Archive for the ‘quail pens’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
My new favorite show is Barter Kings. I have been inspired to do a little cleanup and get rid of some stuff I don’t use for some stuff I might use. 🙂 It started when I listed some old exercise equipment, I have gotten several offers, power washers, car stereos, but nothing that interest me yet. I am going to wait it out as I know New Year’s resolution time will be when I might get some better offers.
For a few weeks I have been contemplating getting some rabbits to raise as a meat source. I already I have a rabbit hutch I use as a grow out cage for the quail, so why not. Plus for those keeping score I am raising quail to cover the fowl department, I have tilapia in my aquapontic setup to cover the sea food department, I just needed a red meat source to have the complete protein set up in my small suburban backyard. Rabbits are small and quiet, so they are perfect to keep the neighbors happy. I was looking online for someone close and with a good low price. I really don’t have any money to be spending on this new hobby or at least that is what my loving wife told me, so I was really looking for someone with a “Free Rabbits” posting.
After going through the offers for the exercise equipment, it finally hit me, why not try to trade quail for rabbits and save my cash. That’s just what I have tried. I listed them and didn’t get any hits at first, but then realized I had them in the wrong category. I re-listed and had three offers (two for cash and one for the rabbits I wanted) within 24 hours. I now have arrangements to trade the 5 week old quail I recently hatched (15 total remaining) for two does and a buck New Zealand mated trio of rabbits. Woo Hoo! This ROCKS!! Anyway, I will be making the trade this coming weekend and will post an update with how it went and maybe some bunny pictures. 🙂
UPDATE. So I made the trade, meet the bunnies, first picture is the buck, the second is the doe. They are both Giant Flemish/New Zealand mixes. As an added bonus the female is already breed and should give birth in about two weeks – what have I gotten myself into??????
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.
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.