senior Teen is struck dumb. New depths of weirdness have been sunk to. “You’ve given our address to a stranger on the internet to send you ferret poo …?” Words fail her.

Actually, it’s not poo. And Wallfishwife, who kindly detached it from under Badger, Bear, Lynx, Ewok and Brian, seems very nice and not at all likely to firebomb us, which is apparently what Senior Teen expects strangers encountered via the internet to get up to. Wallfishwife not only retrieved the honking rag from her little ferret chums, but got a friend of her own (close and loyal, at a guess) to give it a sniff – to confirm potency. (Ferret owners, she fears, have a tendency to maintain that their pets don’t smell. “It’s not a myth!” she writes. “Just your poor nose gives up and you walk around town in a stinky sweater with people gagging in your wake!”)

So I stuck my own nose into the plastic bag and took a lungful. Wow! Eye-watering. Essence of predator, you can almost feel the teeth. If that doesn’t scare the mice into the next parish, nothing will. But to avoid frightening the quail into catalepsy too, I only put a scrap actually in the quail house. The rest went under the roof, where the mice hang out. Let the biological warfare commence.