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Quail better than chickens? I'm beginning to think so...

 
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Big animals are not as efficient at feed conversion as smaller animals in general.  Larger animals have more mass to hold up, more bones, more blood, larger surface area, etc.  Body temperature is harder to regulate on a larger animal as well.

In general (not always the case), larger livestock have worse feed conversion ratios than smaller livestock.

Rabbits and cows have similar diets, so they are easy to compare.  Rabbits have a feed conversion of 3:1 or 4:1, whereas cows are around 8:1 or 10:1.

Pigs and chickens have similar diets, and pigs are a bit worse than chickens at 4:1, compared to the chickens 3:1 or better.

There are lots of exceptions to this rule, but there is no way a cow is more efficient at feed to meat conversion as a chicken.

A rabbit doe can easily produce over 60 lbs of meat a year (that's meat weight, not live animal weight), and she will weigh 7-8 lbs. So, that's almost 10 times her weight in a year.

A sow can easily produce 3 times her weight in meat a year.

A cow will be lucky to produce 1/4 its weight in meat a year.

 
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Vela, body temperature is usually more stable and easier regulated in a bigger animal. This comes simply as a result of changes in surface area to volume, which means they need to eat less to maintain their metabolism for their body weight. If they need to be kept warm or cool down, then their shelter needs need to be taken into consideration, similar as any other small livestock.

http://wc.pima.edu/Bfiero/tucsonecology/adaptations/size.htm

If you want to calculate by efficiency, then fish are the most efficient.

1.6-1.8 for tilapia for example.

7 to 10:1 for cows is based on and involves feeding grain to cows. Cows and other ruminants didn't evolve to eat grain. The EROEI on grain is generally terrible.
 
Abe Connally
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yes, tilapia don't have to regulate their temperature, and they don't have gravity to fight against.

grassfed beef usually has a worse conversion than 10:1... again, the smaller animals are more efficient.
 
                        
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Location: San Diego
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Guineas are one bird that is never 100% domesticated but they get along quite well in a human oriented area. They have several problems though in an urban area. For one they are very noisy at the slightest provocation. They are also very good at hiding nests but make terrible mothers leaving the nest for no discernable reason in the middle of hatching and running off from the chicks afterward. We always hatched guinea eggs under hens because they are much better mothers.
 
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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tentoes wrote:
I have lots of wild guinea fowl running around my suburban area.



Are guinea fowl laud like peafowl? Peafowl make a heck of a cry that would get on my nerves if they lived near my house.
 
                        
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Location: San Diego
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BenjaminBurchall wrote:
Are guinea fowl laud like peafowl? Peafowl make a heck of a cry that would get on my nerves if they lived near my house.


Guineas are loud and excitable but they don't have that rusty hinge noise a peacock has.
It alwayas amazes me to hear that gad awful noise come out of such a beautiful bird.
Guineas were often kept as an early warning system in past times. They recognize a stranger or predator and set up a racket you can't miss.
 
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Tentoes, I'm sure that providing them with a habitat would be an inviting start.  If you can build a brush pile with a water source nearby you might have tenants by spring.  Low growing bushes and tall grass help provide concealment that they must have.
 
                        
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Was reading  the other day  (in an older book) about some studies being done on keeping coternix (sp?) quail in greenhouses to deal with whiteflies and such.  no idea how that worked out but sounded interesting.

Also, fwiw, the people in New England that run several hundred or so chickens on humungous compost heaps free range, use the dual purpose breeds, not the single purpose egglayers, as they find the older breeds much more efficient at getting to the business of finding their dinner rather than waiting for it to come to them.  I will try to track down the link, it's been a while.

I think feed conversion details often forget to take such things into consideration. If you are feeding all they can eat grain to Cornish crosses, Orpingtons,  Leghorns and  Old English Game hens you will of course find that the Cornish cross  is an efficiency machine in terms of conversion, followed closely by the Leghorn while the old english  game hens barely make it onto the list. If on the other hand, you provide nothing at all and there's skimpy foraging then the game hens may be the only ones that even survive.  It's all a balancing act.

