Backyard Quail: An Ideal Poultry Bird for Small-Scale Farmers

Reader Contribution by Michael Feldmann
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Raising quail for meat and eggs in your backyard can easily become a fascinating hobby. Quail are friendly, inexpensive and tender, and their eggs are in many places considered a delicacy. It is also very convenient to have them in small backyards as quails take up very little space, and only a couple of them could provide fresh eggs and meat all year round.

Unlike chickens, which can take as long as six months to begin laying, quails will lay, at the earliest, at six weeks of age. Some farmers can even sell their quail eggs, and prices for quail eggs can bring in between $ 6 to $ 10 per dozen.

The quail is a bird from the pheasant family, although they look quite different. They originally come from North America; though today they can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America. There are 32 species of quail, with each variety having slightly different characteristics, in terms of size, color, and type of habitat.

During the 11th Century in Japan, quails were kept as ornamental song birds. Quails can be domesticated and kept as a poultry birds that produce high quality eggs. Quail live in forest areas covered with shrubs. Destruction of their habitat and uncontrolled hunting negatively affect the number of quail in the wild. Because of these factors, some quail species are listed as endangered.

How to Care for Quail Chicks

Quail chicks are very small. So, it is advised to keep the quail chicks together with the mother quail in a brooder with soft bedding and plenty of food and water for the first five weeks after hatching. A brooder is a small space to raise your quail chicks, it should be a clean, warm, enclosed area. Provide them with a heating lamp while they grow to warm them, and feed them special, protein-rich quail food. It is best to give them some toys so that they are busy as they grow.

After they are a couple of weeks old, put a small shallow plate of sand for your quail chicks. Soon they will begin to bathe in dust, quails really love it. Dust bathing also prevents ticks, lice and other unpleasant parasites.

Quail Space, Bedding and Housing

There are various reasons for wanting to raise quails. They are small, friendly, and interesting-looking birds that don’t need to be kept in a large area. Giving them 1 square foot of area per quail is more than enough to keep them happy, healthy and calm. Due to their small size, quail can live in a variety of places, including cages for guinea pigs, rodents, chicken coops and aviaries.

Spruce chips, pine shavings, newspaper pellets, sand, grass pellets, and hay all can be used for bedding. The only important thing here is that the bedding does not contain too much fine dust. Because the quail are small and can get breathing problems due to the fine dust pollution. This information is important in closed rooms. Please pay attention for this! I very recommend using dust-free guinea pig bedding for your quails and I think this is perfect. It’s highly recommended to give your quails some straw or hay so they can make their nests. This will encourage them begin to lay eggs.

Make sure the housing is best suited for your quail. Quails can be kept in many places, but they need a few things to make it safe and suitable for them. Make sure that the distance between the cage wires is not more than 1/2 inch, as quails can squeeze their head through something larger. Because of their tiny legs, they cope poorly with wire floor grilles, as they can fall and slip through, causing discomfort and possible injury.

If you want to keep your quails outside, you should protect their shelter from rain, wind, hail, snow and sun. But still, they need a lot of fresh air and some sunshine. A suitable place for the quail coop is under a tree during summer or in a home during the winter.

Their coop must be safe and protected from predators such as raccoons, foxes, dogs, cats, snakes and more. A quail coop must not only be closed on the sides, but also on the top and bottom to prevent predators from entering. Quails should be kept in a calm, warm yet cool, quiet and undisturbed place. Make sure to clean your quail coop every week to keep them clean and healthy.

The quail coop also must include the following:

Hideouts to rest. In a species-appropriate quail coop, of course, hiding places should not be missing. Furthermore, there are no limits to the imagination. Firs and spruce branches are suitable for good hiding places; small deciduous trees or branches can also be used. Of course, you can also build a house out of cardboard. As I said there are no limits. Quail love everything that can be found in the forest, from roots to stones or moss. They enjoy everything. The various decorations and natural elements such as branches and twigs not only ensure more peace in the quail coop, but also offer a perfect shelter.

