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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!

Winter is FINALLY over! I ended up with 10 quail after a long brutal winter. Thanks to the surviving females I have 28 eggs in the incubator. With my normal 50% hatch rate I hope to have 10+ new additions to the flock.

I have a cheap low end styrofoam incubator. Last year I got a digital thermometer and it shows the temp range (hi/low) and this thing varies wildly which is why I think I get such a low hatch rate. I am thinking I will need to see what I can do it better insulate it and see if I can get it into a narrower temp range. Thoughts?

Didn’t have anywhere else to post this, but I am pretty excited. I have been playing with aquapontics. I have an aquarium with half a dozen talapi in it and have it plumbed to a grow bed. After a slow start due to weak lighting it finally looks like it is turning the corner. Here are a couple of pictures of my lettuce and a tomato plant.

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So the weather has improved and the birds are producing eggs on a regular basis.

I saved up a group of quail eggs and put them in the incubator this weekend. I had about 50% hatch rate last fall, I need to breakdown and buy an automated turner but they cost more than I paid for the incubator. Don’t tell my wife, but I am trolling ebay and craigslist for a deal on a cabinet unit. 🙂