Posts Tagged ‘backyard quail’

Quail

Looking from the railing


It was my never my intent to go out and become anything. It was back at the beginning of the urban chicken movement. While I can remember at least one house in the town I grew up in that had chickens wandering about the yard, it just wasn’t that common at the time I decided to get a few hens. Our town was a suburb of a large metropolitan area and this was back before having city chickens was cool.

Fast forward and seemed like everyone was starting a garden and getting chickens, even the city dwellers. A lot of municipalities were moving to legislate how they would allow or not allow chickens. We had moved a little further out, but still in an urban area at the edge of the suburbs. Our city had decided to only allow chickens if you had at least 3 acres, which didn’t include us. We had more like a 1/10th of an acre, so chickens were a no-go. So I pouted around for a little while. Then I decided to actually read the city code and it put a crazy thought in my head. You see while the code was very verbose on the who, what, where, when, and why of chickens, cows, goats, and horses it was a little thin on others animals. It had a short list of animals that were strictly forbidden – pigs, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl. It allowed for pets, specifically dogs, cats, rabbits. The code had a final general section that required a special use permit for other domesticated animals, “except fowl which were covered above”. Hmmm….. So I thought there were lists of fowl specifically allowed or NOT allowed. One of my favorite sayings is “It is easier to ask forgiveness instead of permission”. While researching chickens I had seen references to raising quail and since they were NOT specifically restricted, I went for it.

There was a lot of good information on the internet about raising quail, but it was spread all over the place and didn’t really address the needs of small back yard quail keepers. So this website was born. I started documented my journey from knowing nothing about quail, to raising, butchering, incubating eggs, etc. It has been a great and delicious trip!

So now that I am “The Quail Man” what can I do for you? Feel free to ask questions in the comments of this post so we can all share in the answers or feel free to use the contact page to get a hold of me directly. If I dont have the answer I will do whatever I can to find out.

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”

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?

Decided this weekend that the weather was finally done with the brutal cold and moved the birds back into the suspended breeding cages.  One mistake I made this year is I kept too many males over winter – feed cost I didn’t need to spend.  Ended up with 4 females and 6 males, since I keep the 2:1 had a few extra bachelors.
Since I was short females and to diversify the gene pool I ordered some eggs off eBay.  It was almost a bad situation since I didn’t account for my travel schedule, they came one day before I left.  Which actually works well as they can incubate while I am gone.  Hopefully in 17 days I will be at full capacity for the summer.
My hope this year is too focus more on meat production.  Have to wait and see how quickly I can cycle them through the incubator and brooder.

Bunny update:  my existing doe had a litter of 6 last week, 5 made it.  I seem to loose one right off the bat with each litter.  Hopefully the other two does I kept from the first litter last fall are pregnant and will have litters in two weeks.

UPDATE: birds started laying last week while I was gone.  Took about a week and half after I put them back on 12-14 hours of light a day.

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.

 

Babies started hatching Tuesday night / Wednesday morning. In the end it was my normal 50% hatch rate with a total of 22. I was a little disappointed to see my eBay purchased netted me three Taxas A&M white quail even though the description clearly stated they where jumbo brown – not assorted. We have to complain and see if he makes it right.

Raising quail in your backyard can be both fun and profitable.  I mainly do it because it is the highest form of farming my city allows on my small lot.  It provides meat and eggs for my family and gives me a hobby.  I keep anywhere from 20 – 50 birds at a time with 18 dedicated to eggs and the others in various stages of grow out for meat or replacement breeders.  Each female will lay a single egg a day or every other day given the time of year and lighting conditions.  I have raised mostly coturnix quail, this year I plan to try some Texas A&M.  It should be interesting since you cannot sex them by color.

First you will need a cage.  A good rule of thumb is about two square feet per bird.  I have cages I found on Craig’s list specifically made for raising quail, they are slanted so the eggs roll to the front.  There are plenty of plans online, so I won’t labor the point.  I also have an old two part rabbit hutch that I use as a grow out cage.  Make sure the birds are secure against predators.  I lost several birds early on until I used a small size wire to cover the cages.  Give the birds a place of shade to get out of the hot sun, some sort of roof system will also protect them from rain.  Also, make sure it easy to clean up below the cages.   I spread straw below mine and rake it once a week onto the compost pile before adding new straw.  Keeps the smell down.

If you are looking for fertile eggs it is recommend to have 3:1 female to male ratio.  I have found 2:1 works better in my smaller cages to keep the fighting down.

Feed is very important; if you want consistent egg laying it should be 24% or higher protein. Personally I use the Purina Layena.  Occasionally they also receive extras from the garden, fruits, vegetables, and greens.  In addition, for sustained egg production a calcium supplement like crushed oyster shells is recommended.

As far as “profitable” I will occasionally list either eggs or chicks for sale online and can make about enough to cover the next 40lb bag of food.Baby Quail on straw
Incubator Maker

1.  City ordinances 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 “pet” quail may just what you need.

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 mating pair of birds.  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 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.

4.  Simple care requirements

They will need access to food and water at all times.   I feed and freshen water once a day, same time as I collect any eggs.  Then I keep 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 move them inside.    Keeping unfrozen water becomes the biggest chore.

5.  Eggs

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 during the day the birds will keep 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.

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.   The mature quickly, 6 weeks, so they are economical as well if you consider chickens mature in 8 plus weeks depending on breed and size desired.  Plus raising them 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, which is all that is needed for eggs, 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 types 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, 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.  J  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.