Raising Quail can be a fun and rewarding experience, but there are a few key differences from chickens that must be noted or problems can quickly wreck havoc in your flock. Great tips on how to pick the right breed for your situation, how to raise healthy quail in the correct environment, equipment needed, health problems that can arise, housing setup and more!
If you are looking for a bird that is small, eats less because of its smaller size and produces eggs and meat, then you are looking into the perfect bird. And how cool is this? Most towns will allow people to own quail because they are quiet and not as intrusive as chickens and ducks.
These little guys just may begin to outrank other fowl on the homestead.
But there are a few differences that must be noted between quail and chickens in order to provide the proper care and not end up with a quail of a mess on your hands.
Breeds of Quail
Before heading off to the feed store or jumping online to buy some quail, a breed must be decided upon.
What breed is best for you?
But first of all, did you know that quail have a rich history? They have provided food for people for thousands of years. In fact, when millions of Israelites were wandering in the desert, grumbling about the lack of meat in their diet, swarms of quail were blown into their camp for them to catch and eat. Thank you quail, for so many years of servitude!
Interestingly, there are also several different species of Quail: Old World Quail and New World Quail. The New World Quail are in a family of their own but the Old World Quail actually are descendants of the pheasant.
OLD WORLD QUAIL:
One of the Old World Quail breeds is the Japanese Quail which is also known as Coturnix Quail, Pharoah Quail, and Jumbo Coturnix Quail.
What makes the Coturnix Quail stand out in the crowd?
• They are the best beginner breed to own:
• Easy to handle
• Less aggressive
• Matures faster
• Less square footage need per bird
• So docile they can become a house pet!
• The different subspecies of Coturnix Quail can be bred to create beautiful color variations in a flock
Their fast maturity means that they are ready for the table between 6 and 7 weeks and will start breeding and laying eggs around 9 weeks of age.
But it is very important to note that the ratio of a rooster to hens should be 1 rooster to 5-7 hens. If breeding and hatching eggs aren’t a priority, then only keeping hens is ideal. If this ratio is not kept, the rooster will stress the hens because, in reality, they are better off without the rooster and will lay their eggs, or even more, without the rooster’s attention.
Interestingly, the females are usually larger than the males. The females will weigh between 4.5 and 6 ounces and the male will weigh between 4 and 5 ounces.
So, what are the subspecies of Coturnix Quail?
• Jumbo Coturnix: The Jumbo Coturnix Quail are usually used for meat because they can weigh as much as 16 oz.
• The Golden Coturnix: The Golden Coturnix are also called the Manchurian or Golden Speckled and come in standard and jumbo sizes.
• Tibetan: The Tibetan Quail can be dark chocolate in color, and light and cinnamon as well.
• Rosetta: To breed a Rosetta only takes crossing a Tibetan with another Tibetan. This cross will produce an almost black looking bird, and sometimes even with a reddish color!
• The Texas A&M: The professors at the Texas A&M University developed this bird to be a heavily muscled Coturnix. It will weigh between 10 and 13 ounces. They have pure white feathers and white meat.
• The English White: The English White Quail has some of the genes of the Texas A&M but is smaller. They come in pure white or white with brown spots on head and back and have pure white meat.
• Tuxedo: A stunning colored bird! This breed is produced by breeding a Texas A&M with a Tibetan.
The other Old World Quail are called the Button Quail. The Button Quail are also called Chinese Blue Breasted Quail, Painted Quail or King Quail.
What makes the Button Quail unique?
• They weigh around 1.4 oz
• They live between 3 and 5 years but the hens live a shorter life due to egg laying and the resulting depletion of calcium.
• The wild Button Quail live in very warm climates, and therefore must be kept indoors in colder climates. They usually are kept in an indoor aviary, a cage or aquarium.
• Although an indoor bird, they are not a bird to snuggle or handle. They are for viewing purposes only.
