When considering quail species to raise; size, egg production, and temperament should lead your decision making. Some species may be kept in coveys, perfect for larger scale productions. Others do better in pairs, a perfect addition to a planted aviary.
Quail farming is popular with urban farms, in avian collections, and for game preserves. They are used for hunting and provide a good alternative meat source. Various quail species can be used to clean up spilled seed in a large aviary and patrol for pests. Quail eggs can be speckled or solid white, and allow diversified farm operations.
All quail species can fly, so a covered enclosure or quail hutch is necessary. Roosting areas and some brush for safety will keep them healthy.
All quail species are considered game birds and require higher levels of protein than most other backyard poultry. Most quail breeders use a commercial feed. Supplements of dove or canary seed and fresh greens can be given as treats. Wild and store-bought insects are a great treat.
Quail should be considered a quintessential backyard bird. Many places where chickens are not allowed, quail would make a great substitute.
Northern Bobwhite Quail are the most popular quail breed and are used for hunting and training bird dogs and they’re great to eat.
“They are a beautiful quail, but difficult to raise,” says Dianne Tumey who has been raising game birds in Harrah, Oklahoma for 38 years. “They take 16 weeks to become good flight birds and 26 weeks to be laying and reproducing.”
Northern Bobwhites can be divided into 22 subspecies. The females look similar in each subspecies, the males vary. Northern Bobwhites were thought to be monogamous. But researchers radio-tracked individuals and found both sexes can have multiple mates each season. On a homestead, two to three males for every 10 females is a good ratio. Do not add males to an existing covey, as they fight for mates.
Under good conditions, Bobwhites can lay year round.
The variety Georgia Giant are larger than wild Bobwhites, weighing almost a pound at maturity. They produce more than 100 white eggs annually.
Coturnix (Coturnix japonica)
Coturnix quail are easy to raise. They are used as meat birds and as training and hunting birds. They are full grown at six weeks old and laying eggs. Their eggs take 17 to 18 days to hatch.
“They make good flight birds at eight to 10 weeks old,” says Tumey.
Varieties include; British Range, Tuxedo, English White, Manchurian Golden, Cinnamon, Texas A&M, and Pharoah D1. Pharoah D1 is the largest and best egg producer. They can lay 300 eggs a year, which puts some chickens and ducks to shame!
The Golden Manchurian Coturnix are a dual-purpose production breed. They reach adult size in six to eight weeks and can lay over 100 eggs per year beginning at six to seven weeks old.
Texas A & M quail have light meat, light skin and are easy to dress. In eight weeks they can reach 12 ounces. The hens start laying eggs earlier than most other quail. The eggs are of high quality and are in high demand.
Coturnix quail don’t need much space, are quiet and calm. “They have an easy going temperament and are hearty quail,” says Tumey.
Amy Fewell, from the Fewell Homestead in Rixeyville, Virginia raises Coturnix. “They are pretty meaty and require little room,” she has noticed. “They are also wonderful layers. They come in multiple different colors, and we really enjoy crossing colors to see what plumage characteristics we’ll get. They are easy to take care of and require minimal interaction.”
California Quail (Callipepla californica)
When people picture a quail, the California Quail probably comes to mind. The beautiful topknot is really a cluster of six overlapping feathers. I was so enamored by their comical topknots, I included a California Valley Quail into my children’s book.
The state bird of California, California Quail spend most of their time on the ground searching for food. They tolerate people and can be found easily in city parks, suburban gardens, and agricultural areas.
California Quail broods may mix after hatching and all the parents care for the young. Adults that raise young this way tend to live longer than adults that do not.
California Quail are a great addition to an aviary with finches, softbills or small parrots.
Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii)
This quail breed is also well-suited to living in aviaries. Mated pairs will attack other quail or ground-dwelling birds.
They are patterned in gray, chestnut, and cream. Males have a bright red crest. Wild birds can be found in the hot deserts of the Southwest. Just before the hen’s eggs hatch, the mother calls to the chicks. The eggs then hatch in synchrony.
Blue Scale Quail (Callipepla squamata)
Sometimes called cotton-tops, Scaled Quail are social and live in large groups in the wild from September to April. Then pairs form and the coveys break up for the breeding season. These birds do best on dry sandy soil. They are good layers and lay irregular light to dark brown spotted eggs.
The scaled quail range overlaps with bobwhites and Gambel’s which can produce hybrids. When Scaled quail and Bobwhite produce offspring they are called a blob. When they mate with a Gambel’s quail they are known as a scramble.
“California Valley, Gambel and Blue Scale quail are fun to hunt,” says Tyler Danke, founder of Purely Poultry. “A lot of people are raising them in pairs as aviary eye candy to show off to their neighbors and friends. They are beautiful birds.”
Which quail species have you had success with?
Coogan’s Curried Quail-Egg Salad
- 20 hard-boiled quail eggs, chilled and peeled
- ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
- ¼ cup craisins, golden raisins, or regular raisins
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 apple, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
Soak 20 quail eggs in cold water for about 10 minutes. This prevents breaking when they are boiled.
In four cups of water, add the quail eggs and ½ tsp of salt. The salt also reduces the chance of the eggs from breaking. Bring to a boil.
Once the water starts to boil, reduce the temperature to medium. High temperatures will cause the eggs to break. Cook for seven minutes.
Drain and place eggs in cold water for several minutes. Peel off the eggshells.
Mix all ingredients together and chill for two hours. Serve on crackers, bread, or cabbage leaves.