Quail: It’s what’s for dinner!
If you have a homestead where you are preparing to hunker down and live off-grid should the poop hit the fan, you are probably planning to raise much of your own food. Of course, gardening for fruit and vegetables is no-brainer in such a situation, but what about animal protein (assuming you and your family aren’t keen on becoming vegan)? Maybe you are short on space or you need to get started on a small budget. Don’t worry; a small homestead or limited funds don’t have to stop you from your pursuit. Fortunately, the small but mighty quail may be the perfect animal for you.
So, what are some of the advantages of raising quail instead of raising chickens, ducks, or turkeys? First of all, they take very little space compared to the larger birds. The hens start laying eggs when they are only 6-8 weeks old, and usually they each lay eggs daily. The eggs are smaller, of course, but you don’t need much space to have more hens to make up for egg size. Although you’d have to check your own town’s ordinances, most cities allow them where they wouldn’t allow other poultry as they are not considered livestock. Quail feed is less expensive than chicken feed. Overall, the cost to get started and to care for your birds costs less than it would for turkeys or chickens.
As for housing your quail, there are several options. Quail can be housed in cages, which works well for cleanliness and egg collection. Quail are most successful in cages if they have some containers for dust bathing and a few natural elements, like branches. Quail can also be raised in pens on the ground. This type of cage-free housing allows the birds to live more naturally, taking dust baths and grazing on greens. Which of these you choose is up to your preferences and your space. The general rule of thumb is one square foot of space per bird. It is best to keep your rooster to hen ratio at one rooster for every 4 to 5 hens.
When choosing what to feed your quail, one of the most important factors is the protein percentage. Your birds should be eating feed that has a minimum of 25% protein. Possibly the best choice is a high-quality organic (non-medicated) turkey starter supplemented with meal worms and bugs. Add some greens if the quail can’t do any foraging. Make sure your feeders are big enough for them to eat but not to get into, because they’ll make a mess and waste food if they can get into their feeders.
To get started, you’ll want to find a reputable breeder in your area. You can find quail groups on Facebook with lists of breeders by state. For the beginner, it is probably best to buy adult birds because baby quail can be quite fragile and require more work than baby chickens. If you are raising quail for meat, remember that they are small. You might want to purchase more of them if you plan to eat the bird rather than the eggs.
So, homesteaders, check out those quail. They may be just the thing to get you started raising your own poultry. With a minimum of cash layout and not too much work, you could be eating those delicious little quail eggs in just a few weeks. To say nothing of the enjoyment of watching quail antics and caring for the little critters. Perfect for the beginner or the experienced do-it-yourself types!