Quail Keeping on a Hobby Scale
I write the following quail keeping guidelines for the attention of hobby keepers or small scale quail keepers who keep quail to provide eggs and/or meat for their family or just as game birds.
Quail originates from a wild environment just as any other domesticated animal and it is related to chicken.
We should try to give them back at least a little bit of what we have taken from them regarding their lifestyle. They can obviously not take care of themselves locked up. The very minimum is that we should provide for the quail is food, water and a healthy environment.
The quail’s lifestyle is similar to chicken’s. They like warm weather conditions and they’re (the majority) migratory birds in the wild.
If we have the facilities, it’s a good practice to have a winter and a summer place for the quails and move them twice a year. Quail birds will find this very exciting and this stimulation will even encourage nesting.
For their winter accommodation we should move the quails to a light, dry, ventilated but not draughty place.
Heating is not necessary unless temperatures fall under -5˚c.
In the summer
In the summer is best to keep the quail outside but again, the they must have access to a dry, drought free place and shade. Obviously you will have to make sure that your enclosure or aviary is safe that no predator can get to your quails.
Don’t worry if you can’t provide your quails a separate summer and winter place. They will feel just fine at a permanent place if you make that comfortable enough for them.
Quail keeping in cages
As to the cage, a quail requires a minimum of ½ sqft of floor space. There are not many specific cages around to buy. We make our own design for our layers and breeding stock.
Using a rabbit hutch
Some quail keepers use a rabbit hutch for keeping their birds in. It’s okay but you have to realise that while the rabbit likes shady dark environment the quail needs much more light to feel good. The rabbit hutch is not the best choice to use as a quail cage.
What you can do though, if you intend to keep your quails indoors (shed, barn) you can transform a rabbit hutch into a quail cage.
What you do is this: remove the back panel and replace it with welded wire mesh. This way you’ll provide your quails as much light as you possibly can.
If your rabbit hutch has a separated (nest) area, get rid of it because your Japanese (coturnix) quails won’t need it. An average rabbit hutch is about 4′ x 2′ (1200mm x 600mm). This allows you to keep up to12 Japanese (coturnix) quails per tier.
On a hobby scale, if you want to give the most possible comfort for your quails, then you put 6-8 quails into a cage of this size.
For egg production this would be 6 hens and 2 cockerel quail.
The “furnishing” of the quail cage
We believe the most practical bedding for quails is fine wood shavings. Quail loves to take a dust bath and they do in wood shavings too. But if you really want to please them put some dry sand into a suitable tray or container, they’ll love it.
The feeder can be a small pet bowl, small chicken feeder or a through feeder. If you will use bawl for feeding you should put at least 2 in the cage. In the case of using a through feeder a small 250-300mm (10”-12”) feeder would be sufficient.
It’s also practical to place the feeder outside of the cage to save more space for the birds. You will also prevent the feed contamination by the quails messing on it.
You can get feeders that you hang onto the wire mesh of the cage. Hang it from the outside of the cage. Make cut-outs on the mesh to allow the quail to push their heads through to get to it (width-1 ½”, height-2”).
The pet bowl is the least practical solution for hygienic reasons. If you want to place the feed inside the cage use a chicken feeder or a through feeder.
Again, the drinker can be a small pet bowl or a small chicken drinker. Or if you want to keep the water cleaner, you can do the same as with the feeder. Get one that hangs onto the wire mesh from the outside. Obviously make some cut-outs as described in the feeder section above.
Make sure that your quails have always dry litter and access to feed and drink at all times.
The position of the cage
Another important condition for good egg production is to provide the quails with enough light. A layer quail needs 14 hours of light per day for optimal egg production.
If you keep your quails in a place where there is enough natural light you will have no problems during the summer period. However, if you want your quails to keep laying eggs in the winter period as well, it’s not enough. You will need to fit a light near the cage to make up for the short daylight.
The light doesn’t have to be strong, so an energy saving light bulb would do. The same applies if you keep your quails in a dark place like a garage without windows or a dark stable, etc.
The best practice is to plug in an automatic timer switch for the light. This way you won’t forget to turn it on and off on time.
DON’T use strong light! If you keep more cockerels than one in a same cage strong light will make them aggressive and they will start to fight with each other.
To read more info on quail cages and to get free building plans for a low budget simple quail cage click here.
If you’re interested in quail breeding too, read this article: Quail Breeding