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raising quail?

 
                          
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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I'm interested in raising quail, when I have a place to do it. They grow to egg-laying and eating size (well, for quail) quickly, and have very nutritious and sought-after eggs, and I'm told they convert feed to protein very efficiently, as well as taking less space than chickens. But they're also not free-rangeable, I'm told. I'm envisioning a set-up where the quail have the run of a greenhouse so they can help in pest management. Maybe I would have to have a screen about a foot below the roof of the greenhouse--apparently they will take off when startled and fly straight up and sometimes even bonk themselves to death. Does anyone here have experience with quail in a permaculture system?
 
Ken Peavey
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Here's what the CD3 site has to say.
 
Leah Sattler
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a friend of mine raises quail. I only know what she has told me. they are apparently prone to suicide in a variety of ways she doesn't incorporate them into a system other then using their waste for compost. it seems she told me that their suicidal tendencies can make for some restrictions on their housing and lighting when young especially, so I would do alot of research. when she showed me some newly hatched ones she warned me that they look like roaches. she was right. she lifted the lid in the darkened room (there was a red light if i remember correctly) and the little buggers scurried under a sheltered area. they really did look like cockroaches running from the light! it was hilarious!

she makes pickled quail eggs to sell that are delicious...and I am not someone that would have thought I would ever eat pickled eggs! great. now I am craving them and she is two hours away..... 
 
                          
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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Thanks, kpeavy and Leah... quail--who knows why I like them; I just do. Fortunately they can be pretty cheap to get started in.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I've never had quail, either but like you, have been interested in them for some time.  I think that they could be good in a situation where we are no longer allowed to have livestock at home (think NAIS on steroids -- it's coming eventually), and had to 'stealth' our protein supplies.  Rabbits and quail are the two things that I think would work in that situation.  Otherwise, I'd just as soon stick with chickens, because I already know how to raise them!

Kathleen
 
Leah Sattler
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I loved the sound they made. maybe it would get annoying after a while but it was rather soothing I thought.

I think they most certainly have the potential to be a good food source in a situation where space is limited or other livestock is restricted. it seems it would be hard for anyone to argue that they were any worse then someone breeding parakeets. being single meal sized themselves is handy in itself. 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Yes, if you didn't have refrigeration, meat that was single-serving sized would definitely be an advantage.

I don't know.  I'm still thinking about it.  I have to figure out where I'd put them.  And I want to get bee hives going this year; don't know if I could manage both.

Kathleen
 
Robert Ray
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Coturnix quail I have seen in greenhouses before. my interaction was brief with the owner but he claimed that they are an excellent addition in his case and do not tear up plants as chickens would.
I have heard of people raising them in their houses but do not know anyone that does.
  I am fortunate to have California quail in abundance in my area wild. They are prolific. I leave or make sure to have a brush pile for them to hide in and they happily pick up the seed dropped from bird feeders in the yard.
 
                    
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I was thinking recently that a big part of our population growing older and creating more one and two person households, and therefore smaller, single serving sized animals could have a really good market. 

Joel Salatin, in his "YOU CAN FARM" book, encourages people to "just do it" as far as animal raising goes, even when you have almost no space.  He sites as an example a guy in NYC raising, slaughtering, and selling chickens in his garage. 

Pickled quail eggs sound really really good!
 
tel jetson
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geez.  sometimes I have an idea to try something that I think is new.  then I find out other folks have thought of it, too, and are actually trying it out and maybe have been for a long time.  that's sort of disappointing and exciting at the same idea.  this is one of those ideas.  been intending to build a greenhouse and put some quail in there for a little while now.  it's getting closer to reality, slowly.
 
Jennifer Smith
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I have some limited experiance with quail.. I make pickled eggs by saving the juice of the pickles I buy (bread and butter for me), boil the eggs, soak in vinigar (to remove shells as they are hard to peel) and drop in pickle juice for a week... done and great.

I have gone to the bird farm and bought boxes of birds.  They turn them loose at the plantation, some pre release and some each day they hold a hunt.  Thousands of birds a year.

