Helping Quail Chicks

Do you have any advice on helping quail chicks hatch out? There is a lot of debate about whether you should help a quail chick or any chick out of their shell. I believe it is up to the individual to assess their own situation and decide if they are going to intervene or not. We have had an email about helping a quail out of the shell.

Hi, I have just had to help a Quail chick out of it’s shell. It had cracked a hole and I could see it’s beak, but then nothing else happened for a good 3-4 hours, and normally quail don’t take that long to hatch. I was worried it would dry out inside the shell so I carefully peeled back only half the shell, then it managed to wriggle out of the rest. It is now not walking properly and it’s feet are curled round, it is just lying on it’s side trying to move.

Have I caused this or will it get better?
Thanks Nicole x

Hi Nicole,
I hope that your quail chick is ok. It sounds like the chick could just be exhausted.
Chicks often wriggle about trying to move when they have been helped out. Let me know if
the chicks feet are still curled as you can help to uncurl them. Did any other chicks
Just to let  you know that I have a free forum with a section on quail and incubating where members can chat and ask questions.
Hope all well with the chick.
Keep me posted.
Kind regards
sara @ farmingfriends

All the books and research says that you shouldn’t help chicks out of the shell and that opening the incubator can affect the rest of the eggs hatching.

I have not had to help quail hatch as they managed to all hatch at the same time and relatively easily.

I have however had to help many a guinea fowl and more recently ducks out of their shell. In fact I have 7 ducklings that are now 4 weeks old and if I hadn’t have helped them out of their shells then I would only have one. All the ducklings are growing well and are healthy.
From experience I have found that if a chick has not hatched itself within a few hours then I have found that they often die in the shell as the heat in the incubator dries up the shell and membrane and makes it difficult for the chicks to hatch.
If you do decide to help the chick out, remove the egg from the incubator quickly and cupping the egg in your hand to keep it warm carefully start to pick off the shell from where the egg has pipped as this is where the chicks beak is.

I have always had to work quickly although you have to be very careful that the blood vessels in the shell don?t bleed as this can kill the chick.

When I help a chick out I try to pick the shell off the head part first and work my way down. I never take all the shell off as the chick is attached to the shell at the base.

I usually take the top off and try to make sure that the chicks head, wings and body are free.

It is important to make sure that the chick can move about because once it goes back in the incubator the membrane and shell dry out and can get stuck to the chick.

I then put the chick and attached shell back in the incubator and let the chick wriggle free in it’s own time.
Sometimes the guinea fowl keets have made it and sometimes they have still died.
Another thing to consider is once you have opened the incubator the temperature and humidity will be affected and this could stop other chicks from hatching.
If you decide that you are going to open the incubator I would just check that you can see movement from the chick otherwise you will have affected the incubator conditions and the chick could already be dead.

Let us know if you have any tips for helping quail chicks out of the shell.
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Newly Born Piglets – Can They Go Outside?

I’ve received an email from Graham asking about putting his newly born piglets outside.

“Just had a litter of pigs born will they go outside if it is muddy or shall I bring them in?”

Here is my response to the question and also a response from another reader.

Hi Graham,
Congratulations on the birth of your piglets. Where did the sow farrow, outdoors or inside? If it was outside then I would make sure that the shelter has plenty of fresh clean straw and bales around it for insulation and to keep the piglets protected from wind, rain and direct sunlight when it is hot, so that the piglets are kept warm, dry and don’t get sunstroke.
If they were born inside then they usually have a heat lamp for the first few days/week.
If the piglets are reared outside then they will get iron from the soil and grass they root about in but if indoors give them a piece of turf to root about on and access to water at all times for both indoor and outdoor piglets.
Hope the piglets are doing well – what sort of pigs are they?
Kind regards
Sara @ farmingfriends

Hi all

I have had two sows pig outside and in very wet conditions. The first Sow had 13 piglets 1 month ago and 10 survive. The three that died did so within 24 hours of birth and it probably had a lot to do with the bad weather at the time.

The second sow had 10 piglets and again 3 died in similar circumstances to the above. These are now 1 week old.

All are now well and and they are thriving.

