Since we have added quail to our homestead I have come to the conclusion that they are one of the best starter animals on a homestead. Raising quail in your backyard is perfect for those of you who want to raise your own meat or eggs but lack the room for larger poultry like chicken or ducks!
Quail were my husbands idea and I have to say I’m pretty glad that he brought them up! They are funny to watch and while they might not be quite as friendly as the ducks or the chickens watching them hop around the coop and interact with each other provides it own sort of entertainment. If you have been considering a homesteading type lifestyle or you’re just looking to supplement your food with home raised options then I highly suggest quail! Keep reading to learn how you can add them to your backyard!
Raising Quail In Your Backyard
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Benefits Of Quail
Quail have a lot of things going for them! Just like chickens and ducks, they can be raised for either eggs or meat but there are a few things that make them a bit more appealing to some people. This is especially true for people who live in urban or suburban communities where they may not have room for larger animals.
- Quail Require Less Room – While chickens and ducks require up to 4 feet in a coop and 10ft in a run per animals to stay happy quail can comfortably live in a much smaller area. Most quail can live happily in about 1 square foot of space per bird.
- Quail Grow Quickly – By the time my chickens are old enough to leave the brooder and be introduced to our larger flock the quail has been happily living outside for a couple of weeks. Baby chickens are just starting to grow their adult feathers at 4 weeks but most quail breeds already look like miniature adults and no longer need supplemental heat by this time. If you choose to incubate your own eggs you can hatch a quail egg in 18-19 days and that baby quail can grow up and provide you with eggs or meat by 8-9 weeks old! In contrast, chickens won’t start laying until they are about 18 weeks old.
- Quail Are Quiet – If you are raising your quail strictly for eggs you don’t need a rooster, just like chickens your hens will lay eggs with or without a male present. If you want to increase your population (so that you can replace older birds or hatch some for the dinner table) however Quail roosters are pretty quiet. They do crow, but it’s more of a warbling sound and is unlikely to bother your neighbors. Odds are they will just think its a typical songbird.
If these benefits seem like they might suit your needs then you’ll be happy to know that Quail are also very easy to raise!
What You Need To Get Started
Raising quail is a lot lie raising any other poultry. Like any chick, baby quail require a heat source until they grow adult feathers and can regulate their own temperatures. Most people choose to provide this using a heat lamp or if you plan on raising chicks fairly often or are concerned about the potential fire hazard of a heat lamp you might choose to invest in a brooder heating plate.
Baby quail will need a safe draft free place to live for the first few weeks of their life. You might choose to build a brooder box to serve this purpose but you can also use a large box or Rubbermaid tub. When your quail are a couple of weeks old they might start trying to fly out of the brooder when they are startled. For baby chickens we keep them from flying out using a small section of wire but quail need something softer as they tend to fly straight up and can scalp themselves or break their necks on harder surfaces. I have found that a square of soft mesh work pretty well as a covering. I keep it in place using a a couple of small clamps.
Quail chicks will also require a source of fresh clean water and some chick crumble. I use Purina flock raiser for all of my birds because it is an all life stage food and it’s easier to buy just one type of food for everyone. Quail chicks are very small when they are first born and depending on the size of your feed crumbles you may have to grind them smaller. This is easily done with a blender or food processor and you should only have to do so for a week or so as quail chics grow very fast!
In addition to making their feed smaller o that they don’t have trouble picking it up y also have to be careful with their water. Quail chicks have been known to drown themselves with basic chick waters. You can avoid this by buying a specific quail water base OR by adding some small pebbles and rocks into the bottom of the chick water.
List of Supplies for Chicks
- Safe draft-free box
- Soft no-slip bedding (avoid cedar chips)
- Quail safe water base
- Chick starter crumble
- A heat lamp or brooder heating plate
What You Need To Keep Them Happy
If you want your birds to grow up healthy it’s important to provide them with a few things. We have already gone over the basics – Food, water, adequate space etc but if you want truly happy birds then you need to keep a few more things in mind!
As your quail grow it will soon become apparent which of them are male and which are female (Check this link for checking the gender of your quail). like most animals kept in captivity, the ratio of male to female is important for keeping the peace. Most people agree that 4-6 females per male bird are a pretty good ratio but, just like people, quail have their own personalities and your birds might be fine with less or require more. If your hen seems like they are being aggravated by the male then you should think about adding more. If everyone is living peacefully then you’re probably okay!
Quail are easily stressed little birds. It doesn’t take much to startle them and they don’t respond well to being bothered by predators (or your family dog even if he is harmless). To keep your quail happy you should make sure that their hutch or coop is placed in a quiet place of your yard. They should have some shelter from the elements and most people find that having them raised off the ground also helped them feel a bit safer.
Quail coops should be kept in an area which is shaded during the hottest part of the day s they can be sensitive to excessive heat. During the colder months they should also be provided with a place to get out of the cold!
Provide Some Enrichment
Providing your quail with a small tub of dust for dust-bathing and some branches to run and hide under can make for happier birds. You might also provide them with healthy treats now and then to help alleviate boredom and give them a bit of variety!
Some of the best treats for quail include :
- Greens and chopped up veggies
- Quartered apples
Quail like to have around 14 hours of light a day if you want them to lay eggs on a regular basis. While this might be challenging during the summer months you might consider adding an artificial source of light for them during the evening or morning hours.
Following all of these quail raising guidelines with help you raise happy and healthy birds! No matter your reason for keeping quail it’s always important to provide them with the very best care that we can!