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

 
ryan112ryan McCoy
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So in a lot of permaculture resources you read about chickens, lots about chickens.  But I have never read anything about quail in permaculture literature. 

I got my baby chicks July 2010, Rhode Island Reds and been raising them ever since.  I started with 5, just wanting them for eggs.  Fast forward to now, I am still a bit off from getting my first egg.

Now compare this to quail.  I got my baby quail chicks, brown cotournix and Texas A&M Cotournix (all white meat).  I got them on November 1st 2010 (so 4 months later) and I will most likely get my first egg before the chickens first egg!  Birth to maturity = 6 weeks! 

[center]Why Quail Might Be Better Than Chickens[/center]


  • [li]I have feed the chickens soooo much feed before I get one single egg, while quail eat a ton less and produce eggs in 5-6 weeks.  [/li]

    [li]A good chicken will get 150 eggs a year, average quail...300 eggs a year.  While they are smaller, quantity might make up for it.
    [/li]

    [li]in terms of housing quail, you only need 1 cubic foot per bird.  Chickens 4 square feet inside and 10 outside[/li]

    [li]In the event you need to have more birds for more eggs or meat, it will only take 17 days incubation and 6 weeks to mature.  Chickens 21 days to incubate, 3-6 months to mature.  [/li]

    [li]The downside to quail is you can't just let them walk around your garden because they can actually fly (I haven't see how well they fly with their wings clipped)[/li]

    [li]if I sell quail eggs, they fetch more than chicken eggs.  [/li]


  • So i guess I am just testing things out at this point, but I just may ditch chickens completely. 

    Anyone here have any experience with quail? 
     
    Burra Maluca
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    I think there are pros and cons to all types of poultry, and which is best for you depends on your circumstances.  We have so many predators around that we spent ages fiddling around with different systems trying to keep chickens safe.  Quail were easy - just make a big cage that can sit outside with mesh small enough to stop any snakes getting in, and move the cage around every now and then.  Easy, and took up very little space. 

    Then we got an invasion of grasshoppers.  Quail weren't much use for that, but a few quinea fowl chasing round the place kept them under control.  They saved the garden, but, despite the fact they could fly a little, we still lost loads to predators.

    We finally got a system which seems fairly safe for the chickens, but it involves a brick built hen-house and them being in an attached run 24/7 so they can't forage for their own food.  We also have a few fat meat chickens which we keep in a small run and then let out to waddle around when we are there to supervise.  They are so fat and dopey that we can just catch them to put them somewhere safe, but they are a lot of work, even if they do mostly feed themselves.

    Then we tried ducks.  We can let them out, and when we have to leave the farm we just round them up and put them back in their run.  They also get loads of their diet from grass, so don't seem to need so much food.  But they aren't laying yet. 

    We're still experimenting to see what poultry, and what system, are going to be best for us. 



     
                          
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    Haven't tried the quails yet, but you're moving it up on my list.

    Guess it all boils down to what you want to eat or sell. Also if you want to get work out of them as well.
    Chicken tractors, bug patrol, weed control...etc.

    I'd lean to the more exotic as you can buy organic free range chicken eggs at most grocery stores but not so with quail.

    Have Guineas right now. Great birds, won't tear up your garden (mostly) like chickens will. Smart too and the eggs are great. They're about 2/3rds chicken egg size...like a condensed chicken egg with more flavor. Whites fluff up more so baked goods are better too.

    Think I'll be doing a mix. A few free range guineas as early warning systems to keep the chickens safer and then some quail in cages.
     
                                        
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    I hatched my first Coturnix in July, and they laid fertile eggs around the very end of August, which I hatched on the equinox.  I think they would have tremendous breeding potential -- kind of like the rodents of the poultry world.  I see that as one definite advantage over chickens -- a really fast turn around time.