I would think that if Grahams’ piglets have somewhere dry to lie and sleep, and they are feeding well enough from the mother then all will probably be ok. If they have survived thus far then there is probably little to be gained by bringing them in at this stage



Things to consider when putting piglets outside:

  • Shelter – make sure it has plenty of fresh clean straw and bales around it for insulation.
  • Shelter has plenty of room for sow to feed the piglets easily without laying on any of the piglet.
  • Weather – keep the piglets protected from wind, rain and direct sunlight when it is hot, so that the piglets are kept warm, dry and don’t get sunstroke.
  • Make sure they have a source of iron – if outside they should get iron from the soil and grass they root about in.
  • Access to water at all times.

If anyone has any experiences of rearing piglets outdoors from birth then we would love to hear your experiences.
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Beetroot And Cottage Cheese Recipe

I use cottage cheese for this recipe, but you could interchange this for a crumbly cheese such as feta, wensleydale, cheshire or caerphilly.

I find this is a versatile accompaniment.  It obviously lends itself to cold meat and salad dishes or with new potatoes, but can also be served with something like steak or hot salmon.

We grow beetroot in the garden, so always boil our own. Ready cooked beetroot from the supermarket will also be fine, although maybe not quite as good.

(You may also like to check out our pickled beetroot recipe.)


Simply roughly chop the beetroot into chunks (slightly smaller than 1cm square on average).  Place in your serving bowl and pour over some balsamic vinegar, a shake of good olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Turn to dress the beets.

Add a little olive oil, lemon zest and some finely chopped herbs (I prefer thyme) to the cottage cheese.  Stir to combine the flavours and then spoon over the beetroot.


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Fodder Beet

We grow fodder beet here on the farm as a feed for the cattle.

Fodder beet is a similar plant to the more commonly seen sugar beet plant.  The sugar content is lower, but the yield per acre is typically somewhat higher.  Sugar beet growers may typically expect to grow between 20 and 30 tonnes per acre, whereas fodder beet typically yields between 25 and 40 tonnes per acre (although it may be slightly lower in dry matter). 30 plus tonnes per acre is quite common and 40 tonnes per acre is quite achievable given a good soil type and ample summer rainfall.

There are different varieties of fodder beet that have different characteristics.  Generally speaking there are red or orange coloured varieties which tend to be slightly softer and also tend to grow further out of the ground.  These varieties may be suitable for grazing by sheep or feeding whole to sheep and cattle without chopping the roots.  Another advantage is that less soil will cling to the beet if it is harvested with a machine.  One disadvantage of these varieties is that they tend to be more susceptible to frost as they are growing more out of the ground and they are also softer varieties.

There are also white varieties of fodder beet.  Some of these have the tendancy to grow deeper into the ground, be higher in dry matter, and also be harder. This gives them more frost protection.  They can usually withstand frosts of minus 5 degrees C without too much damage.  These harder beets can also have better storing capabilities when harvested and kept in a clamp.  They normally require chopping for cattle to eat these harder roots.

We have tended to grow the white beet on our farm.

Fodder beet will usually store in a clamp (heap, protected from frost with straw bales – in the UK) until the end of April. Some growers will place the retaining bales of straw on pallets to aid air flow into the clamp to help keep the beet cool and facilitate longer storage periods.

We put air ducts under the clamp towards the back of the heap, so we can ventilate with a fan to keep the temperature of the beet correct.  This can lead to much longer storage and less deterioration.

The cattle really like to eat the beet.  It can raise dry matter intake and reduce the amount of barley we need to feed.  Protein content is, however, lower than barley so this needs to be accounted for.  We feed the beet to both growing and fattening cattle and to the suckler cows.  The suckler cows get low quality silage plus some beet.  The amount of beet we feed to the sucklers depends on their condition score and if we are trying to get the cows to increase of decrease their condition.

Grass Weed Control In Cereals

Certain grass weeds are becoming a very big problem for UK farmers in arable rotations.  This is due to a combination of reasons which is providing the ‘perfect storm’ for their proliferation.

Most farmers are experiencing this to some degree, although certain farming systems and soil types create the correct conditions for grass weeds to multiply.

The most common species to cause problems for the arable farmer are black grass, bromes, ryegrass and wild oats.  The problem is getting worse and so I am going to discuss the probable reasons for this and what we are doing about it on our farm.