I have been in the bird barn (an old converted dairy barn) where they keep the birds till hunt day.  That is where some times I can get 100's of eggs to pickle.

It seems to depend on who catches and cares for them as to what the mortality rate is. 

 
Jennifer Smith
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Jennifer at
http://www.omniskies.com/quail.shtml
is a local gal with an intrest in horses as well as birds, though she raises and sells birds as well as rabbits. 

I will email her right now and invite her to join us at permies. 
 
                          
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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Great site, Jennifer Smith; thanks for recommending it. I was particularly interested in reading about weeder geese--I had heard you could do it, but I hadn't read about the training process.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Glad you liked it.  She is a young lady with a dream.
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Jennifer Smith  "listenstohorses" wrote:
Jennifer at
http://www.omniskies.com/quail.shtml
is a local gal with an intrest in horses as well as birds, though she raises and sells birds as well as rabbits. 

I will email her right now and invite her to join us at permies. 


I particularly enjoyed her section on the ethics of raising animals.

 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=1831&page=147

OK, I am behind this as an interesting food source and maybe even a business.   I have eaten quail and liked it a lot.    The eggs are good also.

Some friends of ours have started an organic free range chicken farm with their own processing plant.   

Since being introduced to this meat I can't go back to factory raised chicken.   The taste and flavor is way different, not to mention the ethics.

So is it possible to free range quail without a giant expensive structure?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3296001/The-prince-of-quails.html

 
                          
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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If you glance back at the first post, Gary, you'll find that's basically the question I started with. From everything I've heard, coturnix quail don't free-range well--they fly like the dickens and never learn where home is, and they're easy picking for predators. That's why I was asking if anyone had methods for keeping them in greenhouses--seems like they ought to have more room to roam, besides being good bughunters--but they also will bonk themselves to death or drown in waterers sometimes, so one really needs to take care. I think it would be a good experiment, though.
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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I was thinking about my greenhouse.   Not usable in the hot summers here.   A large barn with a large connected aviary was the only solution I could come up with for my situation.

I think it would be a good experiment, though.


I agree, glad you introduced the topic.  I'm excited about it.
 
                          
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Location: Northern California
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That also sounds like a good option. I hope you'll give it a try and report back.
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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A large barn and aviary was the big expense I can't afford that I referred to earlier.  Do you have a greenhouse now or plan to build one?  Will it need climate control?
 
Jennifer Smith
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On the plantation we have what is called a johnny house. 

Basically it is a chicken coop with screen funnels on the opening so the birds can get back in but the ones inside can not get out.  We turn some out to train dogs etc and the rest call them home. 

We have to close it up tight at night to keep the varmets out. 
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Jennifer Smith  "listenstohorses" wrote:
On the plantation we have what is called a johnny house. 

Basically it is a chicken coop with screen funnels on the opening so the birds can get back in but the ones inside can not get out.  We turn some out to train dogs etc and the rest call them home. 

We have to close it up tight at night to keep the varmets out. 


Hi Jennifer,    Sorry, I am having a sneak allergy attack this morning so my brain is not firing on all cylinders, but is this with quail or chickens?
 
Jennifer Smith
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The johnny house is for keeping quail, though we often call them chickens...a small wild chicken. 

The dogs are not encouraged to hunt real chickens.  They are worked/trained to point quail on hunt days.
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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The dogs are not encouraged to hunt real chickens.


Good evidence of the quality of my brain today.  So, is the exterior an aviary?
 
Jennifer Smith
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I wish I could go out and get a photo...miss being in Alabama for the winter for many reasons.

what I could do is hunt the net and find 

http://www.phantomquailkennel.com/

and

http://morequail.blogspot.com/2009/01/lost-covey.html ; for reading...

http://bootsandbriars.com/?p=45 ;

none of these links have anything to do with me. 
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Thanks for the links, now I get it.
 
                          
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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Ahah! Me too! That second link is a great story, Jennifer!
 
Jennifer Smith
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So happy to have helped.  I knew I was not explaining well. 

