I know that this has been very briefly discussed in the past - I have found several threads of people considering quail and alternative housing options that fit into a permaculture garden, but very little in the way of tried methods and their results. I recently starting raising jumbo coturnix quail because I want another option for eggs besides my chickens, quicker turn-around for meat than my rabbits (plus whole feed for our dog), and because I think they might offer a niche market opportunity for selling fresh eggs/pickled eggs at the grower's market in my town.
I started in January with 12 chicks (all the pharaoh/wild type) and after growing them out, and choosing the largest as my breeders (200+ grams live weight at around 6 weeks), I culled down to 4 females and 2 males. I started them out in a 2'x4' hanging cage with drop pans below, but quickly grew tired of dealing with the poop everywhere. When one of my rabbits was moved back to her cage to kindle, I decided to move the covey into the rabbit tractor. They were quite happy digging and scarfing down grass, that I would love to keep them on the ground, but there's still the problem of poop. Within a day or two, they will cover the entire 2x4 area with a cake of poop, and my attempts at using them like tiller chickens on the new garden area weren't very successful. They don't scratch as vigorously as chickens, so it doesn't really get turned in to the ground - until my dog comes along and eats it all.
I have 85 eggs in the incubator right now, and am hoping to build up to around 30-40 hens. What this comes down to is that I need to settle on a better housing option for all those birds, and ideally within a month. I don't think a fleet of tractors is the best option for me, but I will be supplementing their game feed with wheat fodder, and have mealworms going in the basement that will hopefully begin reproducing so they will at least have better feed. I am considering creating a rabbit/quail combo hutch since I anticipate needing more rabbit housing soon, and maybe some kind of deep litter for the quail instead of wire floors. Surely someone has come up with some creative quail keeping!
Location: New to Bozeman, MT - zone 4, alt. ~5000 ft.
posted 5 years ago
Hey Sarina! I recently moved to a farm which has a quail coop (not designed by me) which is basically an 8x10 greenhouse attached to the south side of the chicken coop. We also have 4 females and 2 males, all Coturnix. The idea was that the quail were put in the big greenhouse when they were first obtained, and they were so happy about it that the farm owner built them their own greenhouse. We only recently moved in topsoil, and I'm trying to grow a cover crop in it (yesterday I sowed buckwheat, hairy vetch, turnips, and mangels) but the quail love the seeds so much I'm not sure any of them will germinate before being eaten...haha. They have a milk crate covered with brush in one corner, which they love to hang out in, and a covered box protruding off of the north side of the coop that stays much cooler. The poo isn't a problem, but a lovely little soil amendment.
So all of this is designed for happy quail, but not egg laying. Since I've been here (a month now) I've found one egg. Not sure whether this is because of low protein in the diet (they're on 16% layer crumbles, I have been supplementing with meal worms - this is the most likely cause) or because of not enough light (nothing supplemental, I've read it takes about 14 hours daily for them to lay). What is the protein content of the game feed? I may switch to that. Are they on supplemental lighting?
Having raised Japanese quail for years, there is really no solution to quail droppings other than to shovel them out and pile them to mature. I house mine in 2x6' pens approximately three feet off the ground. Rake under it ever two or three days and move to a pit that was dug behind the pen to contain the waste. Quail droppings are very acidic, so watch what you put them on in your garden until they are mature or you can shovel them into a bucket and mix with water into a slurry and use it that way much faster. As far as laying and feeding. Game bird feed is great but mine do well on layena. There is a trick to feeding them that I will share. If you use a trough style feeder with holes cut out, place a piece of hardware cloth inside it on top of the feed. This will save you lots of money in the long run as quail will strow the food everywhere and eat very little.
Recently I have had great success with them on the ground. Round pen with hardware cloth at the bottom and a cover to protect from predators. The trick is to place buckets with lids on them around. Cut a hole into the side with about a 3" lip to keep any water out. Fill the bottom of the bucket with sand. Not only will the quail hide and sleep in there but they will also lay in there making egg collection easy. In the past I rigged up a simple LED light in the side of each bucket driven by a small solar panel and battery. This kept them laying all season. you can line up the buckets like a little colony together.