Keeping quail

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Keeping quail

Postby Razor29 » Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:18 am

I would love to add a few quail to our current mix of chookies, Gineau Fowl and Pekin Ducks. We have cats but the cats tend to keep away from the chooks, even baby chooks who's been raised in the incubators and released with the mob at 6 weeks. They have been growled enough to know the chooks is a total no go zone.

Our birds are free range but sleep in a hen house at night. Not sure where the ducks retire to at night (if at all!). What is my options for quail? You get so many different types that I'm at a loss.

As far as I know, we dont have stoats etc. The odd wild cat that makes a appearance gets swiftly eliminated so that is not too much of a worry. We have hawks at times but so far I have not lost lots of chicks to them (touch wood).

Suggestions would be welcomed .
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby Heir » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:55 pm

Quails are neat - now my knowledge of them are limited, but we have a resident expert MrQuail who I'm sure will be commenting soon :D
The quails we have here are:

Japanese Quail - Coturnix japonica - which are the meat and egg quail. They come in a variety of different colours.
Chinese Painted - Coturnix chinensis - which are the tiny button quails you see in most pet shops - purely ornamental.
Californian Quail - Callipepla californica - which are the common wild ones you may have seen, with the feathers on their head.
Bob-white Quail - Colinus virginianus - Another wild quail, though not as common as the Californian.
Brown Quail - Coturnix ypsilophora - Not often seen, looks like a brown japanese quail. (I think closely related)
Red-legged partridge - Alectoris rufa - which are actually a pheasant but super cute and quail like all the same.

All of them can be kept. You will need a cage as they can't free-range. Quail have useless homing instincts...
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby MrQuail » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:37 pm

Hi Razor
we have a saying round here - free range quail = cat food. Our cats avoid the chooks and ducks but quail are just too helpless and delicious to resist. Even rats will have a go at them given the opportunity. Another reason to keep the quail away from the chooks is they can catch some of the same diseases, particularly Marek's disease.
That said, some people do release partridges, bobwhite and californian quail on their property to establish a hunting population. If you do this, they don't really hang around except to visit feeding stations.
It is possible to keep bobwhite and californian quail in captivity but they aren't especially great layers and the californians in particular are quite neurotic. Birds like these often injure themselves by leaping up if they are scared. The wee chinese quail are cute but not much use in terms of eggs and meat unless you are a hobbit. They are however sweet pets in the bottom of an aviary. Australian quail are hard to come by, I am in the process of getting some myself but have been told once again they are not too friendly.
Japanese quail are the easiest, friendliest and most productive quail you can keep. They do well in any set-up suitable for rabbits and guineapigs, whether you choose to keep them indoors or outdoors. You can also convert old battery chicken cages - the cage that is way too small for chickens in our opinion, is quite comfy for quail. Another possibility is to keep them in a mixed aviary with birds such as cockatiels. budgies can be too aggressive but otherwise they are compatible with most birds right up to large parrots (care during breeding season). They are quite hardy to cold but don't do well in the damp, it gives them bronchitis. We find it convenient to keep them on our back deck in large rat cages, this gives them some shelter and the light spilling from our house gives them the light hours (16+) they need to lay all year round.
They hatch out tame (friendlier than a chicken even) and will toddle up to you for attention. Some friends of ours call them "feathered hand warmers". We took some to the Feilding bird sale and they actually enjoyed the car ride and being admired at the sale. They are also popular visitors to the library during the school holidays.
Depending on whether you want to breed them, you can just keep all females, or one male to about 4 females. If you have no females at all you can keep males together as bachelors provided they have known each other since they were babies. Introducing males to each other will cause violence and usually death. Males have a crow but it's nothing to write home about in terms of volume.
It is not usually possible to breed japanese quail without an incubator, they have had their parental instincts bred right out of them. They are one of the oldest domesticated birds. Rarely a female might sit in a densely planted aviary. Some people have experimented with getting bantams to hatch the eggs, it usually doesn't work well. I suspect most bantams are a bit big and have trouble turning the eggs. If you have Sebright or OEG bantams that might work better.
Females will lay an egg pretty much every day from the age of 8 weeks to their death at the age of about 24 months provided they have good feed and enough light. A bird is sexually mature at 6 weeks (male) or 8 weeks (females) and fully grown at 10 weeks. They only live 2 years or so, everything happens fast!
Speaking of feed, they do best on a higher protein diet than chooks. Turkey crumbles or meatbird crumbles are good if you can get hold of them. You can also use NON medicated chick crumbles or you can add extra protein to chicken food. Medicated chick crumbles may be used until the age of 4 weeks or so (stop 2 weeks at the latest before they begin laying).
Japanese quail can be raised for eggs or for meat. As meat birds, they are ready at about the age of 6-8 weeks but they do not become tough so can be eaten at any age. They have an excellent taste, if you can imagine something like the stronger taste of chicken thigh meat but more like breast meat in texture. Although they are small there is a lot of meat on them and 2 birds will serve most adults.
The eggs are delicious, three is equivalent to one chook egg. Chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Delia Smith use a lot of them. They sell well at farmers markets. They make the dinkiest little scotch eggs, and look very elegant poached and served on top of a salad. The hens will lay throughout their lives but the eggs will drop dramatically in fertility after the age of about 18 months.
Japanese quail have a better food conversion ratio than any other domesticated bird for both meat and eggs.
I hope I have convinced you that Japanese quail are the best beginner's quail, unless you want an aviary or hunting bird.
We breed 7 colours (all that you can get in NZ) of Japanese quail and can provide fertile eggs or birds most of the time, or take orders. Birds can travel by Petbus and eggs by courier if required. My partner and I are more than happy to answer questions and if you are in the area (Upper Hutt) you can visit. Emma (Ms Quail) and David (Mr Quail)
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby Heir » Sat Aug 07, 2010 1:48 pm

