Wanted: A Darby for our lonely Joan

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Just when we thought new life had taken over from a lot of death at Shoogly Towers, another casualty. Our male Japanese quail, Darby, finally turned up his (teeny wee) toes.

Life expectancy for these birds is around two to two-and-a-half years, but Darby managed four, a gracious old gent.

Darby and Joan started out in a flock of 12 quail, 10 lay-dees and two gents, with six sold on after a year as we found it hard to sell their eggs at the gate. Everyone wanted hen’s eggs, no-one wanted quail eggs.

So, the lovely Stephen and Shirley came all the way from Ayr to give the unwanted six an new home. Over mugs of tea and (shop-bought) cake, Stephen told us how he used to have around 300 birds – hens and other assorted poultry. If memory serves me correctly, he told us this flock of poultry-ranch proportions was pre-Shirley, and that although he had scaled down quite considerably, he was building up his flock again a wee bit.

Six months or so later, a text with picture pinged to my phone. It was from Stephen, who hadn’t been able to resist hatching some of the quail eggs. The picture was of what seemed like a million baby quail in a brooder. I am sure by now he’s back up to 300 birds. Gradually, back at Shoogly Towers, the grim reaper claimed all but two of the six – Darby and Joan. These two OAP quail soldiered on like an old married couple, utterly devoted to each other. Darby would occasionally let rip with a long, lovely, warbling call, not unlike something you might imagine you might hear in a forest in Indonesia. Very exotic. Joan would just stand close by, looking on in admiration.

Life was simple, yet sweet, for them. Day after day, they wandered their run together, sat together, ate together, drank together. I imagined the profound love and mutual respect they shared.

All this was shattered a few days ago when Darby started to go downhill and, before we could do anything about it, passed away in his sleep. It was all so sudden. Gamford discovered him in the morning.

What to do? Give Joan to someone with more Japanese quail (no, because she’s an old lay-dee and might be harried or attacked as she integrates = not good). Wring her neck? (no, she’s still very mobile and laying eggs), appeal to see if anyone has a lone, elderly male Japanese quail they might like us to have, or they might have room for an elderly, lay-dee Japanese quail to go with their lonely-only elderly boy quail?

I posted on my poultry group, and I wait to see what happens. But just in case anyone out there has a replacement Darby desperate for a Joan, please get in touch with Mr E, mark.entwistle@jpress.co.uk, subject ‘old codger’.

That’s the quail, not my husband, just to be clear.