Quail are lovely little birds to keep. They’re all little characters, though much scattier and wilder than chickens. They are much easier to keep then hens though.
They don’t require much space. The minimum requirement is 1 square foot per bird. I use a two story guinea pig cage for mine, which would allow me to keep up to 12 birds. I currently have 4 birds and they rarely use the upstairs. They prefer to stay undercover downstairs. Quail are flighty birds, when shocked they can fly straight up like a rocket. A low ceiling discourages this instinct as they can easily break their necks by flying into things in a panic. Mine don’t like enclosed spaces so a hide is a waste, a low ceiling, however is always popular, so long as the sides are open.
Quail require a high protein feed so making sure you buy the correct food is paramount. If they don’t get enough protein this can lead to feather plucking in your flock as well as general poor health. Fresh water and grit are also necessary at all times. Fresh greens on occasion are a welcome treat and mealworms always go down well!
Quail are reliable layers. I made a mistake with my quail and moved them to a place with too little light and they stopped laying but up until that point I was getting an egg a day from each of them. The eggs are small but delicious. I think that the higher ratio of yolk to white makes them a lovely little delicacy, and one I can indulge in regularly when my girls are in lay.
Quail are generally healthy but there are a few things I’ve encountered that may come up. One of my girls has had issues with bumblefoot for months now. At first I treated it by performing minor surgery to clean the infection site but as it kept reoccurring eventually I have just left it as the skin was totally unbroken and just keep an eye on her to make sure it isn’t causing her to limp.
Another issue was one of my quail was laying funny eggs. The shells were always cracked, though the membranes were intact. I never discovered what caused it but when I was forced to treat this quail for bumblefoot also she sadly died in my hands before I could react. I suspect an underlying defect that meant she simply couldn’t handle the stress of being handled for treatment as it happened so quickly.
I recently added two new quail to my flock. I kept them separated from the original quail by wire so that they could all see each other but not touch. They were supposed to stay like that for a week but somehow (I’m still not entirely sure how!) the babies escaped and integrated themselves after 48hours. There have been a few minor skirmishes since but nothing serious. Any time they seemed to be getting aggressive I cleaned out the cage and rearranged everything, which confused them enough to settle down. This seemed to be the best way to deal with my little Houdinis!
All in all they’re easy birds to care for and very rewarding. I love watching them and listening to their calls and their eggs are lovely. When trying to explain the appeal of quail to my friends I usually sum it up like this: they’re about the same level of pet care as guinea pigs but I get eggs from them!