Told you the resident expert would be along soon ;)
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby PoultryHill » Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:27 pm

Hi Razor
I have bought fertile eggs from Emma and David they really know their stuff about Japanese. I looked everywhere to find informaton out about Japanese quail and couldn't find anything anywhere near as good as the info I got from Emma and David.
We breed Japanese Quail, Bobwhite quail, Californian Quail and also the Red Legged Partridge. The most placid and easy to keep by far are the Japanese, but would recommend talking to Emma and David about there breeding it is really interesting stuff. As soon as they hatch they are friendly and stay that way, the eggs I hatched this past year come up to me and jump on my lap if I sit down. Really neat birds.
The californian are very much different. Ours stayed friendly for about 2 days after they hatched and thats about it. But in saying that, the ones we let go stay around home and come up to the feeders, truley an amazing site.
My favourite are the bobwhites, When I first got into them I was told they are very much like the Californian quail, but I really wanted them to be friendly towards us. So I handraised them, handling them everyday and a couple of them stayed friendly and don't run away from us, and they make really beautiful calls.
All my past red legged partridges use to run up and down their cage when ever they see humans, but a couple of my current birds don't freakout. Infact one of my pair doesn't mind being picked up, well I'm sure they don't like but we only do it when we need to move them.
Well that is our personal experience.
Hope this helped you in some way.
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby Razor29 » Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:39 pm

Thank you for all the good info.

I will explain what we are doing here on the farm. We have allocated 1/2 a paddock on the farm which I want to plant up with native trees / grasses and put some logs/rocks etc down to create a nice sanctuary for wild birds and introduced ones. I have a few Gineau Fowl but they now just hang with the chooks and I can't see them move on in a hurry.

I have a order in for fertile eggs for red legged patridge, pheasants, peafowl. James can you please let me know if you will have some eggs available next season (this year) from your partridge's and what you charge. any other ideas of birds to hatch and keep, please let me know!

We are not planning on hunting the birds, we just like bird life and want to encourage more of it here and they will go nicely with the native block. the neighbours might be another story tho :evil:
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby Heir » Mon Aug 09, 2010 7:23 pm

Razor29 wrote:We have allocated 1/2 a paddock on the farm which I want to plant up with native trees / grasses and put some logs/rocks etc down to create a nice sanctuary for wild birds and introduced ones.


Neat idea!
By sanctuary do you intend to make it pest free?
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby Razor29 » Mon Aug 09, 2010 9:52 pm

Hmm, I see your point. No it won't be pest free but it will provide shelter and food for the birds
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby PoultryHill » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:43 pm

Razor29 wrote:Thank you for all the good info.

I will explain what we are doing here on the farm. We have allocated 1/2 a paddock on the farm which I want to plant up with native trees / grasses and put some logs/rocks etc down to create a nice sanctuary for wild birds and introduced ones. I have a few Gineau Fowl but they now just hang with the chooks and I can't see them move on in a hurry.

I have a order in for fertile eggs for red legged patridge, pheasants, peafowl. James can you please let me know if you will have some eggs available next season (this year) from your partridge's and what you charge. any other ideas of birds to hatch and keep, please let me know!

We are not planning on hunting the birds, we just like bird life and want to encourage more of it here and they will go nicely with the native block. the neighbours might be another story tho :evil:

Hi Razor
This year I will be hatching all the eggs I get from my Red legged Partridges as I want get a few more pairs up and going, But I could let you know if I have anything available if you like?
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby MrQuail » Fri Aug 13, 2010 5:58 pm

have you thought about ducks? they don't necessarily need a pond, a bathtub or similar is fine. Sounds like the sort of setup they enjoy. One of the reasons for having them is I have noticed if wild birds see ducks around they feel safe. A friend of mine ended up with a lovely pair of Canada geese visiting his pond every year, attracted by the ducks.
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby sharron » Sun Sep 26, 2010 9:06 pm

Quail are so call, I really love there calls and so do the resident stoats, they have done for the last 2 lots of them even though we thought we had go them totally secure the second time.
We did lose some females to california male quail, can they cross breed?
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby MrQuail » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:57 pm

quail can cross-breed with a lot of other birds but they don't generally in nature. Using artificial insemination techniques it has been possible to cross a quail with a chicken, so the sky's the limit! generally species don't hybridise unless they were brought up from chicks together and then as soon as they could be sexed all of the males of one type and the females of the other are removed. Otherwise they tend to keep to themselves.
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby Samantha » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:57 pm

WOW Mr/Ms Quail Awesome posts!
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby pattycakemoran » Thu Jun 23, 2016 6:56 pm

I want to know if I put jumbo Pharoah and bobwhites together if I will have a problem of the cross-breeding? I have a aviary my husband built for my Pharoah. But would love to add bobwhites to it.
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Re: Keeping quail

Postby wolga » Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:15 pm

Yes they can and might cross breed in captivity . The offspring from this combination will be a sterile hybrid.
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