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any experience with quail?

 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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I've been mulling the idea of trying some quail in my backyard homestead.  What I've heard about them sounds great, but it's all been rather general.  I can't seem to find any resources for people interested in keeping quail in anything like a holistic/ethical way.  All I've seen are basically battery-type cages, writ small.  I don't want to do that, but it's looking like I may have to just take my best guess as to how to keep them, since I can't find any alternatives discussed.  I'm willing to just sort of try it and see how it goes, if I must.  My goal would be to keep them in some kind of rotational grazing system.  But I'd prefer to hear from anyone with any sort of experience with quail.

Here's what I know:
I'd be interested in them for both meat and eggs.  I understand that if I want a self-perpetuating flock I'll need to keep a higher ratio of males to females than with chickens.  I also understand that they are not likely to brood or rear their own young, so a banty hen might be necessary.  I understand they convert feed to eggs more efficiently than chickens (no surprises there, given their size), and that they can start laying as young as 6 weeks old.  I understand they have a strong flight impulse when startled and that they are competent fliers, so that will need to be dealt with.

Here's what I don't know:

What their sleeping and laying habits are.  Will they roost or what is their instinct at the end of the day?  Do they lay in a nesting box if one is provided?

How or whether they can be used as workers in the garden for pest control, manuring, or light tillage.  I've heard they will not uproot small plants as chickens will do, but details remain very sketchy.

How hardy they are.  I'm in zone 6b, and I'm used to getting my chickens out of the wind in winter but not providing heat for them.  No idea what the quail would tolerate.



-Can anyone fill me in on any of these issues, or point me to any print or online resources for quail?  Thanks!
 
Bull norris
Posts: 50
Location: Chanute Kansas
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they will drop an egg anywhere. and all over.
the cats and bird dogs will eat more of them than i did.
ive had dogs hit my yard cages and roll it cach a leg or wing and pull a quail apart - all of them. i think if i ever try it again ill go with a raised rabbit hutch with the door on top.
And 1/4 in hail screen bottom.
i tryed the yard cages and had fun watching them and lissoning to them.
And flyer bird for not sports shooting are 3.5 to 4.5 each.
This is in S.E. Kansas and the temp can go to 20 below they can huddle up and make it if they can get out of the wind. The  hayfields can get up in to the 120's so shade and water help.
 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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Thanks much for the reply, Bull.  Good to fill in some of the things I don't know.  We haven't had much issue with dogs before, but part of our fence came down late last year.  So we may start to have problems with incursions.  I'll think carefully about that before taking the plunge with quail.

I'm not sure what you meant by: "And flyer bird for not sports shooting are 3.5 to 4.5 each."  Are you talking about price?  Weight?  Something else?  Please clarify, if you would.
 
Bull norris
Posts: 50
Location: Chanute Kansas
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Sorry , first i have a terable time spelling.
flyer's is code @ here for raised bird to shoot ,4.5 is $ = $ 4.50 there full size and ready to eat birds.
And the cats, dont freget the cats they try to eat everything in a cage. You will have an issue if there are bird dog around,they get wind of your birds ,and go nuts.
I did buy some to raise for the summer,just to hear them call .the that night the yard pen was across the yard and nothing left but some feathers.
i just bought 16 rabbit cages, i may try quail again but up high.
The best luck i have seen is old pet rabbit huches, wow they can lay lots of eggs in a short
time.  Try a few first ,to see what can go wrong.  yell at me any time.
 
Roger Merry
Posts: 109
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The trouble with quail is that they've been developed as battery farmed birds and have largely lost the instinct to lay in nests or brood/rear young. Outside of batteries you're going to have a job finding and collecting eggs from a planted area.
Wherever you keep them you'll need a roof because they take off straight up when frightened . Battery cages aren't high enough for the birds to do themselves much damage when they hit the roof - in aviary type accomadation they scalp themselves all to readily.
They're easy to hatch and rear in an incubator/heatlamp set up.
They're good at pest control in the garden taking aphids etc. without doing too much damage to perrennials.
I guess meat production (with an incubator for hatching) would be easy enough and you could collect enough eggs for that.
I'd go with guinea fowl over quail - less damage than chickens, good pest control, hatch and rear with broody hens and great "guards" .......... good eating too 
 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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Bull, thanks for the clarification.  I doubt we have any bird dogs in the neighborhood, but I'll keep predator threats in mind.