• But their beautiful colors make up for their lack of snuggles. They can come in a wide variety of colors: White, Blue Faced, Cinnamon, Splash Pied, Normal Wild, Red Breasted.
• They have a very fun personality!
• They are kept in pairs only.
• They will start to lay after they are sexually mature which is usually between 8 and 12 weeks of age.
The Old World Quail are a great place to start in raising quail but there may be a few reasons to choose New World Quail. But take note, the New World Quail need an experienced caretaker or problems will arise.
NEW WORLD QUAIL:
One New World Quail is called the “Bobwhite Quail”
Unless you are an experienced Quail owner, this one may not be the best choice. But if the knowledge is applied, it is possible to raise them properly.
Here is the important (very important!) information about Bobwhite Quail that will keep you from having a colossal wreck:
• A license from the Fish and Wildlife Service will be needed to keep this bird.
• They are aggressive! The Snowflakes are the least aggressive and the Tenessee’s will be the most aggressive. Their aggression stems from their lack of adaptation to living in confinement. The Old World Quail have lived in confinement for thousands of years and have adapted to this setup, unlike the Bobwhites.
• They are skittish, hyper, and stress easily. This panic can cause them injury and even death-by-shock in your hands. If they are handled immediately and continually as chicks, this panic and shock will lesson and will help them become slightly more friendly, or at least help them not die of shock when you pick them up.
• Stress can cause them to turn on each other.
• They must be kept in pairs only!! And they mate for life, so the breeding pairs must never be mixed up. In any other setup, the birds will become aggressive and kill each other. And it is the females who choose their mate.
• They are sexually mature around 6 months and will usually begin laying the following spring during mating season.
• They are seasonal layers during the months of April through September. Their lives will be shortened if they are forced to lay beyond their breeding season.
• They are fully mature at one year of age.
• And generally live between 2 and 5 years old.
• First-year Bobwhites can be kept all together until the following spring.
• All males can be kept with all males and all females can be kept with all females if they cannot see the other sex at all.
• The birds can be mixed after the breeding season is over. But the next spring the pairs must be separated and put back together. The best way to keep track of which bird mates with another is by using leg bands.
• They are ready for the table somewhere between 14 and 16 weeks of age.
To say the least, Bobwhites in captivity will take a lot of management. But it can be done with preparation and management.
Another New World Quail is Called “Gambel’s Quail”
Although this bird with a feather plume on top of their heads can seem irresistible, it is not a breed for beginners. Just like the Bobwhite, Gambel’s Quail can be tricky to raise.
Outside of captivity, these birds can be seen scurrying in a single file line with their feather plumes bobbing. Their natural habitat is in the regions of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, and some part of Northern Mexico.
All of what was written about the Bobwhites holds true for the Gambel’s Quail as well. They will be raised in the same manner as Bobwhites.
The “Mountain Quail” is a New World Quail as Well.
The Moutain Quail can be found in the mountainous areas of California and Oregon and some part of Nevada and are the largest native quail species in the U.S. weighing between 6.7 and 9.2 ounces.
All of the bulleted points for the Bobwhite are true for the Mountain Quail as well. And they are not for a beginner quail keeper. But there are several very important distinctions.
In captivity, they are much harder to keep alive than the other quail, however. In the wild, the parent birds feed the chicks for quite some time. So what does this mean? You will have to feed the chicks and they are very slow to learn to eat, which obviously can pose many problems!
They are very skittish birds but with a lot of work right after hatching, they can be tamed quite a bit.
They also are more susceptible to disease. Their immunity to living in captivity has not been adapted or developed like the other quail breeds have been.
Their long slender feather plumbs, their fancy looks, beauty and interesting character fill out the complete picture of these birds because they are not kept as meat birds.
The “Montezuma Quail” and “Blue-Scale Quail” Are The Last Two New World Quail Breeds
They are very rare and difficult to get your hands on. They are very secretive in their day to day living and breeding habits. And they can be kept in the same manner as the Bobwhites. They are found in their natural habitat of the desert southwest of the U.S. and Mexico.
