Are you interested in learning how to raise coturnix quail? These little birds are great for small homesteads and they’re easy to raise! We’ve got the answer to the question: How do you raise quail??
Poultry is big here at our house. My kids love birds more than most other livestock. We started with chickens, then added ducks, and finally quail. We raise coturnix quail, which have a lot of pluses when it comes to poultry.
First, quail are small. This makes them perfect for urban homesteads because they require less space per bird.
Second, coturnix quail also mature early and start laying eggs by 8 weeks of age. That’s much quicker than waiting 20 weeks for a chicken to start laying!
If you are thinking about adding quail to your homestead, here are the basics of how to care for quail- from hatching to adulthood.
How to Raise Coturnix Quail
Coturnix quail can be a bit fragile at hatching- so I would strongly recommend hatching your own or finding a local source as opposed to mail-ordering your quail chicks.
They are quick to hatch- taking only about 17 days- so if you have a local farmer with fertile eggs it’s an easy way to go.
Caring for Quail Chicks
At hatching quail are pretty small. Much smaller than the day old chicken chicks you may be used to. Their needs are similar to chickens in that they need a brooder box, heat lamp, water and food.
You will need to place marbles or a sponge in their water to prevent drowning at first. Also cover any bedding material with paper towels at first to keep them from pecking and eating the bedding.
Here’s more information on setting up a brooder box.
We keep our quail in a 50 gallon water trough for the first couple weeks before moving them outside to their final pen. Make sure they have screen on the top of their box to prevent them from flying out- quail learn to jump and fly quick!
Keep your quail chicks under the heat lamp (starting at 98 degrees on hatch day) until about 4-6 weeks. Reduce the temperature under the lamp by about 10 degrees each week until you hit the outside air temperature. If it’s the middle of summer and really warm you won’t need the supplemental heat for long.
What to Feed Coturnix Quail
Feed your quail a high protein, unmedicated game bird feed.
We use Manna Pro Gamebird/Showbird.
At first you might need to pulse the feed through a food processor the first week or so to prevent choking, but after the chicks have gained some size they should be fine with crumbles.
Quail need high protein throughout their entire life. A showbird or gamebird feed is the way to go. Check out what your local feed store has in stock to find an affordable option.
Related Reading: The Quickstart Guide to Raising Ducks
Housing for Quail
Because of their small and flighty nature quail are not really suited for free ranging. You have a lot of options when it comes to your cages. I have seen stacked pens with wire floors, refurbished rabbit cages, etc.
I prefer to house mine on the ground since it is more similar to their natural habitat. If you are on the ground be sure to provide some begging materials- ours love the days we add straw- they tunnel through and make holes to hide in. They also enjoy added “hideouts” made from branches or buckets.
You will need to provide about 1 sq ft per bird. Quail do have the tendency to fly straight up when startled so you will either need to keep their cages short- 8-10 inches or tall enough for them to fly without hitting the top. Our current set up is 4 ft tall and we haven’t had any issues.
They can be kept indoors or on decks if you keep the area cleaned regularly or outside, as long as you provide them with protection from draft. We keep our pen wrapped in a tarp in the winter to keep them warm and protected from our high winds. It’s easy to unwrap on warm days to let them enjoy the sun.
Quick Quail Housing FAQ:
Can you free range coturnix quail? Not in the same way you would free range chickens or ducks. Quail are very small and very flighty. If you want to give them a more natural, free habitat, I would suggest a large run or aviary with netting over the top. This prevent escaping and predators from getting your quail.
Can you house quail on the ground? Yes! That’s actually my preferred way of housing. I find it more natural than a wire cage placed above the ground.
Can you house coturnix quail indoors? I suppose you could. And I have seen some basement set ups, but I would suggest outdoors because of air quality for everyone and quality of life for the quail.
Related Reading: The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Guinea Fowl
If you are raising your quail for eggs, coturnix quail should come into maturity and start laying by about 8 weeks. They will then lay about an egg a day for life.
IMPORTANT: In order to keep up production year round you will need to provide a light source so that they get 14hrs of light per day. If you don’t provide a light source they will only lay during the time of year that naturally receives this much light.
Quail do not need- and would most likely not use- nest boxes. Some people slope the floors of their wire cages to that eggs roll out for easy collection. I just send my 5 and 8 year olds in to the pen to collect. It’s like a mini egg hunt for them.
How to Sex Your Quail
By 3 or 4 weeks you should notice feather color differences in your quail. This feather color difference is the easiest way to sex your quail.
The most common coturnix quail coloring is the pharaoh- the females will get speckled feathers on their chest whereas male will not. You can see in the image above the difference between a male and female quail.
The males will also start to call at 5 or 6 weeks. We have some all white ones- and we just wait until they start breeding and calling in order to tell them apart.
You can also vent sex them- but that’s not something I am really knowledgeable about. Here’s a video of vent sexing coturnix quail.
More on Raising Poultry:
Quickstart Guide to Raising Ducks
6 Things Your Chicken Coop Must Have
If you raise them in a big pen like 50 to 100 feet long will they become good flyers? I’m interested in using them to train my dog to steady point. I need strong flying birds. I’m told they fly as good as bobwhite if raised in flight pens.
In my experience, they are clumsy fliers at best. Good only for little bursts of about 10 ft in the air and cover a distance of maybe 3-5 meters in a single flight.
