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quail - are they right for me? = URBAN

 
pollinator
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Location: KY - Zone 6b (near border of 6a), Heat Zone 7, Urban habitat
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I have been interested in Coturnix quail since I read an old Mother Earth News. But I don't know if either is right for our situation.

Points to consider:

1) We are VERY urban. Quail are quieter. Chickens could process waste faster though.

2) We get frequent visits by hawks...especially sharp-shinned hawks. We also have a fair amount of raccoons and opossums.

3) space - absolutely an issue. And it seems to me more space equals healthier aniimals in general.

4) We're weirdo vegetarians. Any birds here would die from old age rather than meeting the stewpot. With that in mind, how long are they living past the age of egg productivity? Any health issues you don't find with chickens?

5) I think I remember reading they need a feed with 30% protein content. My access to spent brewery (wet) grain is sporadic but spent brewery grain runs 25-34% according to:
https://spentgraindirectory.com/nutritional-value-of-spent-grains/

6) We live in an urban heat island. The summer temps here are long, HOT, and we have a LOT of humidity. How do they tolerate heat?

 
pollinator
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echo minarosa wrote:I have been interested in Coturnix quail since I read an old Mother Earth News. But I don't know if either is right for our situation.

Points to consider:

1) We are VERY urban. Quail are quieter. Chickens could process waste faster though.

2) We get frequent visits by hawks...especially sharp-shinned hawks. We also have a fair amount of raccoons and opossums.

3) space - absolutely an issue. And it seems to me more space equals healthier aniimals in general.

4) We're weirdo vegetarians. Any birds here would die from old age rather than meeting the stewpot. With that in mind, how long are they living past the age of egg productivity? Any health issues you don't find with chickens?

5) I think I remember reading they need a feed with 30% protein content. My access to spent brewery (wet) grain is sporadic but spent brewery grain runs 25-34% according to:
https://spentgraindirectory.com/nutritional-value-of-spent-grains/

6) We live in an urban heat island. The summer temps here are long, HOT, and we have a LOT of humidity. How do they tolerate heat?



1.  I think that male quail can be louder than chicken hens.  I had both at a semi two blocks from downtown and never had any noise complaints.  The quail won't process waste unless it's minced and they won't eat much anyway, not like chickens can.

2.  They should be kept in cages or an enclosure with 1/2" hardware cloth on all openings.  

3.  This is one area that quail excel at.  They don't need a lot of space.  1 sq ft is OK but in smaller pens you need to allow space for feeders and waterers.  They also love a dirt bath.  You can stack cages for more quail.  Go with minimum 16ga wire on the floor; the plastic coated wire is even better on their feet.

4.  I usually butchered after about a year so I don't know how long they lay, but I'd be surprised if it's not 3-4 years.  

5.  A lot of people around here feed them 20% chick starter, though I like to start them out on 26% turkey starter or 30% game bird starter.  Feed's brutally expensive here and I drive over 100 miles each way to get cheaper feed, but I can't get better than 20% at that mill.  Spent mash may be in the protein ballpark but I don't think it would make a complete feed.

6.  I've had quail stop laying when it got too cold, too hot, I moved them, or a cloud passed over.  If it's a gradual increase in temp they may not mind.  For the record, my chickens stopped laying in that heat, too.

I enjoy quail, I love the eggs and they don't take up much space.  They can be vicious with each other, though, so have a hospital pen ready.  I've often found that, if I have to take a quail out that's being picked on, you can't return it to the same pen and sometimes not to any pen.  Then you've got a bird that doesn't fit in anywhere but the pot.  My experience with keeping animals is that it's a good idea to have a plan for dead stock, because you're going to get it at some point.  Good luck!
 
gardener
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Echo, I'm also about to start quail, just as soon as I get a chance to design and build a setup. We are also urban, noise is a concern, and I completely fell in love when I saw Eileen's post here https://permies.com/t/156305/quail-pigeons/Barcelona-balcony-permie showing her quail setup on an urban balcony.

I am still not entirely sure what my quail setup will be. I don't have a huge amount of space and I do have plenty of predators (feral cats, hawks, snakes, rats, lizards) so I'm thinking of keeping them in a closed area up here on my back porch and creating a covered run for them in the garden for when the weather is nice. Movable would be great, not sure if they would help with bugs... I guess we'll have to see how that goes.

I guess I'm mostly following your post to see if you get any more good advice!!!
 
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With regard to noise: my neighbour used to have about 4 quail in a cage above the dog's kennel (stops the foxes being interested!) in her back garden. I could hear them murmuring sometimes when I was in the garden so I knew she had them, but it was really rather a pleasant sound. Certainly many times quieter than the wild parakeets' squawks! Or the squirrels' braying. Or the foxes screams!  Urban wildlife is noisy!
 
Posts: 55
Location: Barcelona
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I'd say go for it! I love mine - I'm up to 7 hens and 1 roo on a small urban balcony - and there are signs of life in my first incubator hatch right now and we've had hundreds of eggs since last summer.

Mine are quiet and low drama, including the roo when he's kept with his ladies. He greeted them loudly upon arrival, 'foamed' in his transport crate, ahem introduced himself to the whole covey, and hasn't made a lovelorn sound since then. (Maybe because he has no competition? I've never had a huge covey.)

As I understand it, how long they lay does depend a lot on conditions. They have a total number of possible eggs and whether they lay them young and steady or a little later and sporadically depends on feed, stress-levels, hours of light, etc. A hen who is generally healthy and "given the winters off" (not provided with additional hours of artificial lighting) might lay well into her second and third years. Fertility of the eggs drops off after the first six months of laying, but if you're just eating them, no problem.

The very high protein requirement is key in the first two months of extremely rapid growth and maturation, but once grown you can adjust feed and gauge whether it's sufficient by how well they lay. I love park/vacant lot urban foraging for them. They eat lots of kinds of greens if you make them smaller with kitchen scissors or weigh them down so they can tear their own bite-sized pieces. I also give a small daily handful of kitchen scraps - mince the core of an apple or pear as I pack lunchboxes, or the heart of a bell pepper with its seeds, etc. I sprout lentils for them too and give them black soldier fly larvae from my compost bin. (Yes, this is 'pet' treatment and not required, but I enjoy their happy sounds and I'm sure it improves their eggs.)

I didn't take the time to train them up the ramp and use the "penthouse" to separate birds occasionally instead. I plan to put babies up there once they've feathered out (~3wks)

Coturnix quail pant open-mouthed like dogs in the heat and you need to be vigilant about access to water and shade, but mine did just fine through last summer's hot Iberian weather.

Don't forget a sandbox for dust bathing and have a place in mind for their manure. There's no shortage once you get started.

Good luck! Please post pics if you do it :)
 
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I'm a year into my keeping quail experiment, also in an urban heat island. Here are my urban quailer tips so far:

1) Rats. Rats have been a serious predictor to my quail, even with the hardware cloth. Make a super secure cage. I put mine on stilts, with a planter box below filled with wood chips + wine cap mushrooms (helps neutralize the poop smell and gives them something comfortable to walk on ... But I still had hardware cloth under the wood chips. Rats tunnel.)

2) Think through your street lights - make sure the quail will have a dark corner to sleep in.

3) I'm also a vegetarian and my strong suggestion is if at all possible get only girls. Means you'll have somewhat older birds most likely, but guys are just gonna need to be culled eventually.

That being said, I love my girls!
 
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