To anyone who has ever gone down the rabbit hole of chickens vs. ducks, I applaud you for even questioning which is better. (Sorry, chicken-enthusiasts. Ducks rule.)
Naturally, what’s best for you will depend on your homestead or backyard setup, your personality and the amount of time you have to devote to your birds.
For the sake of diversity or squabble, let’s toss in another member of the fine-feathered flock – quail.
You’ve seen a quaintly quiet quail before, right?
If not, get ready to change your opinion about which birds are best.
There is no need to worry about egg-laying. Even though quail eggs are small, they do lay often. You’ll always have enough, provided you have enough birds.
The same applies to any poultry.
As far as space requirements go, quail are satisfied with less space than chickens or ducks. If you can relate to them as minimalists, then you are off to an egg-celent start. A simple rabbit hutch can be home for up to 6 quail.
You’ll also find that quail are far quieter than their bigger-bodied counterparts.
So, if neighbors are an issue, we may have just presented a peace-keeping solution. See, no more squabbles over the fence.
Are you also aware that quail are extremely hardy birds? Unlike chickens who occasionally encounter health issues related to their feathers, feet or digestion.
Reasons to Raise Quail Instead of Other Backyard Birds
We’ve raised a few points to grab your attention. Now, let’s look at them in more detail. It is the best online way to “see for yourself” if quail are indeed better than ducks or chickens.
Even better than that is to find a farmer who already raises quail, for a hands-on experience.
1. Quail Eggs
Most backyard bird-raising dreams start with the vision of going outside in your robe and slippers to bring in fresh eggs for breakfast. And then reality hits: some dreams should stay dreams.
When you learn to raise your quail right, they could be producing eggs for you on a consistent basis, all throughout the year.
Quail start laying eggs in as little as six to eight weeks. Compare that to a duck that begins to lay at five to six months of age. Or a chicken that lays its first egg around 18 weeks.
Raising quail can give you a fast start to producing your own food.
Nutritious food at that!
It’s said that quail eggs may have the ability to improve vision, increase energy levels, boost metabolism, stimulate growth and repair, all while they treat different kinds of allergies.
Compared to chicken eggs, quail eggs have up to 6x more vitamin B1 and 15x more B2. They also have high levels of vitamin A, making them a fantastic choice for a healthy diet. Not to mention that they are rich in iron and potassium, which assist in the formation of red blood cells.
They inevitably do more than this, but you have to taste it to feel the difference. Because they are much smaller than chicken eggs, it is perfectly normal to eat 4-6 quail eggs a day.
With each hen laying up to 300 eggs per year, you’ll always have some eggs to bring in for breakfast – a whole handful.
Quality and quantity in a small package. You simply can’t ask for more than that.
2. Quail Meat
Or maybe you can. Not only is it wise to keep quail for their eggs, but you can also keep them for meat as well.
Why would you want to do this? Well, self-reliance and survival are about much more than gardening: growing fruit and vegetables. A well-working, sustainable farm always includes the presence of animals.
Skip to reason number three if you don’t eat meat.
Even if you only have a small area to keep animals, you can squeeze quail into your plan.
If you are looking at raising quail from a meat processing standpoint, know that the processing of them is far easier than dealing with ducks, chickens or other larger poultry. In fact, the first birds are ready for slaughter after 6-8 weeks, just when they begin to lay.
From then on, you can cut them as regularly as you wish.
I won’t get into the details here, because Community Chickens has already written an excellent article on how to process quail meat, with the skin on, or off.
3. Space Requirements of Keeping Quail
Coturnix quail, the kind you are most likely to raise on a homestead or in your backyard, are also known as Japanese quail, or Coturnix japonica. Within this, there are a few varieties of quail to choose from, they are not separate breeds:
- Gold Coturnix Quail
- Range Coturnix Quail
- Fawn Coturnix Quail
- White Coturnix Quail
- Tuxedo Coturnix Quail
Quail really are quite small birds. About the size of a plump robin or a blue jay when they are mature.
Males range from 3.5 to 5 ounces, females from 4-6 ounces.
