Archive for the ‘quail cages’ Category

Winter care for your backyard quail flock is simple.  The birds need fresh water, good food, and protection from the elements.

Fresh, unfrozen water is key to any livestock or animal under your care.  For quail it is important they have access to water at a minimum of twice a day, but obviously more often or all day access is better.  Depending on your latitude, frozen water will be the main winter concern.  While I have yet to find a system I am truely happy with using for a small flock of quail, here is what I have or am using. When I am keeping quail in smaller breeder cages with a water bottle or tray I have succumbed to changing it out twice a day.  Here in the US midwest the weather is variable so I can get away with this plan, but further north water can freeze in minutes.  I have also used a heated chicken watered in a colony cage.  It held almost three gallons and at the time I have about 18 quail so it works well.  While there are other options (fish tank heater, bird bath heater, stock tank heater, heated dog water bowl) they all require you to have electricity available at the cages.  I have not tried it myself, but I understand moving water does not freeze.  I have seen a gravity feed system from a pond which is something I don’t have access to in my backyard.  I have also seen a system with a barrel buried in the ground to get the water below the freeze line and pumped up to the cage, then gravity drained back to the barrel.  Not sure this would completely work in the colder climates, but I found it interesting.

Game bird feed is high in protein by definition.  In the winter it is important the birds have high quality feed available at all times in order to generate body heat.  Again winter weather is the concern here.  On my breeder cage, the feeder is a tray mounted outside.  So I have to work to clear snow from the feeder and replace any feed that has become wet from rain or melting snow.  Soggy, wet food can freeze and become unavailable or worse moldy.  On my colony cage the tray feeder is inside under cover and protected from the elements.  In addition to quality feed a little extra fat in the birds diet during the colder months can help them build internal fat to stay warm as needed.   A good source is meal worms, which can be purchased or grown.  This is something you don’t want to over do creating obese unhealthy quail.  Plus you want to back off towards the end of the cold season allowing the birds to return to normal weight.

Protection from the elements is both obvious and not.  While your quail need protection from cold wind, rain, and snow.  They also need fresh air and ventilation.  It’s a balance.  When I kept the quail in the breeder cage for winter, even though it had a roof I covered it with a tarp to block the wind and blowing rain/snow.   There was still fresh air from underneath through the cage floor.  It was more work because I had to watch the weather and remove it on warmer days.  When using the colony cage, one end is already completely enclosed so all I do is cover the additional sides.  I staple feed bags on all except the door allowing fresh air to enter and flow out the cage floor.

The colder months can be hard on your flock, but with a little work and planning it is survivable.   I have yet to loose any quail to cold temperatures.   One final thought, young and older quail would be the most vunerable to bad weather.  So I make it a point to only winter quail that are at least two months old and less than two years old.  The two year olds are spring breeder that will be retired before the next summer.

Join our news letter and comment below with your questions or other thoughts on winter care.

incubator eggs

incubator eggs


Clan Mating or also called Family Mating is a breeding plan to insure good genetic diversity in a small flock or herd. While this system can be used with any type of livestock, obviously we are going to focus on quail.

In order to do clan mating you will need at least 6 birds, 3 male, 3 female. You tag or group the three separate clans with 1 male and at least 1 unrelated female per clan or family. For arguments sake lets assign them group colors for this discussion. I have a red, yellow, and green groups. Why? Because when I ordered the leg bands that is what colors were available for order, no other reason.

For this system to work you need to isolate each clan for breeding purposes to be sure of who fathered the chicks. I actually use three separate cages for my breeders, but if you don’t have that option you will need at least two separate cages. One for the main flock and one for the isolated breeding clan. Typically I recommend waiting two weeks after isolating the breeding clan, this will allow for any non-clan related breeding to have worked itself out. What I mean by this is if you are raising your quail in a colony cage with several males of different clans, your females may have been recently breed by a non-clan related male. After two weeks of isolation, any eggs you collect for incubation are guaranteed to be from breeding with the clan related male during isolation.

Then once the chicks are hatched you assign the females to the color or clan of the mother and the males to the next color or clan. So for example, when I am breeding and incubating the “red” clan in my system. The females will get a red leg band and stay apart of that clan. The males will get a yellow band and become apart of the next clan. When I am breeding the “yellow” clan, the female chicks remain yellow and the males get a green band. Finally, when breeding the “green” clan the female chicks remain green and the males get a red bad.

