Have you ever dreamt of keeping chickens for eggs but don’t have room, or wanted to keep something a little different from a rabbit, guinea pig or hamster? Well quail are a great alternative if you are limited on space.
Quail are small game birds and are a great choice for back garden keepers or city living where larger poultry such as chickens, ducks or geese are not practical.
This article will cover a few basic things to consider and prepare yourselves for, prior to collecting your birds.
A Cournix quail (common quail also known as Japanese quail) stands at approx 5 inches tall. They make excellent quail for beginners because they start laying quail eggs at a young age of approximately 6 weeks, and take a similar level of care to keeping a rabbit. They certainly need less space and food than chickens and amazingly these little birds can lay 300 eggs each year given the right conditions.
Housing is crucial and needs to be prepared well in advance. Perhaps the first thing to note is that quail are reasonable flyers. Japanese Quail (which is the breed I have) are reasonably big for quail, but one of my little darlings still managed to catapult to the height of my 6ft fence and flap/glide for 15 feet. So it is no good thinking you can keep them free range so to speak. They need an enclosed aviary.
The aviary does not necessarily need to be very tall, in fact, it has been suggested (and I use this type of housing) that you can adapt a rabbit hutch. My hutch is two levels connected by a ramp, 4 foot wide and each level is 2ft tall and deep. It works really well and is easy to clean out.
Make sure you have a bag of feed ready for their arrival. Specialist quail feed is sometimes hard to come by. It is surprisingly high in protein between 22% and 27%. Your average chicken layers pellets are 17% to 19%. You can of course order over the internet from poultry sites but postage costs are often high. The other option is to mix your own food. I would recommend buying quail food if you can, but if not, you could may use layers of mash or small pellets, mixed with small grit, oyster shell, budgie seed mix (white millet red etc.) and a few meal worms. I’m not a nutritional expert but my quail are thriving quite well on this.
Quail are not noisy however it would be polite to inform your neighbors of your intentions. I have read a lot of comments on the internet about the male quails being very noisy. I guess it depends where you live. I live in a village/semi rural area with woodland and fields, so birds and wildlife noise is common. The male quails call blends in and you hardly notice it. The worst it gets is similar to a crow or magpie calling. No where near a cockerels call.
Check out where your local vets are and if they have a specialist who can treat birds/poultry. I am lucky that I have a vet at the end of my road, however their specialist in poultry is actually based 8 miles away in another branch. I suggest this as 5 days after receiving my quail I had one quail that suffered a prolapse and had an egg stuck. The local vet was excellent and it was not something I would have wanted to deal with on my own.
Feeders and Drinkers do actually come in quail size. You could use a dish and dog bowl I guess but there is risk of the quail drowning. Feeders and drinkers are relatively cheap but I suspect you may need to order from the internet so make sure you allow plenty of time for delivery.
They are lovely little birds and have interesting characters. If you would like to know more or need a little advice please give me a call or email me.
By Andrew Homer
Andrew is a keen poultry keeper. He currently keeps quail, hybrid hens, Pure Breed Wyandotte chickens and is hatching a variety of Pure Breed chickens in his incubator for breeding purposes. He also offers a chicken /poultry sitting service.
Andrews Blog is: www.thebackgardenpoultryhatcher.blogspot.co.uk
Andrews Website: www.andrewspurebreedpoultry.co.uk