Posts Tagged ‘housing’

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.

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.

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.

Backyard Quail Pens

Backyard Quail Pens