How Many Quail to Own
The first and most important aspect of Quail ownership is deciding the breed. After that hard job is done, then deciding how many to get is the next decision.
Except for the Coturnix Quail, where 1 rooster to every 5-7 hens is kept, all of the other breeds are kept in pairs. This is a very important aspect of quail ownership because there must be enough space requirements and housing provided in order to give them the proper care.
If more than one Bobwhite pairs are decided upon, then they must be given the opportunity to pair off in the spring by providing breedings pens or cages.
If you are planning to raise quail as a business to profit, research has shown that 500-1000 quail are needed for such a venture.
Prepare to Raise Quail: Equipment Needed
Although quail are considered a wild bird, under captivity, they can be raised as chicks in the same way as other poultry.
• Brooder: kept between 55°-85° F with no swings in temperature
• Feeders and Waterers
• Prepared Housing after they are grown (A floor pen or cages)
• Flight Pen: if raising quail to be released
Where to Buy Quail
Now that you know the different breeds of quail, it’s time to bring some home. But how is the best way to do this? Quail don’t ship as well as chicks do, so keep this in mind when making a decision. Here are a few ideas on how to purchase quail:
- Purchase chicks from a hatchery. If the quail arrive alive, this is an easy way to get started immediately without the added work of hatching the eggs.
- Purchase hatching eggs to incubate. Although there is still a possibility of damage in the mail, usually extra eggs are sent with the order to compensate for the damages.
- kingshatchery2013 on eBay has good ratings and reviews
- Find a local source of chicks or eggs. This is a great option and prevents loss and breakage that is possible in the mail.
How to Hatch Quail Eggs
If you are familiar with hatching chicken eggs, then you will be pleased to know that hatching quail eggs are very similar.
“If using a still air incubator, the temperature should be kept at a regular 102°F and the humidity should be at 45% during the first 15 days and then upped to 65% during the last three days. Quail eggs, being smaller than chicken eggs, will start hatching around the 18th day.” ~Read more about Quail Eggs Here
Find incubation lists, tools, and information all in printable form on how the entire incubation process works in our free resource library. There are also many, many more helpful tools in there as well!
Brooder Setup and Care of Quail Chicks
A brooder for quail needs to be set up with several items to have a successful outcome.
- Heat Lamp.
- At chick level, the temperature needs to be 95°-97° F during the first week.
- Reduce the temperature 5° F per week until it is down to 75°F
- Bedding. Use wood shavings or rice hulls.
- Feed. Feed the chicks starter feed until they are somewhere between 8 weeks old.
- Water. Provide clean, fresh water daily. The water container needs to be easily accessible but also prevent the quail from drowning. An easy way to ensure that they don’t drown is to put marbles in a shallow bowl with the water.
- Lighting. For the first three days, use a 100-watt bulb to help the chicks find feed and water. After the three days, use a less intense light to keep cannibalism (which can be a problem!) to a minimum.
- 6 chicks per square foot for the first 2 weeks
- 4 chicks per square foot during weeks 2-6
- 3 chicks per square foot after 6 weeks
This brooder area will need to be free from drafts but well-ventilated. It needs to also be predator proof, clean, warm and dry.
What to Feed Quail
Young quail, up to the age of 8 weeks need to be fed a chick starter. These starter feeds have the appropriate protein needed for the rapid growth that takes place in young chicks.
After that, knowing the purpose of your quail is important in knowing what to feed them.
If you are raising quail for meat, feed them a starter diet to begin with and then feed them a finisher diet. This will have a medication containing a coccidiostat until the last week before slaughter. This prevents any drugs being in the tissues of the bird.
If you are raising them for breeding or as flight birds, feed a starter diet to begin and then feed them a developer quail food until about 20 weeks.
