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Backyard Quail-Are They Really Worth It?

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Raising quail for meat and eggs in your backyard has become a fun hobby for many urban homesteaders. Backyard quail are small, take up little precious room, and you can have eggs and meat year round. Quail can go from hatch to butcher weight in 6 weeks. During that time, they eat much less than the average meat chicken. Backyard quail also begin laying eggs at 6 weeks of age, average versus the average hen being 18-22 weeks of age. Some homesteaders are even able to sell their quail eggs, and quail egg prices can bring a $3-$10 per dozen. Backyard quail do have a lot of drawbacks. For some, raising quail is just not worth the benefits. A small fortune can be spent on backyard quail cages, special waterers, hatching equipment and so on. Is the return on investment really worth the trouble of raising quail? Here’s some issues to consider when thinking of raising a backyard quail flock.

Problem #1 with backyard quail-they poop a lot.

When raising quail, it is shocking just how much poop even a small flock of backyard quail can produce. Like chicken manure, you cannot put it straight on the garden. It has to be composted for several weeks to several months, depending on your weather conditions. Be sure you know where it will go. There will be bedding such as pine shavings, corn cob husks, or sawdust mixed in with the feces. Truly, there is no easy way to separate that out, either. My small flock of 34 backyard quail birds filled 2-50# feed sacks with manure and bedding in ONE WEEK – every week! Be sure to have a plan for all that waste.

Check to make sure the bedding you are using doesn’t create soil issues in your garden as pine shavings, sawdust, and wood ash can be acidic and crushed corn cob takes years to decompose. Conduct soil tests before adding it to your garden.

If you don’t have a suitable place to dispose of it, start a compost heap (in advance) outdoors and away from your house, garage, or other dwellings. If you are in the burbs and have limited space, line up a farmer/homesteader friend who has plenty of space and arrange to bring it to them at least twice a month.

With feed waste mixed in, if you leave it sit around your property for too long, the smell will become overwhelming. The other problem is you will draw mice, rats, possums, raccoons, and other vermin. Once they discover the flock, the vermin may even attempt to gain access to the backyard quail themselves. If successful, they will destroy an entire flock of backyard quail.

Problem #2 with raising quail- The Health Department.

If word or odors get out, or vermin get in, neighbors may complain to your local authorities. Check your local laws regarding gamebirds (some localities classify quail differently than chickens), backyard poultry, and other small livestock. Raising quail can be under different laws than raising chickens.

Find out what permits, inspections, etc you are legally obligated to comply with. This may include required inspections from any of several local or state authorities, most likely the health department. Failure to comply with their rules, permit inspections, or correct any infractions can mean fines, confiscation of your flock and even have charges filed against you. Understand the law in your area!

In many areas, it is ILLEGAL to sell your backyard quail eggs and/or meat without inspections, permits/licenses, and compliance with local health regulations. Your quail eggs and quail meat must be properly handled, cleaned, packaged, labeled, and refrigerated/frozen according to local laws. Stores and restaurants will ask see evidence of your compliance or they will refuse your products. They too must follow the law and purchase ONLY from licensed vendors. Otherwise, they cannot legally resell it.

Problem #3 with raising quail-cage cleaning.

The microscopic particles of fecal matter mixed with urine, ash or sawdust (from their baths), and feed from your backyard quail flock creates dust that can send those with respiratory issues into sneezing fits or asthma attacks. To help prevent issues, you can try these ideas:

  • Work in an open, well ventilated area. If your cage is indoors, set up a box fan (with a furnace filter taped to the back) and point it so it pushes the dust OUT the door.
  • Wear a high quality, air filter mask OR at the very least, wrap a bandana around you nose & mouth and keep your mouth closed. Quail can sling poop for several feet. Given the right aim for them and wrong place/wrong time for you, they can get you right in the face. I have had it happen. Keep your mouth closed/covered and be ready to DUCK!
  • When finished, remove all your clothing, put it straight in washer, and shower including a shampoo. Why? I failed to do that several times and later that day, I could smell and urine in my hair for hours. Maybe you aren’t as sensitive, but it did cause an asthma attack for me, too.

Once a month (two months TOPS), you will likely want to power wash the quail cage to remove the caked on, dried feces that has built up on the frame & hardware cloth.

  • Place the quail in a temporary holding pen or cage, give them food and water.
  • Take the cage outdoors away from cars & buildings to power wash it. The flow on a standard garden hose won’t cut it, you will need a power washer.
  • After initial rinse, use a pressure sprayer with a hot water and bleach solution to spray it down, let sit for a few minutes.
  • Rinse and repeat until clean. If you use a scrub brush, make sure it has a long handle because a brush makes the feces fly right back in your face.
  • Allow to dry in the sun for several hours before returning the birds to their habitat. A fan can speed up the drying process, too.

Problem #4 with backyard quail- feed waste.

When raising quail, there is a feed involved. Quail (like any poultry) like to play with their food and as much feed is kicked out of the feeder onto the floor as goes into their bellies. Half of the feed can easily be wasted, regardless of what feeder you use.

It can’t be fed back to them if it is mixed with feces, but at least the powder that is left behind in their feeder or the bottom of the still clean feed bag can be run through a large metal sieve (like this one from my affiliate partner) and turned into mash. To your backyard quail flock, it is a special treat. To you, it is feed cost savings. Don’t waste it.

Problem #5 raising quail-they can be vicious with each other.

Some quail can be vicious cannibals. Once one draws blood on another and the whole flock smells blood, bad things can happen FAST. They will ALL gang up on the weak one giving you an entire flock of bullies. Have a couple pet carriers or other alternative housing available so that you can separate out the injured from the bullies and nurse them back to health.

Sadly though, in my experience, when you get them patched up and reintroduce them to the flock, it is just a matter of time until it happens again. They remember.

Problem #6 with backyard quail-they can fly.

Unlike chickens, quail are pretty good flyers and can go quite high, far, and fast. Either clip their wings or always have a secondary means to block exits when handling them. Quail cages should be built to be no no taller than 18 inches as well, because they can attempt to fly and get hurt on the top of the cage.

Problem #7 raising quail- the constant maintenance.

Quail can never run out of clean, fresh water. Like with any livestock, you will need a means by which to keep it from freezing in winter. If you cannot do that, then you will need to thaw and refresh their water at least 3-4 times a day.

Also note, they poop in their water so a nippled system is best (like this one from my affiliate partner). They will poop in their food as well, so you will need to monitor that closely to keep it clean.

In short, many feel that backyard quail really are NOT a good choice for inexperienced city folks. The return from the amount of time spent just isn’t worth it. When raising quail for profit, many are left in debt rather than profitable.

How do you feel about backyard quail? Are you going to try raising quail on your homestead?

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