Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coturnix Quail update

Some of you may remember that I hatched some quail about two months ago. About a week ago they began laying and I'm getting several quail eggs every day. I originally hatched 85, sold all but 17, but then sold even more as I figured out which ones were roosters. A cat killed one and caused another to himself pretty badly, which I ended up putting down and eating--- this was before the chicken butchering, it was much much easier and actually gave me the confidence to get the meat chickens. I had a few hens in one pen that were fine on their own but very aggressive when I put a rooster with them and they nearly killed him. Since I plan on breeding these birds that wasn't going to work, so I sold them too.

I ended up with too few birds so a friend that I had sold about 50 to was kind enough to allow me to buy 3 hens back. So now I'm at 8 quail, with a rooster to hen ratio of one male to 3 females. I plan on keeping one male for every five females and upping my total number of quail to 18. This will give me a dozen+ eggs a day since Coturnix are pretty reliable daily layers. A dozen quail eggs are equal to between 2-3 chicken eggs in volume.

I'm surprised at some of the difficulties I've encountered with raising the quail. Like chickens, they don't always take to being mixed with new birds. With quail though at least you can usually add a hen to a group with no trouble but mixing bigger groups can be tricky and they can be very brutal. Quail can and will kill each other if they don't get along. For these reasons, in addition to the fact that they can be a little more difficult as chicks (because of their tiny size they are prone to drowning in even a small jar lid full of water, sidenote: they also require unmedicated gamebird starter feed-- they need the higher protein) I would say they are leaning between a beginner and intermediate poultry pet.

Even with those downsides Coturnix quail have so many things going in their favor I'd be very quick to recommend them! They are quick maturers and reliable layers. Quail roosters have a very pretty call, that most people would think was a neighborhood songbird-- sounds like "look at meeeeee", so for people wanting to breed birds in the city, quail can be a way to do that (they won't usually sit on their own eggs, you will need to incubate them). The call, while pretty can start up very early in the morning, so you might not want to have a large number of roosters or people will soon be onto you! They require only about one square foot of cage space per bird so apartment dwellers, especially those with a small balcony could have them and get their own fresh eggs. (Apartments are such close living arrangements I would probably skip the rooster here, but that won't diminish your egg supply!) People plagued by HOA regulations could have them too, as it's a small caged bird I believe it falls under "regular pets". They are easier to process than chickens if you are choosing to have some for the meat (the jumbo varieties can reach up to a pound of live weight). There are all different color variations, so if you are interested in genetics, you can do some fun experimenting with different crosses to see what color combinations you get.

My quail pens, bought brand new off of Craigslist for $50 each

It is recommended that you keep them on wire (in cages), this keeps the eggs nice and clean and the birds parasite free. They are great flyers and vulnerable prey so there is no chance of free-ranging them, but I may experiment with tractoring a batch down the road just to see how it goes. The backyard chicken movement really has momentum right now, but I know very few people that keep Coturnix quail, I'm hoping that more people discover them because they're great producers of eggs and meat and such a fun versatile bird.