Quail Farming for Modern Homesteaders

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Lets discuss a bird of a different feather. The cute and personable quail. I was proposing the idea of getting Coturnix quail to my dear and wonderful husband. Being the way I am, I researched like a mad woman and drew out a sketch of my proposed quail pen to show him (I’m thinking of something like this). So why quail? There are so many great reasons. While quail farming might not be ideal for every homesteader, they can fit into homesteads both large and small.

If you live in a location where ordinances prohibit keeping chickens and ducks, then quail may be right for you. Why you should consider quail farming.

Reasons Why Quail Farming Might Be Right for You

  • The eggs are considered a delicacy and bring in more money than chicken eggs. If you decide to raise quail, you’ve got to try your hand at making Little Devils. They’re also excellent pickled as a high-protein snack.
  • You can have males in your flock without annoying your neighbors (which is great for us that live on a non-traditional homestead).
  • They cost less than traditional poultry because they are smaller so they use less feed and bedding. In fact, with wire bottom cages there is no bedding to deal with.
  • They are very low maintenance and their so fun to watch with their funny antics. They’re also just as hardy as chickens and ducks in extreme winters like we have here in Maine.
  • You can sell juvenile and adult birds for eggs, meat, or hunting dog training.
  • They lay an egg every day from 6 weeks on (depending on breed and supplemental light).
  • In many cases you can have quail when you can’t have chickens (again, great for the non-traditional homesteader).
You may also enjoy  Angoras: A Dual Purpose Rabbit

If you live in a location where ordinances prohibit keeping chickens then quail farming may be right for you. Why you should consider backyard quail.

The Difference Between Quail & Chickens

I dive into things wanting to know everything you could possibly need or want to know. I’ve been reading books (I enjoyed Urban Quail-Keeping and Carole West’s Quail: Getting Started – she visited us and shared why she raises quail on the ground), meeting up with people who raise quail, and perusing the internet. Some things surprised me. I figured a quail would be much like a chicken, just in a smaller package. In some cases they are similar, but these are game birds, so some ways they are completely different.

Where chickens do terribly on wire floors (bumble foot), this doesn’t tend to be an issue for quail.  I am looking at setups where they slant the wire floor so the eggs just roll right out to the front.

On the topic of eggs, did you know that in most cases quail don’t nest? They will just lay an egg wherever. The negative of that is that they also don’t brood. I heard maybe 1 out of 100 females will brood eggs. That means if you plan to breed and grow your quail “business” then you need an incubator.

Never one to pay retail for anything or buy something I could easily make, I’ve been looking into plans for DIY incubators using recycled/upcycled materials. Update: I’ve been hatching and brooding quail for a few years now and I’ve got some tips to help the process go smoothly.

So, quail experts, do you have any suggestions or important experience to share? Does quail farming sound like it might be right for you?

You may also enjoy  The Anatomy of Egg Color

If you live in a location where ordinances prohibit keeping chickens and ducks, then quail may be right for you. Why you should consider quail farming.

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I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

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About Jessica Lane

I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.


Quail Farming for Modern Homesteaders — 52 Comments

  1. I’m new to quail and wanted them for pickled eggs. I now have someone asking to purchase a dozen eggs. How much do they sell for? Thanks

    • It depends on the area. Even here in Maine there is a lot of variation. I personally sell mine $5 for 30 (I sell them in those little fiber baskets you get berries in). I know my prices tend to be low for eggs.

      • I live in northern Maine Aroostook county and I’m wondering how do the quail handle the cold? What would I need to raise chicks successfully throughout the winter? I’m considering getting quail to replace my meat rabbits.

        • They handle it just fine. We are in the White Mountains so I think we are pretty close to the extreme temperatures you see further north. Just make sure you provide ventilation without drafts. Our quail coop is solid wood. It’s taller than they really need and it has vents along the roof line, so they can hunker down out of any breeze.

