Keeping quail has become quite popular with homesteaders. While they may not replace chickens as the most common poultry bird on a homestead, they are being raised for both their delicious meat and tiny but tasty little eggs by many self-reliant folks across the country.
Quail are a perfect poultry bird for small homesteaders to keep. They take up far less space to keep than chickens, ducks, or geese, and cost a lot less to raise to maturity.
When we were gifted our first quail, and that’s when I started seeing for myself some of their main benefits.
These beautiful and quiet birds are especially well-suited for keeping by urban and small homesteaders. Some folks that are hampered by either state or local livestock laws (or both) have taken to keeping quail on a patio, or inside bird cages.
While quail are actually wild game birds, their size and nature has allowed them to slip through government loopholes due to their small stature, some municipalities just simply can’t figure out how to classify them.
A large parrot cage will offer ample roof for keeping at four or even five quail in humane fashion.
Even if you have a large homestead, quail still have a lot to offer. You can add these easy keepers to your barnyard without spending hundreds of dollars to build a full-size coop and run.
A growing number of large homesteaders and survivalist homesteaders (myself included) are breeding quail to release into their woods to increase their population, and to use them for future hunting purposes.
Quail used to live in the forest around the United States in large numbers, but due to encroachment upon their space and in some regions, nuisance predators roaming unchecked, the number of wild quail has dwindled substantially over the past decade.
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Top Reasons To Raise Quail
- The quietness of quail is one of the most popular reasons they are raised on small 10 acres or less homesteads and in both suburban and urban environments.
- The small, simple, and inexpensive enclosures needed to house a covey are yet another reason raising them is gaining popularity.
- They are far less expensive to raise than any other type of meat or egg bird.
- They are a highly sustainable type of protein source to raise because they mature so quickly and reproduce readily in captivity.
- They are solid egg layers and will provide a consistent number of eggs daily for typically two years when kept in a healthy manner.
- Breeding quail to sell to high-end grocery stores and specialty meat markets can become a lucrative homestead side hustle.
- Selling their beautiful and surprisingly sturdy feathers to crafters and fly-fishing anglers and lure makers is yet another way the members of your covey can help line your pockets.
- Quail manure is a superb fertilizer. You can use it to create rich soil for your crops or sell it at farmers markets etc. for other gardeners to use. Be mindful that quail manure is highly right in nitrates and use only once fully processed so that it does not burn off nitrate-sensitive crops.
Quick Pros and Cons Comparison Table
|✅ Tasty eggs||❌ Short average lifespan of about 2 years|
|✅ Require very little space||❌ Aggressive mating habits|
|✅ They are pretty quiet||❌ They don’t necessarily use nesting boxes to lay their eggs|
|✅ They grow very fast – 6 weeks to maturity|
|✅ Cheap to raise|
|✅ Good egg layers|
|✅ Plucking, butchering and cooking similar to chickens and ducks|
Quail Quick Facts
- Quail are a part of the pheasant family.
- Quail are often confused with partridges due to their similar features.
- There are more than 130 breeds of quail.
- The average lifespan of a quail is only two years.
- Bobwhite quail are the most commonly residentially kept and wildly spotted types of quail in the United States.
- The Coturnix breed of quail is the most popular with commercial keepers and residential keepers raising these small game birds exclusively for meat. Coturnix are the broilers of the quail realm. They have the most rapid growth rate of all quail breeds. Coturnix are awesome proteins produced and mature at only 8 weeks old. Once mature, a Corturnix dresses out at approximately 8 ounces. Hens of this breed are capable of laying up to 200 eggs a year and start laying when they are just six weeks old.
- The California Quail is also another fine meat bird of this type, and is also the state bird of California.
- A group of quail is not called a flock, but is known as a covey.
Quail Keeping Basics
Quail are smaller than any Bantam (banty) chicken breed, but they are still often good at holding their own with larger poultry birds.
The average mature (non-Coturnix) quail weighs only about five ounces.
I have not had a problem keeping quail in the same coop and run as mature ducks. There have been no problems so far keeping quail in a coop and run with nearly mature meat and egg chicken breeds.
While they are getting along safely with cockerels (young roosters) the little game birds might have to be relocated once the roosters mature. Time will tell. I have never had a problem keeping ducks with mature roosters, but other homesteaders have watched tragedy unfold in the same shared housing.
Quail are a whole lot quieter than chickens and ducks. Keeping quail on an outdoor patio can be done discreetly, and for those of you that have neighbors, it is unlikely they will ever be alerted to their presence.