Reasons For Grass Weed Proliferation

On many farms the rotation hasn’t changed for a number of years, but the problem has got much worse over the past few years.  So what has changed?

Certain key herbicides have had their licences revoked.  This has led to a reliance on fewer herbicides which may not be as effective or this may lead to resistance and so worse control.  Resistance to Atlantis is certainly evident, which used to give good post emergence control of blackgrass in wheat.

There has been a trend towards non-inversion tillage by farmers in an effort to cut crop establishment costs.  This can bring certain benefits to the soil, but does usually result in a greater number of grass weed seeds germinating and growing in the crop.

We have seen some wetter weather over recent years and many farm drainage systems have come to the end of their lives creating wetter soils which create conditions conducive to grass weed growth.


Situation On Our Farm

Approximatey 60 percent of our farm is of a medium to heavy soil type which we farm with autumn sown crops.  The reason for this is that crop establishment and yields are more consistent than spring cropping on this type of land.

However, we aren’t too bad for grass weeds.  We have one particularly bad patch of black grass that is about the size of a tennis court.  For the past 4 or 5 years we have worked at erradicating this patch. The black grass population has reduced in this patch, but we haven’t got rid of it as yet.  We have sprayed tank mixes of pre-emergence herbicides in the autumn with reasonable effect, but far from total control.  We have used Atalantis, but this is becoming less effective.  We have sprayed remaining plants off with glyphosate in the crop just as the seed heads have formed. We have hand rogued any remaining plants on the outer edges of the patch.  This strategy is working, but we are still not rid of this patch and it looks like it may take a few years yet to erradicate it altogether.

When beans or oilseed rape are grown in the field there are some different herbicides available, but we are finding that they are not as effective as they once were.  We pay close attention to the correct water volumes, nozzle choice and weather conditions when applying agrochemicals so they are applied in the most effective way.

The rest of the farm is relatively free of black grass, although it is in low populations across all the winter cropping soils.  I walk every field each year and hand rogue any plants.  This is hard and tedious work.  In a typical 15 acre field I would expect to pull about 20 plants that the herbicides haven’t contolled.  I think this is time well spent, as the populations can quickly increase and we could soon get into the situation like we did with the small tennis court sized patch.

If I see a black grass plant in the crop when I am travelling through with the crop sprayer I stop, get out of the tractor and pull the offending plant and remove it from the field.  When ever I pull a blackgrass plant I carry it off the field just in case any of the seeds have set.


Why Black Grass

You will notice that I have been talking about black grass, and haven’t really touched on the bromes, ryegrass, wild oats, annual meadow grass or any others.  These are all problematic weeds to the arable farmers, but black grass is potentially by far the worst.

Black grass plants are extremely prolific in their seed setting and shedding, typically shedding 1000 – 2000 seeds per plant.  The seeds are also usually shed before harvest, so no seeds are removed by the harvesting procedure.  This is not the case for wild oats or brome, where a certain proportion of the seed is harvested by the combine and removed from the field and many less seeds are produced per plant.

The heavier the soil type the more moisture retentive it tends to be, which is not only the best conditions for grass weeds to grow, but also the least conducive to spring cropping (spring cropping can be  good for black grass reduction as the weed doesn’t tend to germinate in spring.  Heavier soils are also more difficult to create a fine seed bed, this can lead to a lower germination rate of the crop and hence less crop competion against the weeds.  Any large clods can weather down with rain and then weed seeds can germinate with no chemical layer in place to kill them.

As our farm is currently 250 acres it is possible for me to walk the crops and rogue the few plants that are there.  Obviously this isn’t so easy on much larger farms, as there is only a few weeks to walk the crops and remove the weeds.  As soon as the populations start to get too high then hand weeding isn’t an option anyway.


Precision Control

One future control measure that some larger farms may be able to employ is precision mapping of the weed patches via GPS.  Once identified it would be possible to adjust herbicide concentrations in these areas, patch spray glyphosate and patch cultivate to reduce the populations.

These are weeds which start in patches before spreading across the field, so precision farming methods would work well.  Systems are already in development to identify and map the weeds.