  2. We’ve been raising quail for two years now, and we tried a lot of DIY incubators, but we could never get them to hold the right temperature, and never had a single egg hatch. It was worth it for us to just buy an incubator.
    I’ve never had chickens so I can’t compare, but the quail are pretty chill birds. And their eggs are excellent for baking, as long as you don’t mind cracking 5 of them for every one chicken egg a recipe calls for.

  3. We raise Cotornix breed quail. I have one male to 8 females. They are quiet, which is good since we live in a subdivision. We eat the eggs, and also save a few to incubate and hatch out. The kids love that part. The quail are not skiddish, their wings are clipped so the kids hold them, etc. We love hatching them but yes they are born super small. A way to prevent the sway leg and other issues one commented about is to turn the eggs three times a day in the incubator so they don’t get more heat on one side. Then when they are born do not leave them on newspaper or paper towels. You have to put a wash cloth in the incubator. Just an hr or two without one after birth their legs can spread out. If they do have the leg issue you can fix it with vet wrap and put them back in place. Google that method. We love our quail and we highly recommend them for families. I run the Georgia Quail FB page, join us there for more info.

  4. there are a few things I would like to say. First you need sand in a box they love to take a bath in it and they will waste less food this way. I have raised a few types and A and M coturnix seem the best they are a meet production bird. I have found to use old bath towels for the baby’s you will have less crazy legs and equals more birds. On the pins I use 1 in by 2 in wire on the sides and top , on the bottom for the feet 1/4 by 1 in you will still have some problems with the feet but dosent affect the taste my pins are 18 in tall 2 ft wide 8 feet long holds about 40 birds each. Over crowding will result in canabulisam. Buy a goof incubator they are worth their weight in gold. You can section off some small pins from the larger ones for injuries and will be needed. Good luck don’t forget they are food

  5. Hey Jessica, just a thought if you can’t afford a incubator get a bantam hen, they are so broody and great mama’s.
    Just a thought. I have 3 girls that sit, hatch and raise them as one. Funny bantams… I also had them as a kid and they hatched duck eggs too. I am going to run the thought of quail past my hubby and see what he thinks. I know I would love them!!
    Thanks for all you share, I just found your blog today and will keep reading.
    Nana April

    • I love getting comments like that. I love using broodies for hatching. One of my smaller hens hatched out two ducklings early this spring. They are twice her size and she still tries to cover them at night. I know you’ll love quail. They are funny, fabulous little birds and their calls are so pretty. The girls coo and the boys have a musical crow.

  6. Hello there Jessica! I’m loving your blog and all your great posts! I hope you don’t mind, but I featured your quail post in this week’s “Pinterest Link Up” over on my blog (linking back to you, and giving you credit, of course). It was just too good of a link to not share! 🙂 If you want to check it out (not looking for traffic. LOL. Just want to give you the full heads up) the link is: http://lifeatmennageriefarm.blogspot.com/2015/07/pinterest-link-up.html

    Happy homesteading,

  7. Hi Jessica,
    I love your site. Amazing articles! I am getting my quails tomorrow but I would love to incubate some. I tried doing that with a home made incubator but it was a total failure. Do you have pics of yours or any description of how you made it? I saw millions online but I am curious about what you did as I value and respect your opinions a lot! Thanks!

    • I wish I took pictures of it before I disassembled it this year. I will have it put back together this fall when I “freshen” my flock. I’ll be sure to snap some photos then. Thankfully, quail are pretty easy to hatch. Most DIY incubators can handle the job. If you can fit in an egg turner, I highly suggest it. Set and forget seems to be the motto with these guys. Congratulations on your new quail and be sure to share pictures on our FB page. I love seeing the tiny chicks 🙂

    • Incubators don’t have to be expensive buy direct from Chinese factories on eBay they will sell you any amount starting from 1 incubator at trade price with free postage to any where in the world. There the same top brands that are many times more expensive from online stores. Great small investment that will hatch your eggs. Just remember to turn the eggs at least 3 times a day. I keep my incubators in the kitchen every time I make a hot drink for my self I turn the eggs. To stop your birds getting splayed legs I use antislip mats used for ornaments & many other uses. It’s sold on a roll that you cut to size, buy it from any £1 or $1 store it has tiny rubber mesh that enables chicks to walk easy use it from when chicks are 1 day old change & wash daily is what I do with great results.