When quail do make a noise it is either a vibration that sounds similar to a cell phone vibrating on a table or a songbird series of utterances. Male quail are typically far more quiet than females.
A male quail (often called roosters just like with chickens) can make a tiny little crow noise during the day, during mating, or when stalking another male in an aggressive way. This is not a loud noise, but some male quail can become rather persistent with it.
I have not heard or noticed this type of behavior with any of our dozen or so quail, but keepers have heard it on a regular basis – although never loudly.
The sight and scent of blood may draw more potentially deadly pecking by other covey members. Always separate any injured quail and treat their wounds as necessary.
However, both males and females do many low cooing and trilling when they see their favorite human approaching. Some owners find the quail song to be soothing and sweet.
In general, the quail is a much quieter bird than a duck or goose.
Keeping quail for the bird’s delicious meat should be approached from a quality not quantity perspective.
The more quail you keep the more meat you will get of course, but you will never yield as much meat from a covey of 12 birds as you would from a flock of a dozen chickens of any breed.
But, you will produce protein-rich meat far more quickly, which is a huge bonus from both a cost and survival perspective. In just a manner of seven weeks, you can butcher a quail – that’s an amazingly quick turn around.
You can prepare quail meat in all the same ways that you can chicken or duck meat. Butchering quail is done in the same manner as a chicken, it does not take quite as long either.
It is entirely possible to go from butchering to cooking in just five minutes. You can choose to boil or pluck quail, just as you would chicken or ducks.
Quail have been both hunted and raised both in Europe and Asia as a prime meat source for centuries. The fat content of a quail is similar to that of chicken, meaning you can make delicious noodles from them, as well.
Meat from a quail contains four times more vitamin C than meat from chickens. It also boasts more than three times more iron than chicken and four percent more than even beef sirloin.
Chicken meat contains zero vitamin A and quail meat does, as well as containing substantially more amino acids and minerals than chicken meat, as well.
While I would not necessarily recommend it, some folks (especially in Asia) eat quail bones (except the thick end of the drumstick) and all because the bones of the bird are thin in miniscule.
Mature quail hens typically lay up to one egg per day. Quail should be expected to start laying eggs far more quickly than chickens, ducks, and hens.
It is not uncommon for a quail hen to lay her first egg when she is only two months old – that is far quicker than the 18 to 20 weeks it typically takes for a chicken hen to lay her first egg.
Like chicken and duck hens, a quail hen will lay unfertilized eggs, so no male is necessary to raise these tiny game birds simply for their nutrient-rich eggs.
Quail Egg Nutrition Facts (Based upon one standard 9 gram quail egg)
- Calories: 14
- Fat: 1 gram
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Riboflavin: 6 percent of the recommended daily value
- Choline: 4 percent of the recommended daily value
- Vitamin A: 2 percent of recommended daily value
- Folate: 2 percent of the recommended daily value
- Pantothenic Acid: 3 percent of the recommended daily value
- Vitamin B12: 6 percent of the recommended daily value
- Selenium: 5 percent of the daily value
- Iron: 2 of the recommended daily value
- Phosphorus: 2 percent of the recommended daily value
Both riboflavin and selenium are vital nutrients that enable our bodies to break down the food we consume, and transfer it into energy.
Selenium also aids in the healthy function of the thyroid. Selenium and riboflavin are important nutrients that help your body break down the food you eat and transform it into energy. Selenium also helps ensure healthy thyroid function.
Choline is important in the body’s production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that routes messages from our nervous system to muscles. Iron and vitamin B12 help enhance the nervous system function and in the maintenance of energy levels via their impact on red blood cell formation.
While more research is necessary, quail eggs may help alleviate some allergic reaction symptoms according to a Healthline report.
Some folks opt to raise quail simply for their eggs because they find them simply too pretty to eat.
Some quail breeds boast a beautiful plume on top of their small heads, these birds are definitely praised for their attractiveness by keepers. The dainty little birds are rather attractive – but they are yummy, as well.
Male quail, as it goes with most male birds of any breed, are often more colorful than females to help them attract a mate.
Brown, gray, black, and white are the most common colors among quail breeds. There can be a mingling of various colors and even scale-like patterns on the underbellies of some breeds.
The price for a quail will depend upon several factors:
- its age,
- and the typical market prices in your particular region.
Typically, quail that are young or even mature cost only a couple of dollars a piece.