If you are raising them for laying eggs, again, start feeding them a starter diet and then feed them a layer ration designed to support their laying habits. Start feeding this feed a couple weeks before egg production.
A feed ration containing a coccidiostat is feed to breeders and egg layers until 16 weeks of age.
If you would like to read more about feeding quail you can find more information here.
What NOT to Feed Quail
It is important to note that feeding quail (or any poultry) anything besides the feeds designed for them, can actually upset the balance of the nutrition they are actually digesting.
As an example, if I were to partake in eating potato chips, before and during every meal, I wouldn’t eat the good stuff. Why? Because I have a weakness for salty, cripsy snacks.
Well, so do quail. Feeding scratch or other grains and supplements has the same effect. They fill up on the stuff they like and the nutrients and specifically formulated ration that will keep them optimally healthy, will be thrown off and not be as effective.
But several food items to note and not feed quail are tomatoes and potato greens, uncooked potatoes and potato peels, meat and cheese.
Housing for Quail
There are several options to choose from when deciding how to house quail.
- Floor Pens.
- Advantages: The day-to-day daily care is not as intense
- Disadvantages: They are exposed to more health issues. The quail will possibly not produce as well kept in floor pens.
- Setup: Quail will need to be given the space requirements mentioned below.
- Colony Cages.
- Advantages: waste drops through the floors
- Disadvantages: It is hard to determine which bird is productive. More space is needed for the cages to be set up for each breeding group.
- Setup: Several females and a male are housed together in a cage that is elevated off the floor and Quail will need to be given the space requirements mentioned below.
- Individual breeding cages.
- Advantages: waste drops through the floors. The productivity of each bird and breeding pair is known
- Disadvantages: even more space is needed to set up the cages for each breeding pair.
- Setup: The cages are elevated off the floor and Quail will need to be given the space requirements mentioned below.
Space Requirements of Quail
Coturnix Quail need at least 1 square foot per bird but 2 square feet for each bird would be even better. The more space they have the less aggression there will be and the better health they will display. This breed of quail takes up less room than others.
Bobwhite Quail under a year old will be OK with 2 square feet per bird but as adults, they need and absolutely require 4 square feet per bird because of their hyper energy. Without the space they need, they will become aggressive. The Bobwhite can be successfully kept females only and males only as long as the two sexes can’t see each other.
Button Quail, although small, also need 4 square feet or more for a pair to keep them happy.
Gambels, also need 4 square feet per adult bird.
Mountain Quail also require 4 square feet per bird as adults. They are kept in pairs ONLY. These birds also mate for life.
How to Sex Quail
Coturnix Quail are sexually mature sometime between 7-9 weeks of age but can be sexed sometime between 3 and 4 weeks by looking at their feather patterns. Males will have a rusty orange throat and breast and the females will be white and speckled breast.
Bobwhite Quail can be sexed at 12 weeks by looking at their feather coloring (except for the Tennessee Reds). The males have black masks with more black on their heads and faces than the females. The females will have a buff brownish color on their faces. The snowflake females will have more grey on their faces than the dark black masks that the males have.
Button Quail are harder to sex because of the color variations and color being lost in genetics. Sometimes observing mating behaviors is the best way to tell the difference. Red or blue feathering will always be an indicator of a male bird. Vent sexing is also possible and is easy to do. The males will have red on the vent area. In some variations of the Button Quail, the males will have a white line or bib on their throat.
Gambels can be sexed around 12 weeks of age and the male will have a black mask on the lower face, a white stripe above that and a rust colored head. But the females will have a dull buff brown face.
Mountain Quail are more difficult to sex. Females have a browner and slightly shorter plume than the males. The males are also brighter in their coloring. The grey is more defined on the hind-neck of the males as well. The back of the male’s neck is also greyish blue compared to the brown that extends to the top of the head. Defining the neck colors is probably the best way to determine the sex of a Mountain Quail.