    • I don’t have experience with any online breeders. If you happen to live in Maine or New Hampshire, I highly recommend Quail Tale Farm in Biddeford. I just purchased eggs from them and now have a whole slew of beautiful quail chicks residing on my piano.

  8. I don’t know if anyone else asked you this – but do quail help with keeping the tick population down? We were considering guineas, but decided against it after reading so many negative things about them. Quail sound interesting!

    • I wouldn’t say they are well known for it, though they may grab a tick from time-to-time. The problem comes from the fact that you can’t free range quail and they are awfully small birds. Guineas are really the only domesticated fowl I know of that takes care of ticks, though chickens I’m sure help regulate the tick population.

  9. Just a heads up– if you are buying or raising youngsters, you have to be very VERY careful. We had a disappointingly high mortality rate with ours because apparently they are SUPER sensitive to even remotely slippery floors and three out of our six went splay-legged and died because they couldn’t move around. Put them on tightly-stretched rags; even paper toweling slipped too much. Once they get past that nerve-wracking stage, they are extremely flighty and hard to handle, a disappointment for the younger kids (who are used to hand-raised chickens and muscovy ducks, arguably the most docile poultry in existence). However, they are prolific layers of adorable little brown-speckled green eggs (we had cotournix quail), which we hard-boiled and turned into delightful little ‘bites’ (we had no outlet to sell the eggs from our two remaining quail after one escaped). Going off of that, we made the mistake of keeping ours in the same area as our other poultry. We put them with the chickens first (DON’T do that! Chickens only aggravate the quail’s already-high anxiety levels), and one escaped through a gap that even our smallest bantam didn’t have a hope of squeezing through. After that adventure, we moved the last two in with our muscovies (the most chill ducks you could imagine), and it settled down quite nicely. Don’t get me wrong, quail are great birds, just be prepared 🙂

    • Hi Kat,

      Thank you for the real world advice. I am certainly a bundle of nerves about our new adventure into quail. I appreciate all the feedback I can get. Our quail setup is at the far end of the poultry run and elevated 3′ off the ground with a completely separate run. Do you think that would still be too high stress for them? I was thinking of using bath towels in the brooder (since I had heard similar things about slippery surfaces). Would that be a good option or would nails get caught in the terry?

  10. This is very interesting!! I thought about raising quail once, but haven’t really thought of it again. (Got caught up in chickens, turkeys, goats, etc) I would love to make a bit of a profit farming this year, and maybe quail would help? Worse case scenario, I’ve heard they’re delicious!! Thank you for sharing this!

    • It really depends on your area. I plan to sell quail eggs in my roadside stand as well as through our local health food store. Depending on how you feel about it, adult birds can be sold to hunters as training birds and juveniles can be sold for breeding birds.

  11. I’ve had Coturnix quail for a few months now. I guess one of the things I would recommend is make sure you are ok with dealing with any overly aggressive birds you might end up with. One of the first hens I bought would peck the other birds to the point they were missing most of the feathers on their backs and then she would peck till they were bleeding. None of the remedies I read on chat forums worked. I finally turned her into dinner as I felt it wasn’t fair to let her keep making the other birds miserable. After she was gone the rest of my birds grew their feathers back and seemed a lot less stressed. So I guess if you purchase your birds as adults and see one that has perfect feathers among many missing feathers avoid that perfect looking one, she’s probably the reason the rest look so bad.

