Raising Quail on the Ground In a Coop + Pen or In an Aviary

See how raising quail on the ground can simplify your life. Read how to create an ideal natural environment for your quail.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Two coturnix quail on the ground with a clutch of eggs.

When I first decided to raise Jumbo Coturnix quail, I noticed through research that most quail were raised in wire cages or some cage resembling a rabbit hutch. This wasn’t how I wanted my quail experience to end up. The vision I wanted was for these little game birds to roam the grass hunting for bugs, much like they would do if they were living in the wild.

I knew I couldn’t free range due to sky predators and the chance of them flying away. There was this desire to implement housing covered with access to the ground.

Are you ready to take your homesteading operations to the next level? Prepare to change your approach with a new method gaining traction: raising quail on the ground. This game-changing practice brings environmental benefits, improves bird welfare, and simplifies management practices.

Why Raising Quail on the Ground is a Game Changer

Raising quail on the ground introduces a game-changing approach gaining widespread popularity. This method not only offers a multitude of benefits for the environment, but it also improves bird welfare and simplifies management practices. By exploring the advantages of ground-based quail farming, we can uncover the significant impact this practice has on sustainability, productivity, and profitability.

Environmental Benefits of Raising Quail on the Ground

Raising quail on the ground takes center stage when it comes to environmental benefits. Unlike traditional methods that confine quail to cages, this practice allows these birds to roam freely and interact with their natural environment. As a result, they can forage for their own food, reducing the need for commercial feed and minimizing the carbon footprint associated with commercial feed production. This shift towards a more natural diet benefits the quail and contributes to a healthier ecosystem.

Ground-based quail farming promotes soil health and fertility. As these birds explore and peck at the ground, they help aerate the soil and distribute natural fertilizers in the form of their droppings. This process enhances soil structure and nutrient availability.

Raising quail on the ground minimizes the use of chemical interventions. In a controlled environment like a coop or aviary, quail may be more susceptible to pests and diseases that require the application of pesticides or antibiotics. By allowing quail to inhabit the ground, they can access a complex ecosystem supporting a higher biodiversity level. This natural balance helps deter pests and reduces the need for chemical interventions, creating a healthier and more sustainable farming system.

Quail Are Healthier in Ground Coops & Pens

One important aspect of bird health is providing ample space for the quail to move and thrive. The birds can roam and explore their natural habitat with outdoor coops and pens. This allows them to exhibit natural behaviors, such as scratching and foraging, which keeps them mentally and physically stimulated and promotes better overall health.

To keep your quail healthy in their ground coops and pens, it is necessary to provide proper shelter and protection from the elements. A well-designed coop or pen should provide adequate insulation, ventilation, and protection from extreme temperatures, predators, and pests. By ensuring a comfortable and secure environment, you can minimize stress and promote the overall well-being of your quail.

Another key aspect of bird health is providing a balanced and nutritious diet. Quail require a varied diet that includes a mix of grains, seeds, greens, and protein sources. You can ensure that your birds receive all the necessary nutrients for optimal health and productivity by providing a well-balanced game bird feed and allowing the quail to forage in their natural environment to supplement their diet.

Regular monitoring and health checks are important for maintaining bird health in outdoor housing. You should observe your quail closely, looking for signs of illness or distress. By staying on the lookout and proactive, you can prevent potential problems and ensure the well-being of your backyard quail flock.

A coturnix quail on the ground with dirt and straw.

Raising Quail on the Ground Means Less Work for You

Planning and arranging the ground coop or pen is an important aspect of making quail care easier. It’s important to have a well-planned setup that optimizes space and allows for easy access and movement of both the quail and you. This includes providing hiding areas, shelter, feeders, and waterers that are strategically placed and easily accessible for maintenance and cleaning. Ensuring the coop or pen is secure, and predator-proof is also essential for the safety of the quail.

Efficient feeding and watering systems can significantly simplify quail care. Automated or semi-automated feeders and waterers can greatly reduce the time and effort required for daily tasks. We use nipple waterers attached to a gravity-fed rain barrel and upcycled containers with feed holes in our system. These systems ensure a consistent food and water supply and minimize wastage and contamination. Streamlining the feeding and watering process can save time and resources while keeping your quail well-nourished and healthy.

Ground coops and pens require regular cleaning to maintain hygienic conditions. You can prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and parasites by removing quail manure and replacing bedding material. Managing waste effectively not only contributes to the overall health of the quail but also reduces odors and potential disease transmission. If you allow plenty of space for your quail, you may find a living groundcover is even easier.