RNM, while I admire the qualities of guineas, I'm on 2/3 acre in a residential neighborhood.  Know what I mean?  Part of the appeal of quail is that they're very quiet.  Under the radar livestock, so to speak.  As for their flight impulse, I was thinking I would rig a very lightweight poultry pen I have with a floating ceiling of burlap inside.  That would give them something soft to bounce against.  But I'm not convinced yet that I will even try quail.  I'm still thinking it over.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I've done some research on quail, and for now have decided to stick with chickens and rabbits (and the dairy goats).  Quail do appeal, because of the 'stealth' aspect, but on the other hand some people have said that they can be noisy, too, just probably not as bad as roosters crowing at two am!

Kathleen
 
Roger Merry
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Ok residential area + guinea fowl not a good combo 

The burlap thing would work - or small mesh nylon mesh (which would let some light in) I think a small scale moveable ark set up would work well but I thought you wanted to keep them in amongst crops. They do call quite a bit but don't sound "domestic" - I'd try  a few and see how it goes.................. if it doesn't work out they're jolly tasty   
 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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@ rnm

Yeah, like I said, I'm still thinking this through.   I have a tractor built to fit my garden beds.  So in theory I could rig the floating burlap in there, and put them in with crops.  But they'd need to be low crops, and I'm not sure I fancy them pooping on my root vegetables or salad greens.  Also, I'm not picturing how I would go about moving the tractor.  It's easy with chickens, since they're much bigger.  Just hold the tractor a few inches above the ground and move them slowly.  I'm not sure that would work with tiny quail.

Obviously, I've got more thinking to do.  Thanks for the input.
 
John Polk
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Here are a few sources to check out.  I was looking into quail last year, but until I get settled in, I've got too many irons in the fire.  I bookmarked these links then, and I'm certain that most have other links you can follow.

http://www.howtoraisequail.com/
http://www.olesensflyway.com/BOBWHITE_QUAIL.html
http://www.lakecumberlandgamebirds.com/index1.html

Hope that those can help you find the path.  Good luck (and, when's dinner?)
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Yeah I've had experiene with them.. My relatives have 3,000 acres of hunting preserve in south Georgia and raise quail in numbers.. A few things I know.. As chicks they're a little noisy at times.. They start laying eggs very young.. There isn't very much cannablism as you may see with chickens.. At night when I visited their enclosures they've been pretty quiet.. Vertical space can be important, they sometime panic and jolt skyward only to crack their lil head.. A buffer of some sort is encouraged. I'm buying some eggs and having a friend of mine heatlamp-incubate them.. There's a contact close that has very wild-natured birds that I hope to keep around a while, collect manure, and release on my property.

 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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Thanks, John and Livingwind, for the input.  At the moment I'm less inclined to make quail a project for this year.  I've got a lot of other projects that are higher up the priority list at the moment, though I'll reassess in three or four months.  That just gives me more time to do research before trying them next year.  I'm slowly getting a bit smarter about these things - thinking and reading about something, and giving myself time to literally prepare the ground, before diving into another homesteading experiment.
 