We hope to eradicate the single patch of black grass within the next few years by continually working on it.  This season the wheat in that field was sprayed pre-emergence, but we still had a few plants.  We decided not to spray with Atlantis, as we thought we could pull them by hand and didn’t want to add to the resistance problem.  There were approximately 100 plants when I pulled them in mid May.  I will keep going back to see if any more plants become visible through late may and June.

It will be an ongoing practice to hand rogue all the fields.

We will continue to use a plough based cultivation stategy in most situations.  We believe there may be a place for some non-inversion crop establishment as an aid to keeping burried seeds down for an extra season.  Normally this would be when oilseed rape is established.

Non-inversion establishment on our soils later in the autumn have given variable results so we don’t see it as been useful on our farm for the wheat or barley drilling.  It can give better seed to soil contact than ploughing and retain moisture and germination rate in a dry time, but it has also tended to increase the chances of winter waterlogging compared to ploughing.

We have grown spring beans for the past two seasons which will help with control.  We have also introduced grass silage leys into the arabe rotation.  Any grass weeds are mown and harvested in the silage before they seed.

Ourselves and other farmers need to be aware of the spread of grass weeds from farm to farm through combine harvesters.  There is a tendancy for farmers to rely more on contractors or to share combine harvesters, so this is a path for spreading the weed seeds.  We own our own combine, but we do do some contracting work with it.  If we were to go to another farm that had a grass weed problem we would cut the problem areas first and then finish off in the cleaner part of the crop so that the inside of the combine would be relatively clean before returning back to our farm.  We would refuse any contracting work in fields with bad black grass populations. We are also cautious to not import any manures as we would not know if the bedding straw had been full of grass weed seeds.

These all seem like quite fastidious management decisions, but we believe they are worthwhile.  There are few, if any, new herbicides currently in development and we could loose some more of the actives that we have available.  Therefore, the situation could get more difficult.


Goat Farming

Sales of goat meat have been rising quite dramatically over the past few years.  This trend seems to be related to the fact that goat meat tended to be mainly consumed by certain ethnic groups and most of the meat was from older animals (a bit like the relationship between mutton and lamb).

However, in recent times goats have been reared specifically for meat production and animals slaughtered at a younger age giving a more tender and lightly flavoured meat, palatable to the modern consumer.

This has giving rise to opportunities for farmers and smallholders to tap into this market.  In fact smallholders are particularly well placed to raise goats as the animals don’t require a lot of space and basic housing is all that is required.


We have been looking into goat meat production as a potential enterprise for our farm.


Production Systems

There are two distinctly different production systems for goat meat production, which are similar to the way beef is produced in cattle systems.

Dairy Crosses

There is already a very well established goat milk industry.  Traditionally these milking herds have always mated the dams to a milk breed of buck and then kept the best doelings for herd replacements.  Unwanted doelings and male kids have often been dispatched at birth.

This has given goat meat producers and opportunity to approach the dairy herds and offer to buy the offspring if they will use a meat breed buck on a proportion of their herd.

Pure Meat Breeds

The other system of goat meat production is to use a doe and a buck, both of which are meat breeds.  This gives offspring with better growth, confirmation and meat yield characteristics (the same concept as a beef suckler herd).

The downside to this production method is the cost associated with keeping the doe solely to produce kids and also the cost of keeping breeding replacements.



Milking goats have been selected for production traits for some time and there are several different breeds, breeding lines and crosses that have been used.  Saanen, Anglo Nubian and Toggenburgs are particularly common.

Meat producing animals have probably not yet got the same degree of genetic selection and progression.

There are several meat breeds…

Boer, Savanna, Spanish, Kiko, Genemaster, Texmaster.

However, the Boer breed is widely thought of as the most commonly available and having some of the best characteristics.

Where To Find Out About Goat Meat Farming

Information for begginers isn’t all that easy to find, particularly as it is a relatively new practice to commercially farm goats specifically for meat production.

When trying to find out as much as possible about a potential new enterprise, it’s important to understand not only the production systems, feeding, breeding etc. but also we need to know about the market, marketing, what the market wants, distance to slaughter houses etc.

