Did you know there are over 130 different species of quail worldwide? These small birds are perfect for raising as both meat and egg laying providers. Are you thinking about raising quail for meat and eggs? It takes a little effort to set up your quail raising materials, but once you get the hang of it, you can have a steady stream of unique meals and little eggs.
I love quails. They’re a fun little bird to have in your backyard. They have been known as a delicacy, but if you raise them yourself you can have access to this dual purpose bird all year round. Here’s my guide to raising quail for meat and eggs.
All about quails
The word quail used to be a blanket term for a big flock of birds. There are so many different breeds of birds that are known as quail. When I’m talking about quails to raise for meat, I’m talking about the most common varieties – the Coturnix and the Northern Bobwhite.
Quails are a lot smaller and quieter than chickens. This makes them perfect for smaller backyards and times when the neighbors don’t appreciate the louder calls of chickens.
Check your city ordinances. Some may allow quail where chickens are banned. Others may require a separate game license as quail are considered game birds rather than pets.
Best quail breeds for beginners
There are two breeds of quail that are suitable for beginners. The Coturnix is by far the most popular. They are common backyard birds because they mature quickly and have a larger amount of meat per bird than other breeds.
The Coturnix quail matures at only 7 weeks old and begins laying eggs around that time. A mature Coturnix can lay over 300 eggs per year. You can also harvest the birds for meat at 7 weeks as they reach their peak weight then.
A regular Coturnix quail may give around 10 ounces of meat per bird. The jumbo Coturnix variety may offer up to 14 ounces of meat or even more.
Coturnix quails originally migrated between Europe and Asia. Sometimes called Japanese quail, they have long been kept by people as domesticated good luck charms as well as raised for meat and eggs. They are very docile and used to being kept in small spaces with many other birds.
The Bobwhite quail is native to the USA. There are many types of Bobwhite, and these are known as New World species. They are smaller than Coturnix quail and can be more aggressive when kept in close quarters. This is because they have only been domesticated for a short few hundred years.
Bobwhites are smaller than Coturnix and may offer between 6-10 ounces of meat per bird. Some varieties that have been bred for size may offer more. These quails will need up to four times the space per bird than Coturnix, which may impact how many birds you can fit in your yard.
What you’ll need to start raising quails
Before you start raising quails there’s a few things you should know. Unlike chickens, quails can fly. This means you’ll need to provide a secure enclosure that prevents escape. Remember that these are very small birds so choose enclosures with fine mesh. Regular chicken wire will allow chicks and smaller birds to escape easily.
Quails can be slightly more prone to disease compared to chickens, so keep their enclosures clean and well ventilated.
Keep your quails apart from any other poultry or animals you have to minimize cross contamination. Keep them in enclosures with feeding and watering troughs. Although they are small, they are territorial birds, so they do require some space to move around freely. I’ll tell you more specifics below.
Raising quails for meat and eggs
There are two different approaches you can take to raising quails at home. Decide if you want to raise quails specifically for meat, or for both meat and eggs. You should also decide if you are going to raise them to supply your family or make a profitable business of selling excess product.
The reason you should decide about your priorities is simple. It will determine how deliberately you raise your birds. If you decide to keep enough birds to feed your family the occasional quail dinner and regular eggs, you can treat your birds equally.
If you decide to focus on meat production (particularly if you are going to sell the meat by weight) then you ought to separate your meat and egg laying birds. You’ll treat them differently to maximize the preferred results for each type.
Dual purpose birds
Are you interested in raising quails for their magnificent eggs? They are certainly smaller than chicken eggs but have many uses. They are considered to be quite a delicacy and can be used to replace chicken eggs in most recipes at a ratio of two quail eggs to one chicken egg.
Quails differ from chickens in their egg laying habits. Chickens usually lay one egg per day in a designated nesting box. Quails may lay multiple eggs per day and will leave them spread throughout their living quarters.
It’s important to check the coop multiple times a day for eggs as they are easily trampled by the little birds. You may like to consider keeping the quails in a purpose-built cage that allows eggs to collect away from where the quails walk. The separator keeps the eggs safe until you can collect them.
Quails that are being kept for eggs will need a specific diet that is high in calcium. The high egg production can be taxing on their tiny bodies. Ensure you feed them a layers blend of quail food. This should be supplemented by natural foraging for nutrient diversity where possible.
A layer blend or generic blend of food will also be suitable if you intend to keep your quail for meat and eggs. It will provide adequate nutrition to keep the birds healthy and growing well, but may not contribute to particularly heavyweights for meat purposes.
If you’re serious about raising quail for meat, there are some simple adjustments you can make to ensure greater meat production per bird. The first step is to keep the quails is relative darkness. Like most birds, quails become more active when the sun rises.
The sunlight triggers more physical activity which helps to keep birds lean and the meat may become tough. Quails also lay more eggs when exposed to daylight on a regular schedule. Meat birds that are kept in the dark will still produce some eggs, although less than their well-lit counterparts.
You can also deliver a high-quality grower feed mix to your meat quails. This is a high protein blend that is specially formulated to stimulate fast growth in your flock. Combine this feed mix with limited access to movement, that is, don’t allow them to free range in the yard, keep them in a smaller coop.
It’s possible to supplement the grower blend with access to fresh grasses, herbs and bugs found naturally in the backyard. Small, fully enclosed pens with wire mesh bases can provide this access while protecting the birds from predators and preventing escapes.
Meat birds still require some space to move around. This is to ensure good health and to reduce fighting between birds. Use small pens to keep one or two quails per square foot of space. Ensure there is at least a quarter inch of water trough and two inches of feed trough accessible per bird.
More tips on raising quails
Quails will decrease their egg production after about 9 months of age. The birds have a short life span in captivity. You should not expect your birds to live longer than a year or so. It means that your turnover of quails will be quite quick, so it pays to be prepared when planning your ability to supply to others. If you want to hatch quails by yourself, we have a complete guide to hatch your quail eggs.
So what do you think? Are you game to begin raising quails in your backyard? They are fun little birds to keep although the maintenance can sometimes feel a little more demanding when compared to backyard chickens.
Here is my top take away tips:
- Coturnix quails produce more meat and require less space than Bobwhites
- Quails can lay up to 300 eggs a year
- Treat your meat birds with specific feed and conditions to see a higher yield
- Quails can fly so don’t let them free range in your backyard
- Some states require a game license so check before purchasing your flock
Have you raised quails before? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please leave a comment below.