As you may know from my previous blogs I've been keeping garden chickens for years and feel that they are a vital part of my garden's life cycle. So why move onto quail? Aren't their eggs tiny? Don't they need lots of space? Aren't they really nervous?
Quail live life in the fast lane and reach sexual maturity within as little as 8 weeks (sometimes less) This means that they are fully grown and that females will start laying! To put that into perspective chickens typically start laying after around 5 months and ducks after 6-7 months- by then you have to factor in that you will be loosing daylight and they probably won't really start laying properly until the following spring...
If you provide artificial light for your quail they will continue to lay all year around and each bird will lay around 230 eggs or so a year.
You do need around 3-4 quail eggs to make up the size of a chicken egg but they are delicious within their own right . Quail eggs are proven to be a very valuable source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12 and vitamin D, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus and other essential micro-nutrients, minerals and amino acids, which is why they are recommended for regular consumption.
Aren't quail really nervous?
Quail are by nature nervous little birds - I think they must know from a young age that they are tasty. They generally don't like being handled but by rearing your own you can handle your chicks from their very first day and they soon get used to you.
It's good to tame them though- especially for when you are cleaning out their enclosures- mine come straight over looking for food... They also make the most adorable noises.
Quail are hardy birds and are great if you have limited space and aren't able to keep chickens.
They do need to feel secure. A rabbit hutch is an ideal enclosure with wooden walls on three sides and an area to hide away. Unlike chickens they do not roost- so roosting bars aren't necessary, they also tend to lay their eggs anywhere so they don't need a nest box. What they do like is lots of ground cover to hide under and a dust bath to bathe in.
They need a different diet to poultry and a good quality pheasant food does the trick. They enjoy eating grass and a few berries and bugs too- for this reason we like to let our quail out into a rabbit run - but you need to be careful as they will aim to fly straight up if there is a threat, such as cat nearby, an enclosure with a low roof is therefore the best option so that they won't hurt themselves.
Pine branches and pine cones are good for providing shelter and things to clamber over.
In a nutshell- these are easy to care for cute little birds that bring a lot of joy to our household as well as tasty eggs. A great option for anyone short on space.