Now that you’ve decided on raising some quails. The next thing is deciding which quail breed will be best for you. With over a hundred quail species, deciding on the best can be difficult.
When I tell people I’m raising some quail in my backyard, they just assume it’s the Bobwhite breed, but that’s not the case. So, what species of Quail breeds should you raise?
I’m going to show you the best quail breeds to raise to meet your meat, eggs, and hunting need – whichever the case may be.
Quail is a general name for a group of medium-sized birds popularly raised for meat, eggs, and hunting. They’re colony breeders with a preference for nesting on the ground. Quail are generally inexpensive to purchase and raise.
They are grouped by scientists into two families – the Old World and the New World – which share physiological characteristics. The Old World Quail (the Phasianidae family) consists of the Coturnix quail, where we have the Common quail, Rain quail, Harlequin quail, and the Brown quail.
The New World quail (the Odontophoridae family) has the California quail, Mountain quail, Bobwhite quail, Gambel quail, and Elephant quail.
The birds are highly nutritious, containing protein, vitamins, and minerals. An average quail lays about 200 eggs every year and are most productive when they’re between 2 and 8 months of age. The most popular breeds are the Coturnix quail and the Bobwhite quail, but there are several other species of the fascinating bird.
There are over 130 quail species, so picking the ones to raise will depend on whether you want to raise them for meat, eggs, or hunting. However, it’s essential always to consider the quail’s size, age of maturity, egg production, and ease of caring for them before making your decision.
Here are the seven best quail breeds to raise:
Place of Origin
The King Quail
Pets, game birds
Pacific Coast of the United States
eggs, meat, ornamental flock
Mountain ranges in western North America
Egg, Pets, hobby
Southwestern United States
1. Coturnix Quail
The Coturnix Quail is the best quail breed to raise for meat and egg right in your backyard. They offer lots of eggs and meat compared to other quail breeds. They belong to the Old World category of Quail birds and tend to be very hardy.
The Coturnix Quail is also known as the Japanese quail, Pharaoh Quail, or Jumbo Quail. They’re the easiest Quail breed to raise, as they have a very calm temperament. If you’re new to homesteading, the Coturnix Quail might just be the best quail breed for you.
The Coturnix comes in different color variations, including:
- The Wild Type: This variety is camouflaged with mottled brown plumage. This color scheme is the bird’s best defense as it disappears right in front of your eyes when it flies to the bushes.
- White: Yes, Coturnix quails can also come in a pure white coat. Commercial farmers adore this variety for its attractiveness, sort of like some people prefer white doves over other colors.
- Tibetan: The Tibetian strain of the Coturnix quail has a unique combination of light beige or buff colors, all peppered with dark brown spots or stripes.
- Tuxedo: Elegant little bird the Taxedo is. It is dressed in black or dark brown plumage with a distinctive white bib on its chest. Or is it a white chest patch?
- Golden: I think the description “Golden” is quite sufficient. This bird has a yellowish or golden plumage; very eye-grabbing, if I may add.
- Silver: Where the’s gold, silver is always a few steps behind. The silver version of the Coturnix quail is dark gray with black markings; also a very attractive puff of feathers.
- Rosetta: This variety of the Coturnix sports a reddish brown plumage, all punctuated with intricate markings and patterns.
- Italian: Finally, the Italian sports dark browns, sometimes black speckles or spots on a light-colored body.
No matter the color of the Coturnix quail, they are all relatively low-maintenance birds. Let me explain: they require a little space for housing (one square foot of floor space) and little attention.
The bird reaches maturity in about seven weeks when they start laying eggs. So you don’t have to wait for several months to lay your hands on quality eggs and meat. If you need the hens to lay and hatch their eggs, you’ll need one rooster to about three to seven hens.
There are different types of Coturnix you can choose from:
- Golden Coturnix
- Jumbo Coturnix
- English White
Note: Some of these varieties denote the color schemes of the bird, as earlier discussed.
So which of them is the best to go for? I prefer the Jumbo species. If you’re looking for a quail species to produce enough meat and eggs, I suggest you go for the Jumbo. They’re easy to identify and a lot calmer compared to other birds. We have a complete guide to raise quail if you want something more specific.