    I don't know what they taste like, though.  The eggs are fine, but I don't eat my birds.  Alas, I turn everything into a pet.  Even if I wanted to eat it, I'd feel sorry for it at the last moment and give it a "pardon".
     
    ryan112ryan McCoy
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    I am always thinking of how can I situate myself so that if some event causes food shortages or stores to close, I can ramp up my food production. 

    Quail and rabbits seem to be the best way for protein.  Radishes, spinach, lettuce for greens.
     
    Emerson White
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    Chickens have better feed conversion rates from egg to stew pot.
     
    ryan112ryan McCoy
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    Emerson White wrote:
    Chickens have better feed conversion rates from egg to stew pot.


    maybe with the broilers (cornish crosses) I can't imagine your standard breeds though.  Where did you hear this?
     
    Emerson White
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    Um, comparative physiology classes. Bigger animals use less food.
     
    ryan112ryan McCoy
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    Emerson White wrote:
    comparative physiology classes. Bigger animals use less food.


    ah, so you mean they use less food relative to their body size?
     
    Emerson White
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    I mean that for a given amount of food you get a larger amount of meat when you butcher the animal at market age.
     
    Jordan Lowery
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    i have no experience with them for eggs or food. but i have them for work around here. they are very good at eating ticks. they also eat small pest bugs in the forest garden but do not eat the crops. i give them free range they are good at keeping free from danger, they multiply themselves. usually hanging out in groups of like 20-30.

     
    Robert Ray
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    In my neck of the woods wild California quail are everywhere. Prolific breeders, have a covey at least 30 of them under a brush pile that I intended to burn this fall, have left it alone so they have a place to stay for the winter.
    Love watching them race around like an Olympic sprinter leaning into the finish when I throw out some feed compared to the upright lumbering of the chickens as they come about.
    Definitely going to add Cortinux quail to the mix in the future.
     
    Emerson White
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    So what keeps quail from taking over? What factors allow them to breed prolifically on your land with no additional food but keeps them from covering the globe?

    When they are eating something you don't want the low feed conversion rate (and to be fair it is a modest difference) can be a good thing.
     
    Robert Ray
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    If I feed  in execess the covey does get larger.  They used to roost in the trees near the chicken coop sharing scratch before they moved into the brush pile from my clearing some lodgepoles on my property. I don't have to feed them but I do throw some wheat out.
    Natural predators coyotes and bobcats are present as well so I'm sure that that is a factor in population control.
    They are easy to trap making it a food source that I could utilize without any input.

    Come on Emerson if you've taken a Comparative Physiology class you would have taken other classes and you'll be familiar with bell curves and populations of animals in the wild. Perhaps this is the beginning of the curve and they will take over the globe, but I doubt it.  I'm actually wondering if alcohol might be involved in the prolific amount of babies. My hypothesis is those straight laced quail hens are letting their guard down after tipping a few and being taken advantage of. I appreciate constructive  criticism though, and will take your point and concerns under advisement. If my hypothesis proves correct preharvest self-marinated quail might be tasty.

    Rapidity of maturation of quail and their ability to produce a premium priced egg before a chicken might be advantageous for income.  A premium priced meat as compared to a chicken is also a consideration.
    Small space requirements for quail production and the ability for it to be conducted in even an apartment allows urbanites an opportunity to produce a food source that they have control over.
    Cortinuix Quail are a something I plan on using in the future. The wild California Quail a natural bonus for me that I could utilize easily.

     
     
    Jordan Lowery
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    So what keeps quail from taking over? What factors allow them to breed prolifically on your land with no additional food but keeps them from covering the globe?


    for one there native to my area. so nature has its own checks and balances.
     
    Emerson White
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    My intent was to find what makes your situation unique, obviously something is holding them back, people who have that something need to fix it before they can have a covey self sustaining on their property.
     
    Robert Ray
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    I'm sorry fix what?
    20 years in the same area and the wild quail have been ever present. I think the population has proven to be sustainable. Intelligent harvesting would be necessary, as it is with all wild animals or plants.
    As I previously stated intentional additional feed increased covey size.
     
