Diving into the world of poultry is often the first step into keeping livestock for many homesteaders, with chickens coming top of the list every time.
But what about other types of birds? Many of us have considered keeping ducks or turkeys, but farming quail is rapidly increasing in popularity!
What are the advantages of keeping and farming quail? These compact little birds take up much less room than other types of poultry, enabling even the smallest homestead or urban backyard gardener to become self-sufficient in meat and eggs.
You might have put off rearing quail when you see the price of their eggs in the store – how can something so expensive be cost-effective to rear yourself?!
But farming quail is an affordable option, whether you want to rear enough for yourselves or produce eggs and meat to sell.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking quail are just like hens!
There are some massive differences in how quail are kept and managed. You need to find out all about these quail-raising-nuances before leaping into a new career as a quail farmer!
Let’s take a look into the world of quail farming, and find out if these gorgeous little birds have a place in your homestead!
Is it Easy to Farm Quail?
Quail, just like any other type of bird, have their own unique care needs. However, quail are not particularly complicated to keep and can be easy to farm.
Like any other animal, they need food, water, and shelter. The latter is particularly important for quail – in the wild, they spend most of their time on the ground sheltering under bushes and shrubs.
On our homestead in Portugal, small birds fall victim to birds of prey – a quail would make a tasty dinner for an eagle!
If you want to farm quail just for their eggs, it is tremendously easy to get started – set up your quail accommodation, buy some birds, and away you go!
Breeding quail is a bit more complicated, but with the help of an incubator, you can start to raise your chicks without too much difficulty.
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What Are the Advantages of Quail Farming?
Quails are some of the smallest birds on the farm. Yet pound for pound, you can’t underestimate the value quails bring to any homestead.
Great Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Quail Farming:
- Efficient – quail take up a lot less room than chickens! Their modest size saves space and also reduces bedding costs.
- Economy – their small size makes them perfect for urban farms and small homesteads.
- Profitable – these tiny birds are cheap to feed, but their eggs are considered a delicacy and sell for more than hen eggs!
- Docile – quail are shy, quiet little birds. They enjoy feeding time but otherwise will keep to themselves, preferring to shelter in a safe place rather than spending their days cooking up escape plans.
- Productive – quail start to lay at a relatively young age. They will lay about 300 eggs in their first year of life.
- Valuable – if you want to breed quail, you can sell them at any life stage, either as juveniles, adult layers, or meat birds.
- Peaceful – the male quail doesn’t crow! He makes a lovely gentle cooing noise. Much less chance of annoying your neighbors, or in my case, my husband! (Luckily, earplugs solved the issue of the annoying early morning yells from our Brahma!)
What Are the Benefits of Quail Eggs?
Quail eggs are tiny, and you will need about three quail eggs to give you the same quantity as one chicken egg. However, what they lack in size, they make up for in substance!
These tiny eggs not only pack in more protein than chicken eggs, but they are also lower in fat and cholesterol. Each quail egg contains just 14 calories!
Quail eggs also have high levels of antioxidants, vitamin B12, selenium, riboflavin, and choline.
Did we mention how beautiful these little eggs are? A bowl of minute speckled quail eggs will always attract interest from friends and visitors!
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What Are the Benefits of Rearing Quail for Meat?
Many people find the idea of rearing anything smaller than a chicken for meat off-putting, as the work involved in preparing them for the table outweighs the tiny portion of meat as their (humble) reward.
However, quail are so quick and easy to rear for meat that most quail farmers agree that they are worth the effort!
It may take you a while to prepare your first quail for the table. But – once you get the hang of it, you won’t look back.
Seasoned quail farmers say they can prepare 30 birds in 30 minutes – impressive stuff!
Quail meat is a popular delicacy – and it’s very nutritious. Unlike some other birds, quail meat doesn’t taste too gamey and has a mildly tasty flavor.
The meat is packed full of high-quality protein and essential fatty acids, as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
With a short incubation period and fast growth rate, your quail will be ready for the table in under three months in total. Sweet turnaround time!
If you are considering quail farming, I’d suggest that you buy some quail meat to try first. There is no point in embarking on a project if you don’t enjoy the end product!
