Quail can go from hatch to butcher weight in 6 weeks. During that time, they eat much less than the average meat chicken.
Backyard quail also begin laying eggs at 6 weeks of age, average versus the average hen being 18-22 weeks of age. Some homesteaders are even able to sell their quail eggs, and quail egg prices can bring $3-$10 per dozen.
Backyard quail do have a lot of drawbacks. For some, raising quail is just not worth the benefits.
A small fortune can be spent on backyard quail cages, special waterers, hatching equipment, and so on. Is the return on investment really worth the trouble of raising quail?
Table of Contents
High Demand For Quail Eggs and Meat
There is high demand for both quail meat and eggs.
Their incubation period is very short – around 18 days and since they grow fast quail can be ready for slaughter within six weeks of their birth. This allows for consistent meat production when you’ve got a large flock.
The eggs of quail have high quantities of protein, phosphorus, vitamins (i.e. A, B1, and B2), and iron. The meat is tasty and packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids (fatty acids).
One thing to note is that quail eggs are tiny. The egg weights are typically between 7 and 15 grams; this means that to get the same amount of nutrition as a chicken egg, you’d have to eat five quail eggs.
That high level of nutrition makes them great for human health and has made quail eggs and meat popular with high-end restaurants.
With that in mind, quail farmers have a vital role to play in supplying meat and eggs to meet the demand of food…
Thankfully quail hens start laying eggs pretty early on in life and in their first year of life, quail hens will lay around 300 eggs. This makes commercial quail farming one of the more popular farming ventures.
Different Quail Breeds
There are a few different quail breeds out there, these include:
Common Quail (Coturnix Coturnix)
The common quail can reach heights of between 16 to 18 centimeters. It can weigh between 70 and 135 grams. It’s an easy bird to raise for meat and eggs. They’re much quieter than chickens which makes them friendlier for neighborhood living.
Japanese Quail (Coturnix Japonica)
Found throughout East Asia, the Japanese quail is a popular option for quail farming. It’s the most farmed species for its meat and eggs.
They have a greyish/brown plumage with brown or black speckles. They prefer to be in open environments with access to a water source.
Fun fact: they have 28 different calls for different situations – talk about a vocabulary!
California Quail (Callipepla Californica)
The state bird of California since 1932, the California quail is also called the Valley quail. These birds have a very distinctive, droopy crest that’s either brown (females) or black (males).
Their sides are brown with white stripes and they typically take to bushy areas for breeding.
They are found throughout North America and have been introduced to other countries including Argentina and South Africa.
King Quail (Synoicus Chinensis)
Also called the blue-breasted quail or the Asian blue quail, these little guys are typically found throughout Southern Asia.
They only live around two years in the wild but they can live up to 13 years in captivity (although they typically only live for around six years on average).
Telling Males and Females Apart
Telling male and female quails apart can be tricky. One way to do it is to look at the coloring on the plumage. Sometimes the males may have brighter colored feathers than the females.
Size is also a way to do it. One is usually bigger than the other. The Japanese quail is a good example, the females are typically bigger than the males.
Quail pellets can be purchased at most ranch stores. If they don’t have them, the store could probably order them for you. Otherwise, vegetable trimmings, as well as certain kitchen scraps are also good for your birds.
Pros and Cons
As with all birds, there are good things and bad things that go with raising them. Here’s a quick table with the most important ones, and after that we’ll talk in-depth…
|✅ quiet birds||❌ they poop a lot|
|✅ easy to care for||❌ they could be illegal to raise where you live|
|✅ eggs are expensive to sell||❌ can be aggressive to one another (particularly the males)|
|✅ start laying at 6 weeks||❌ cannibalistic tendencies|
|✅ low-maintenance||❌ cannot be free-ranged|
|✅ they don’t need a lot of space||❌ quail’s diet is somewhat restrictive|
|✅ easy to butcher||❌ can fly high and far|
|✅ temperature-hardy||❌ not rain hardy|
|✅ their poop makes good fertilizer||❌ not very smart compared to chickens|
|✅ they lay their eggs in random places||❌ short lifespan|
|✅ they don’t need that much feed||❌ cage needs daily cleaning|
|✅ butchering is easy|
10 Good Reasons to Raise Quail
- Quail are tiny little birds that produce tiny little eggs.
- They are useful for meat AND eggs
- You can keep an entire flock in a garage or outdoor shed, or laundry room
- Quail are fairly easy to hatch for yourself
- they are small enough that you can fit 4-5 birds in a rabbit hutch and they will have enough room to move and be happy.
- Quail are not noisy birds, so no one will know you have them, unless YOU tell them
- Quail are easy to care for, requiring only a few minutes a day to feed, water, and change bedding, or dump litter trays.
