I sometimes see japanese quail toted as the ultimate permie fowl:
- they don't need much space
- they grow fast and have a great feed conversion rate
- the eggs they lay are very healthy and can help with allergies and asthma
- eggs sell for a premium
I have kept quail in my back yard for quite some time now but don't consider them nearly as sustainable and useful as chickens:
- Keeping them on wire may be legal in the US, it is not in Switzerland, where half of their cage must be litter. I provide deep litter (dry home compost works best) for half their space and dust/ash for a quarter, the rest being wire mesh. However, they would be much happier in a volière setting where they could fly and eat greens at will.
- they are tiny, and even tinier when you have dressed them, that is a lot of trouble for just a little bit of meat.
- they only lay if provided with 12h of daylight, I have added lighting to the setup but they still stop laying in winter.
- their eggs would indeed sell at the same price as a chicken egg, but you have to buy their feed. They will eat greens but their beaks are tiny which limits what they can eat. Quail will stop laying if the feed does not meet their requirement in protein.
- don't feed them redworms unless you can exclude a contamination by bird droppings (including their own). They can become sick, and being such small beings that usually means they will die. Larvae (mealworms etc) are fine
- my husband's hay fever has improved massively since he eats the quail eggs. But if they don't lay in early spring...
- quail cannot free range (they will fly away and lay their eggs on the ground, making it a pain to move their pen) and are flighty, they don't appreciate being handled.
- it is very difficult to get a quail to brood, their instinct is triggered by the ideal environment.
- Yes, quail cocks are quieter but they do crow and we got rid of them for waking us up at five in the morning. So you need to have a breeding setup and a source of fertilized eggs every two years minimum.
Why I'm in love with chickens
- they live largely off my kitchen scraps, they eat everything (except plastic and metal
and what they don't eat they scratch around, making great compost
- they till my garden and eat my weeds
- they're great company, will follow me around when I'm gardening and come to me when I call. These birds came from a production facility yet adapted within a few months to foraging and are quite tame.
- the eggs are a decent size! And they lay year round
- I sell half a dozen eggs per week to a family, take all their food scraps for the chickens, and that pays for the little feed they consume
- chickens are cheap: I got spent layers, an electric fence and charger, was given a house which I put on wheels I had. Cost me less than the rabbit hutch I keep my quail in.