How Are Quail Farmed?
Like most poultry, quail farming occurs in many different ways. The way you choose will depend on how intensively you want to farm them – and your goals.
In case you hadn’t realized it yet, these birds are tiny! It is perfectly normal to keep farmed quail in cages. Even a moderate-sized coop will give them room to express their normal behavior.
These shy birds do not tend to roam or fly far in the wild, and you can create a very natural environment for them inside a shed or coop.
You can keep one quail per square foot of space, so even a rabbit hutch should be enough room to house a small flock.
Another reason for keeping quail in cages is daylight. Your quails need at least 14 hours of sunlight per day for maximum egg production!
So, wherever you live in the world, you may consider adding artificial daylight to help maintain egg production.
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Ground Pens or Poultry Coops for Your Quail Flock
Let’s talk about ground pens and coops for your quail.
But first – what if you can’t stand the thought of caged birds – can your quail go outside?
A dozen little quail roaming around your homestead will not be the most productive birds, but if you’re not going into this to make millions, then they can roam freely outside.
But, I urge caution!
Your tiny quail birds are vulnerable to predators, both on the ground and airborne, so make sure they have plenty of cover and hiding places.
Your free-range quail should eventually learn to come when called, to stop them reverting to their wild state and disappearing into the undergrowth!
If neither of these solutions sounds ideal to you, then a ground pen is worth looking into and considering.
In the ground pen system, the quail stay within a predator-proof pen, which allows them to forage and scratch while keeping predators out.
The ground pen will need a roof to prevent the quail from flying away and stop aerial predators and a secure coop for nesting and sleeping.
How Much Does It Cost to Start Raising Quail?
Like any new project, there will be some initial costs, and it may take some time before your quail farming enterprise becomes profitable.
Let’s take a look at what your initial setup costs may include:
Quail farmers around the world rave about the Coturnix quail, also known as the Japanese quail.
Japanese quail is a hardy and tough little quail with good disease resistance, suited to indoor or outdoor living.
The Coturnix is also a multi-purpose quail, which will give you a decent-sized bird for the table and produce a reasonable number of eggs.
So how much would you expect to pay for a quail?
Quail pricing depends entirely on the age of the quail – you could get point-of-lay hens, chicks, or even fertile eggs.
If you want to breed quail, you will also need a rooster! I suggest one male for every four or five hens to maintain maximum fertility.
Before you rush out and buy a fancy new coop, remember that these tiny birds do not want much from life! You may be able to repurpose an existing shed, and even a rabbit hutch can be big enough for a small flock of quail.
You will need feeders and waterers, which should rise off the floor. Rise your feeders and waters off the floor to help stop ground scavenging birds from tipping them over.
Make sure the accommodation is well ventilated. Cover any gaps in wire mesh to keep predators at bay.
Quails also love little nesting boxes, and they like their privacy while laying, so give them a curtain to hide behind!
Quail chicks can sneak through some tiny holes! And many quail predators, such as snakes, will happily sneak through gaps and feast on your new flock.
If you decide to allow your quail outside, use a very narrow wire mesh to keep everything where it should be. You will also need to mesh the pen floor and cover the top to prevent aerial predators.
The cost of feed varies worldwide, but the price of layers pellets for quail is pretty much the same as the equivalent feed for chickens. However, quail are much more efficient at converting food into eggs than your backyard hens!
Quail will also enjoy some of your kitchen leftovers and vegetable trimmings, such as pasta, lettuce, and sweetcorn. Hanging a cob of corn in the coop is a great way to give your quail some entertainment!
If your quail have access to the outside world, they will forage for seeds and grains. They also love to snack on flying insects, grubs, and worms. Foraging can reduce your overall feed costs!
One unusual feature of quail is that they are very inefficient at rearing their own young! As quail chicks can be expensive, most quail farmers will rear their own in an incubator.
Incubators are a worthwhile investment, as quail can go from an egg to laying eggs themselves in just two months and will be ready for the table in three months.
How Profitable is Quail Farming?
Quail farming can be tremendously profitable! And, most homesteaders will find that the initial outlay is a worthwhile investment.