- Quail eat very little, but are large enough at butchering time that one o two birds can feed an adult
- Quail reach full maturity and being laying eggs at only 6 weeks of age, making the turnaround time on them quick
- If you want to sell eggs, quail eggs go for a premium, and in my area that is around $8 per dozen.
Cons of Raising Quail
Here are some issues to consider when thinking of raising a backyard quail flock…
Problem #1: They Poop a Lot
When raising quail, it is shocking just how much poop even a small flock of backyard quail can produce.
Like chicken manure, you cannot put it straight in the garden. It has to be composted for several weeks to several months, depending on your weather conditions. Be sure you know where it will go.
There will be bedding such as pine shavings, corn cob husks, or sawdust mixed in with the feces. Truly, there is no easy way to separate that out, either.
My small flock of 34 backyard quail birds filled 2-50# feed sacks with manure and bedding in ONE WEEK – every week! Be sure to have a plan for all that waste.
Check to make sure the bedding you are using doesn’t create soil issues in your garden as pine shavings, sawdust, and wood ash can be acidic and crushed corn cob takes years to decompose. Conduct soil tests before adding it to your garden.
If you don’t have a suitable place to dispose of it, start a compost heap (in advance) outdoors and away from your house, garage, or other dwellings.
If you are in the burbs and have limited space, line up a farmer/homesteader friend who has plenty of space and arrange to bring it to them at least twice a month.
With feed waste mixed in, if you leave it sitting around your property for too long, the smell will become overwhelming. The other problem is you will draw mice, rats, possums, raccoons, and other vermin.
Once they discover the flock, the vermin may even attempt to gain access to the backyard quail themselves. If successful, they will destroy an entire flock of backyard quail.
Problem #2: The Health Department
If word or odors get out, or vermin get in, neighbors may complain to your local authorities.
Check your local laws regarding gamebirds (some localities classify quail differently than chickens), backyard poultry, and other small livestock. Raising quail can be under different laws than raising chickens.
Find out what permits, inspections, etc you are legally obligated to comply with. This may include required inspections from any of several local or state authorities, most likely the health department.
Failure to comply with their rules, permit inspections, or correct any infractions can mean fines, confiscation of your flock and even have charges filed against you. Understand the law in your area!
In many areas, it is ILLEGAL to sell your backyard quail eggs and/or meat without inspections, permits/licenses, and compliance with local health regulations.
Your quail eggs and quail meat must be properly handled, cleaned, packaged, labeled, and refrigerated/frozen according to local laws.
Stores and restaurants will ask see evidence of your compliance or they will refuse your products. They too must follow the law and purchase ONLY from licensed vendors. Otherwise, they cannot legally resell it.
Problem #3: Cage Cleaning
The microscopic particles of fecal matter mixed with urine, ash or sawdust (from their baths), and feed from your backyard quail flock creates dust that can send those with respiratory issues into sneezing fits or asthma attacks.
Problem #4: Feed Waste
When raising quail, there is a feed involved. Quail (like any poultry) like to play with their food and as much feed is kicked out of the feeder onto the floor as goes into their bellies. Half of the feed can easily be wasted, regardless of what feeder you use.
It can’t be fed back to them if it is mixed with feces, but at least the powder that is left behind in their feeder or the bottom of the still clean feed bag can be run through a large metal sieve, and turned into mash.
To your backyard quail flock, it is a special treat. To you, it is feed cost savings. Don’t waste it.
Problem #5: They Can Be Vicious With Each-other
Some quail can be vicious cannibals. Once one draws blood on another and the whole flock smells blood, bad things can happen FAST. They will ALL gang up on the weak one giving you an entire flock of bullies.
Have a couple pet carriers or other alternative housing available so that you can separate out the injured from the bullies and nurse them back to health.
Sadly though, in my experience, when you get them patched up and reintroduce them to the flock, it is just a matter of time until it happens again. They remember.
Problem #6 with backyard quail-they can fly.
Unlike chickens, quail are pretty good flyers and can go quite high, far, and fast. Either clip their wings or always have a secondary means to block exits when handling them.
Quail cages should be built to be no no taller than 18 inches as well, because they can attempt to fly and get hurt on the top of the cage.
Problem #7: The Constant Maintenance
Quail can never run out of clean, water, ideally it should be fresh water. Like with any livestock, you will need a means by which to keep it from freezing in winter.
If you cannot do that, then you will need to thaw and refresh their water at least 3-4 times a day.
Also note, they poop in their water so a nippled system is best. They will poop in their food as well, so you will need to monitor that closely to keep it clean.
Raising Quail: How’s it Done?
