Whanganui poultry farmer Aaron Rasmusen and his 10-year-old daughter, Jemma, are getting a real kick out of raising quails.
They got the idea from seeing quails' eggs for sale at a farmers' market in Hawke's Bay.
Mr Rasmusen is a third-generation poultry farmer and wanted to try something different. He started by buying fertilised eggs from Whangarei six months ago, then did his own breeding and now has about 500 of the small birds.
Jemma is enjoying the new venture. Her dad said she loved hatching day, when a tray of 100 quail eggs is pulled out of the incubator in the morning.
"Day-old birds are just going everywhere."
For two months, the Rasmusens have been selling the tiny spotted eggs for $5 per dozen at their Francis Rd shop. They are also at Whanganui's River Traders' market and for sale in a Chinese supermarket in Wellington and a butchery in New Plymouth.
They're popular in Chinese cooking, and many of the Whanganui customers are Asian. Sales are going well.
"In fact, we are a bit short of eggs," Mr Rasmusen said.
Quails' eggs are hard-boiled in just one or two minutes, and there's a knack to shelling them. They're used in salads and hors d'oeuvres.
They have a bigger ratio of yolk to white and are said to be creamier than hens' eggs.
After the incubated eggs hatch, Mr Rasmusen feeds the tiny chicks on a ground quail food. They each grow to about 140g in weight and 15cm tall.
Adult females are put in cages of seven, where they begin laying eggs at 8 weeks.
"We can't free-range them because they would just run away."
Male birds will be processed at Heron Holdings in Aramoho and will soon be available for sale live or dressed at the Francis Rd shop.
Quail live for 2 years. Mr Rasmusen isn't sure how big his quail business will get, but he has already ordered a larger incubator.