When Isabelle Lefebvre first started quail farming, she treated the birds almost like pets.
“When I didn’t have that many, I used to have three in the house all winter in a little rabbit cage,” she said.
Sometimes she even let them run around her house.
Three years later, now that her covey of quails has grown to almost 40 birds, they don’t get to wander the halls of her Mayo Road home anymore.
They have their own coup beside the horse stalls.
Originally from Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec, Lefebvre didn’t grow up on a farm and quail eggs were never a part of her diet.
“I don’t know why I got into it,” she said. “I just thought it was fun but then I found out how healthy they (the eggs) are.”
In Canada, the small speckled eggs are a delicacy normally seen in a fancy restaurant as garnish for haute cuisine.
But quail eggs are much more common in other parts of the world.
South Americans garnish their hamburgers and hotdogs with them. In the Philippines and Vietnam, the soft-boiled eggs are battered, deep-fried and sold on the streets as beer snacks.
Though they’re not as common today, people have been eating quail eggs since the beginning of recorded history.
In traditional Chinese medicine, quail eggs have been used to treat everything from asthma to eczema.
Though modern medicine doesn’t consider them to be a panacea, they are still considered something of a wonder food.
They might be tiny, but quail eggs pack quite a nutritious punch.
On average a quail egg contains more protein, phosphorus, calcium, iron and vitamins than a chicken egg, even though the typical chicken egg is four times larger.
And Lefebvre’s eggs are a little bigger than average.
She mixed the stock she originally got from a woman in Carmacks with another strain she imported from Quebec.
The result was a beefier bird with bigger eggs.
So big that she has to put the eggs in regular cartons because they wouldn’t fit in the special quail-sized ones she bought.
But the little eggs aren’t just nutritious, they’re delicious too.
“I find them creamier,” said Lefebvre. “They’re not as dry as a chicken egg.
“It’s different, it’s more of a precious little thing.”
Most of the time, she eats her quail eggs on toast, but they can be used in almost any recipe that calls for chicken eggs, it just takes a few more of them.
Lefebvre uses them to make fresh pasta, she’s pickled them and just the other day she devilled some. However, the latter is not something she recommends.
“They’re very cute if you want to impress your girlfriend,” she said, “But oh my god, it’s a lot of work.”
For the birds themselves, laying the eggs is a lot of work as well.
On average, a female quail only lives for about a year and a half. The males last a bit longer.
“The males don’t produce eggs every day so they live longer,” said Lefebvre. “Females have to lay every day so it’s a lot of work. They don’t seem to last as long.”
She has one male that has been used for breeding since the beginning.
Though the birds have been farmed for centuries, they aren’t as tame as chickens.
“They’re a little on the wild side,” said Lefebvre. “They look cute and pretty, but sometimes they can be pretty territorial.
“I put little branches in there so if they have any arguments they can go hide.”
They’re also a little bit racist.
“I’ve got some white ones but I don’t keep too many,” she said. “It’s funny, the other kind (brown ones) don’t really like them. They beat them up for some reason.”
Right now Lefebvre sells about 14 dozen eggs every week to a few customers around town.
In the summer, she sells her eggs at the Whitehorse farmers’ market, but she doesn’t have any plans to expand the operation any time soon.
“I don’t know if there’s a big demand,” she said. “My big goal is just to educate people because people don’t know quail eggs at all.”
Those who do get to know them seem to like them, said Lefebvre.
“I have two people who, when they travel, they bring their eggs on holiday,” she said.
Contact Josh Kerr at