Backyard Quail-Are They Really Worth It?

Raising quail for meat and eggs in your backyard has become a fun hobby for many urban homesteaders. Backyard quail are small, take up little precious room, and you can have eggs and meat year round.
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 a $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?


Here’s some issues to consider when thinking of raising a backyard quail flock.

backyard quail

Problem #1 with backyard quail-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 on 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 sit 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.

quail eggs

Problem #2 with raising quail- 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 with raising quail-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. 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.

quail with egg

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.

Problem #4 with backyard quail- 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 (like this one from my affiliate partner) 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 raising quail-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 raising quail- the constant maintenance.

Quail can never run out of clean, 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 (like this one).  They will poop in their food as well, so you will need to monitor that closely to keep it clean.

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?

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18 thoughts on “Backyard Quail-Are They Really Worth It?”

    1. We bought 9 quail 3 weeks ago and have experienced most of what you posted here. Im actually not quite sure about about our township laws but i think as long as the neighbours dont mind, we shojld be in the clear. Yeah we call them our piggies because theyre so smelly and make such a mess with their food. The reason for us getting them is because we have a small yard so we dont want a dog but feel like the kids need something. So the eggs will be a bonus, we really just wanted them for pets. Thanks for all your info.
      The compost pile is a good idea, i would want to ruin my garden with it.

  1. I have raised “balcony” quail on the 4th floor of my city apartment. Yes they are messy and can be mean to each other BUT, the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives. They are sweet “pets” have personalities, greet you with daily fresh eggs, provide endless conversation starters. Incubating your own eggs is so much fun. Who doesn’t enjoy holding a fluffy walnut sized chick or receiving the gift of a carton of mini eggs? It is a fabulous urban farming mini project, perfect for a family with children. And the eggs are super nutritious.

    1. I agree! I’m in California and raise them in my sunroom…. I took the two sweetest quail, and their eggs hatched giving me some of the cutest chicks with the same disposition. Otherwise the eggs are simply delicious! It’s worth all the cleaning – 😉

  2. Thank you so much for the detailed info on care and upkeep. I was considering quail over chicken since they are smaller, but the points you mentioned were things I would never have known. Thank you very much!

  3. I supposebly have a pair of quails and they are probably 4 months old and they havent started laying. What could be some reasons for this?

    1. It’s been a few months since your comment – I hope they’ve started laying 😉 – for those with the same issue , it could be stress, lack of proper lighting, turkey feed no less than 28% protein? Hope this helps 😉

  4. What a good Read Iam a Inland South Fl Rancher I love living in the cypress raising home grown beef,poultry and wild game when in season. Iam new to having quail and they are the funniest little birds…hoping some of the females get broodie and hatch out some bitties. Intentions were to raise them for meat…well that dog flew the coop I cannot kill them there to cute!

  5. I got 5chicks that are now 7wks(3hen/2roo). Just got the first egg today! I have them in a 5×3 sparrow cage. Put down a double layer of newspaper, then timothy hay all over. Put some branches, sand box and a small hiding box for them. The food goes in an unused guinea pig litter box. Keeps the mess down.

  6. Hello,
    Thank you for the informative article. I’m a fairly new suburban chicken farmer, and had an epiphany….. Why not quail?

    I haven’t decided 100 % yet, but I think I might give it a go.

  7. Quail are great pets! If you’re looking for an ROI than they may not be for you. But if you are looking for a couple of small pet birds that are much quieter and nicer than parakeets then I’d recommend quail.

    1. quail are not pets and are far from domesticated enough to competently raise other than in cages where even there, they end up regularly dead over fighting, crowding, or just jumping into the ceiling or walls because of seeing their own shadow.

  8. After many years with a farm and 30-40 laying hens … all working the farm’s compost heap and laying a gazillion eggs for sale … living in a big walk in hen house with a deep litter floor … now I’m in suburbia with a code prohibition against chickens. I miss my girls so much! Now I’m thinking quail, so petite and quiet, might slip beneath the code enforcement radar and provide me with the garden animals that I crave.

  9. Bro, imagine keeping your quail in a super tiny cage like that. Like seriously. If you don’t have the room to keep an animal humanely then how about not getting any. If you cannot afford to own quail and give them a happy life, then how about not getting any quail? Why would you do that? How horrible. That’s a living animal, it thinks, keeping something like that in a small cage is wrong. Buy land and build a reasonably-sized quail house or don’t get quail man. You didn’t think about the quail when you bought them.

    Your guide is not good either. All you talked about was that quail poop. You give poor guidance.


  10. I’ve been raising quail for a little over a year now. Yes they are messy, but for the meat and eggs production in such a short period of time I’m convinced they are worth the work. Did I mention they are messy! You just have to stay on top of it every day or you’ll have a bigger mess. For me it is worth worth it. I eat quail eggs for breakfast almost every day and I substitute quail eggs for chicken eggs in recipes.

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