This system allows for sufficient genetic diversity in your flock with the minimal size flock of six birds. It is easy to run and doesn’t require a lot of complicated setup.

Take to the comments below with any questions or additional thoughts on clan mating quail flocks! Thanks!

Been a while since I posted, so thought I would begin with a post for folks looking to get started raising quail for eggs and/or meat in their backyard.

1) Cage or pen
You will need a minimum of a 2X2 area for each pair or trio of birds.  This is a minimum and more is better.  The needs here are pretty simple, something to keep the birds in and predators out.  While there are a lot of crazy flight cages and things you could build, I recommend starting small and building up to it.  Check Craigslist or eBay for a rabbit hutch or something similar. Place it in a location that gets good ventilation, but not direct sun in summer. I also recommend a raised cage with a screened bottom. This allows for a cleaner area for the birds to live in without you constantly needing to clean it.

2) Birds
OK, this seems obvious, but be careful. Some birds have specific requirements, limits, or permits in different states and locations. I recommend checking your state and local requirements before making any purchases. For beginners I highly recommend Jumbo Brown Cortunix quail. These birds are easy to keep and identify the male from the female based on feather color. Also, they usually have no state or local restrictions. They too can be found on Craigslist. If you are daring you can get an incubator and some hatching eggs, but might want to save that for later.

3) Feed
I recommend a good quality game bird feed of at least 20% protein, I use Purina brands. Some folks want to mix their own so they know what the birds are eating, but it is very hard to do this and provide proper protein and nutrition/vitamins needed by the birds. Just starting out go with store bought and if you want to mix your own, transition the birds to it slowly later so you can watch for any problems.

4) Water
Fresh clean water, fresh clean water, fresh clean water! Get it? The birds need fresh clean water at all times regardless of weather or season. In the heat of summer, fresh clean water. In the middle of an ice storm in winter, fresh clean water! It will depend on your cage setup how you do this, but give it some thought or try different things For me, down the length of the cages I added a piece of PVC pipe with a slot cut into it. This allows me to easily clean it out or remove ice.

5) Time
Lastly, anything you do requires some time. Quail do need much! Feed them once a day, fresh clean water twice a day, collect eggs and remove waste as it builds up. I can do all of this in about 10-15 minutes a day and 15-20 minutes extra on weekend to clean out from under the cages.

Hope this helps and inspires someone to get started raising quail!

Finally feels like summer around here, got a heat wave this week that made both me and the birds a little hot. Not too much activity this summer with the quail, no hatches, no loses, just collecting eggs and maintaining. It’s nice when a system gets to the point where you can run it on auto-pilot and the weather has helped.

So speaking of the heat, just a couple of friendly reminders. I have positioned my cage so that it is under a large pine tree. This provides all day shade in the summer and protection from cold winds and snow in the winter. The other key is that the cage is open (wire mesh) on two sides and the bottom to allow good airflow. Finally make sure your birds have fresh clean water available all the time and replace it twice a day on hot days.

Trying to decide what to do this fall. Just thinking out loud, I will probably get some outside eggs to hatch and retire a couple of hens. I need to get on that soon so they have time to mature before the weather changes. How about you, what are you bird related plans for the fall?

So spring is trying to arrive, but intermittent snow storms (12 inches at a time) are trying to slow it down.  All the quail except 1 of 2 Texas A&M made it through the winter.  I have been keeping them in a section of the rabbit cage I built.  It allowed me to have a single heated water source and provided them some protection from the elements. Suppose to warm up next week so I plan to move them back to the breeder cages and see if I can get them started laying again.  It was interesting that after only 2 days of being in the larger cage and no lights they stopped laying entirely.  Hopefully they remember how!  🙂  I plan to order some eggs online and hatch them to rebuild the flock, but that will have to wait until I feel like the eggs will stay warm enough during shipping.

Spring 2013

Looking forward to a warmer spring 2013!

