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Some Quail Questions

Posts: 16
Location: Wisconsin
homestead monies urban
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I am planning to start keeping quail. According to city law, I cannot have more than 5, and they all must be female. I want to get five female jumbo coturnix quail, but I have never owned quail or any sort of livestock before, and I have a few questions about them.

I live in an area where the average low-temperature is 9 degrees Fahrenheit in January. How can I structure their coop to make sure they're safe and comfortable?

I've heard that quail will produce eggs if they have at least 14 hours of light a day, and that this can be artificially provided.  Should I provide this across their entire enclosure or just in their quail house?

Would they be kept warm enough during winter with a 1/2 inch hardware-cloth coop bottom, or should I put in a plywood bottom and cover it with sand or something?

I plan on providing one and a half square feet of space per bird, with ten inches of headroom so they can't hurt themselves by flying into the top of the coop. Is this a good plan?

I would prefer to start with quail as young as possible. How old do jumbo coturnix quail have to be before you can determine their sex? Would they still need special chick feed at this time?

When do jumbo coturnix start laying, and how old are they when they stop laying very much?

I found this quail feed recipe on http://thatquailplace.com/smf/index.php?topic=831.0: (it's on reply #7)

50 pounds of Milo
50 pounds of Wheat
50 pounds of cracked corn
50 pounds of soy meal

Of course, I'll reduce the amounts to suit my needs. I don't know how to find milo specifically, but I will substitute with any whole-grain sorghum. Is this a good recipe for adult quail?

Finally, do you have any tips for raising quail?
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Posts: 644
Location: Ontario, Canada
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I raised a lot of quail at the back of a semi-detached, two blocks from the main street in a city of 350k.  I'd hatch out about 70 at a time and, when the males started to mature, about 6 weeks, they made a fair bit of noise.  My neighbours, in the other half of the semi, couldn't hear them, so I think I was just hyper sensitive.  A woman across the street had about 15-20 in her side yard and worried that they were too loud, but I couldn't hear them from the sidewalk, 20-30 feet away, so they don't seem to be as loud as you think when you own them and are worried about the noise.

We'd get down to -30F at times.  I had them in pens with 1/2" hardware cloth on sides and 1/2" 16 ga. bottom and a solid roof.  They were about 2' above the ground for easy access to the poop.  In the winter I wrapped the sides of the pens and the legs of the structure with plastic (clear) with a couple of inches open at the bottom and top for ventilation.  I prefer to use the 16 ga. wire on the bottom as hardware cloth is too thin and cuts their feet, causing bumblefoot.  I had to bring fresh water every day, but had no issues and they laid until the daylight got below 10 or 10-1/2 hours.  I fed them a 28% non-GMO turkey starter and fermented it, which I highly recommend.  They are game birds, so they need a high protein feed to excel.  I don't know the protein content of the feed that you listed, but you should find a calculator and try to get an estimate.  I did look at the post you got it from and this concerns me:

We butchered another 24 quail Sunday they were about 12 to 13 weeks old, we needed the space for some pheasants we are getting, they were not quite as large as the 16 to 18 week old birds but dressed out the smallest one was 4 oz. the largest being 8oz. so they are putting on great weight and the feathers are really shiny and healthy.  

My experience was, with the 28% feed, they started laying at 7-8 weeks and were fully grown at that time, about half the time the poster says.  That tells me that they aren't getting enough protein in their diet.  Pretty much everything I've read about them says that they need a minimum of 24% and that they are mature at 8 weeks.  My birds dressed out at 7-8 oz at 8 weeks.  If you aren't reaching mature weights by 8-9 weeks, you should re-think your feed or your source of birds.  I ran a test to see if they ate less feed if it was fermented with live ACV as I'd read claims of feeding 40-50% less, neglecting waste.  Quail are very wasteful, picking through the feed for the best bits, and they'd do a lot of that if you feed them a ground mix with insufficient protein.  Feeders with individual holes cut out most of that, but that was with an integrated crumble.  When I fermented the feed in a 5 gallon bucket, I found that they used about 40% less feed for the same gains.  They loved it so much, and it was moist, that I took the tops off the feeders because they wouldn't pick through it and waste it, they just gobbled it down.  I fed them twice a day.  If you use a lower protein feed you can also get issues with picking feathers, much like chickens.  Quality feed eliminates so many health and behaviour issues, so I think it's worth the money.

As I said, the males start to trill at about 6 weeks so, if you've got a bunch, they get loud because they're trying to outdo each other.  I'd cull all but 6, about 1 male to each 4-5 females, and they'd quiet down quite a bit.  If you have good relations with your neighbours, or a bit of distance, I don't think you'd have to worry about having 15-20 quail, with 1 in 5 males.  If it becomes an issue, you can just butcher the extra.  I would have 4-5 in a 2'x2' cage, 10-12" high and that was fine.  They can be real assholes to each other, so you may find one gets picked on.  If so, move it to another pen and make sure to have a spare pen for recovery.  If they go after a bird they don't like, they can kill it in a day by pecking out the vent or skull.  You'll see that with an over-eager male getting ganged up on by hens that have had enough, so 3-4 hens per male gives them all a break.  You'll also see it with some hens that just don't fit in.  I'd get at least a dozen to start, cull the males (keep one if you want to breed), and see who gets along.

The great things about quail compared to chickens are they mature at 8 weeks (you can cull males at 6, but I'd keep them to 8), so they lay very quickly, they lay an egg a day, every day, the eggs taste like chicken eggs, but 40% more flavourful (that was the consensus), they don't pass they phytoestrogens from soy to the egg nearly as much, so people allergic to eggs can usually eat them, they can help with seasonal allergies (they did that big time for me) and, if you cull them at about a year, you'll still get very tender meat, unlike a spent chicken hen.  You can also butcher them in 3 minutes or less, so that rocks.  

Definitely get quail scissors as the membrane in the egg is much tougher than a chicken egg, so it's best to cut them.  You'll need about 4 eggs to equal a chicken egg, so get more than 5.  They can't demolish left overs like chickens, though, and they're pretty useless unless cared for.  I think that they would start showing sex at about 4 weeks, but the white ones don't, so you'll just have to watch to see if they trill like a male.  I tried a bunch of leg bands to keep track of them, but I never found numbered bands small enough.

Let me know if you have any more questions.  Seriously, though, get 20 and put the extra into the freezer.  Rinse and repeat.

See ya later boys, I think I'm in love. Oh wait, she's just a tiny ad:
All of the video from the Eat Your Dirt Summit
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