Being self sufficient should also be tasty.
November 29, 2011 7:20 AM   Subscribe

What can you tell me about keeping Quail?

I've always held romantic ideas about producing my own food. I've got a warm-ish, unfinished basement that I think would be suitable for keeping some Quail, but I can't find non-skeevy looking websites with info. I'm also not opposed to books, I've been told they're full of words and possibly pictures, to which I am not opposed.

Enclosures? Where to get them? Incubators? Getting started? What kind of Quail? Quail feed? Vegetable scraps? Insects?

I guess my ideal setup would provide me with a meal a week and eggs...although IDK what to do with the eggs other than cook them like normal eggs...but I bet they're tasty and nutritious.

I DO live in the city limits, but in a very rural town, the permitting side won't be an issue, neither will slaughter or the dirtier sides of husbandry.
posted by TomMelee to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not a practical quail keeping guide, but Check this out on AMZN: "That Quail, Robert" by Margaret Stanger ( is a classic you may find interesting.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:35 AM on November 29, 2011

If you're in a rural sort of town, do you have a local farm supply store? We've got a provincial farm co-op store here that I'd use for that kind of thing. If I were to start something like that, I'd just go in and ask them for all of the feed, lamps and enclosures that I might need.

Generally the feed has antibiotics in it though, so if you don't want that you may need to take more care in sourcing. I'm not sure how much extra burden you take on when raising antibiotic-free birds.

Personally I'd pick up a bunch of hay, scrap lumber and chicken wire and build my own outdoor enclosure. If you're in a town/city you won't have as many fox or coyote issues, and I've always felt that animals are happier, healthier and tastier when they actually see the sun.

Quail and quail eggs are a delicacy, but as the previous poster said, somewhat small. If you want to actually support yourself I might recommend chickens, or if you're feel exotic, ducks. Duck and duck egg are both delicious and you'll get a more reasonable meal out of them. The only downside to those is that they both require more space, and ducks would require a watering hole of some kind.

Might be worth asking around your community to see if anybody else raises poultry. It's always handy to have somebody you can phone if there's an emergency, and some hands on help.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:47 AM on November 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so far. I am familiar with the size of quail and cooking them---thus one meal a week or 2-4 birds a week. I understand they're ready to slaughter at about 6 weeks old and lay by 7, so I think I can maths well enough to figure out how many I need concurrently. There is also a market for eggs and meat, but not so much that I can count on any kind of income from that. Overproduction would go into my deep freezer.

I don't, unfortunately, have space for ducks or chickens. Ducks are also funk nasty and don't lay enough eggs...although they do taste delicious--I have raised them before. I suppose I shouldn't have said "support", I should have said "Grow my own."

I already vermiculture and hydropwn my greens, this is just another "thing."
posted by TomMelee at 7:52 AM on November 29, 2011

When I was a child we raised quail behind our house. They're pretty easy to care for, but one thing I learned was that you do not want to put fledgling quail in with adults, the adults will pick at them until they're either de-feathered or dead. We built a raised cage with wire flooring (to allow most of the poop to fall out), and I collected the eggs daily.

The meat/eggs aspect is more of a delicacy than anything to subsist on. If you're in the right area it might be possible to sell them to restaurants. Aside from that, quail eggs are delicious, if small. You shouldn't count on a meal a week, aside from maybe an omelet a week if you have enough. I'm thinking maybe 10-14 birds would provide enough eggs for this purpose.

As for variety, the main type for home-raising is bobwhite quail.

I'd also check in your local area, as they'll be cheaper and more available that way.

Incubators can be found online, and aren't too pricey, but I remember that the eggs must be turned twice daily, so this may be a problem if you're the busy type.

You'll probably need to build an enclosure, as they need room to run around/away from each other, but it's nothing too difficult. You'll probably want to keep them outside though, as the smell/noise will probably be aggravating. They can be loud.

For feed, you can feed them plain chicken feed, which in some rural areas you can find in grocery stores, otherwise check out a feed and seed, or as a last ditch effort, just use songbird food. They'll gladly eat insects, which is a good source of protein for them as well as some vegetable scraps.

Overall though, they're an easy animal to keep and raise. Good luck!
posted by Monkeyswithguns at 7:55 AM on November 29, 2011

Anecdata alert:

As someone who had a traumatic experience with quail as a child... make sure to clip their wings religiously or make sure they have enough room to take flight safely should they be startled into flight. My parents raised quail from the egg, then temporarily put them in an unused rabbit hutch due to space constraints. We lost them all when they were startled by a neighbor's dog because they attempted to take flight and killed themselves.