For a novice quail farmer, it would be easier to focus on egg rather than meat production, and you will always have the option to diversify at a later date.
Let’s Take a Look at the Figures Involved in Quail Farming:
Here are some of the most critical figures quail farmers (and quail parents) need to know!
How Many Eggs Do Quail Lay Per Day?
Quail hens kept under lights will only live for up to 2 years. And, quail hens will begin laying at just six weeks of age.
During their most productive first year, these quail hens will lay up to 300 eggs per year.
If you plan on raising your quail without lights, the egg production will be lower, but the hens will live for up to 4 years.
Why Are Quail Eggs So Expensive?
If these tiny birds are easy to keep and produce plenty of eggs, why the high price tag on a box of quail eggs? As a homesteader, this can seem baffling, and there is no real reason for it!
Quails eggs may be more expensive as they are rarer than chicken eggs, or just because the customer thinks of them as a delicacy and is happy to pay the higher price.
Whatever the reason – if you are planning on selling your quail eggs, you should make a nice little profit!
Are Quails More Profitable Than Chickens?
On paper, farming quail is more profitable than farming chickens. The retail price of chicken eggs and meat is generally low – with the homesteader having to compete with complex intensive farming systems.
The low cost of eggs means it is tremendously hard to make a profit at all from your backyard hens.
Quail, on the other hand, is a different story! The eggs, meat, and live birds all command a respectable price tag. The high price of quail eggs reflects the efforts which have gone into making them.
These tiny birds need a lot less food per egg than chickens and take up much less space. Quail also start producing eggs at a younger age, so you don’t waste money feeding birds that are not laying.
Can You Raise Quail with Chickens?
Many homesteaders find it easier to keep their poultry together, and chickens will normally live harmoniously with other birds like ducks and geese.
But when it comes to quail birds – it isn’t that simple!
You can keep quail on the same homestead as chickens, but they should be kept in separate accommodation.
Separating Your Birds is Wise for a Range of Reasons:
- Disease control – several diseases can pass from one bird species to another, and some of these may be fatal to quail. One example of this is Coryza, which will cause only mild symptoms in chickens but is extremely harmful to the tiny quail. Ideally, keep your chickens and quail at least 50 feet apart.
- Size difference – as any chicken owner will know, these are ruthless birds! Hens will fight for every last scrap of food, with only the rooster generous to share his dinner. If there is food involved, chickens will attack quail birds and sometimes even kill them.
- Different feeds – these two species of birds have unique nutritional requirements, and you will need to feed them separately.
- Egg thieves – chickens will try and eat pretty much anything, and this includes quail eggs!
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How Do I Start Quail Farming?
So, have we got you all egg-cited about farming quail? Keeping a small flock of quail birds should be easily achievable for even the smallest homesteader!
And – I think that this fun and pretty little bird really should be more popular than they already are!
To get started, you need to set up your accommodation. After plenty of research, I think my preferred option would be a ground pen with an integral coop – that gives the birds chance to scratch and roam.
However, if you’re short on space, then your birds will be just as happy in a shed or coop!
Next, you need to decide about lights – are you going to artificially light your coop to boost egg production, or just let nature take its course? Lighting can also affect the lifespan of your hens, with naturally reared ones living nearly twice as long.
Whether your quail birds live inside permanently or can access the outside world, they will need some environmental enrichment in their coop.
These birds are shy! They also hate inclement weather, so they’ll spend a lot more time inside than your hens! Give them branches to perch on, leaves to nestle under, and plenty of treats.
Now you are ready for your birds! Buy your new quail birds from a reputable local breeder or store and pop them into their new coop.
Remember that these birds are easily startled – so they may be very skittish for the first few days. Give them plenty of peace, and don’t let them outside until they come when called for food.
All your hard work will soon pay off with your first batch of tiny quail eggs!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to quail farming! It’s clear to see that these fascinating little birds are a fun and worthwhile investment for any smallholder!
I’m now very tempted to set up our little flock of quail birds here on our Portuguese Quinta!
Let us know if you have fun quail stories in the comments.
Thanks again for reading!
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