    Emerson White
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    Someone, somewhere, doesn't have quail, but could adjust something to make a home for them. That adjustment would be fixing the problem for quail. You obviously haven't got the problems that keep quail down, but equally obvious is the fact that such problems exist for quail, otherwise they would blanket the globe. I don't feel like I'm saying anything all that complicated here.
     
    Robert Ray
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    Emerson, Cotournix quail can be added to the poultry mix anywhere. To add Cotournix you just have to provide cages you don't have to fix anything for them, no different than providing a coop for chickens.
    In my location California  quail are indigenous and of course somewhere people wouldn't have them just as I don't have elephants. I'm not going to fix my location to have elephants.

    Blanketing the Globe Don't take offense, are you serious? A touchy subject but (sorry Paul) the only unchecked species I see is man.

    We're talking about two different things here Cotournix quail brought in and an indigenous wild species that in my location could be added to the mix.
     
    Que Lawrence
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    We raise bantam chickens and coturnix quail.  The quail are in a 7'x12' chain link/wood frame enclosure.  We lined all the chain link with hardward cloth so that the quail can't get through the chain link.

    Both chickens and quail are easy.  Our quail don't lay in the winter but we still get eggs from our bantys.  We eat quail throughout the winter and by the time spring gets here, we stop eating them and they start laying like crazy and having babies.

    We like having both because we don't want to provide artificial light in the winter for the quail eggs and during the spring and summer the quail have a great turnaround cycle for meat production.  The chickens are just fun birds to us that lay also. The banty chickens also do the incubation of the quail eggs.
     
                        
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    One thing that is attractive about quail is that they are very quiet, which makes them better adapted to urban/suburban settings. The suburbanite who has chickens better be on good terms with his neighbors, and having a rooster generally guarantees a visit from the city code department. Neighbors may not even know if you keep quail, and even if they all escaped, it would not trigger a negative reaction ... but one loose chicken can cause a flap.

    Emerson White wrote:
    Chickens have better feed conversion rates from egg to stew pot...

    comparative physiology classes. Bigger animals use less food.


    How is it that the feed conversion is better for chickens than cows? Cows are much larger.
     
    Jordan Lowery
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    quail fly really well though, i don't think my neighbor( if i had one ) would like a flock of quail in his yard because of me.
     
    Robert Ray
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      You can be my neighbor, I wouldn't care. It's not likely they'd do any damage to gardens.
    We had a bunch of emu's get loose from somebody in the area a few years ago, that was interesting. Wonder the feed ratio is of an emu?
     
    Burra Maluca
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    Robert Ray wrote:
      Wonder the feed ratio is of an emu?


    Pretty good I should think, especially if it's just flown in from next door... 
     
    Emerson White
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    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.
     
    Robert Ray
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    Emus seem to have a feed ratio of 4.5:1, unless it is an illegal trespasser whose ratio would be 0:1.  So even with a quail at 3:1 I'll stick with quail.
     
    Emil Spoerri
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    Yeah, but Coturnix have to be kept in cages and brought feed. Chickens can run wild and find feed for themselves.

    We have quail where I live, but obvious a great deal of quail problems as well, as seeing a quail is an extremely rare sight. Believe me I spend time thinking about how to stop quail problems. And, wild quail will help in pest control, most notably by decimating populations of cut worms and cabbage worms. Or at least that's what one farmer thought, who lined all of his fence rows with shrubs to help deal with quail problems.

    Emerson, I have read that bantams are more efficient than regular chickens. Two sources have claimed they produce 2/3 the mass of eggs at 1/4 the mass of feed!
    They are also supposed to be superior foragers and setters to most breeds of chickens.

    Also, interestingly, from all I have read, everyone says that smaller cows make more meat and milk per acre! The most efficient milk cows are supposed to be the jersey and the dexter. What is going on here? Is it because we have increased the size of these animals as they would exist in nature and this has put a hamper on their efficiency?

