Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Hobbyist hubby keeps things interesting

I don’t just live in interesting times. I married them.

The years of my marriage have been spent watching my husband come up with unusual, unexpected but always interesting pastimes. He was a Green Beret who hates the sight of blood, ran for political office in Los Angeles, bought a pine tree farm and built a yurt in the hills of Paso Robles, and constructed a two-room shack near the Salton Sea, just because he could.

My spouse decided recently that our local watershed needed more quail. He reads a lot and vets his sources, so I don’t argue with him. He then ordered the quail eggs from a poultry farm and they are now nestled atop my hand-picked granite counter top. The upstairs bathroom is now home to an incubator he built from Styrofoam and heat lamps, and houses about 18 tiny, brown-speckled quail eggs. It will take about another 10 days to hatch them and during that time each egg requires hand-turning twice a day. That chore fell to me for two days and, of course, I forgot one afternoon. I am stricken that I may be the cause of multiple quail failures to hatch. I really hope not.

Once they hatch, they will go live in a brooding pen in the garage, made of potting soil and a circle of roofing felt. Yes, my husband loves to find multi-uses for his junk and gets points for recycling. The chicks will apparently be thriving under cozy conditions in my garage for about six weeks.

Then they will move to the coop my husband carefully constructed, that takes up an entire corner of our backyard. It is fitted with screens on all sides, to discourage visits from hawks, owls and coyotes. Once grown, my husband says, these quail will finally just fly away, finding a new home in the nearby canyons.

I am beyond skeptical. I am pretty certain that every chick that hatches is going to look at my husband and cheep, “Hey, mom!” I suspect they will all imprint on his craggy face, and we will then have our own adoring flock of quail that follow him everywhere.

The sound of 18 cheeping baby quail might be challenging. From what I’ve read, there may be lots of loud hollering for adult comfort for about three weeks. Do you let them cry it out? Can I spend the night at your house?

Whatever happens, it will, as always, be interesting. And, yes, I am quite familiar with that ancient Chinese curse.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who is OK with living in a semi-aviary. Contact her at