When budgeting for quail, keep the recommended male to female ratio in mind. One hen for every male is the best. If there are too few females for a male, he will over tax the hens by excessive mating which can result in serious to deadly health issues for the hen.
Although male quails are not as prone to aggression as roosters, they are not as docile with each other as drakes – male ducks. If too many males are kept in close proximity or are forced to compete for the hens, deadly attacks can occur.
Watching quail can be quite fun for the whole family. After observing them for only a short while, it becomes easy to tell even almost identical-looking birds apart due to their intriguing habits and favorite sing-song sounds.
Although a quail is not going to want to sit on your shoulder, and hang out like a cockatiel or a parrot (or a rather unusual rooste I once had) they do often develop a bond with their keepers and exhibit something like affection or at least affectionate sounds towards them as they approach to feed or release them for free ranging.
A happy cooing sound might be used when you are offering a treat to the quail – which they can become rather demanding to get again, if they enjoy it.
The more you handle the quail when they are very young, the higher the likelihood they will let you hold them as needed during transport or when offering medical attention.
Flying and Foraging
Quail can fly, but do so more like a hovering helicopter than a jetliner. They do not need to “make a run for it” to catch wind like chickens and ducks.
Quail can go from a sitting position straight up into the air and out. But, their flight is as short as it is swift. It would be incredibly unusual for a quail to fly more than, at most, 15 feet at a single stretch before landing and resting for a decent amount of time.
Quail of avid foragers and will do a great job ridding your homestead, backyard, or garden from a vast array of unwanted bugs. As a quail ages it will still forage for sources of protein, but will begin to favor berries and seeds more.
Some keepers content quail will stray a lot further than a chicken when free-ranging to forage food, at least partially due to their quick bursts of flight.
I have found that if you keep the quail in a brooder longer and then in their forever enclosure for about four weeks, they become far more content and comfortable staying closer to home than wandering further in search of a meal.
Training quail on your turn out and put up routine can be done with a treat just as it is often done with chickens and ducks.
I gave the quail a tiny bit of bread or other treat each day at the same time to mimic the put up routine even though they were secluded inside of a brooder or enclosure to familiarize them with the routine.
Once moved outdoors, the quail would hear the sound of my ATV start up, and they immediately began making their little sounds and hopping around to get the best vantage point for the arrival of their meal.
On occasion, some quail would pop right out the door when I opened it because they were so excited, and then walk right back in on their own when I would open the door once more.
It was also not uncommon for the quail to come stand either in-between or directly on my or my husband’s boots during feed time either as a show of affection or to make sure the far larger chickens did not run them off their feed… or both.
Due to their size, quail may be at a far greater threat from common barnyard predators than chickens. Raising the quail alongside the chickens or with their own protective flock of guinea fowl will give them a self-defense edge.
Not only is there safety in numbers, but guineas are the watchdogs of the farm bird world, and will quickly alert the other members of the flock (or covey) to dange and typically attack whatever comes near the group.
Quail are ground dwellers by nature which can offer them a better chance of camouflage than some other poultry birds, making that their best and perhaps only, source of self-preservation.
White quail will obviously fare better from a camo level during winter months than they will during the other three seasons, depending upon your geographic location.
It is not rare for a quail to go entirely unnoticed until it is startled, and takes flight quickly in their natural environment.
Quail LOVE taking dust baths, far more so than even the most social of chicken hens. They usually have far less problems with common barnyard parasite pests than chickens.
Where to Get Your Quail Covey
Finding a local quail breeder could prove rather difficult in some areas. Expert to go to a professional breeder either personally or more likely online to find the first members of your covey.
While waiting for your quail to arrive at the post office, get a brooder ready just as you would for chicks or ducklings, complete with safe bedding, a heat lamp, a waterer, and a feeder. Follow the same heat recommendations for chicks when planning your warming and cooling areas in the quail brooder.
Incubating Quail Eggs
As noted, it takes approximately 18 days for quail eggs to hatch, on average. While not exactly common, a quail egg would hatch in as few as 15 days or take as long as 20 days to hatch. On day 14 of the incubation period, stop turning the quail eggs.
Quail eggs may remain viable for up to one week after being laid if they have been exposed to heat no colder than the 50 F (10 C).
Place the eggs in the incubator pointy side down. Keep the humidity level inside of the brooder at 45 percent during the first 14 days of incubation. Quail eggs are best incubated at the 99.5 degree heat level.