    Please, as the more educated of us two, learn me good, because I am about to own a whole mess of cows and chickens and I while you probably won't convince me not to get jerseys, you may well sell me on standard over bantam!
     
    Emerson White
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    Bantams outperform dual purpose birds easily, because the dual purpose birds lay on extra meet which they have to maintain. A bantam may have behavioral differences that increase foraging efficiency. But if you are keeping your birds locked in a box so small they cant stretch their wings nothing outdoes the leghorn based layer crosses, which is why they are used in factory farms not bantams.

    Also smaller eggs mean more shell for every ounce of yolk and white.

    The larger animals are too big to maintain themselves. When you are feeding the cattle in a barn and it can stand still and lay on meat the bigger animals outperform the little guys, however if they have to constantly keep going in order find enough food to keep growing then they are going to be burning a larger percentage of the caloric value of the food in the process of getting it. Additionally any bulk in muscle department is going to do nothing to improve milk output. If you have a huge beefy cow with a small utter it is going to produce less milk than a thin slender cow with a large utter, but it will probably take more food.  That is why there are meat breeds and milk breeds. High yield in one area does not necessarily mean high yield in another, you can't count on the indicators being congruent.
     
    Emil Spoerri
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    Emerson White wrote:
    Bantams outperform dual purpose birds easily, because the dual purpose birds lay on extra meet which they have to maintain. A bantam may have behavioral differences that increase foraging efficiency. But if you are keeping your birds locked in a box so small they cant stretch their wings nothing outdoes the leghorn based layer crosses, which is why they are used in factory farms not bantams.

    Also smaller eggs mean more shell for every ounce of yolk and white.

    The larger animals are too big to maintain themselves. When you are feeding the cattle in a barn and it can stand still and lay on meat the bigger animals outperform the little guys, however if they have to constantly keep going in order find enough food to keep growing then they are going to be burning a larger percentage of the caloric value of the food in the process of getting it. Additionally any bulk in muscle department is going to do nothing to improve milk output. If you have a huge beefy cow with a small utter it is going to produce less milk than a thin slender cow with a large utter, but it will probably take more food.  That is why there are meat breeds and milk breeds. High yield in one area does not necessarily mean high yield in another, you can't count on the indicators being congruent.


    Well thank you. Some bantams are smaller versions of dual purpose breeds, they look mighty plump. Would these be less efficient?
    Brown leghorns are often written up as awesome free range birds, I have also heard it said that the egg laying breeds are more ravenous foragers than the heavy breeds, something to do with them needing higher energy in their diet and having more sheer willpower to go out and get it.

    A smaller egg can have a thinner shell no? The yolks to white proportion on bantams is tipped in favor of yolk compared to larger breeds.

    Anyone know of a good high egg laying bantam breed haha?
     
    Emerson White
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    The subtractive difference of the amount of meat on a laying breed versus a meat breed full size bird is huge, maybe as much as 3 pounds. The subtractive difference in meat on a banty is pretty insubstantial, a few ounces. Basically the smaller the animal the less the distinction between meat bird and egg bird matters.

    A smaller egg will have a slightly thinner shell, but if you separate them out and weigh them the shells will make up a larger proportion of the mass. Quail eggs are much thinner of shell than chicken eggs (banty shells aren't that much thinner than the larger birds) and even with quail eggs the shells outweigh their chicken counterparts. Size brings economies of scale, even within an animal.  Caloric needs rize with body mass at about a ^.75 power level. So if animal A is warm blooded and moderately active and so is animal B, but animal B is twice the size of A (and they live in the same climate) then B will use about 1.7 times as much food as A.
     
    ryan112ryan McCoy
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    of the people that have quail, if you clip their wings, can you let them forage in the garden without fear of them flying away?
     