2. The King Quail
Also known as the Button Quail or the Chinese-painted Quail, these characteristic small birds are prevalent among homesteaders and poultry owners. They’re beautiful birds with colorful feathers, weighing about 1.5 – 2 ounces. They mature very fast, reaching full maturity in about 12 weeks.
Button quails die quickly due to the stress of laying eggs. They produce tiny eggs and might not be a good fit if you’re looking to have lots of eggs. They’re, however, better birds when it comes to brooding over their chicks.
They are native to warm climates, so they hardly do well in cold temperatures. It’s better to keep them in cages indoors, except if you live in a warm area. The King quail prefers to be in the company of other birds, so you should keep them with at least one other bird.
Button Quails are great pets and can be an excellent addition to your aviary. As long as you have quality quail feed and water in the aviary, they’ll do just fine.
3. Bobwhite Quail
Scores of people raise the Bobwhite Quail for a couple of reasons. Top on the ladder is that they are good hunting birds, although they also make for an excellent meat source. There are about seven types of Bobwhite breed, all of different sizes, with the largest type reaching about 6 ounces. The species do not produce enough eggs as other species.
The Bobwhite Quail takes about six months to mature, meaning you’ll have to wait a long time before reaping your rewards. However, they can lay throughout the year once they attain maturity, as long as the conditions are right.
Also, Bobwhite Quail are pretty aggressive birds when breeding, so it’s best to keep them in pairs during that period. They are native to the United States, so you might need a permit to raise them.
If you’re raising the Bobwhite for meat, you have to keep them in cages and prevent them from flying. Since the specie has not been entirely domesticated, they can occasionally be startled.
When they feel startled, they fly up and could hit their head on the roof and die. If you want to prevent that from happening, it’s best to build the roof of their pens very high or use a netting roof.
The Bobwhite is the best option if you want to raise quail species for sport. Although the Coturnix is also a great choice, Bobwhite is far better at the flushing flight pattern. They have great agility, speed, and spontaneity, making them the choice game bird for many hunters.
4. Gambel Quail
Another type of breed you can raise is the Gambel Quail, which is distinctive for the turf on their foreheads. They are native to Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Since they’re native birds to the United States, you’ll need a license to raise them.
The Gambel quails prefer to mate in single pairs. They are flighty birds prone to escaping into the wild because they aren’t fully domesticated. They are quite challenging to raise, demanding lots of care and attention. The birds learn to eat at a plodding pace, and they feed their young for longer compared to other quails.
Gambel Quails are as aggressive as their Bobwhite counterparts and require about six months to mature. Many people raise them primarily because they’re pretty birds with different color patterns of gray, cream, and chestnut.
5. California Quail
The California quail is often mistaken for the Gambel Quail because of their striking similarities. The California quail is the official bird of the state of California, and it’s found throughout the state. They are ornamental birds, and most people keep them merely for entertainment.
The bird prefers to forage on the ground, and it’s common to find them in public places like parks and gardens. They make an excellent addition to aviaries with small parrots, softbills, and finches.
6. Mountain Quail
The Mountain Quail is not a very common species, but they’re unique bird. They are a little more expensive than your regular birds.
Raising them can be tedious, as their young require that you hand-feed them until they learn how to feed on their own. Just like the Bobwhite and Gambel Quail, they take about six months to mature and can be very aggressive.
They are the largest species native to the United States, reaching about 9 ounces at full maturity.
7. Blue-Scale Quail
The Blue-scale quail is a rare breed found in Kansas, Colorado, and Central Mexico. Also known as Cotton-tops, they are difficult to find for purchase. They prefer to nest on sandy soils and move in large groups due to their social nature.
The Blue-Scale quails are strong layers, producing spotted eggs. It takes about six months for them to mature. Blue-scale quails are very calm and gentle birds. Instead of flying when scared, they run away.
Interestingly, the Blue-scale can be cross-bred with the Bobwhite to give an offspring known as a blob. Also, they can be bred with a Gambel to give a Scramble.
As we’ve seen, there’s a quail bird breed for just about every need. If you need a quail bird for meat and eggs, the Coturnix quail is what you’re probably looking for. If, however, you need a bird that can offer you meat, eggs, and sport, then the Bobwhite quail is your best option.
California Quails are great for pleasure and aesthetics, while Button Quails ranks as the most desirable pet quail. If you want the thrill of a wild quail, then you’ll find one in a Blue-scale quail. Indeed, there’s a quail breed for everyone.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch.