My son really really wanted quail, so a couple of weeks ago we went to the feed store, and while I was buying feed he bought himself 3 quail. Two females and a male, I guess he takes after his mom because he wanted to breed quail and sell them. I think it is great, he’s only 8 years old and has a little business plan!
I thought quail were just tiny chickens, boy was I wrong, they are nothing like chickens! Here’s what we learned in our first weeks of keeping quail.
1. They are nothing like chickens
They are birds and they lay eggs, that is about as much as they have in common with chickens. Quail are actually game birds, like pheasants. Because they are different they also need different feed, quail need way more protein in their feed than chickens. They don’t seem to like mealworms, something our chickens go crazy over! They don’t use nesting boxes, their eggs just seem to fall out. They jump in place, I’ve never seen a chicken do that (unless I was keeping a mealworm above its head), but the quail just jump up all of a sudden. The male has the funniest little paring ritual, he sticks out his neck forward and walks around. When they feel threatened they get really fluffy and big, like a blowfish!
2. They are messy
There is sawdust EVERYWHERE! They are just scratching up the sawdust and taking extreme dust baths all over their cages. When you feed them they are like ravenous dogs, sticking their head in the feed bowl and then shaking their heads. Which means the feed is also everywhere. They also poop in their feeder and waterer, so daily cleaning is required.
3. They eat a lot
I swear they eat almost as much as a full grown chicken does. Quail feed is quite expensive and not readily available where we live. I had to order it on the internet, and with shipping cost, it ended up costing twice as much as a bag of chicken feed.
4. They are master escape artists
Our plan was to keep them inside at night, there is a neighborhood cat that has shown a lot of interest in chicks, and since they are the same size I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. We used the pen that we keep our chicks in when we take them outside to house the quail outside. That worked fine, for about an hour. I was on my way to hang the laundry when I noticed the pen was EMPTY! I was sure our cat had gotten in somehow and devoured our little quail after just three days. Until I looked around and saw them bathing in a patch of dirt (so happy about that, I didn’t have the heart to tell my son his quail were gone after 3 days!). I am happy that they don’t seem to be scared of us at all and were really easy to catch, not sure if that is a quail thing or just the way these quail were raised. I could just see us running all over the yard trying to catch the little buggers. So I guess a new quail coop is something on our to do list now.
5. You need more than 2 females per male
My son bought 2 females and a male, but after a couple of weeks, the females are showing that the male is mounting them too often. They are missing feathers from their back and neck. We are looking into getting at least 2 more females to relieve the ones we already have.
6. The male’s poop is foamy
I swear I thought something was wrong with the quail the first few days, there was this white foam on the poop, and I was sure that they might have been poisoned. Well, some research has taught me that it is the male that has the white foam on the poop. I have read that it is a sign of fertility, so obviously we have a fertile male.
7. Quail eggs are tiny
Ok, this is something we knew beforehand. But their eggs are tiny, it takes about 5 quail eggs to substitute one chicken egg. The taste is similar to chicken eggs, they are just much harder to peel.
Would I suggest getting quail on the modern homestead?
If you are wanting quail to keep as a pet they are fun animals. If you are looking for animals to produce food you’re better off buying chickens. If you have enough space for 3 chickens get 3 chickens because you would need at least 15 quail to get you the same amount of eggs.
Do you have quail? What are your experiences?