Maximizing Productivity & Profitability in Quail Farming

Optimizing various aspects of your setup is necessary to maximize productivity and profitability in quail farming. One key consideration is the choice of the housing system, whether it be a mobile tractor, stationary coop, or aviary. Each option offers advantages and disadvantages, allowing you to tailor your choice to your specific needs and goals.

A mobile tractor, for instance, provides the flexibility to move the coop to different areas of your farm, allowing your quail to graze on fresh grass and access different forage sources. This can enhance their diet and overall health, leading to improved productivity. 

On the other hand, a stationary coop provides a more permanent structure that offers stability, security, and ease of management. This option allows for greater control over the environment, ensuring consistent temperatures, ventilation, and protection from predators.

An aviary may be ideal if you want to scale up your quail farming operations and increase production. Aviaries provide larger living spaces for your quail, promoting better mobility and exercise. This can result in healthier birds, enhanced egg production, and increased profitability. However, it’s important to consider the additional costs associated with constructing an aviary.

Frequently Asked Outdoor Quail Housing Questions

Raising quail on the ground comes with some situations you might not experience when you’re used to raising quail indoors. Here are some questions I’m often asked.

How much space does a quail need?

Many guides recommend 1 square foot per bird, regardless of breed. While technically, that is enough space, I’m of the school of thought that the more space you can provide, the healthier and happier your birds will be, and the less work will be required of you to maintain their housing. We provide 1 square foot of space for quail chicks in our brooders and 2 square feet for each mature hen and rooster in the aviary.

How hard is it to catch a quail outdoors?

Quail are incredibly fast birds, but as prey animals, they usually respond one of two ways when confronted with something they deem dangerous. Their first instinct is usually to flush (or rocket themselves quickly up and away from the danger). If they do this outside of containment, stay calm because they often immediately go to option two: freeze. After the initial flushing, the quail will hunker down and freeze, and you can pick them up and return them to their housing.

How do you set up a quail habitat outdoors?

The most important factor to consider is the safety of your birds. A quail habitat should be protected from predators, and it is essential to make sure that there are no openings large enough for predators to access. Rats and weasels can fit through some pretty tiny holes. To do this, build a wire mesh fence to surround your quail habitat and use hardware cloth at the base of the fence to keep predators out. An apron of wire on the ground surrounding the pen or aviary may be wise. Additionally, create appropriate coverings and hideaways to shield your quail from the elements and provide a safe, comfortable environment. I like to use plants for this purpose. Plants that are chicken-safe are also quail-safe.

For bedding, you can use natural coverings like woodchips, grass, sand, or my favorite: clover.

Choosing Between a Mobile Tractor, Stationary Coop, or Aviary

Choosing the right housing system for your quail farming operation is a critical decision that can impact the success and productivity of your venture. When it comes to raising quail on the ground, you have three main choices: a mobile tractor, a stationary coop, or an aviary. Each option offers unique benefits and drawbacks that you should carefully consider before deciding.

The Pros & Cons of Quail Aviaries

An aviary may be ideal if you want to scale up your quail farming operations and increase production. Aviaries provide larger living spaces for your quail, promoting better mobility and exercise. This can result in healthier birds, enhanced egg production, and increased profitability. Quails housed in an aviary have ample room to fly, forage, and exhibit natural behaviors, which can contribute to their overall well-being and productivity. Large aviaries are the most natural way to raise quail on the ground.

However, it’s important to consider the additional costs associated with constructing and maintaining an aviary. Aviaries require more materials and labor compared to mobile tractors or stationary coops. Additionally, the design and construction of an aviary must consider predator protection, ventilation, and proper drainage. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the aviary can also be more time-consuming and labor-intensive.

The Pros & Cons of Quail Tractors

On the other hand, mobile tractors offer the advantage of mobility. These structures are designed to be easily moved around your farm, allowing your quails to forage on fresh grass and insects. The mobility of a tractor provides your quails with a constantly changing environment, which can enhance their diet and overall health. However, mobile tractors may have space limitations compared to aviaries or stationary coops. Consider the size of your flock and the availability of suitable forage when opting for a mobile tractor. Remember that tractors must be relocated every few days to keep the ground from being stripped of foliage and matted with quail poop.

Learn more about quail tractors with Redemption Permaculture.

