Coturnix Japonica, the Japanese or Coturnix quail, are a great choice for anyone wanting to raise poultry. Quail are ideal for the poultry novice for many reasons. Quail are small, have a great feed to egg conversion ratio, are inexpensive, and easy to acquire. Before getting your first quail it is important to do research and decide why you want to raise quail. The housing and husbandry of your quail will differ slightly based upon whether you are keeping them as pets, raising them strictly for eggs, raising them for their meat, raising them to breed and sell, or raising them for a combination of the above reasons. You will also need to decide if you want to purchase chicks, juveniles, adult birds, or eggs to start your journey into quail keeping. Coturnix quail require 22-30% protein in their diet, depending on age. Commercially formulated quail feeds are not commonly found at farm stores at this time. Quail keepers either feed a high protein layer crumble, a high protein all flock feed, game bird feed, or a mixture of the above. If you notice feather pecking in your quail then the protein content of their diet needs to be increased.
Coturnix Quail come in many different colors, regardless of color they are all the same quail species. Wild-type or Pharaohs, Egyptian, White Wing Pharaohs, and Pearl are some of the feather sexable quail colors available. To distinguish feather sexable males from feather sexable females look at the breast, a male will have a breast devoid of spots or speckles, while the female will have spotting or speckling on her breast. Depending on the color and genes at play a feather sexable female quail can have very dense spotting on her breast and abdomen or sparse spotting only on her breast. Most feather sexable quail can be sexed at 3 weeks of age once they are almost fully feathered in. Some males will be hard to distinguish from the females and it is good practice to sex your birds again at 6 weeks of age before they hit sexual maturity. Even when mature, males and females of some colors can be almost indistinguishable. Below are three pictures of adult quail, a male on the left and two females on the right. Notice how the female on the right looks very similar to the male but has sparse breast spotting?
Advantages Over Chickens
Quail have many advantages over chickens. The main advantages of quail are their small size and smaller space requirements, early sexual maturation, and that they are not considered livestock. Being a smaller bird, quail require less space per bird than chickens. Quail require one fourth to one third of a square foot per bird, where chickens require eight to ten square feet per bird. This means that you can keep many more quail in the same space that would only accommodate three or four chickens. Prefab chicken coops are an ideal option for quail coops and small yards.
Quail hens usually start laying at eight weeks of age while chicken pullets start laying at sixteen to twenty weeks of age. Their early sexual maturation is one of the biggest advantages quail have over chickens. While quail eggs are eleven to eighteen grams, which is a third or fourth smaller than a large chicken egg, they are very prolific layers. The eggs come in varying shades of brown and even blue. Each egg is unique to the hen who laid it. A pair of quail egg scissors helps to open eggs easily and cleanly.
Since quail are such productive little birds you can quickly find yourself with way too many eggs. Selling quail eggs can be profitable enough to offset your feed costs. People will pay well for local eggs and meat. Quail meat is described as very flavorful and slightly gamey. One or two whole quail are a satisfying main course for any type of dinner. Some other great advantages of quail are that the roosters’ warble or crow is much quieter and less frequent than chicken rooster crows. Being able to keep a male quail in your flock allows you to hatch your own quail chicks and sell fertile eggs. My quail roosters hardly ever crow and when they do it just blends into the natural bird sounds of my neighborhood. Quail manure composts much faster than chicken manure and is a great source of nitrogen for the soil. Weekly cage cleanings will yield a nice amount of manure for the compost pile that will quickly turn into rich dirt.
Quail Housing Setups
Quail require an area that offers them protection from the elements and predators, fresh food and water, and a way to express natural behaviors. Depending on your reasons for keeping quail, whether you view them as pets or as a food source, will determine which setup is ideal for you, your environment, and your needs. Consideration should also be given to what setup will benefit the quail. Whichever method of housing you decide on for your quail, they should all have the following amenities: protection from the elements, access to fresh water and feed, be predator proof, and hygienic. Well managed quail make owning them truly enjoyable!