Bull norris
Posts: 50
Location: Chanute Kansas
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I love to heard the little birds. If we buy the new house i may buy some , its just the ground pens i willnot leave alone again . things just happen , but ill do better,i have some new rabbit cages that stack ?
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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we have a family of about 30-40 running around our property. we don't hunt them as they eat the ticks. plus there so beautiful and funny. they LOVE the forest garden and are in there in the mornings almost daily.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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soil wrote:
we have a family of about 30-40 running around our property. we don't hunt them as they eat the ticks. plus there so beautiful and funny. they LOVE the forest garden and are in there in the mornings almost daily.
Interestin. So you raised by hand give or take, and they've stayed in the vicinity? I've seen a few coveys locally after a wild release myself..
 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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Now that's some Russian gobbledegook!  I know my Russian is rusty, but I also know a lot of that is ungrammatical nonsense.  Ballerina diets, sugar and blood diets, pancreatic diets, post-operative diets, and Kelly Osborne diets.  Doesn't make much sense, but at least it flexes some linguistic muscles.
 
                                
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Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife wrote:  Doesn't make much sense, but at least it flexes some linguistic muscles.
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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Quail is a bit broad are you talking bobwhite or cortinix/pharo? Bobwhite are easy to raise and keep well in a large group. Cortinix are as easy to raise but the males have a tendency to fight when housed together. Also male cortinix have a distinctive louder "crow". People in a neighborhood may overlook bobwhite but that noise from a cortinix will make them curious.  You said you are looking for eggs and meat and it is in both of these cortinix excell. they are larger birds with a larger eggs and lay a lot of them. As far as self perpetuaing flock be prepared to get an incubator and raise chicks with any breed of captive quail. Both cortinix and bobwhite will lay eggs where they are although bobwhite might prefer a nest or at least nesting material. Quail are not known for roosting but rather huddling together on the ground. As far as usefullness in the garden quail fly realy well and you have to keep your guard up when opening any cage or enclosure containing quail. In other words the smallest slip and you are watching a bird or whole flock flying away. Now if you had a tractor of sorts they do scratch but nowhere near like a chicken does. Qual being game birds are more tolerant of cold but heat can stress them. i would still put them out of the wind if it was cold just like chickens. Basically keeping quail is all about small eggs, meat, and some manure to compost. Perhaps you can sell some as well as selling feathers to flyfishermen but I can not think of any other reasons to have them and none if you already have chickens unless you want to eat them.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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down the road people used to raise quail, in a large flock, free range, but dogs got most of them and the ones that didn't get got by dogs just left..
 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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ive raised quail in the past.  and i found no joy in having them. i raised them in battery type pens.  you want breeding pairs or trio.  one rooster, to one or two hens.  max.  bobwhites are very wild and flighty, even if hand raised from hatching.  hard to keep alive to adult hood,  and using antibiotics is a must to keep them alive.  first batch i ever raised, i hatched 75,  and ended up wit upper 20's to  adulthood.  hard for me to keep them alive.  these bobwhites just werent suitable for battery brooder or battery cage IMO.  they were good eating and excellent layers. but rough on each other. very cannabalistic.  even though the meat was good.  the egg consistancy was different than chicken and i didnt care for it.  so from my standpoint. i found the cons out weighted the pros and i released what i had left.  they hung around a few days and then disappeared.  just like released quail seem to do.

i also raised cortunix.  the Texas A&M whites.  a good breed.  very calm for a quail.  thick meaty birds and outlay anything alive i believe.  still a little rough on one another.  but not near as bad as the bobwhites were.  these i would consider raising.  but right now i have no interest in them either.  but if someone was to ask my opinion, id strongly suggest the cortunix.  esp. the ones bred for meat and captivity. 
 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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Thanks for all the responses. The coturnix is the breed I was considering.  Partly just out of curiosity, partly for the meat, and partly because I think I should be able to figure out how to use them for pest control in the garden.  Still ruminating on that last one.
 
                
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Can I get some clarification on the coturnix?  If you have only females is there much noise?  How long can I expect them to lay for?  I'm having a hard time finding anything but eggs, know anywhere that ships young adults?
 
                                    
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BlueDog wrote:
Can I get some clarification on the coturnix?  If you have only females is there much noise?  How long can I expect them to lay for?  I'm having a hard time finding anything but eggs, know anywhere that ships young adults?


