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Articles and guides to help you keep quail in even the smallest of back yards.
Keeping quail for their eggs is certainly becoming more popular. Many are productive layers, and the price of quail eggs in the shops reflects their luxury status.
If you long to start keeping poultry but have too little space, keeping quail could be the answer. A large rabbit hutch with a small aviary-style run can easily be adapted for a few quail– which you could even keep on a balcony or roof garden with a little care.
On a larger scale, quail can make an interesting addition to a garden or smallholding. If you’d prefer to give them a more natural lifestyle, they can live in a large run, but being so small, they are vulnerable to many predators, including rats and hawks, so you must cover their run. Bear in mind also that they don’t automatically seek the security of a house at dusk as chickens do.
Quail are part of the pheasant family and prefer to live close to the ground, so they won’t use houses that are off the floor with high ramps. They won’t require perches or even nest-boxes in their house, but they are timid birds and will appreciate the cover of branches and other objects such as small logs to hide behind in their run.
Quail are good fliers and migrate vast distances in the wild. Like their bigger cousins, they can also rocket upwards when startled, so this must be considered when planning housing and runs.
Ventilation in quail houses is crucial as they produce higher levels of ammonia than other poultry. They’ll need some extra protection when the temperatures fall but can continue laying throughout winter if artificial lighting is provided for them.
Quail have been kept for eggs and meat for thousands of years. Now almost any aspiring poultry-keeper can enjoy these bygone delicacies. Like chickens, females will lay without a male being present, so there is no need to keep one unless you want to breed quail. Males may fight if kept together, so any surplus males are best fattened for the table. They are delicious to eat, but you will need at least one bird per person – two is often recommended for the main course.
Depending on the light levels, you can expect quail to come into lay from around 8-12 weeks old. They should then lay well for their first year or so, with natural life expectancy being two to four years. Eggs are small but have a high proportion of yolk to white, and apart from being a delicious little titbit, quails’ eggs can also be pickled and used in many other recipes requiring eggs.