There are some books on the subject and some information online, but the best and most comprehensive resource we have found is the Boer Goats Profits Guide.  The guide was available as either a hard copy book or as a downloadable ebook.  It wasn’t cheap, but the authors clearly had a lot of knowledge and gave good guidance.




Today my main task on the farm has been hedgecutting.  There is only a few days left of hedgecutting season, as it is illegal to cut farm hedgerows from 1st of March onwards to protect nesting birds.

We purchased a new (well second hand) hedgecutter recently.  The old one only had a 4.5m reach and had spool valves (hydraulic controls) which came through the back window of the tractor.  This meant turning round to operate the machine, so gave the operator neck ache.

The new mower (the official name for a hedgecutter that attaches to a tracotr is a ‘reach mower’) has 6.5m of reach, electric controls and boot flails.  Boot flails leave a neat finnish on the hedge and are good for cutting the fine annual growth of a hedge.  The old machine had a ‘Bushwacker’ head which was more suited to cutting thick branches.

It’s a slow job cutting the hedges, but throughout the winter the farm has the available labour to undertate the task.  We have one more hedge to cut next week and then the farm will be looking all trim and tidy.

We prefer to trim the hedges later in the winter so that the berrys are available for the birds through the coldest months.  By March there is often other foodstuffs becoming available for the birds.

Leaking Hydraulic Ram

When ever a second hand piece of equipment is purchased, there is always some unknown about its condition.  We have been really pleased with the new mower.  The only thing really is a small leak on one of the hydraulic rams and a seal on the gearbox.  They are just small repairs and will get done before we need the machine again in the summer time.  During August we use the mower to cut the grass on the ditch sides to make way for the excavator to clean the ditches out.  Drainage is very important here in the low lying fields of the Vale of York.  Each ditch must be mown and de-silted annually to keep the drainage system working effectively.

Incubating, Hatching & Raising Guinea Fowl eBook Review

I am always delighted to get feedback about the products I am selling at farmingfriends, so I was thrilled to see my Incubating, Hatching & Raising Guinea Fowl Keets eBook described as comprehensive information.

Guinea Fowl Ebook

Here in North Carolina USA my husband and I have hatched guinea  keets with an incubator. We’ve scoured the internet for information,  and your ebook is the best quality, most comprehensive information  we have found.
Thank you!

Incubating, Hatching And Raising Guinea Fowl Keets eBook will provide you with information about:

  • reasons for keeping guinea fowl,
  • ways to start rearing guinea fowl,
  • choosing and storing guinea fowl eggs,
  • incubating guinea fowl eggs and incubator settings,
  • candling the eggs,
  • hatching guinea fowl eggs,
  • the brooder and brooder hygiene,
  • feeding gunea fowl keets,
  • aliments, illnesses and diseases,
  • taming guinea fowl keets and
  • development of guinea fowl keets.


Buy the Incubating, Hatching And Raising Guinea Fowl Keets eBook for yourself or as a gift for a friend or a family member, priced £4.99.


FarmingFriends Forum Switched Off For A Few Days

We just wanted to let you know that we have had to switch the forum off for a few days as it was getting hit by masses of spam in the background so we are looking at ways to combat this or make changes to the forum, so I will let you know when we are back on line. Sorry for the inconvenience. If you do have a question or issue related to your livestock or poultry please use the contact form to get in touch. Kind regards Sara

Chicken Vet Website

On my farmingfriends forum when the members need to take their poultry to the vets there is often talk about whether their vets have a specialist in poultry.

I am lucky where I live we have a local vets surgery with staff who are specially trained in avian veterinary.

I am writing this post as I have just been reading about the chicken vet website.

The Chicken Vet website provides advice on the care, health and well being of hens and offer recommendations on products to treat or maintain good health.

It also provides a network of “Chicken Friendly Vets” throughout the UK. The practices listed here are all Associated with Chicken Vet.

You can register on the website Chicken Vet and they will send you a welcome pack and information regarding your chosen practice.

Visit the Chicken Vet website.

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If you keep hens or are interested in keeping hens then visit the farmingfriends hen forum for the latest chat about hens and then check out the books shown below about keeping hens which are informative and excellent for the beginner and a handy reference for the more experienced hens keeper.

Visit Wells Poultry For All Your Poultry Equipment & Housing

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