However, you can also opt for jumbo quail, which are primarily raised for a meat source, tipping the scales at 14 ounces. All of them, even the heavier birds, have the ability to fly away. That’s why a secure home/fence/cage is essential.
How much space do quail need?
As with all manner of gardening, homesteading and animal raising in general the answer is – it depends.
You can choose to keep them in a rabbit cage to optimize the ease and efficiency of taking care of them. Or you can build semi-free range cages (a quail tractor) which can be moved throughout your yard or land.
A rule of thumb regarding space requirements for quail, says to provide 1 square foot of space for each bird. Naturally, you can give them as much as you want, but never less.
Raising quail is totally perfect for an urban environment, just be sure that your birds get to see plenty of sun. If you wish to gather eggs for breakfast, that is.
Do your best to give them a natural life. One that is close to the ground, as they are ground-nesting birds. There’s no need toworry about perches they won’t even use.
4. Feed Requirements of Raising Quail
As a ground bird that is used to scavenging the open grounds, quail are omnivores. They will eat seeds and greens, as well as insects. You do need to be sure they are getting plenty of protein in their diet.
For example, during their breeding season, insects and invertebrates make up to 60% of their total diet. Quail will eat just about anything they can get their little beaks on:
- and mealworms
Quail will always go for grains like most birds. To some extent, they also enjoy fruits such as berries, grapes, apples and serviceberries.
To get down to the nitty-gritty details, you’ll want to make sure to give your quail a nice mix of vitamins and minerals that are suitable for game birds.
Adult birds will eat approximately 20 grams (0.7 ounces) of food each day. If you think about raising ten quail, it’s just as easy to raise twenty.
5. Quiet as a Quail
Over the past five years, the number of people raising chickens in our rural village has quietly been decreasing. We notice this by the dwindling rooster calls in the early hours before sunrise. Of course, we get to sleep in longer, yet nostalgically long for all that is steadily disappearing.
Why is this? Maybe because eggs are so cheap, or the difficulties of raising chickens are becoming more and more apparent. That, combined with working longer hours, or going abroad for extended periods of time, reduces the need for keeping birds.
Still, many of you may choose to raise birds to reconnect with the past – only not in so loud of a crowing way.
For the single reason of maintaining a fine sense of quietude, quail may be the answer that allows you, and your neighbors, to sleep in.
Compared to ducks and chickens, quail are indeed quiet. The males will gently crow and make whistling noises, though the females are quieter.
Listen to some male Coturnix quail sounds here.
The chirping and cooing of quail is akin to a songbird, rather than honking geese. If you have a big enough backyard, it’s rare that anyone would object to such a sound. Which is nothing like the noise of cars, airplanes, sirens, shouting and such.
6. Rapid Maturation
In most varieties of quail, you’ll be able to tell the difference between females and males in only 3 weeks.
After that initial discovery, the hens will begin to lay eggs in as little as 6-8 weeks after hatching. Compare that to bigger-bodied birds and you’ve got yourself a fast-maturing quail that’s ready to eat just as they become sexually mature.
If you’re thinking of starting from scratch, from hens or from eggs, it’s good to know that an average quail clutch is 10-16 eggs. The eggs will hatch in 16-20 days.
Go ahead and watch this video on hatching quail eggs from Self Sufficient Me, you might learn a thing or two.
7. Sickness, Disease and Hardiness
As previously mentioned, chickens are known to have their downfalls and deficiencies. Quail really don’t have many, if any problems. Provided they have clean drinking water, nutritious food and a shelter safe from predators, they will give you the best they have to offer in terms of eggs and/or meat.
Cold can be an issue if you are in a very cold climate. In general, quail can handle temperatures down to -20 °F, so long as the wind is not rustling their feathers. On the opposite end, quail are also tolerant of heat, provided that you give them plenty of shade – and fresh water.
8. Raise Quail for Profit
If you’re looking for ways to increase the output of your small family farm business, it almost never pays to do more. The way to grow your income is to raise the quality of goods and services that you provide.
Making money is all about the added value, or the specialty product.
Quail eggs and meat are in high demand.
Or if they aren’t, perhaps you can help them along.
Chefs are often on the lookout for ways to increase the value of their business too. What if you could supply a restaurant with 1,000 quail eggs a year? How about butchering 10 fresh birds every week at a steady rate?
