An Introduction to Coturnix Quail
Many non-traditional homesteaders turn to keeping quail when they discover they can’t keep other forms of poultry. Some homesteaders choose to add quail even if they already have other poultry on their homesteads. Why? Because quail offer many benefits to the small-scale farmer and the exchange of time and money for these benefits is great. If you haven’t read Why You Should Consider Keeping Quail, I highly suggest you do.
There are several varieties of quail available, but Coturnix Quail are one of the most popular choices. Coturnix are the variety we have chosen for our homestead. Last night we set 40 Coturnix Quail eggs in the incubator. What is absolutely incredible is that in merely ten weeks, our eggs will be producing eggs. Yup! From the first day to setting eggs in the incubator to the first day they begin laying is only about two and a half months. That is a much faster turn around than chickens and ducks, which take almost seven months.
Benefits of Keeping Coturnix Quail
The most common reasons for keeping Coturnix Quail is for eggs and meat. The eggs are absolutely delicious and considered quite a delicacy. Once a hen begins laying, she will produce approximately 300 eggs over the course of a year (about 210 if you chose not to use supplemental lighting). The meat is also considered a delicacy, since quail are game birds. Quail mature so quickly that they reach their top weight at 8 weeks old.
The best part is that they are so small! To reliably collect a dozen eggs a day, you would need about 15 birds. If you were keeping chickens, you would need to provide a coop of 30 square feet and outdoor space of 150 square feet, minimum. With ducks, you would need a total of 225 square feet. To keep the same number of quail, you would only need 15 square feet total indoor/outdoor space. In fact, many people offer only sheltered outdoor space. Remember, the more space available, the happier and healthier the bird, but you get the idea.
Speaking of turn around, let’s talk monetary turn around. I have a dozen chickens that empty a 50 lb bag of feed in two weeks. They would go through it even faster if their diet was supplemented with foraging and yard scraps. I get about 9 eggs a day and I make $3 per dozen for eggs in this area. I will have twenty Coturnix Quail. It will take them a month to go through a 25 lb bag of feed. Four of the quail are male, so I can expect to get about 12 eggs a day and quail eggs go for about $6 for 18 in my area. Not too shabby.
Breeding Coturnix Quail
Breeding of Coturnix Quail is another reason why a lot of homesteaders chose to keep them. Whether you breed to replenish your stock, sell chicks, raise meat birds, or just have fun as a hobbyist, an 18 day incubation period is fantastic. I will be breeding for all four purposes. I’m most excited to breed to develop my starting stock by choosing only the best birds from each breeding. I want to grow the largest birds I can with the best color variations. The idea just gets the zoologist in me giddy.
Genetics made my eyes glaze over in college, but once I was working in the field, it all clicked. If you are interested in breeding for color, this article on Backyard Chickens is the best (non-sciencey) one I’ve found. It also offers great information on sexing your quail by color. We are starting with the Pharaoh/Wild Type Coturnix Quail because the variety is easy to sex.
Upcoming Quail Information
Over the next few months I will be taking you along on our quail adventures. We will talk about incubating your quail eggs, brooding them, their living environment, and so much more. I will let you in on what works and what doesn’t (such as “Will my males try to kill each other in a colony cage setup?”) Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss any of the updates. If you have any questions about raising quail, please contact me or ask in the comments below. I am happy to answer any and all questions.