The Pros & Cons of Quail Coops with Ground Pens

Stationary coops provide a stable and secure structure for your quails. These coops can be built to accommodate various flock sizes and customized to meet your specific needs. Stationary coops offer easier access for monitoring and managing your quails, making daily care and maintenance tasks convenient. However, remember that the quails will be confined to a smaller area than an aviary, which may affect their mobility and exercise levels.

Check out this discussion on creating a rotational pen setup with a stationary quail coop. There are some cool ideas in there!

Ultimately, the choice of housing system should be based on factors such as available resources, farm size, management capabilities, and long-term goals. By carefully evaluating your specific needs and considering the pros and cons of each option, you can make an informed choice that aligns with your objectives and maximizes the productivity and profitability of your quail farming venture.

The Few Cons of Raising Quail on the Ground

The primary downside to raising quail on the ground is the risk of predators. Even if the area is well-fenced, a determined predator can find its way inside the enclosure. You may have to deal with a few predators in your area, including foxes, coyotes, raccoons, rodents, and household pets.

Additionally, the ground can become muddy and slippery when wet, making it difficult for the birds to move around and maintain balance. There is also the potential for parasites to build up in the soil, posing health risks for the birds. Finally, keeping a close eye on the birds outdoors is much harder than indoors, where they can be monitored more closely. Finding your quail eggs may also be hard when they are tucked into hidden nooks and crannies.

These drawbacks can be remedied, but it can be an ongoing process.

  • GroundRaised Quail by Carole West is a complete guide to raising quail in a natural environment for the purpose of eggs and meat. This book is perfect for homesteaders, farmers, and those with backyards seeking self-reliance.
  • Raising Quails Naturally by Trevor Ollsen shows you how to make the perfect habitat and select the right quails for your yard. It provides tips that will allow you to give your quails the very best life.

As you weigh your options and make this crucial decision, remember that your chosen housing system will significantly impact your quail’s health, welfare, and productivity. Making a well-informed choice will set the foundation for a successful and rewarding quail farming journey.

A pinterest-friendly graphic for why you should consider raising quail on the ground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Christy Spicer says:

    How do you keep the sanctuary clean from poop? That’s the style I want to go with as well bc I can’t stand the thought of keeping mine in tiny cages.

    1. Jessica Knowles says:

      Unless you have the pen overstocked, the quail keep it clean when they’re scratching up the soil.

  2. This is what I want to do!! How do you manage the poop?

    1. Jessica Knowles says:

      Our coop and run are positioned over the compost bin, so they’re pretty much self cleaning and the manure is used in the garden after it cools down.

  3. Kaleigh Abernathy says:

    Do you know if quail will bother garden plants?

    We are raising jumbo coturnix and going to have them in a movable tractor for mow but we were thinking of making an qrea for them in the green house for when plants are small and the rest of the time when the plants are big or we don’t have plants let them have the whole greenhouse.. my husband is afraid they will eat everything… I was thinking they might not if they are kept away while the plants are young

    I’d love to hear your thoughts

  4. Of Goats and Greens says:

    I plan on raising quail come late spring. My problem with quail on the ground is that I have bad knees, a bad ankle, and a sometimes floppy disk in my back. But I will see what I can do, at least part of the year. Or how I can best adopt your ideas to make both them and me happy.

  5. Leanne Mitchell says:

    I was thinking about putting a removable “top” on one of my 4 by 10 raised garden beds and putting quail in and rotating between my two beds every year. Can you think of any reason that this would be problematic if there is a cover so they are dry and they have a “nesting” box?

  6. Hi Carole,

    I’ve just started raising quail. I read your blog about the plants you sowed in the coop. It’s very interesting. One thing I noticed with my quail is that they’re not so bothered about most veg, but they absolutely love “vegatable mallow” (Malva crispa). They will completely strip a branch in a day. You should try it and let me know if your quail enjoy it as much as mine 🙂

  7. joyce crossland says:

    Hello Carol, We have a cage on the ground and move it around and the warn weather. I live Pa. and its getting cold and I worry about keeping them warm. We have put tarps on the top and on the side that the wind hits. They have a box they can get into,but I think it needs insulated. I really worry about the snow. What do you think about them being outside in winter on the ground?