The eggs are excellent for making mini hard-boiled eggs, which are in demand at parties, wedding dinners and special occasions.
Raising quail is low-cost, yet the rewards are out there. All it takes is a little bit of marketing your fine product.
Even the quail feathers are used by fly fishermen. Bet you didn’t know that.
Related reading: 15 High-Value Garden Crops That Give Most Bang For Your Buck
9. Specialty Product
Quail meat is considered a delicacy that has 4x more vitamin C than chicken. It also contains more minerals and amino acids, making it a far superior and still fast-grown product. Look at its nutrient density and you can easily see that people who are watching what they eat would want to eat it.
Quail meat is a complete food that also has vitamin A, as well as 3x more iron than chicken.
Qual meat contains even more iron than beef!
As for the quail eggs, please scroll back up and reread why you should be eating those incredibly nutritious things as often as you can.
10. Quail Aren’t Livestock
Whenever homesteaders think they are ready for their next project, the thought (or the dream) is often met with self-doubt and plenty of questions. Such as, “Am I even allowed to raise poultry in my backyard?”.
Well, the quick answer to that is it depends. If you’re under city or municipality rule, you’ll have to check out the guidelines for yourself. Just know, that quail aren’t generally considered livestock.
They’re game birds. And therefore, may be an exception to the rule.
So, if you find that you aren’t allowed to raise quacking ducks, crowing roosters, clucking and moaning geese, gobbling turkeys or alarm-ringing guinea fowl, then quail might be the right choice for your backyard or small farm.
Before you get around to purchasing a bevy of quail, get to know them first.
Visit a farm that might have some hens for sale. Sample recipes with quail eggs. Watch and observe their behavior, to sense whether you would be a good match.
11. Quail Are Family-Friendly
When thinking about what birds to add to your homestead, you always need to consider the kids. Your children, young relatives that might stop by, neighbors, etc.
Geese can be downright scary with all that wing flapping and hissing. Roosters can attack without warning – ask me how I know. It was a several-minute standoff with me backed into a corner, not even the dog dared come to my aid…
Quail, on the other hand, are sweet and skitterish and would never hurt a fly.
Well, a fly maybe, but your body, not a chance. They are wild beings, so don’t expect them to sit on your lap, though if you raise them right, they will be comfortable around you.
They will even accept treats from good-natured kids.
How To Get Started With Raising Quail
If you’re now considering raising quail, spring and summer are the best times to get started, though anytime will do.
First, you need to decide on a cage system or indoor/outdoor quail run which is protected from predators and fly-away quail.
Next, you need to incubate your purchased quail eggs or start with young chicks from a breeder.
Make sure to provide access to clean water, as well as set out dishes for food. Also, be sure to encourage their foraging instinct to the best of your ability.
While nesting boxes for the hens are a nice sentiment, they won’t always use them. Instead, you may just find the eggs wherever they were laid. It’s okay for a bird to not wait for the perfect time and place.
And if you have cats, rodents or predator birds nearby, be sure they keep their distance.
Other than that, keep their living space clean and well-ventilated, as you do your own home, and all will be good.
If you are still considering ducks (they do need and appreciate access to both water and mud), you’ll want to read this first: 11 Things You Need To Know About Raising Backyard Ducks.
For homestead nostalgia of chicken sounds that are too good to give up, here are the 10 Most Productive Egg Laying Chickens – 300+ Eggs Per Year
Cheryl Magyar is a sustainable lifesyle designer and environmental freelance writer with more than twenty years experience of living a simple life close to nature. It all started at a young age with a love for the outdoors, followed by a keen interest in goats, which turned into a love for raising ducks and mangalica pigs on the Plains of Hungary. Currently she is homesteading in Breb, Romania, amidst charming haystacks, with her husband and homeschooled daughter. Their land and their life’s work is aptly named ForestCreekMeadows.
She is an avid organic gardener who can often be found eating nourishing “weeds” and making herbal infusions, just as she can be seen planting native trees investing in rewilding the land. Follow on Instagram and sign up for their newsletter for more inspirations on living a sustainable life.