Health Problems in Quail
These little birds weren’t intended to be raised in cages and small areas. And when animals and birds are raised under intense management, health issues will arise.
And the quail cannot escape from these issues unless they are protected from them and managed properly. Here are a few issues that can become a problem with your quail.
Stress. And when there is stress, birds are more susceptible to coccidiosis, blackhead and capillary worms, and ulcerative enteritis.
But quail are hardy birds if they are kept properly and you can help your quail remain healthy if you follow a few of these tips:
- Follow the space requirements carefully and don’t overcrowd the birds
- Clean, clean, clean! Maintain clean feeders, and waterers by cleaning with a vinegar solution on a regular basis. Remove all droppings under cages on a regular basis. Clean any stuck droppings on the cage floor to prevent sharp areas that could cause bumblefoot.
- Quarantine returning quail that have left the premises for any reason before returning them to the flock.
- Do not feed moldy feed.
- It’s important to not add adult birds to a flock. The unknown background and health of adult birds can bring in unwanted health issues.
- If you have several age groups within your flock, it is always best to start working with or cleaning the area where the smallest birds are located and moving to the older birds. Older birds have a stronger immune system and it is easier for the older birds to pass down issues to the younger birds.
- Always remove sick or dead birds immediately.
- Keep the shelter and cage areas free of rodents, wild birds, and pests.
Let’s look further into the health problems mentioned earlier that can occur in quail.
Coccidiosis in Quail
This parasitic disease is found in the intestinal tract of every bird and animal. Interestingly, it is found in the soil, air, and also inside the birds. All of the trouble is caused by the protozoa called Coccidian.
The symptoms of coccidiosis in quail to watch for are:
- Eyes closed
- Loss of appetite
- Blood and sometimes mucus in the poop
- Not drinking
- Weight loss
- Fluffed up feathers
- Standing in the corner with feathers fluffed up
Chicks are the most susceptible to coccidiosis because they haven’t developed the immunity yet. Although older birds develop a stronger resistance, they can have problems when they are moved to a new location. Birds develop a resistance and immunity to their specific area but when locations are changed they don’t have a chance to develop that resistance yet.
Prevention of Coccidiosis in Quail
Prevention is important and cleanliness is on the top of the list to keep it under control. Medicated chick starter can also be given for prevention.
When an outbreak does take place, it is important to act quickly by using the medication called Corid. The dosage is as follows:
- Corid Powder Form: 1.5 teaspoons per gallon of water
- Corid Liquid Form: 2 teaspoons per gallon of water
Make a new batch daily. Put out a new batch of water for 5-7 days to the entire flock even if only one bird is sick. There is no egg or meat withdrawal.
Worms in Quail
All birds carry a small number of worms which keeps their immune system strong as they develop immunity and learn to fight the worms naturally. Do not worm or over worm your quail unless they are known to be overloaded with them.
You can usually test worm load by taking a feces sample to a vet to check.
Keeping cages and all areas where the birds live, very clean is such an important aspect of worm control. And worming any adult birds that are introduced into your flock is important as well.
Symptoms of a high worm load in quail:
- Protruding breastbone
- Eating more than normal
- Egg laying ceases or lessens
- Lifeless appearance
Here are the worms in quail that you will find most prominent:
- Round Worms: Put 2 tablespoons per gallon of water of Wazine for 24 hours only. Repeat in 10-12 days to kill the recently hatched eggs. Reminder: there is a 14-day meat and egg withdrawal after the last dosage of this product.
- Capillary Worms: It is best to prevent this worm from entering the bird’s body by raising them on wire. Birds raised on the ground are more susceptible because they can pick up the worm from the ground and feces. But sanitary practices and keeping ground areas as clean as possible will help prevent this issue. Quail with capillary worms will appear starved and will have difficulty breathing.
- Stand Worms and Tapeworms: Safeguard products can be used. To use this the Safeguard Equine Paste, use 1 pea-sized drop in the mouth of each bird. If using the Safeguard Liquid Goat wormer, use 1/10th of a cc in the mouth of each bird. Repeat in 10 days.