Other backyard quail farm happenings:
Chickens: my wife applied to the city for a special use permit to have chickens and we were approved.  Secretly I think she hopes this will replace the quail, but I don’t have the heart to tell her.  Really the quail are little trouble (less than what I think the chickens will be) and since I can not have a rooster according to the city I am not able to hatch chicken eggs to refresh the flock.  I will be setting up a brooder this weekend and hopefully getting chicks next week from the feed store.  I am looking to get White Leghorns.  Everything says they are good egg layers and lay large white eggs, the kids will never know – shhhhh!

Rabbits: the bunnies made it through the winter as well.  Keeping their water unfrozen proved a challenge.  The heated bottles I bought were only good down to about 25 degrees.  But I currently have the two original bunnies (1 male, 1 female, both flemish giant, new zealand mix) and two of the does first litter does.  I breed the original doe a month ago thinking it would be warming by now, she had a litter of 5 over the weekend.  The other two does are not from this buck and are now old enough to be moms, so I have breed them as well this week.  We will see how they do over the next month.

Garden:  the seeds have been started indoors for a variety of items: cabbage, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, peppers.  If the snow ever clears I will harden of the cold tolerant plants and hopefully get something in the ground soon.  Also, I planted garlic for the first time this past fall.  Looking forward to see if that comes back up and makes for a harvest.

I have gotten a couple of questions lately about “free ranging” quail.  While this works well for chickens, ducks and other fowl it is not recommended for quail.  They tend to fly off never to be seen again. They don’t tend to roost in the same place each evening making free ranging difficult.

If you check my site I recommend a smaller cage for urban quail, about 2X3 foot.  If you have more room you could use what is called a flight cage.  It is a larger completely enclosed area that will allow the quail some height and distance to fly and exercise.  It is usually used by growers who intend to sell their quail for training dogs to retrieve.  Quail used in this way need to have strong flight muscles.  it could also be used at ground level (as opposed to raised cages with wire bottoms) to allow the birds some ranging.  It creates a real problem if part of your intent is to raise the birds for eggs, they are harder to find in such a setup.

Although I have never heard of it being used with quail, I would assume you could also used what is called a chicken tractor (search it).  This would allow the birds some ground contact and a chance at natural foods like insects.

I would recommend regardless that you can a small box with some sand in it the cage to allow for some natural stimulation of the birds.  Although the don’t need the grit if given a all purpose feed, it cant hurt them.

1.  Local/City ordinances in your area do not allow or restrict keeping chickens

City ordinances 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.

5.  Eggs

Quail EggsEnough 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.

6.  Meat

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

QuailThere 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.Cash Money

 

So that is why I think quail are the perfect backyard animal.

 

I have received a few questions about my backyard quail pens.  I bought these on Craigslist and the story I was told is that the state of Illinois built them as part of a quail restoration project and when the project ended this guy picked up a whole load of them.  Cost me a whole $20. It is a great cage, there are six slots (I keep 1 male and 2 female in each section).   The cage came with a sheet metal feeding trough on the front and I added a PVC pipe waterer to the back.  The floor is angles so that the eggs roll forward and under the feeding trough for collection.

I placed them up on the fence post to get them off the ground and make it harder for varmints to climb.  Also added a thin plastic roof to protect from the rain and snow.  Finally after learning the hard way that something was attacking them at night (specifically when they stuck their heads out to feed) I added the additional layer of smaller wire covers.  If you look closely you can see the Christmas lights I have on each cage, this plus a timer allows me to simulate 12-14 hours of daylight that keeps the birds laying eggs earlier in the spring and later in the fall.   Lastly, I keep the ground below the cages covered with straw.  This makes it very easy once a week to rake up the mess and add it to my compost pile.

I have a couple of sheet metal brooders I picked up from Craigslist for $25 that I use for the first three weeks after hatching baby quail.  Side note, I plan to start saving eggs this next weekend to hatch out for summer grilling.

Finally I have an old two part rabbit hutch/cage I use as a grow out pen for those birds I plan to butcher.  I got it on Craigslist as well, but cant remember what I paid for it, maybe $40.

Backyard Quail Pens

Backyard Quail Pens

The final 18 birds were moved to the breeding cages. Then a huge thunderstorm rolled through. Everyone survived. On a down note. I ended up with 4 too many male birds. And if I had to be honest I couldn’t tell the sex of the A&M quail do they all went in the same cage.

Got to 80 over the weekend