    Emerson White
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    Another question about quail wing clipping. With waterfowl (who fly really well) it's better to clip just one wing so they flip to the side when they fly, does this work on quail?
     
    rose macaskie
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      Maybe its counter intuitive but I have always read that smaller animales produce protein with less intake per once of weight gain than big ones.  than bigger ones the best animal to keep if producing more for less is you aim is  the mopane worm a sort of caterpillar eaten in africa snails eaten in France and here in Spain are maybe just as prductive on little. . Look it up. it takes much more vegetables to feed up a cow than to feed us up with beans or lentils and bread say you need to eat a mixtuer of grain food and pulses to get all the amino acids meat would give you, so if you eat a lot of meat you are lowering the bread basket for hte rest of the world tha tis if it weren't that the main problems that stop us feeding the world are political ones so armies should be better for the poor than non govermental organisation but then you become a colonist which is also bad.
      i have heard big animals need more feed for kilo of meat they produce from people who are argueing about how to feed the planet thos ewho like pointing ou thow irresponsible we are because they like getting at others or because they mind about the poor and i have read it in  vegetarian books.

    It i strange how difficult it is for some to accept guilt, like for eating meat and so beggaring the world, maybe they feel more than others, the result is that problems can't get resolved because they deny they exist, they deny glbal warming say, so we should reduce peoples uncomfortableness with finding out how abusive they are, not try to increase it. i Dont mind acknowledging it which means i happily do something not everythign i could but something about it, i am not unduly affected by my badness and that makes me more efficient. agri rose macaskie.
     
    Burra Maluca
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    Warren David wrote:
    Do you actually have a point you are trying to make?


    She's trying to say that she's read that small animals are more productive than large ones, so maybe we should shift attention to eating things like snails instead of cows. 

    Rose is very well read, and although she appears to ramble it's because she's drawing the threads together to make a picture.  But you have to learn to step back to see the picture instead of focussing on single points.  It's a woman thing - it makes perfect sense to me, but we sometimes have to narrow our viewpoints down a little so the men can understand too 
     
    Emerson White
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    Growing a large animal you get more edible meat per pound of comparable food. Once they are grown the equation flips because you have to keep a bigger animal alive. If you start with say 1000 lb's of feed and a few quail or a few rock hens and a cornish roo you will end up with more pounds of meat at the end of the year with the chickens.

    Something that swings the equation the other way is the fact that larger animals like cattle have fewer offspring. While a rabbit doesn't lay on meat as efficiently as a steer does you can keep a rabbit doe alive for a year and have dozens of offspring while a whole cow will only give you one offspring. That doesn't really come into play on the chicken vs. quail question because the most highly bred chickens out breed the most highly bred quail.
     
    Robert Ray
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    Here are a couple links to others who compare quail to chicken.
      For those who can't have large animals or don't want large animals, quail are another arrow in the quiver. I think quail would be a good addition to small holdings.

    http://motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/1981-09-01/coturniz-quail.aspx

    http://florafaunadinner.blogspot.com/2010/01/chicken-vs-quail.html
     
    rose macaskie
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    robert ray, did you get the quail becaues they came to eat your hens food and then they moved to the wood pile and you fed them a bit of corn to keep them interested. The interesting thing is how you got the quail though i enjoy the discussion.
      I heard of wood piles as good for mice that would control the insect population.agri rose macaskie.
     
    Robert Ray
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    Hi Rose,  no the quail are wild quail and have always been about they just roosted near the chickens at night because their scratch/feed was  convenient they would be here whether I had chickens or not. They actually range quite a bit through the garden. My cats and dogs treat them like the chickens and ignore them thankfully.
    Usually in the wild they hide in brush piles or low bushes.
    Once I thinned some lodgepole pines early this past fall on my property and piled the brush they just migrated over to the brush piles.
    During the summer months during the day chokecherry bushes are their favorite places since the foilage goes to the ground and they are well hidden.
     
    rose macaskie
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    I suppose there are quail in Spain and i have not heard of people having them in their garden, i thought they were the sort of shy bid that does not come near peoples dwellings. rose
     
                                    
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    I have lots of wild guinea fowl running around my suburban area. I was wondering if i build them a nice habitat near my house would the move in, and would i be able to harvest some of there eggs?
     
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