As far as some of the larger animals are concerned; as an example: Holstein cows will out produce any other sort of dairy cow IF you look at the first 4 or five years. Most of them are done by then, replaced and sent to slaughter.  However, Ayrshires and many others will keep on chugging along at a lesser but respectable rate of production  for maybe 15 or more years, producing a calf every year and chowing down a lot less feed as they go.  There is also the question of the quality of the milk in terms of butterfat.

It seems to me that conversion tables are always based on 1) optimum feed supplies  2)usually  having the animal sitting like a baby bird in the nest waiting for someone to fill its craw and 3) assuming the animal will be slaughtered long before its natural expected life span.   Perhaps that's not the only scenario which should be considered.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Edit: I cut my post because I decided it's OT.
 
Abe Connally
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even at 8:1, it's still a ways behind smaller livestock like rabbits, pigs, and poultry.

The point being that larger animals are less efficient, generally, than smaller animals.

Even a grain-fed cow has a worse ratio than grass- fed rabbits.

Feed conversion ratios are definitely not the end all, be all, but they also can't be ignored, especially when you have limited resources and space.
 
steward
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I believe that all/most feed-conversion studies were done either by, or for 'factory farms', as they stand the most to gain by that data.  The small holder with one dairy cow, 2 feeder pigs and a dozen hens will have a much different set of circumstances, as his livestock are not being tested under labratory  conditions.

Within any species, the smaller breeds usually perform better.  The Cornish-X is the exception to this rule, as they have been bred to stand in one spot, and sleep with their heads in the feeder tray waiting for the next re-fueling.

On a small scale, these factors mean very little unless you are buying in all/most of your feed.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Edit: OT
 
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So back to quail. I remember looking at them a few years ago, and a lot of people said they were surprisingly troublesome to keep alive. They had issues like drowning in their water supply and such.

Anyone else care to share their rearing methods? Could you do a really big Salatin style pen as a hybrid paddock-shift system?

I'm looking at them for a suburban lot situation.
 
John Polk
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For anybody interested in starting raising quail, this e-book might be worth the investment:

http://www.howtoraisequail.com/

I haven't read it, but considering the costs of building a healthy flock, I would probably buy the book before I ordered eggs or chicks.

From my investigations of chickens vs quail, I see NO economical advantage for quail for a home flock.  If you have a market for either (quail) eggs or meat birds, there is a tremendous potential for profit with quail.  Without a market, it is merely an expensive hobby.

For comparative purposes, 1 chicken egg = 4 quail eggs.  Go from there when calculating start up costs, and cost per dozen, etc.  Quail may produce more eggs per pound of feed, but 4x?  Do your own research/math before making the switch...not everybody wants to buy quail eggs...most people do eat chicken eggs.  What is the market in your region?
 
                        
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There seems to be a fair amount of info even on You Tube but most people seem to do the intensive thing. This was one long but sort of charming video  which apparently allows a more humane approach

Only thing is apparently snakes (among other creatures) like to eat them so pasturing them might be a problem..hard to fence out a snake.
 
Lolly Knowles
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This video was also very informative.  My climate conditions aren't too similar to those in Texas, but the habitat concepts carry over.  [wondering where to find a link attachment because preview says this didn't embed]
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/KxcyJViY_sw"; frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
 
                        
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http://www.youtube.com/embed/KxcyJViY_sw    works  Great video and looks like it's part of a series.  Thanks, Lolly
 
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My opinion as well same that Quail is better than chickens. Thank you all for sharing useful information here.
 
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Emerson White wrote:On a perpound basis Chicken feed is much richer than cow feed. Additionally Chickens reproduce in a manner that lets you keep fewer animals for breeding stock.

If you measure calories of food in per calorie of food product out a cow lays on meat much much better than a chicken.



I've got to chime in here because you've got your calculation completely backwards and a few years back a gentlemen was as equally wrong in the opposite direction - he understood what must have been some daily feed requirement he read about as the amount of cumulative food to produce meat - he claimed you could produce 1kg of rabbit on 200g of feed, which is effectively a 1:5 FCR, which violates the law of thermodynamics at the least.