    • That is a great recommendation and it applies to all poultry. If you are going to take on the responsibility of keeping animals or any kind, make sure you are prepared for all aspects of husbandry.

      Thank you for chiming in Mary.

  12. is there a way you can show better pictures of the pens. I couldn’t make out how it was designed? I am very interested in your research. thanks for sharing? also would enjoy seeing other peoples pen ideas thanks to all.

    • My original drawing seems to have gone missing. I suggest hopping on Pinterest and searching “quail pen”. I saw one made out of electrical spools that looks really neat.

  13. So I hear people saying that quail are a great option for small properties with close neighbors. I’m not sure where everyone is getting this idea. I raised 25 Bob White quail this last spring. They have a couple of distinct calls. The first one seems to be a sounding call that they develop(both male and female) at about 5-6 weeks old and gets louder as they mature. The second is the “Bob White” call. Both were loud enough that my neighbors took notice.

    • You certainly have a valid point. Bobwhites are quite a noisy breed. Coturnix tend to be much quieter. As with any fowl, the quantity, breed and disposition of the birds makes all the difference.

  14. We have both quail and chickens but we started with quail for eating as well as dog training but we bought the chickens (silkies because they are very broody and will sit on anything) to incubate our quail eggs and as a secondary side to it we get eggs from both and meat from both and chickens in the long run in our opinion will provide more from the money we spend on them than if we bought the size incubator we would need

    • That sounds like a great plan. Mine is similar. I have an Australorp who is an excellent mother. I just worry she might be a bit heavy for tiny quail eggs. She’s a big girl.

  15. I have had Coturnix for a year and a half and they were doing quite well. Then they went into the fall molt. About a third of them did not ever come out of the molt and retained their “bald but look” and did not lay anymore. They were starting to come out of it and were laying quite well when the cold weather (20 deg. daytime; 10 deg. night time). My thirty birds have virtually stopped laying. They are in cages of 4-6 hens/one male. They are in an unheated, uninsulated building with plenty of sunlight and electric light to make up 14 hours of light per day. They are fed a 16% layer mash with they occasional shredded potato/carrot mix treat. Do you have any ideas what I can try in order to get my production back up. I have a sushi bar that depends on me for 3 or 4 dozen eggs per week. Enjoyed the article. Look forward to hearing from you, Jim

    • It’s coming soon, I promise! So many ideas and so little time. After the ducks hatch and I’ve had time to clean it up a bit, I’ll share my incubator with the world.

  16. Quail are on my someday list too. One of the biggest things stopping me is not having an incubator, so looking forward to anything you find out on DIY incubators!

  17. I haven’t taken the plunge of quail or rabbits (it may be postponed to next year due to the addition of a huge new garden needing my attention), but eventually I will have both. I do have my ducks living in the coop. From them I have learned that you have to observe and modify accordingly. Ex: The ducks would trash the feeding and watering area, but the chickens wouldn’t go out to eat or drink due to snow. I took down the roost over the nest boxes (they all use the one on the other side anyways) and use the poop board as a feeding station. The chickens can eat indoors and the ducks can’t reach.

    • Asking for forgiveness here LOL. I thought your comment was for the post on multi-flock housing. Hence my going on about ducks.

      Anyways, I have no experience with quail, but I’ve done my homework. I’m doing two unrelated “quads” so I can refresh the bloodlines as needed (I’ve been told every four years). I’ve chosen the coturnix because it lays well, is a good sized meat bird (for a quail) and they are popular for training hunting dogs. I wanted a species I could market in various ways and coturnix seemed like the best fit.

    • I worked on a farm that processed 10,000 quails a day, not a fun experience. Quails are about the same size and taste the same as partridge, never tried their eggs though.

      • We like to boil or pickle them and enjoy them as a high protein snack. A lot of times when I finish off a jar of homemade pickles, I’ll boil up the eggs we have on hand and pop them in the leftover brine. They are yummy!

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