A Warm Park Day Welcome to New Feathered Friends!
Posted by Amelea Canaris and Joe Patton on 6/7/2018
Our Learning Garden Program is a beautiful living organism--always evolving, flourishing on change. The seeds we plant, harvest, and taste change with the seasons. The progressive curriculum throughout the Lower School grades is constantly being integrated, helping to shape our garden lessons. And, the school community continually changes: students transition to higher grades as some children arrive for the first time. Among the newest members of our school is a small flock of quail who moved to Park Day School in late April. The five hens were rescued from a house Amelea's friend had moved into, and unable to care for them, their owners passed them onto us. In mid-spring, Amelea installed a small coop near the chickens, and with it, our new friends.
As their name suggests, these Coturnix japonica quail are native to Japan. The species is found throughout East Asia, migrating as far south as Vietnam and Laos during winters and as far north as Russia. The earliest record of their domestication is the 12th century, although you wouldn’t guess it from meeting our quail! The flock at our school is nervous around large groups. They are still very much settling into their new home and appreciate peace and quiet.
As ground-dwelling animals that prefer habitats with dense vegetation for sources of protection, an exposed coop presents a major challenge. We have been working on adapting their little home to accommodate their needs. Afterall, our flock is essentially wild. Branches of cypress, woodchips, and stones now cover the cardboard flooring. A container with sand in a corner of the coop offers a place for dust bathing, a favorite pastime of quail for grooming and removing parasites from their feathers. As with everything, improving the quail’s home on campus is a work in progress.
Because our flock is still acclimating, we have asked the community to give the quail plenty of space. It is important to note that we can NOT let them free range as chickens do (they will not return and may be attacked by predators). Additionally, their coop should only be unlocked and opened by adults who have signed up for chicken and quail care and they should NOT be held or handled by anyone other than the garden teachers. Students have been delighted to visit and observe them this month, joyously feeding them little snacks through the wiring of their coop such as pieces of fruit from the nearby strawberry tree, or Arbutus unedo (an evergreen in the same family as cranberry, blueberry, and azaleas). They also love fresh greens like cabbage, sour sorrel, and lettuce leaves, broken up into tiny pieces for them to taste! We are collecting their small, speckled eggs to cook with students and parents/families that sign up for chicken and quail care are welcome to take home any quail and chicken eggs they find during their volunteer day.
As summer moves along, we are on the lookout for volunteers to care for our chickens and quail, as well as our bountiful gardens. We hope to have some vegetables to harvest in the fall! Do you live near campus? Are you going to be around this summer and looking for a routine family activity like caring for our sweet chickens/quails/gardens in exchange for fresh eggs and summer veggies? We will be offering a training for summer garden and chicken/quail care givers during our garden work party this coming Sunday, June 10th. The work party is from 9am-1pm, and the training is from 10:30am-11:00am.
If you or someone you know is interested, please email Amelea (email@example.com) or Joe (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can find an electronic sign-up sheet for chicken and quail care at https://www.wejoinin.com/sheets/eymlt/edit.
With gratitude from an ever-changing program,
Amelea and Joe