Now back on the subject - According to Wikipedia:


Conversion ratios for livestock

Animals that have a low FCR are considered efficient users of feed.



Cows have an FCR of 5-20:1 meaning it takes between 5 and 20kg of feed to produce 1kg of additional meat. Compare that to say a Rabbit, which might be equally grass fed, a rabbit is 3.5-4:1. Meaning it takes up to 4kg of feed to produce 1kg of additional meat. If we look at Chickens, we can see they have a low FCR, and while Wikipedia rightly suggests that comparisons between FCRs for different animals is of limited usefulness due to cost of feed, the differences in FCR are HIGHLY reflected in the supermarket cost of their meat. Their FCR is 2:1 and lower. Meaning it takes less than 2kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat. You can see that this is reflected in supermarket prices quite readily: The most prized chicken cust, the boneless skinless breast can be readily had for $2/lb. Poor quality hamburger, IE: the lowest quality beef, can be readily had for $2-3/lb. The cost to raise these animals for meat is even reflected in lips and assholes, i mean hot dogs. All beef hot dogs are generally more expensive than their chicken and pork counterparts.
 
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I know this is an old thread, but I'm researching quail raising and this came up so it's still active on search engines. So I want to point out for others that comments made regarding the size of the animal and the feed conversion ratio should be taken with a grain of salt. A major consideration has to be that even if a cow would process the same food more efficiently than a chicken, for example, cows and chickens don't eat the same food. The FCR, or food conversion rate for chickens is roughly 2:1 for chickens compared to roughly 8:1 for cows. At least part of that is because chickens naturally eat a more energy rich diet, including grubs and insects as well as plant material while the cows are eating nothing but grass. Theoretically of physiologically this could be construed as an unfair advantage for the chicken that needs to be balanced out for a true comparison. From a permaculture perspective, though, it makes little sense to penalize them for being more effective foragers. Put a chicken and a cow out in the same pasture and the chicken should put on meat more efficiently than the cow.

More generally, while I've been out of the loop for a while, what I remember from agricultural economics is that actually smaller animals have better food conversion rates and a little internet research seems to bear this out. In the commercial feedlot setting, you have cows at 6:1, swine at 3.5:1, poultry at 2:1, and fish at 1.5:1.

It's worth noting here that FCR is an imprecise measure for meat yield because it actually measures not only just the mass of the food intake (rather than the energy content) but also the body mass of the animal (rather than the meat yield). Different animals will have a different ratio of edible meat to total body mass. For example, a dressed chicken ready for the pot will weigh about 75% of its live weight, while a beef carcass hanging in a meat locker (with bones, like the chicken) is typically around 65% of its live weight. This proportion actually favors chickens even more, and will get even more chicken favored once you take the bones out because of their lower bone density.
 
pollinator
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John Polk wrote:For anybody interested in starting raising quail, this e-book might be worth the investment:

http://www.howtoraisequail.com/

I haven't read it, but considering the costs of building a healthy flock, I would probably buy the book before I ordered eggs or chicks.

From my investigations of chickens vs quail, I see NO economical advantage for quail for a home flock.  If you have a market for either (quail) eggs or meat birds, there is a tremendous potential for profit with quail.  Without a market, it is merely an expensive hobby.

For comparative purposes, 1 chicken egg = 4 quail eggs.  Go from there when calculating start up costs, and cost per dozen, etc.  Quail may produce more eggs per pound of feed, but 4x?  Do your own research/math before making the switch...not everybody wants to buy quail eggs...most people do eat chicken eggs.  What is the market in your region?



Gary Ortlieb (the author and former owner of the now defunct website) seems to have disappeared. His books are not on ebay or Amazon either. Pity. He still has a couple of short videos on YouTube:

 
 
author & steward
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This is an older thread so it seems quite a few of the recommended webpages and videos no longer exist. Thank you Echo for yours because it's still a relevant question! Here are a few more.




 
pollinator
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Going back to the original post as it were.

For me chickens will win every time.