Quail are very shy birds who don’t want a whole lot from you. Raising them, however, does require some planning.
Think about where you’re going to put them and what you’re raising them for – they need around 14 hours of sunlight if you’re breeding them for eggs.
If you want to increase egg production, you can hang lights around the cage, just don’t let them go for longer than fourteen or, at most, fifteen hours. The lack of sleep will cause severe stress on your birds.
As far as space goes, they don’t need much. A small cage, an old rabbit hutch, or an old shed will work just fine.
Clear some space for a small cage, quail house, or rabbit hutch and set it up where you want it or convert an unused shed (if you have one) into a quail enclosure. Make sure your quails can’t escape and are safe from predators.
You’ll also want to ensure that the enclosure is well-ventilated and that your birds can get plenty of fresh air.
Set up your water troughs in the back of the cage and the food troughs in the front. Make sure your young birds can drink without falling into the water and drowning.
Once you’ve got a cage/shelter set up, and you’ve figured out how many birds you need, it’s time to start looking at breeds.
Contact the local urban homesteaders and quail farmers to get birds that are acclimated to your area’s climate. Make sure you get two female quails for every male quail you have and keep the males and females separated.
One thing about buying your birds to keep in mind, they MUST come from reputable and/or reliable breeders. If those breeders are local that’s a bonus.
You will also need an incubator to keep the chicks warm. Quail chicks are often expensive, and since quails aren’t very good at caring for their own young, you’ll have to do it yourself.
Once the birds are hatched and managing on their own, you just have to take very good care of them.
Keeping an Eye Out for Disease(s)
When it comes to the quail farming business, one thing you have to be on a constant lookout for is disease. You don’t want a bird getting sick and spreading the disease to the rest of your flock.
Diseases tend to spread rapidly so you have to be quick to separate the sick birds from the healthy ones.
It’s important that, if you have an outbreak, you don’t allow other birds or unknown persons access to the sick/dead bird. You really don’t want anything to spread.
There are several diseases that you should look for, two big ones are:
Coccidiosis is a disease commonly found in poultry birds (quail are one of the smallest species of poultry birds). It typically affects the younger birds more and, left untreated, it can be fatal.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of coccidiosis include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Ruffled feathers
Treatment of coccidiosis involves the administration of medications. Treatment should start with a consultation of your local veterinarian. They will be able to prescribe the right meds and the dose of those meds to get your feathered friend as right as rain.
Also called quail disease, ulcerated enteritis is caused by Clostridium colinum bacteria. It’s most commonly found in domestic/captive quail but can occur in other birds.
The disease is contracted/spread through the consumption of contaminated food and drinking water. Left untreated, this illness can be fatal – especially in younger quails.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the signs that you may have an outbreak of ulcerated enteritis on your hands include:
- Sudden death
Like with coccidiosis, when it comes to treating ulcerated enteritis, your local veterinarian should be consulted. They will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and provide you with a treatment and vaccination plan.
How To Clean Your Quails’ Cage
To help prevent issues, you can try these ideas:
- Work in an open, well ventilated area. If your cage is indoors, set up a box fan (with a furnace filter taped to the back) and point it so it pushes the dust OUT the door.
- Wear a high quality, air filter mask OR at the very least, wrap a bandana around you nose & mouth and keep your mouth closed. Quail can sling poop for several feet. Given the right aim for them and wrong place/wrong time for you, they can get you right in the face. I have had it happen. Keep your mouth closed/covered and be ready to DUCK!
- When finished, remove all your clothing, put it straight in washer, and shower including a shampoo. Why? I failed to do that several times and later that day, I could smell and urine in my hair for hours. Maybe you aren’t as sensitive, but it did cause an asthma attack for me, too.
Once a month (two months TOPS), you will likely want to power wash the quail cage to remove the caked on, dried feces that has built up on the frame & hardware cloth.
- Place the quail in a temporary holding pen or cage, give them food and water.
- Take the cage outdoors away from cars & buildings to power wash it. The flow on a standard garden hose won’t cut it, you will need a power washer.
- After initial rinse, use a pressure sprayer with a hot water and bleach solution to spray it down, let sit for a few minutes.
- Rinse and repeat until clean. If you use a scrub brush, make sure it has a long handle because a brush makes the feces fly right back in your face.
- Allow to dry in the sun for several hours before returning the birds to their habitat. A fan can speed up the drying process, too.
Is Raising Quail for You?
In short, many feel that backyard quail really are NOT a good choice for inexperienced city folks. The return from the amount of time spent just isn’t worth it. When raising quail for profit, many are left in debt rather than profitable.
How do you feel about backyard quail? Are you going to try raising quail on your homestead?
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.