I had an open enclosure with bird netting set at around 9ft in the air and approx 12ft wide by 20ft long. They rarely hit the bird netting.
Although I preferred the open enclosure, I have since gone to much smaller cages that are set off the ground due to predators and rodents getting into the previous enclosure. (Unlike chickens, quail won’t defend their food source from rodents.) I currently have 5 homemade cages that are approx 18in high x 18in wide x 10ft long. I try to keep no more than 1 male and 4 females per cage.
This is my first year and I have a young neighbor boy who loves coming over and feeding them. regarding the flying I have had a couple escape and they have flown 15 – 20 yards. They do get tired after 1 or two quick bursts and then you can basically walk right up to them and pick them up
I have used them to train Brittany dogs. They are a good training bird. Their short flight time helps to keep your dog from chasing. We used to give them with the dogs we sold. They can be runners if they don’t have good cover. Even tall grass works for cover.
Why do my quail kill each other?
Quite possible you don’t have enough protein in their diet, you are keeping Coturnix with Bobwhites or you have to many roosters.
I love my quail. I have several coturnix color mutations in a small chicken coop. I give them 18% chick feed, meal worms treats and garden scraps or weeds like dandelion or chickweed. Great little layers and the veggie/weed scraps give not only a thrifty solution to stretch their feed but also give a deeper colored yolk. I also give them ash to bathe in from our wood stove.
I am interested in raising quail and your description sounds like how I would want to do it. Would you mind sending me a picture of your setup?
I have raised both Bobwhite and Coturnix Quail! I have recently gone back to Coturnix Quail because there are not many, if any, breeders of Bobwhite Quail in North Carolina. Both are a great breed and fun to raise!
Have you had any problems with your quail getting round worms from being on the ground?
How many females per male do you recommend keeping?
I think that 4 females to 1 male is about good ?
hi my frend
thanks for your web and information
I have question for speed air in the shed
I have shed and length the shed is 30 metter
how many air speed we need for per quail?
for example we need max 3 metter air speed in the shed for layer
I am new to this and I just got 3 female’s and 1 male about 2 weeks ago they are around 9 months old I was told they won’t hatch there own eggs I’m just wondering if I was told right or does anyone know a good way to get them to hatch them out there own self
Quail basically never brood unless set in an outside pen where they feel comfortable enough to make a nest. There needs to be places where they can hide like flower pots at an angle a few inches underground or tall grass. Just watch out for predators and things like that. Also, it will be quite a bit harder to find their eggs.
I have a female who is not even a year old and she just hatched 13 of 14 eggs. She wouldn’t sit on them until she had 14. All but one hatched. 3 did not live past the first night. I think 10 is the max. that fit under mom and can be kept warm enough. Now it’s a bit like musical chairs when it’s nap time. The last one in pops another out on the other side but after a bit of adjustment they all fit. They are just over a week old now and doing great! They are outside in my vegetable garden that is 2 tent carports covered with chicken wire. I had to put a 1 foot high strip of 1/2” wire mesh to keep the chicks in or else they can just pop through to the outside! It’s also to keep cats or raccoons from reaching in and grabbing them.
is it possible to house the quail in the same coop as chickens?
I wouldn’t recommend it
i had my chicken (Hatchi) i hatched in with my coturnix quil quite happily. she was an only chicken egg i retrieved from becoming an egg butty! and i tried to introduce her to other chickens i bought in but they bullied her so i gave them away! and because she was hatched in the house and loved human company i think that might of helped why she got on with my quails! she was not dominant in any way! sometimes the quail would get under her feet at feeding time but overall she was the most happiest chicken in with her little quails.
Iv heard the chicken can be used to incubate the quail’s egg
I want to have quail to lay eggs. I only want about 4 hens as it is just to be a hobby and to show the grand kids. Do I need a male or will the 4 hens be happy and lay eggs? We only have a small back yard so I will build a coup to suit.
My females are not laying. They are in a 8×4 x5 ft tall cage.they are about 11 weeks old. I have a 10 females and 3 adult males and one juvinille Male but no eggs. It’s about 12 hours of day light a day. So what gives.
From all that I’ve read and heard, quail need at least 14 hours of daylight minimum to lay.
Yes- 14-16 hours of light are needed for quail to lay.
If they are bothered at night by a predator such as a raccoon, cat or fox, they will quit laying until the predator quits bothering them. Otherwise no idea if the light duration is long enough.
How big are the egg’s, and are these also a meat bird?
I live in Toowoomba QLD and I have had quail on the ground for 5 years now. I built a chook pen with a 1/2 waterproof roof and 1/2 shadecloth. They have a large sand bath, boxes in which to hide or lay (some days I will get 8 eggs in the one spot). In winter they have multiple hay shelters to ruffle into. They get mealworms and fruit everyday. They are very entertaining and I love the male call early in the morning.
Do you have any pictures of your ground pens?
Why won’t mine sit on their own eggs
Domestic Quail are not brooders like chickens (or wild quail), so if you want hatched eggs you’ll need an incubator. There are several books available, so take the time to research what works best for your environment.
I plan on keeping my quail in a set up in a shed, but I live in Wisconsin so our winter get very cold. What is an ideal temperature range they should be kept at?
how is their heat and cold tolerance? we get single digits in winter and triple digits in summer. Do they do well in cold but not heat like rabbits, or vice versa, just need to know so I can plan to keep them comfortable and healthy