Chickens don't fly out of their enclosure (with clipped wings) and if they do they will come home at night, quail have to be kept in a cage, sure it can be a big cage but it's still a cage and expensive to make, and limits the area they can be given. Free range chickens are perfectly possible, free range quail are gone.

Eggs, it takes 5 quail eggs to equal one chicken so I need 5-6 times the number of birds. (a production chicken lays around 320 eggs per year quite a bit more than the 200 expected from a quail) I also need to crack 5x the eggs every time I make a recipe I also need to pick up 5x the eggs and wash 5x the eggs. that production chicken will lay well for 1 year  after coming into lay while a quail starts to slow down at 7 months, so yes a quail starts 14 weeks before the chicken but it also slows down 5 months before the chicken, meaning I need to raise more more often (or buy them)

Size, quail are TINY they are hardly a mouthful so if I wanted to eat them I need to kill, gut, pluck 10 meat quails for every meat chicken (160g vs 1.6kg) it's not going to be much faster if at all to kill and clean a quail than a chicken.

Feed efficiency is all well and good but every bite the quail eats has to be brought to it, whereas over half of what my chickens ate they foraged themselves.

And my last objection goes back to the first. cages, I tried chicken tractors and my birds HATED it the tractor is 3.4m long 1m wide and 1m tall with a coop over the top. I do not like to see animals in cages and seeing chickens unable to run, unable to fly and unable to get away from each other was horrible. I would never keep an animal that I had to keep caged. I could keep quail in my barn the same as the neighbour does (he has indoor quail, freeranged ducks and freeranged chickens) But keeping animals inside is nearly as bad in my mind as keeping them in tractors or other small cages.
 
echo minarosa
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We don't have a lot of room so size is a factor in our choices. The flightiness might be made up by having quieter birds as we are urban and live close to people.

Could foraging be aided by movable coops?

I'm a veg so the meat aspect is immaterial to me. However, this does make me wonder how many quail would be no longer producing eggs. Since I wouldn't be culling, how long until I have a whole flock of geriatric, non-producing pets?

Free range may be a bit of a problem due to the fact that I wouldn't want them ravaging planted beds and we get hunted heavily by several species of hawks...especially bird hunters like sharp-shinned hawks.
 
pollinator
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

Eggs, it takes 5 quail eggs to equal one chicken so I need 5-6 times the number of birds. (a production chicken lays around 320 eggs per year quite a bit more than the 200 expected from a quail) I also need to crack 5x the eggs every time I make a recipe I also need to pick up 5x the eggs and wash 5x the eggs. that production chicken will lay well for 1 year  after coming into lay while a quail starts to slow down at 7 months, so yes a quail starts 14 weeks before the chicken but it also slows down 5 months before the chicken, meaning I need to raise more more often (or buy them)

Size, quail are TINY they are hardly a mouthful so if I wanted to eat them I need to kill, gut, pluck 10 meat quails for every meat chicken (160g vs 1.6kg) it's not going to be much faster if at all to kill and clean a quail than a chicken.



My experience is that production hens need to be coddled to lay 320 eggs; in a free-range setting I've found that they tend to give more like 5 a week, or about 250 a year.  All of my heritage hens have laid at that rate but they keep better condition, especially in the winter.

My quail have started laying at 6 weeks (not many of them) and all are laying at 8 weeks.  My quail have laid pretty much an egg a day, every day until I butcher them at about a year, so I'm not sure where 200 comes from or why you experienced a drop-off after 7 months.  I've also been able to stop taking allergy pills when I'm eating quail eggs, so that's a huge benefit to me.  Also, people with egg allergies can usually eat quail eggs.  The cracking is a pain, even with scissors, but I find they taste quite a bit better than even my chicken eggs.

My quail are around 320-420 grams liveweight.  I find quail are very easy and quick to butcher, but I skin and butterfly them.  

I've tried movable coops this past year.  I think it's great to get them on grass and they may eat a little of it, but not much.  They also stopped laying because the moves upset them.   I also ended up free-ranging some and they loved it.  No eggs and no quail after a week or so, but great quality of life up until it ended.  

I think that, if you have limited space and can't have chickens, quail are a great option and an easy way to get into keeping animals.  
 
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