I may have mentioned that all I really know is horses and my husband is the wildlife bioligist. 

If not for living with him at the plantation for 2 years I would not know any of this. 

{secret} (someday I hope to help him manage the field trial grounds where we met)
 
Jennifer Smith
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Well, does anyone else plan to get a Johnny house?  I do to use to train my dog, but how about a smaller version built in the green house?  Maybe just a night nest box type situation? 

There are also mechanical callers, a recorded call that plays every so often to call them back to the release sites.  So maybe a nest area with a recorded call to start playing around dusk?

How about funnel outlets so they can even get out of the greenhouse some?

I invited Jennifer to join so she can tell us how she raises them.  I may buy mine from her when the time comes. 
 
Que Lawrence
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Hello everyone,

This is my first post on this board and I know some people from other forums.  Great place here!  I know it has been awhile since anyone has posted on this topic but I wanted to because I do raise quail in a covey arrangement. 

We started with them in cages but this way is much better.  We have a 7'x12' kennel for them.  We put alot of thought into this before we moved them from their cages. We buried chain link about a foot underground, and build a box frame from 2x4s and chain link fencing. The enclosure is about 6' high.  We put hardware cloth on the inside of the entire box frame. Hope that makes sense.

I would take pictures but it is pouring outside right now and ...    I will do it later if anyone is interested.

The quail are much happier.  The change in their behavior is incredible.  You don't need as big of an area as we put them into.  We had originally planned on using this for our rabbits but we built them a separate one. 
 
                          
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Location: Northern California
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Thanks! That's really helpful. I think I can imagine what you're describing, but I would love to see pictures. How long have you kept them there? Any losses?

That seems much better for the quail than quail-height cages. Seems you could even put forage plants inside or outside where they will drop leaves, seeds, and fruit in.
 
Que Lawrence
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Ok, I will take pictures tomorrow. 

Our quail have been in that enclosure for 6 or 7 months now.  For the first two months, we were losing about one quail a week and considered going back to cages, but now things seem to have worked themselves out.  I think there was an adjustment period or something.  We never quite figured out what was happening at first.

Now that the weather is getting cold, we put thick layers of hay throughout the enclosure and the quail just run straight into the hay and just snuggle in it. 

One other thing, there is no food waste either.  We do have a food dish but usually just throw seeds and food around the enclosure and they love to look for the seeds and scratch like crazy. 

Plants that drop seeds or fruit would be great.  We did lots of weeds from our yard in there before we put the quail in there but you wouldn't be able to tell now.  Although they don't eat alot, they did eventually eat all the weeds, so now we just throw in weeds and grass along with the seeds.
 
Que Lawrence
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Sorry it took so long for the pics everyone.  Since I was pretty new to this forum, I actually forgot which forum that I promised the pictures.  ops:
quail enclosure.jpg
[Thumbnail for quail enclosure.jpg]
pic of quail and rabbits.jpg
[Thumbnail for pic of quail and rabbits.jpg]
 
Que Lawrence
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Right now we have the entire enclosure wrapped with plastic and tarps due to the amount of wind and rain we get in the winter.  There is a chain link roof and a wood roof but my husband likes to be sure that they stay dry.

We do have two rabbits in this enclosure with the quail.  We just noticed three days ago that we now have four baby bunnies!  So cute!  The baby bunnies run around with the quail and everyone seems to be just fine. 
 
Stephanie Donoghue
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Location: Orlando, FL
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How cool that you can keep quail and bunnies together! I am a "permie newbie", so I am still in the research stage. I was considering my different options for keeping animals for meat and other products. There are so many great options for suburbia folks like me. I'm excited to get something set up
 
