Archive for the ‘quail feed’ 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.

What do quail eggs taste like? Can I eat fertilized quail eggs?
Given that you feed the quail a commercial game bird feed, the eggs will taste the same as chicken eggs. If they have a different diet it can affect the taste, but not much. I have also been asked about eating fertilized eggs. There is no problem eating fertilized eggs, the problem comes in if you dont collect, clean, and refrigerate them daily. If it is super hot (90F plus) or super cold (below freezing) you should collect eggs at least twice a day.

Why raise coturnix quail? Why raise quail? Why keep quail?
Quail, especially coturnix quail, are easy to raise. They will give you eggs and meat if you desire. Finally, most locations and HOAs do not restrict them like chickens or ducks. Need more information check out my post “backyard quail – ten reasons why they are the perfect backyard animal”

Why aren’t my quail laying eggs? When do quail lay eggs? When do Japanese quail start laying?
Japanese coturnix quail will start laying eggs around 8 weeks old. A couple things that might affect this is hot or cold weather, age, and gender. Seems obvious, but make sure you have a female quail. Also, a lack of fresh clean water or good quality food can also decrease egg production.

What to feed quail?
I recommend a good quality commercial game bird feed. I tend to use Purina game bird products because they are available locally and easy to use. You can do some research online if you want to mix your own, but it is difficult to get the nutrition, protein level and vitamins just right. So proceed with caution! At one time I tried to feed some treats of grass/weeds/bugs, but my birds didn’t seem to get it, so I stopped.

What is a group of quail called?
A group of quail is called a “covey”.

What sound does a quail make?
Different quail make different sounds but the Japanese coturnix quail make a sound like a cricket chirping. The males do “crow” but it it is very soft. My urban neighbors didn’t know I had quail until I told them.

Can you free range quail?
The direct answer is “no”. Quail do not roost in the same place each evening, so if you release them they are not coming back. See my “free range quail” post for more information.

When do quail eggs hatch?
Typically they take 17 days to hatch. I say typically because modern quail, coturnix in particular, have had the ability to sit on and hatch eggs breed out of them. This means you will have to use an incubator. Differences in temperature and humidity can cause some eggs to hatch earlier or later. But nothing more than a day or two each way. So 16-19 days.

Quail when to start regular feed?
I feed my new quail chicks game bird starter feed with 30% protein for at least the first three weeks, then until it runs out after that to finish the bag. Then I start them on adult game bird feed of at least 20% protein.

I hope this was helpful to someone. Feel free to use the “contact for”m if you have any other questions or need more information.

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!

So been busy this summer with the new chickens – spent most extra time working on the coop (see pics).

But the thing I learned was it Is not good for egg production to drastically change what you are feeding your quail. I had run short so I feed them chicken crumbles for a couple days till I could get to the feed store. Needless to say it took over a month to get them back to “normal” laying.

20130818-092535.jpg

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.