Raising Coturnix Quail is a great way to incorporate a protein onto the property. Domesticated quail offer a tasty meat option and are prolific egg layers. Not to mention, quail are an ideal option for those with a smaller property, and are extremely easy to raise.
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About the Coturnix Quail
Quail come in a variety of species, though the most commonly raised are the Coturnix quail. Consider the term Coturnix to be the general variety. Under this generic head category fall a variety of species; Texas A&M, Cinnamon, Manchurian Golden, Tuxedo, British Range, English White, and Pharoah D1.
In order to create a larger species for meat and egg production many will cross breed species. For example, breeding Texas A&M to Pharoah D1 will provide a larger species which is also a prolific egg layer, laying an average of 300 eggs per year.
Unlike may poultry, domestic quail, like the Coturnix, can not independently free range. Meaning, they will not return the coop each day. Because quail spook easily, keeping them in a movable poultry tractor may result in injury as they try to take flight.
Because of their quick growth Coturnix quail mature quickly. Egg laying begins as early as 7 weeks, laying up to 300 eggs per hen a year. This variety can be butchered for meat between 7-10 weeks of age producing 10-14 ounces of meat per quail.
How to identify the sex is by the plumage on the chest. Roos have red chest feathers, whereas hens have a dot pattern. The photo exhibits a young roo, note the red color feathers on the breast area.
Raising Coturnix Quail in an Urban Setting
Many choose to raise quail in an urban setting when backyard chicken keeping is not an option. However, the laws per county will need to be researched since some cities do require licensing for raising game birds.
In regard to the noise factor, quail are much quieter than chickens, turkeys or ducks. Not to mention, they require less space and can easily be housed in a garage.
Selecting Housing for Raising Coturnix Quail
Constructing a quail condo or having breeding cages is ideal for those with restricted space. Typically, this type of housing is done with the use of 1/2 inch hardware cloth. Because quail waste is highly acidic, 1/2 inch hardware cloth is also used for the bottom of this type of structure. Hanging cages allow the waste to drop directly to the ground, whereas with condos some type of material must be used to capture waste.
Though many choose to raise Coturnix quail in brooders there are those who seek to raise quail a more natural habitat.
Ideally, a dust bath area should be provided for each housing unit if they are not raised naturally. Using material such as dirt or wood ash will help control issues such as lice and mites.
Quail Condo or Breeding Pen
When planning breeding pens plan for a minimum of 1 square foot per bird.
The height of pen should be no higher than 18 inches. As mentioned, quail spook easily. Once spooked they take flight. A pen which is built 18 inches in height prevents the quail from catching too much air, preventing injury from flying into the top of the cage.
In order to create good breeding stock quail will need to be separated into breeding pairs. Breeding cages allow for a 1:2 ratio (roo:hen), whereas larger breeding pens accommodate a 1:4 ratio.
Also, domestic quail do not roost. There is no need to add a roosting bar to breeding pens.
Raising Coturnix Quail Naturally
Much like other poultry, domesticated quail enjoy fresh fruit, vegetables, and even grass clippings. Keep in mind, the amount given should be very minor. 90% of the feed intake should be a high protein diet from the feed being offered.
Items such as dried or fresh herbs can help keep the quail’s immune system healthy and strong. Sprinkling oregano, thyme and sage into their feed containers will do just this. Crushed fresh garlic infused in the waterer can be done daily, but must be discarded each day and replaced with fresh water.
A small amount of raw apple cider vinegar in the waterer every few days provides a natural probiotic option for the flock. Natural probiotics help boost the digestive track, building the immunity of the bird.
How to Feed Coturnix Quail
What to feed Coturnix quails is vital to sustain their growth. A high protein feed consisting of 30% protein will need to be offered up to 8 weeks of age. Gamebird Starter offers the right level of protein.
After 8 weeks the protein level can drop to around 18%.
- Scratch and Peck Naturally Free Grower contains 17% protein
- All Purpose Crumble contains 19% protein
Quail can be fed free choice, but make sure chick grit is offered as well. The crop will need assistance in breaking down foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and grass clippings.
Raising Coturnix Quail for Meat and Eggs
Technically, quail are classified as a white meat product. However, the coloring of the flesh is red. And once cooked the meat becomes dark, which is characteristic of a red meat option. The flavor is mildly gamy and quite pleasant once cooked.
Because quail (especially Coturnix) are prolific layers one has to be creative on how to utilize the plethora of eggs received. Keeping a manageable flock of quail will minimize the amount of eggs received. However, quail eggs tend to not go to waste.
Though Coturnix quail are prolific layers they are also seasonal layers. Meaning, their bodies produce eggs based on the amount of daylight in a day. Quail which are offered supplemental light a few hours a day will continue to produce eggs throughout the year.
What can be done with quail eggs?
- Incubate fertilized eggs for meat production
- Steam eggs for a quick protein snack
- Pickle eggs to be used for snacking or in salads
- Additional recipes using quail eggs
It is said that quail eggs are healthier to consume than any other type of poultry eggs. They are high in antioxidants, magnesium, and B6. Quail eggs are also said to help soothe conditions such as discomfort caused from kidney issues, ulcers and the digestive tract.
Raising quail for the purpose of meat consumption is extremely easy to achieve, and they can be a sustainable meat source. Much like the Cornish Cross or Rolin S broiler chicken breeds, quail can be butchered as early as 7-8 weeks of age.
Many choose to pluck, whereas other will skin the bird. In truth, skinning quail is much easier than plucking or using a plucker to remove feathers. And pleasantly enough, depending on how they are prepared, the meat does not dry out when the quail has been skinned.
Unlike poultry, domesticated quail are not prone to becoming broody to hatch their eggs. Raising Coturnix quail for a steady flow of meat and egg production falls on the keeper and of a good still air incubator, like the Brinsea Ovation.
Eggs can be collected 7 days in advance for incubation. Store eggs around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) until the desired eggs have been collected. Luckily, fertilized eggs will hatch between 17-19 days making raising quail for meat a quick and seamless process.
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Setting up a Brooder
Quail chicks require the same brooder accommodations as poultry chicks, though there are a few minor adjustments that will need to be made. The little chicks can be kept in brooder large enough to house them until harvesting time.
Appropriate heat must be provided until they are fully feathered. A EcoGlow hot plate is the safest option to use as a heat source. Again, this item can be purchased through Brinsea. However, if a heat lamp is used the beginning temperature in the brooder must be 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week. Reduce the heat weekly until the brooder temperature matches the temperature of where the quail will be housed.
Because of their tiny size they can drown easily. Adding small rocks to the base of the waterer will help prevent any issues.
Quail grow quickly, and in order to support their growth a high protein feed will need to be offered once they have been moved to the grow-out brooder.