Ah, I've got about 50 Coturnix right now.  They are super easy to raise, and fun, sweet little birds. They do pluck the feathers out of the females heads during mating, but otherwise no real troubles.  They are, IMHO, very quiet.  Yes, the roos crow at all hours, day and night, but it is about as loud as a cricket, certainly not as loud as a katydid in the late summer, and I personally find it very peaceful.  Temperment, Coturnix are a whole 'nother breed compared to all other quail.  Bobwhites and other quail are wild, flighty, and agressive.  Coturnix have the temperment of a chicken -- they just come running up to me to see what I'm bringing them, and I can reach right down and pick them up any time I want to.  They cannot, however, "free range" except perhaps in a well-fenced yard IF you clip the wings -- they retain enough wild instinct that they just leave, never to be seen again.  And, being so small, everything would eat them anyway, so better safely caged.  They lay as long as there is more than 12 hours of daylight, but you can light them in winter to extend that.  The eggs are about equal to maybe 1/6th of a hen's egg, but cute and tasty.  They will NOT as a rule incubate a clutch, so if you want more, you will need an incubator.  Incubation is 16 to 18 days, and as a rule, they're pretty trouble-free there, too.  Chicks are tiny, so you have to take extra precautions with food and water.  Need to be fed at least 26 -28 % protein as chicks, and about 22% or higher as adults -- I feed 26% gamebird crumbles to all of them.  When tiny chicks, you need to keep marbles in the water tray or they will drown in a half an inch of water.

Here are some photos of mine:

Chicks



Adults



On edit, I just wanted to say that I haven't eaten any of mine (yet).  I got them last year basically as ornamental birds, but this year, I'm going to try raising some for meat.  I was going for colors and patterns last year, but this year am going to order some eggs of either jumbos or Texas A&M's, which are the larger, meatier strains, as soon as my incubators are empty.
 
John Polk
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Here is one source for the coturix baby chicks:

http://www.cacklehatchery.com/gamebirdpage.html#pharaoh
 
                
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Thank you so much.  Have you heard if the jumbos have similar temperaments and egg production?
 
John Polk
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I'm not familiar with raising them.  I just had "Cackle's" site bookmarked from when I was researching them.  If you are thinking of raising meat birds (chickens) check out Cackle's "Fry Pan Special".  Very tempting!

 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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I'm not sure if this is appropriate so I won't be offended if it is removed:

I have been happier with 'Cackle' than any other place.  I will  not be using anyone else from now on.  (my last batch of birds was not from there ops

As for quail, I  have eaten it regularly and if I were going to raise something I think I would like a little bigger mouthful.  Matter of fact I still have two in the freezer that I have passed over because even my small heritage chickens have more meat to sink your teeth into and the taste - in my opinion - is just as good.  Quail are very pretty birds though.
 
John Polk
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I don't feel anything is inappropriate about that.  Whatever we buy online, we have dozens/hundreds of choices to choose from.  Without feedback from people who have dealt with any of those choices, we are depending on dumb-blind-luck.  It is nice to hear actual feedback from people who have dealt with a company (good, or bad feedback), as that helps us all make better choices.

Everything I have heard (so far) about Cackle has been positive, so they are certainly on my list of companies I will try.  As I said earlier, that "Fry Pan Special" certainly looks tempting:
http://www.cacklehatchery.com/page10.html#frypanspecial
 
                
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I got six little cotounix today!  They are super cute but alas, one has already crowed (warbled?gobbled?) and I saw another mounting a cage mate.  I know the crower is a male but should I conclude the mounting one is also or will females sometimes do that?  They are both mostly white so I can't go on coloring.

Also, I was sold laying mash.  I would like to offer them the most natural diet so should I be putting in trays of grasses?  Seeds?  Greens?  All the above?
 
Leila Rich
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I had Japanese quail as a kid and spent a fair amount of time finding them their favourite foods.
They loved seeding grasses, berries and insects. Grasshoppers were popular and watching quail chase them around provided hours of entertainment
 
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