Lessons Learned by a Quail Newbie
Don’t do what we did, learn from us!
by Amy Fewell
A few years back we decided it would be a fun adventure to add quail to our homestead. And oh, what an adventure it was. They say knowledge is power, and my friends, you have no idea how true that is until you go into something completely uneducated about that particular topic or situation. Needless to say, after the countless time, money, and feed we poured into these little feathered ninjas (oh yes, they were ninja fast) — we reluctantly decided that we weren’t ready for quail on our homestead just yet. Our setup just wasn’t the greatest. We packed them up and sent them to a new farm where they were greatly loved and cared for.
Fast forward a few years, and we decided we might be a little more educated to take on that task once again. So, we recently purchased quail from a local breeder. While things have gone a little more smoothly, there are certainly things we’re still learning. Through our perils and mistakes, you might become a certified feathered ninja keeper yourself. Don’t do what we did, learn from us!
Let’s go over some of the greatest lessons we’ve learned, through trial and error, as quail newbies. And even some simple quail facts you may not have known.
Quail Need Small Spaces
Quail are extremely small birds. While it might be tempting to put them into large spaces and give them as much room as possible (because it’s easy to do), quail want quite the opposite. Whether you put them into a hutch on the ground, a raised rabbit hutch, or in wire cages, the typical height of a quail habitat should be at least 12 inches, but no more than 18 inches, tall.
Quail have a fight or flight mentality, and when ambushed or scared (and they get scared easily), they will skyrocket straight up into the air to get away from whatever has startled them. Because of this, if the roof is too tall, they will skyrocket right into the roof, more than likely breaking their necks. When the roof of their habitat is low, they can’t boost themselves as quickly and are less likely to hurt themselves.
If you have to use a higher-built ceiling as we do, try adding branches and other organic matter to the top inside the hutch. That way it’s softer when they jump and it lowers the overall height.
Quail also prefer small spaces so that they feel safer. Again, place branches and other items into their hutches for them to hide under so that they are less likely to fight and pick at each other.
Quail Need a Lot of Protein
With our first batch of quail, we put them on a standard gamebird feed that had 20 percent protein. While they grew ok, we learned from some friends that quail do much better on a diet of 26 percent or more protein, and even preferably 30 percent. This causes them to grow more evenly and quickly if you’re using them for meat consumption.
If you’re breeding quail for eggs and meat, the higher the protein, the better. If you’re raising them just for eggs, you can probably get away with a lesser percentage of protein.
Quail Are Almost Impossible to Catch
While quail can be extremely loving and friendly if handled often, they are almost darn near impossible to catch if they accidentally get outside of their habitat. They are so small and quick that they will fly right into the air and be halfway to your neighbor’s house (even if that neighbor is a mile down the road) before you can say “stop!” Be careful when divvying up chores between the family members! Younger ones may have a hard time keeping them in their habitats.
Quail Have a Short Life Span
Besides the small space issue, one of the most important things to know about quail is that they have a very short lifespan. This also means that their breeding life span is even shorter. Quail tend to breed well up until a year old, but after that, you should rotate out to new breeding stock. Some quail can live to 3+ years, while others only 2 years.
Quail Eggs Are More Nutritious Than Chicken Eggs
I first wanted to get into raising quail because, at the time, our son had asthma. I had read study after study how raw products, like raw milk and quail eggs, can be consumed to help regenerate the lining of the lungs. Quail eggs are incredibly nutritious, and even more nutritious than a full-size chicken egg!
Quail eggs are higher in iron, folate, and B12. In one study, it was proven that quail eggs helped alleviate food allergy induced eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), as well as working as an anti-inflammatory throughout the body.
The power of one little egg is pretty amazing! But just remember, it takes about two to three quail eggs to equal one chicken egg when making a meal.
Quail are incredible little creatures. From their quirky personalities to their amazing egg benefits, quail are perfect for just about any homestead as long as you’re set up to take care of them
I hope you learned a few things about quail that maybe you didn’t already know. I highly encourage them on the homestead, no matter which reason you may choose to produce them. They are easy to manage, and they are equally as entertaining. Consider adding quail to your homestead this year! Especially now that you’ve learned the most important basics!
AMY FEWELL is the author of The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook and The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion. She is also the founder of the ever-growing Homesteaders of America conference and organization. She and her family live on their little homestead in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they live a back to the land holistic lifestyle in the home and in the barnyard. Visit their website at thefewellhomestead.com