Sand bath are essential for quails. The term “sand bath” is actually misleading. “Dust bath” would be more appropriate, because it does not matter whether we offer your quails sand or dry soil. The main thing is that it is dry, nice and fine so that quails can get clean. Sand bath should be replaced at least every week. For quails who otherwise have no access to outdoor enclosures, a sand bath has the advantage that they look for fine stones, for example from the quartz sand, which helps them with digestion.

Feed and Water

Feed and water quails are tasks that must be done on a daily basis, as quails should be free to choose at all times. The water provided should be clean, and if you keep quails outdoors, you should regularly check the water in winter so that it does not freeze. Unlike other birds, quail cannot eat poor-quality food. This is especially important when it comes to raising quails for breeding and laying eggs. Around 90 percent of quail’s diet comes from plant-based materials. Wild quails eat a diet consisting mainly of grain, along with other foods. Farm quail foods include seeds, vegetables, insects, and commercially prepared feeds. Generally, it depends on the season, though.

Quail should be started on a crumb. A drug-free turkey starter is ideal because it contains more protein than chicken crumbs. The diet of adult quail consists of seeds and grains. Along with seeds and grains, they also eat other plant materials to provide the micronutrients and other nutrients they need for proper growth and regular production.

Green foods such as grass and other leafy greens should be provided. A variety of human foods are also good to feed your quails, and can be added to their diet. Also, fruits and vegetables, are the natural food of quails and will be welcomed as a great treat.

How to Keep Your Quails Healthy

Keep an eye on your quail’s health. If your quail is behaving a little oddly or hasn’t been eating lately, it may be because it is unwell. There was a very important way to keep quails from getting sick is to keep them away from other birds. You can also add supplements such as apple cider vinegar to improve feather conditions and help rid of worms and other parasites. While you can take the quail to the veterinarian, you can also cure some small problems yourself. Some problems that may occur are included:

  • Your quail is huddled in the corner of the cage. This is either because the quail is sick, or it is cold. If the quail is sick, you need to show it to the veterinarian. If the quail is cold, remove it from the cage and place it in a warm box or something similar. The box should be very warm. Add water and some food to the quail’s box and wait for the quail to be alive enough until you return it to the cage. You should also observe the quail for several days after it returns to its cage.
  • Your quail has mites. If your quails have mites you need to remove all quails that live in the coop and put them together in a box of a suitable size. After all the quails have been removed from the coop, clean the cage thoroughly. Treat your quails by giving them a good dust-bath. Purchase them some mite powder, or any other safe method to get rid of quail mites.
  • Your quail is injured. This is not some kind of illness, but just as serious. You should remove the injured quail as soon as possible and keep it separate until it heals completely. If you intend to return the quail back to the flock after it recovers, observe the quail for a week to make sure it gets along with others.
  • Your quail is too hot. This can be easily dealt with by moving the quail to a cooler room, providing shade, or removing a heat source.

Have Fun with Your Quail

Keeping and watching quails is fun – so the quail house has been expanded bit by bit. This way the birds have enough exercise. It is always important that dogs, cats, and other predators cannot get into their coop and that the enclosure remains easily accessible for cleaning – and to get to the eggs without any effort.

Feeding and watering quails are also very important and both should be accessible at all times. You should always monitor the health of your quail. If your quail is behaving a little oddly, eats little, or huddled in the corner of the cage, it all maybe because it is unwell.

There are three basic ways to keep quails from getting sick: your quail should always be in a calm environment, you should keep your quails and their coop clean, and you need to keep your quails away from other birds. Keeping these various points in mind, you can easily be able to care for these small birds and enjoy their delicious eggs.

Michael Feldmann is a farmer and writer in Oklahoma, who studies agriculture and has worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers around the country. His writing has been published in Acres USA, Rural Heritage, Farming magazine, Farmers Weekly, Permaculture magazine, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and as a column in Poultry World. Read all of Michael’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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