Archive for the ‘quail information’ 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.

Well yes and no!

Like most animals they are in tune with the seasons and during the winter month they will stop laying. It makes sense since any eggs that would hatch or young being born during the colder months would have a smaller chance of survival. This reduction in egg laying is triggered by the shortening of the day, less sunlight means less eggs.

While they naturally will slow down or stop laying eggs in the winter you can trick them by providing supplemental lighting. If you can provide 12-14 hours of light per day the quail will quickly return to laying every day. My recommendation is a simple string of Christmas lights with an inexpensive weather proof timer, both readily available at stores that have forgotten that we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet, but I digress. These lights are weather proof, cheap to run (lower power usage), and easily hung around whatever cage you are using.

I recommend setting your timer based on your sunset time, meaning have the lights come on early in the morning to extend the first part of the day and go off either later morning or early afternoon. This allows the bird a more normal ease into the darkness of night as opposed to a sudden removal of the lights after dark and them walking into walls or something crazy. You don’t need to run them all day, just until after sunrise then they can go off saving even more energy.

Depending on your climate though you may need to collect eggs more often than once a day. Frozen eggs tend to crack and let in the bad bacteria. So make plans to collect at least twice a day or more if you climate gets and stays below freezing for extended periods.

Final thoughts – some people will say this practice is bad for the birds and they need to have a time of dormancy to recovery or it will shorten how long or how well they lay in future years. I believe to each his own. In my system I will use lights to keep them laying into winter and as spring time nears I hatch out new birds and replace all my layers with new stock. So I never know what I may be losing in future years.

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.

See this post for more detail “Backyard Quail – butchering – simple killing cone”

See this post for more detail “Backyard Quail – ten reasons why they are the perfect backyard animal”

Just my two cents, but they are a great alternative to chickens if your local government prohibits chickens or you just want to try it out. The are easy and cheap to get started. They require less space than chickens – heck you could keep them in a bird cage in the house like parakeets. The eggs are good, nutritious, and fresh. Give it a try!

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No need to chase the kids out of the room, this is a G-rated post, no gory pictures.  Sorry!

Anyway I was looking for something to use similar to a killing cone that is made primarily for chickens, but these were all too large for my quail.  Yes quail are small and easy to handle, even during butchering, but I was looking for something to help speed up the process and reduce the mess at the same time.  So when you don’t find something you need shopping online, you of course make it yourself.

Looking around I decide a plastic soda bottle was about the right size.  It is easier to explain using pictures, so follow along below.  The one note is the curved shape of the bottles I chose actually help to hold the birds better.  I have not experimented with bottles of different shapes.

Required Items: bucket, board, bottles (2-3), nails, and kitchen shears.

Cut the bottle along the lines, leave the tab at the bottom to use as a nailer:

Completed setup with two bottles, I located them on the board so they sit just inside of the bucket: