1. Local/City ordinances in your area do not allow or restrict keeping chickens
More and more cities are allowing residents to keep chickens. A lot of the times they place such restrictions on having them that it becomes impossible to comply. In my case you had to have at least three acres which my small city lot was not even close. When I checked the city code it specifically listed several types of birds (chickens, guineas, ducks, etc.), but did not include or exclude quail. In addition to making sure you follow city and county ordinances, some states have restrictions. My state requires a permit if you are keeping more than 50 bob white quail. It is your responsibility to make sure you follow the law, but I have “pet” quail, so none of this applies to me.
2. Low cost to start and maintain
It is easy to get started with quail. For literally a couple of bucks you can get a common breed mating pair of birds, some specialty breeds are much higher. It is best to start in the spring when breeders are selling them or try late fall for a deal when breeders don’t what to keep the birds over the winter. Depending on how many birds you have a small cage and ratio of daily food is the only real cost involved.
3. Simple habitat requirements
If you are not raising the birds to train hunting dogs, then you don’t need a large flight cage. A simple cage that allows the waste to fall out the bottom to be collected and 1-2 square feet of space per bird and you are all set. Even a used rabbit hutch will work. Here is a picture of my six cage setup, can you see the Christmas lights?
4. Simple care requirements
The birds will need access to food and fresh water at all times. I feed and freshen water once a day, same time as I collect eggs. I use straw below the cages to collect the waste and keep down the flies. Once a week I move the straw to the compost pile and add a fresh layer. That is really it. The exception might be in the winter months. When it gets cold they need to be protected from wind and drafts. You can completely cover the cages with a tarp or if you have an out building you could move them inside. Keeping the water from freezing becomes the biggest chore.
Enough said! The fresh eggs are great during the laying season. Yes quail eggs are smaller than chicken eggs, but for my family it has been about a 5/6 to 1 ratio. If you assume each bird averages 5-6 eggs a week, then get enough birds to cover your normal egg consumption times 5. To extend the laying season, in the spring or fall you can provide a total of 15-16 hours of light to keep them laying. I placed a string of inexpensive Christmas lights around the cages and use an outdoor timer to make sure they get at least 15 hours of light all year round.
So maybe you weren’t looking to eat your “pets”, but quail meat it both good tasting and nutritious. They are mainly dark meat. They mature quickly, 6 weeks, so they are economical as well if you consider chickens mature in 8 or more weeks depending on breed and size desired. Plus raising quail versus hunting makes sure your finished meat is buckshot free.
7. Quiet and clean, especially if female only
Compared to chickens and guineas, quail are extremely quiet. Some make a sound similar to crickets or the distinct “bob white” call. Even when the male birds crow it is nothing to draw attention. If you have females only, then no crowing at all. Males are only needed if you want fertilized eggs for hatching. When they are raised on wire with the droppings being contained with straw they are both clean and have little if any undesired smell.
8. Many varieties for your taste
There are many varieties in both size and color of quail to fit your taste. Please remember to check your state and local ordinances because some breeds require permits. Otherwise, do your research and pick something you like. I prefer Large Brown Cortunix quail as they are in abundance supply, hardy, and good egg layers.
9. Great as pets or science project
If you are not interested in being a farmer, then get the kids involved. Quail make great pets or science projects. Since they require little care outside of food and water and very little space they are a great alternative to larger pets like dogs or cats.
10. Possible money making venture
I say possible because it will require some work and maybe an increase in space requirements. There are several sellable products with quail: live quail, eggs, meat and manure. Once again check state and local ordinances for details on what you can or cannot sell. You may not be able to sell the meat due to FDA or USDA restrictions, but I have heard of people giving away live birds and charging to have them butchered. Live birds and fertile hatching eggs can be sold easily on Craig’s List and E-bay. Finally the manure is high in nitrogen and makes for many a happy local gardener.
So that is why I think quail are the perfect backyard animal.