- Resistant or Stubborn Tapeworms: Valbazen can be used in the dosage of 1/10th of a cc in the mouth. Repeat this procedure in 10-12 days. And remember, there is a meat and egg withdrawal after the last dosage of this product.
Histomoniasis (Blackhead) in Quail
This nasty protozoan disease enters the bird’s body in the egg of a common intestinal parasite called the cecal worm. Once inside the body, they do their damage to the bird’s liver. It has a high mortality in game birds.
Symptoms of Blackhead in Quail to watch for:
- Loss of appetite
- Drooping wings
- Yellowish, sulfur-colored droppings
- High mortality
Prevention of Blackhead in Quail
There are several ways to help prevent this outbreak. Chickens actually are carriers of the cecal worm but are more resistant to blackhead, so it may be best to not mix different species of birds in your flock. Reducing earthworm and insect populations is important. And using wormers to reduce infestations of the cecal worms will also help.
Ulcerative Enteritis is also called Quail Disease. It is the most common and most deadly bacterial disease among quail. It is caused by the birds eating contaminated and infected poop, water and feed. It can also be carried on shoes, clothing, and hands. It is fast moving, so must be treated quickly.
Symptoms of ulcerative enteritis to watch for:
- Loss of appetite
- Fluffed up
- Sleeping excessively
- Drinking excessively
- Poop is ashy grey
After diagnosing this disease, it is so important to act quickly.
Prevention and treatment of ulcerative enteritis
Duramycin must be used immediately on the entire flock. The dosage is 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, made new daily for 7-14 days. If you have hard water it will make the drug useless, so use distilled water when mixing this medication. You will know it’s not working if the water turns purple in a couple of hours. Also, when using this drug, there is a meat and egg withdrawal of 21 days.
Keep a close eye on your flock for any unusual behavior and droppings at all times to be able to act quickly to treat a sickness like quail disease arises.
If you would like even more info on other health issues quail can have, visit this link here.
Can You Raise Quail in a City?
If your town doesn’t allow chicken ownership, it is quite possible that the ordinances don’t apply to quail. It is worth looking into!
Quail are much quieter than chickens and take up much less space so they are an ideal option for town living. Because of the high ammonia in their poop, they will need to be cleaned up after on a regular basis.
Tips for Raising Quail in Town:
- Keep feed in containers, locked tightly to prevent rodents from moving indoors.
- After the birds are feathered, it is important they have ventilation. A window in the room with a screen will be handy and an important part of keeping the air fresh and the birds healthy.
- Other animals in the house may stress the birds, and stress may cause health problems. Just be aware of how your cats, dogs, and quail are behaving.
- Sweep and dust the quail room frequently to prevent allergens from the dander and dust the quail create.
- Remove manure immediately, every 24 hours. Any piled manure can develop mold and a condition in humans called histoplasmosis.
Tips to Raising Quail
- Use a wire brush to clean the cage floor of any droppings that have stuck to the bottom.
- 12 quail hens would produce what would be equivalent to 1 dozen chicken eggs per week. 60 quail eggs = 12 chicken eggs.
- Quail do not perch, so shouldn’t live in a cage that is more than 12 inches tall. And using corrugated plastic on the ceiling will keep them safer if they do fly up and hit the ceiling.
- A slanted wire floor will allow the eggs laid to roll to the front, which keeps the eggs cleaner and there will be less broken eggs as well.
- 1/2″ hardware cloth is absolutely necessary to keep weasels and raccoons from reaching through and grabbing quail.
- If keeping quail in a ground cage, move the cage to a new, fresh and clean area each day.
- If the quail are kept outdoors, having a solid house to herd them into at night will help keep them safer from predators.
- Remember raising chickens and quail together may not be the best idea. Chickens can be carriers of diseases that can greatly affect and harm quail.