You can place quail inside of a typical chicken coop, but you do not need that much space or height to safely and humanely raise quail. They simply need a safe place out of the weather that offers predator protection – with a run if they are not going to free-range.
You can use a rabbit hutch to keep the quail, and enclose the bottom area with hardware cloth to give them the ground space they will crave. Allowing each quail to have one square foot of moving space will provide a healthy environment for the covey to thrive in.
Quail Husbandry Basics
Quail can eat chicken starter when they are hatchlings. Being a game bird, it is best to provide them with a feed that has a minimum of 24 percent protein content. Pellets are a bit too large and hard for quail, especially young ones, to eat. Purchase crumble or mash varieties of feed when keeping quail to ensure they are getting their dietary needs safely fulfilled.
These birds are technically omnivores, but as noted above, morph into more of a “grainivore” as they age. They will always eat grass, grain (seeds) and bugs when they are free ranging to varying degrees.
Because quail chicks could be significantly prone to contracting coccidiosis, some keepers always give them medicated chick starters.
I do not use medicated chick starter to any of our barnyard birds because I like to raise them all as naturally and chemical-free as possible.
Instead, I sprinkle cinnamon, oregano, basil, turmeric, and garlic on their feed to help prevent coccidiosis and other potential medical issues. This has worked amazingly well for me, but your experience could vary.
Provide grit and oyster shells to the quail not only as a form of grit to help with their digestion, but also to help increase their calcium level and thicken the shells of their tiny eggs. Because quail can often lay one egg per day, their calcium levels can be depleted quickly if not supplemented in some manner.
Any snack or scrap that is safe for your chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl will be safe for your quail to eat, as well. Our quail absolutely love chomping on the stalks of our dwarf banana trees when they are cut back and covered in the fall so they can sustain through our frigid Ohio winters.
Quail will not turn their beaks up at nesting boxes, but there is no guarantee they will use them consistently – or at all.
I have found that quail hens are a lot more like my Pekin ducks when it comes to egg laying. They will simply plop them out wherever they happen to be when the urge strikes and then quite often, ignore the eggs and go on about their daily business.
The most deadly disease that could impact your covey is the aptly named, Quail Disease or Ulcerative Enteritis. This bird killing disease is an infection that is spread throughout the covey through fece droppings and spread bird to bird – with sometimes great speed.
Lesions are formed in the intestines of the affected quail and then anemia sets in. If caught early, there is potential to save the quail but doing too often requires a vet and antibiotics.
All quail that may have come into contact with the sick bird or its bacteria-filled droppings must be treated as well to stop the spread.
Chickens can also contract quail diseases but typically can fight it off effectively on their own. Keeping the habitat clean and making sure it is large enough to suit the covey can greatly help prevent quail disease from becoming present or spreading quickly. Symptoms of quail disease include lethargy, diarrhea, and drooping wings.
The higher ammonia concentration in quail droppings can cause respiratory infections if the covey is kept in a dirty or too small of a confined space. Watch for signs of breathing difficulty, sneezing, and listlessness to catch respiratory troubles early.
Symptoms of Respiratory Infections
- Rattled breathing
- Decreased egg production
- Snotty nose
Respiratory Infection Treatment
Consulting a vet is the recommended best option for treating a respiratory infection in quail. If you homestead on a budget and like treat your animals (and your family) as naturally as possible like I do (or calling a vet is not possible), I recommend trying the herb balls as noted above.
To aid a single quail, I use ½ a teaspoon each of cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, basil, garlic – and a few pinches of thyme and tarragon, and black pepper can help too. Simply roll a quarter size piece of bread into a ball and then roll the bread ball in the herbs and feed
I typically do this two times a day when our poultry birds or goats are struggling with a respiatory issue.
Separate any sick quail from other birds, and thoroughly disinfect the coop and run area. Keeping the coop, run, waterer, and feeder clean may help curtain a plethora of bacteria and parasite issues.
This is yet another bacterial infection that spreads from bird to bird. Coryza often begins with an infection in a chicken that is then transmitted to other poultry birds. This disease can be picked up at a poultry show even though the birds are not necessarily kept in the same cages.
- Swollen face
- Weeping eyes
- Snotty beaks
- Breathing difficulty
- Foul stench
A vet will be needed to help save a quail with this disease. Keeping quail separated from potentially infected birds, or chickens (who can be silent carriers of the disease) in general, may help prevent coryza contraction.
Never enter a coop or run after handling or caring for an infected bird without cleaning up and especially disinfecting your boots.