Raising birds indoors is doable. I grew up with approximately 200 parakeets and various other exotic birds in my basement. (Seriously.) However, it is messy. And the birds will stay awake as long as there is light, and several birds in one area can get loud. They do shut up if the light is off though. All in all, it's not really optimal, and you'd probably have to pay out much more than you would get from it in terms of effort and care. However, given your location, you could probably get away with raising quail outdoors if you aren't in an urban/suburban area. It seems like it would be a lot easier.
posted by daikaisho at 8:18 AM on November 29, 2011

Response by poster: I could do outside...but I don't have too much of a yard. My concern is that it gets flipping cold here, with lots and lots of snow---and as per my previous question, I have A Neighbor From Hell who would most certainly persistently call police if there was any kind of noise--which he does anyway, I just don't want ammunition. Are they that loud?
posted by TomMelee at 8:58 AM on November 29, 2011

Quail are easy enough to raise, but like daikaisho said have a nasty tendency to kill themselves if they don't have enough headroom or their wings clipped. I kept a pair for years on the floor of a parrot cage full of budgies/parakeets. They did fine on the spilt seed and veggies from the budgies and stopped the bugs growing in the husks on the floor. They laid a vaguely steady stream of eggs which my Dad like to eat, I wasn't a big fan of the flavour. I'd find your local feed store and talk to the people there, they are usually pretty knowledgeable on this sort of thing or could put you in touch with someone local that would know.

I know you said you were interested in quail but have you considered rabbits for a meat to effort ration? Easy to keep clean, don't take up much space, quiet, don't need heating (unless your basement gets really cold) and you don't need to keep lights on long hours to keep up their egg laying and they breed like. . .well like rabbits.
posted by wwax at 9:20 AM on November 29, 2011

My honey and I raised quail from eggs briefly, until the raccoons got to them. They were cute as chicks and fun pets, but I agree that a small brood is not a practical food source. You'd be better off with a few hens with good laying-breed reputations.

I think a chicken tractor of adequate height and small mesh size would be optimal for keeping quail in.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:02 AM on November 29, 2011

Response by poster: I did think about rabbits, for some reason rabbit slaughter squicks me out where bird slaughter doesn't. I've done it---will do it again, but rabbits are too damn cute. I recently learned the "how to gut a rabbit in 5 seconds" method...but...still, too cute. There is value in their pelts, though.

I don't think I can convince the SO to consider chickens, and I guarantee the neighbor will have a kitten if I even consider them outside anyway. I'll talk to my farm supply store in the near future.
posted by TomMelee at 11:08 AM on November 29, 2011

I think you will want to really nail down the economics of this project. What do you really want to get out of it? I can almost guarantee that if you take into account the cost of feed and equipment, raising your own quail will not be a cost savings. Plus there's the smell to contend with, which will be rising from your basement up into your house.

If you want a good source of wholesome food, then it will be much more sensible for you to find a local farmer and buy your quail in oven-ready form.

Quail eggs are teeny tiny. It notoriously takes at least a dozen of them to make a decent-sized omelet. I wouldn't count on the eggs being anything more than a nuisance, really.

As for chickens, I can provide you with my own accounting. I bought four adorably fluffy little chicks four years ago.

Eggs: 381
Cost: $888.19
Cost Per Egg: $2.33

Eggs: 682
Cost: $215.85
Cost Per Egg: $.31

Eggs: 363
Cost: $217.36
Cost Per Egg: $.59

Total eggs: 1429
Total Cost: $1286.92

Total Cost Per Egg: $.90
posted by ErikaB at 11:09 AM on November 29, 2011

Response by poster: I should point out that eggs are second to meat in this particular scenario---the cheapest I can get quail around here is ~$8 a bird, for ~5oz of meat.
posted by TomMelee at 11:13 AM on November 29, 2011

I cannot imagine the smell, sounds, or insects involved with keeping livestock *in* the house.
posted by crankylex at 12:51 PM on November 29, 2011

I have a friend who keeps a couple chickens in the house. They eat insects, so that's not a problem, but they do poop a lot.

What about pigeons, and a rooftop pigeoncote? I had a friend who enjoyed squab from city pigeons(in a smallish town where they weren't likely to have been eating poison).
posted by theora55 at 4:20 PM on November 29, 2011

Don't put them under a hen to incubate...we did that and when hatched, the hen kept trying to keep them close and they kept trying to run (they're born running) and she broke a few necks by stepping on them.

That's all I got.

Also, read "That Quail Robert". It's a cute book.
posted by thelastcamel at 10:54 PM on November 29, 2011

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