We’ve had Coturnix Quails (also known as Japanese Quails), for a month now, and I can truly say they are pretty fun little birds. It’s like raising mini chickens; they have the same basic needs of fresh water, feed, and predator-proof housing, but much easier because of their small size. In cities (like ours), where backyard chickens are illegal, quails are a very good alternative (though they are probably illegal too). If a silly city bylaw allows one to keep rats and pigeons, then a few egg-producing pet quails (and chickens) should be allowed too.
This little chick was photographed at 6 days old.
Perfect for small urban backyards, quails require very little space (1 square ft. per bird), compared to chickens (3 square ft. per bird). You can even raise them on an apartment balcony.
Before & After: Chick at 6 days old, and same chick at 4 weeks.
Just like chickens, there is a pecking order within a covey of quails. Once fully feathered at 4-5 weeks, they were moved to the coop where I had built raised cages this past summer.
Bunnies were evicted and are happier running free in the backyard. The chickens sleep in what remains of the Omlet Eglu.
A 250-watt infrared brooder light is hung over the quail area for warmth, keeping their water from freezing. They learned to drink out of the rabbit’s water bottles, which is great, no more dirty water to constantly clean out!
Heavy plastic covers the coop, keeping out cold drafts. Space under the roof overhang allows for ventilation. The plastic window shade can be rolled up on mild sunny days, and secured down on blustery nights.
A little shelter made by nesting two boxes with hay in between for insulation.
A stack of old flyers line the roof of the finished house, the birds like to sit and poop up there. Each day the soiled layer is removed and thrown into the composter.
Quails will reach maturity and begin to lay eggs between 6-8 weeks, compared to a chicken which takes between 20-24 weeks. These little girls will each lay almost an egg a day, about 300 eggs in their first year then taper off.
This is a hen, at 4 weeks, you can see her speckled chest feathers.
It is very easy to sex a quail, roos will have a rust and solid colouring on their chest feathers, while a hen will have speckled chest feathers. They can be sexed as early as 3 weeks.
With 8 quails, we can get a handful of eggs a day.
A couple of hens have started to lay at 7 weeks old. Five quail eggs is equal to one chicken egg in volume. Though small in size, quail eggs are 3-4 times more nutritious than chicken eggs and best consumed raw (even shell and all). We like ours in kefir smoothies, sunny side up as a cute garnish on caesar salad, or dropped raw into a bowl of hot noodle soup where they lightly poach.
The average life expectancy of a quail is 2-4 years, compared to 8 for a chicken. This means your quail will likely be laying eggs till it dies naturally, compared to keeping a chicken around for many non-egg producing years.
The quail rooster will not crow loudly at 5:30 in the morning and wake up the whole neighbourhood, another reason why these little game birds are perfect for the urban homestead. Stay tuned for future updates, when the new roo moves into the quail condo!