                                  
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Yes, I have ten years experience raising quail organically and have two videos on my youtube site showing how I do it. http://www.youtube.com/user/Pavlovafowl . I free range my quail when small, they respond well to their mother hen. As they get older and start to fly further I keep them in my greenhouse and also alternate with an outside run as like all of us, they need Vitamin D from direct sunlight to absorb calcium. If you raise them well they do not get into the neurotic state most quail suffer in captivity, from bad treatment in cage systems and bad feeding. This caged state also aggravates the quail's natural propensity to fight,  when in too close quarters, Shakespeare refers to organised quail fighting in 'Anthony and Cleopatra'.  I started breeding them to cure my husband's hayfever and eczema, the eggs have been used for this purpose since the twelfth century in Japan but the enzymes responsible were only identified in the past few years. In China, where they were and are used in medicine, they were originally bred as song birds, their voices are incredibly soothing. Please ask if you need any more info, one of my aims in life is to get these wonderful birds a better life than they usually have amongst our kind!
 
matt hogan
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Has anyone tried keeping quail in a Johnny box (aka recall pen) for the purpose of eggs and/or meat? I would like to raise quail, but I want them to be able to get out and forage and be quail-like.

In researching this, I saw the people who free range them when they are young using a chicken as surrogate mother (above), which is brilliant, but I am hoping to do something throughout their lifecycle. I also found some places in jolly old England that say they free range their quail, but apparently across the pond, "free range" means "we have a big run and we feed them pellets that say 'free range' on the bag".

It sounds like only bobwhites recall so that would be the breed for this. Let most of them out each day, with one or two kept to recall the rest, realizing that some will go missing and some eggs will be laid where I will never find them. However, having the only free range quail eggs in the area (perhaps anywhere) means I can charge a premium price.
 
Susan Wakeman
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I have been keeping quail in our backyard for the last three years. I keep up to 7 (1 male) in a rabbit hutch (not the wire kind) of about 2x4ft, with internal "upstairs". The upstairs is half wire, half dustbath (sand ans woodash) and the downstairs a "deep litter" up to 3in deep, based on sawdust which I get for free from the local joiner.

I keep them primarily for eggs and in the summer season they lay very well, close to 1 egg/day. Quail need 12hrs of daylight to lay, so in the winter season I have an LED strip light installed on a timer to make the difference. They lay their eggs on the ground and only sometimes make nests. Brooding is very rare in quail, it seems to depend on a very natural habitat (which also means you can't find the eggs...)

Quail food is a tricky one, they don't lay if the food isn't right, so I have to buy it in (organic isn't available). I tried compost worms for a while, which they love, but I had quail get sick and die because of the bacteria that pass through a worm's gut without being digested. They love mealworms (darkling beetle larvae) which are really easy to raise but too fatty for a staple. Can't raise soldier fly as not native in Switzerland. They can eat salad, lucerne, cabbage and soft leaves as such but their beaks are small.

They can fly very well and I must be known in the neighbourhood as the source of these little brown birds... They will start up like a harrier jump jet to about 2m high then head for the nearest undergrowth where they stay so still you can hardly see them. I have grazed them in a rabbit run and they do eat the grass, but seem nervous under the open sky, they are a prey species. They could do well in a modified chicken tractor (I would roof it all the way to satisfy their need to hide), but getting the eggs is a bit of a problem as they just lay them on the ground, though sometimes make a little nest in some loose dirt. I'd move the run every day. Quail do scratch a little, but not nearly as much as chicken.

Quail are really food motivated and have been trained to do tricks, but will not come when called like chicken. They are more flighty and don't like being handled, though some kept as pets become used to it. I have tried to teach them to hop in a bucket with meal worms to transfer them to the rabbit run, but not all will do it. I guess you could train them to come to a coop by removing the feed during the day, but they don't do it as easily as chicken do.

Quail do call to each other and some may return (about 30% in the first day). Cocks do crow, some louder than others especially when establishing themselves. As a small bird you can keep them on a smaller footprint as chickens, but I am not entirely happy with the way I keep them as they can't go to the run every day.

I learned all I know about Quail form the quail forum at http://www.backyardchickens.com/f/48/quail which I heartily recommend to anyone.
 
John Polk
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Roses are red. Violets are blue. Some poems rhyme. But this is a tiny ad:

The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers:
http://richsoil.com/cards


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