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.
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