Quail are small fowl that exist in the wild but can also be raised in a backyard cage. Unlike chickens, most city ordinances don’t restrict or outlaw raising quail. They are quiet, small, even-tempered birds that can produce about five to six eggs per week. Make sure you raise them with plenty of light, water, food and sanitation.
Preparing to Raise Quail
Find a space in your yard or balcony where you can hang a quail cage. Clear the space underneath. You will need to place straw here to collect and remove waste.
Purchase a long, thin cage and hang it from an overhang on your house, garage or balcony. Choose somewhere that has access to light, but is blocked from strong winds. Most quail cages are built of open mesh wire, since the birds need shelter, but plenty of air.
They should be housed away from predators.
Hang some lights around the cage. This will allow you to increase egg production in the fall and winter months. The birds need 15 hours of light per day to produce eggs.
Decide if you want to buy mating birds or hatching eggs. A mature bird can cost around $5, while you can get 50 eggs for about $20.
Decide how many birds you need based on your egg consumption. Figure out your weekly chicken egg consumption. It takes five quail eggs to equal one chicken egg.
Plan to get one female bird (through hatching eggs or pairs of mating birds) for each chicken egg you eat.
Quail eggs can be consumed like chicken eggs; however, it requires more birds to produce the same amount.
Buying and Hatching Birds
Go to craigslist or look in your local paper first. The best idea is to use contacts in the local livestock or urban farming community to get birds that are acclimated to the climate.
Check on eBay to find hatching eggs. They can be sent via mail; however, you may suffer higher mortality rates than if you buy locally.
Try local ranch supply and feed stores. If they don’t get quail each spring with their chickens and guinea fowl, you may be able to order them specially.
Buy at least two females for every male, but keep males separated. A preponderance of females will ensure plenty of egg production in your flock. At the same time, you’ll probably only be able to house one male in each cage; if two or more males are kept in a single cage, the dominant male may attempt to kill all other males to ensure that only he will be able to mate with the female quails.
Try popular breeds like the Coturnix Quail, the Scaled Quail, Gambel’s Quail or the Bobwhite Quail. The Coturnix Quail is the recommended starting breed.
Purchase an incubator at the feed store or ranch supply store if you plan to raise hatching eggs. You can also order them in advance online. Your incubator should include an egg turner.
Keep the humidity at 45 to 50 percent during incubation and 65 to 70 percent during the 23rd day of hatching. Keep a humidifier or dehumidifier nearby to adjust the humidity. Humidity controls unnecessary loss of moisture in the egg.
Adjust the temperature of the incubator so that it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). It is essential that you keep it even at this temperature. It will take a Couternix egg about 16 to 18 days to hatch at this temperature, while other breeds take 22 to 25 days.
Don’t turn the egg turner on until three days after the eggs are laid. Then, the tray must turn 30 degrees each way every day to keep embryos from sticking to the shell.
Keep the quails in a small space once they are hatched. Lower the temperature from 100 degrees to room temperature by three degrees per day. Cold chicks will bunch on top of each other.
Keep up to 100 quail chicks in a two by three foot space for the first 10 days. Then, give them more space.
Give chicks a chick starter feed up until they are 6 to 8 weeks old. Chick starter provides more nutrients for your chick which is what they need, and when they get older they do not require this diet any more.
Ensure that each bird has three to four square feet (0.9 to 1.2 square m) of space in the cage.
Provide quail with clean drinking water. Clean and refill their water containers daily.
Change the straw beneath the cages daily. You can add some of it to your compost. Quail waste is high in ammonia, so it must be changed frequently.
Clean the cage out if any waste starts to build. Wash it once per week to avoid disease and illness.
Start to adjust conditions and change the food to a laying fowl mix at five to six weeks. Special laying food is available at most feed stores. Ask if it is good for laying birds before you buy it.
Keep the animals undisturbed after six weeks of age. The females will start to lay and they will have poor egg production levels if they are exposed to other animals, noise or other disturbances.
Consider adding fresh greens, seeds and small insects to your quail feed.
Things You’ll Need
Quail hatching eggs
Quail breeding pairs
Small box for chicks
Quail laying feed mix
Disinfectant for cleaning cages
How to Care for Quail Chicks
How to Care for Quail
How to Determine Sex of a Quail
How to Tame a Baby Quail
Sources and Citations
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