    1. Carole West says:

      I have an article from my blog you may find helpful for winterizing quail. Hay bales make great insulators around the exterior of the coop and I actually used shelter boxes inside their habitat – raised them off the ground using cut up landscaping timbers then filled the interior with hay as if making nest material. Because I had many quail with several of these shelters I also arranged them in a way that blocked out cold weather. Hope that helps – Carole

  8. Anonymous says:

    IS it possible to get coturnix to regain there natural instincts? I know you have done it with the native breed but you said you start off with them. I am looking into pharoh d1 due to high egg production. also I am willing to put in a silkie to brood them if nessary. I was even thinking maybe quail raised by a chicken might teach them what they should do a little.? Where could I do more research. your the only source I can find only sorry this and your other blog. Also I do find comments here in there randomly but no hard how to stuff.

    1. Carole West says:

      I started with the Coturnix on the ground and yes they will regain their natural instincts if you begin the process from the time they’re chicks. I have a large inventory of articles on my blog, Garden Up Green. This was a guest post I wrote for 104. I’ve always raised my quail on the ground from the beginning because it appeared very unnatural to me to raise birds on wire.

      My Blog > https://www.gardenupgreen.com/
      Quail Articles > https://www.gardenupgreen.com/category/quail

  9. Do you have any issues with your quail getting worms due to being raised on the ground? My boyfriend and I have Texas a&m. His are in raised cages and mine are on the ground. He claims they can get roundworms if they are raised in the dirt, but they are infinitely happier when they are able to run around on the ground. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. I did have one coturnix catch an eye worm parasite. IT was contracted from crickets consumption as they (Not all) can carry this parasite. I write about quail on my blog Garden Up Green where I share my experience.

  10. I am thinking of raising quail for meat and eggs. I want them to be “free range” and would like to not give them feed. Did you need to feed them extra food or did they get enough from the grass and what ever bugs they could find.

    1. Carole West, Garden Up Green says:

      Hello Heather, Free ranges is possible in a large closed in space, it can’t be open because the birds will fly away. To achieve your goal without feed you need to create a quail friendly environment with native grass and plants in addition to the bugs they will eat. To achieve this you will need a very large space and supplying enough food will depend on how many quail you raise. I always supplement my quail’s diet in addition to a natural environment. I’d like to invite you to my blog – Garden Up Green where I have many posts on the topic that would be helpful in your planning. -Carole

  11. Hi Carol,

    I saw in your bio that you’re in north Texas. I’m also in north Texas, in between Dallas and Ft Worth. I’m picking up my first dozen quail chicks this weekend! Do you often have chicks?

    1. I’m currently in the middle of selling our farm in Greenville and relocating onto a 28 acres property. Congrats on the new bunch of Quail chicks how exciting! I don’t raise quail chicks to sell right now relocating is the focus right now but I do have many articles you’ll find helpful for raising quail chicks, my blog is Garden Up Green. I hope to get started with my Bobwhites again in June. Counting the day!! Hope to see you there! -Carole

  12. Hello Carole, I like your ideas of keeping quail on the ground., I agree they are happiest on the ground and it is much gentler on their feet than wire.
    But how do you protect them from rats? I have not met anyone who has succeeded terribly long keeping quail on the ground (unless there is a floor), as rats can eat them alive, and in our experience they can dig under a fence in a night. It would be great if you mention how you get around this, lest people try it, the results of this mistake are devastating to experience. Thank you!

    1. Hey Vee -Here’s my question, how do quail survive in the wild from rats? I haven’t had any issues with rats in our sanctuary. It’s 60 ft long and the majority of their diet is free range. If rats are an issue for others it’s probably because they’re over feeding and rodents are seeking that feed. The other issue could be if the run is to small they have no place to escape from the rats. I also keep a clean farm with additional animals like, dogs, emus and chickens that help detour rodents. Keeping the grass low around the sanctuary is another smart thing as rodents and other pests like snakes hide in tall grass. I’d like to invite you to my blog, Garden Up Green where I have many posts on raising quail including different types of on the ground housing.

  13. My wife and I are buying 20 acres of land in Virginia and want to raise ducks & quail for egg consumption ONLY. Also we would like to have a 40X20 greenhouse to grow our vegetable all year round. Can you direct me to or help me understand what we need to start learning so we can grow responsibly?

    1. Carole @ Garden Up Green says:

      Hello, this is Carole from Garden Up Green, I wrote this article. I’ve got a book- Quail Getting Started that is for beginners interested in raising quail in a natural environment. You can find it on my blog along with many post about raising quail this way. I also have a new book coming out in February that I’m really excited about related to gardening. It’s a no fail natural gardening workbook, Startle Garden. Hope that helps. I’m sure you can also find helpful information here on Jessica’s blog. Congrats on the new acreage, we recently purchased 28 and we’re turning it into a tiny house community. SO excited!!