Coryza can cause a cold or flu type sickness in poultry birds, with the exception of quail. Contracting the bactierial infection can cause a respiratory infection in quail.
This disease must be caught early in quail to have a chance of saving the bird and stopping the rapid spread of the infection to the rest of the covey.
This is a deadly disease that affects a myriad of poultry birds, especially young chickens and quail. A miniscule protozoan enters the bird’s body through ingestion and then weakens its immune system.
If you’ve been around poultry and game birds long enough, you know that coccidiosis is a common problem, especially for young birds. This is why so many keepers prefer medicated chick starter to help prevent this type of infection.
As noted above, I do not use medicated chick starter because I prefer natural prevention methods.
- Closed, seepy, or sleepy looking eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Ruffled feathers
Corid is a common treatment for coccidiosis if it is caught early enough, and can usually be found at Tractor Supply, Rural King, and similar agricultural supply stores.
Keeping the quail habitat clean and providing enough room for the recommended freedom of movement may help prevent the contraction and spread of this deadly poultry bird disease.
Because the bacteria is found in the bird feces, make sure to elevate the waterers and feeders in the coop and disinfect them regularly – especially if your birds like to use the top of this equipment as perch.
Keeping the living quarters clean, providing a dust bath, and sprinkling diatomaceous earth (DE) onto feed, usually goes a long way in the prevention and removal of common parasites from a coop and run.
- Weight loss
- Irritated Skin
- Feather Loss
A commercial dewormer can be purchased via an agricultural supply store or a vet. I use natural means like the DE noted above. garlic, and pumpkin as prevenatitive and treatment measures for parasites like worms and mites.
Make sure to thoroughly read the label of any commercially manufactured dewormer and closely adhere to any and all guidelines relating to use and the consumpton of meat or eggs from the birds – or even their young since quail so quickly reproduce.
In the wild, habitat destruction and hunting has been the leading cause of demise for quail. Not in the United States, but in some countries baby quail are fired out of a cannon and then shot down on game farms.
Some species of quail have become endangered because of these two facts, and perhaps because of their use in animal research experiments.
In the factory farm environment, stress, de-beaking, overcrowding, and ammonia fumes are the primary causes of pre-butchering deaths among quail.
Both in the wild and when free-ranging on the homestead, quail face the same common predators as chickens and ducks.
- Birds of prey, such as hawks, owls, falcons, or eagles, can swoop down and snag a quick meal in mere seconds after spotting a quail outside of a coop or pen. Raptors like those noted above tend to favor snatching up adult quail and not young birds, but all quail can be highy attractive to a hunting bird of prey with a hungry belly. If proper cover is nearby, a running and not flying quail may stand the best chance at avoiding being gripped by a larger bird’s feed and flown away from home.
- Raccoons also post a threat to quail. These clever pests will eat mature birds, young birds, hatchings, and any eggs they can steal. Using hardware cloth and not chicken wire on the quail enclosure, along with a two-step lock on their coop door, can help deter coons from stealing your pretty little meat and egg birds.
- Mink are common barnyard pests love to dine upon any poultry bird they can catch. The same prevention measures advised above for raccoons can also help deter mink and their roden cousins like weasels, from stealing membes of your covey. Mink like to roam close to a ditch, culvert, or other slightly marshy area and move about only in covered areas. Keep this in mind when deciding where to place a quail habitat.
- Foxes and coyotes are predators of all poultry birds, and quails are no exception. Their small size might give them a bit of an edge if their feathers help camo them during a particular season. The quick but short-;ived flight of a quail could make it more difficult to catch than a duck or chicken during free ranging time.
- Skunks are more prone to stealing poultry eggs and sometimes getting a chick or two than attacking more mature poultry birds. But, do not underestimate either the claws or the hungar of a skunk in pursuit of a meal.
- Snakes are also a threat to quail that are free ranging or if they can find a way into a coop or run. Eggs are easy pickings for a snake, but even young snakes of many breeds are fully capable of killing a mature quail due to their small size anad tiny bones.
Basically, any forest or backyard pest that poses a threat to chickens and ducks, are also quail predators. Providing ample areas of cover and spaces where only something as small as they are can rush inside, will help protect quail from predators.
Keeping quail can be a rewarding and tasty experience. I caution you fellow homesteaders, keeping quail can become just as addictive as keeping chickens and ducks.
Keep in mind the need for possible future habitat expansion when deciding both where and how to build your first covey home.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.