When you have limited space for your hobby farm, or you are in the city, you may want to consider raising quail. They are easy to keep, require very little space, are quiet and can provide you money, eggs, and meat. We raise Coturnix Quail (Japanese Quail) primarily. In seven weeks they will start laying and are big enough to slaughter.
This is our basic quail house. You can use a basic rabbit hutch for a small number of birds. You can easily keep 20-30 birds in here. We keep our immature birds in here and move them to the breeder box cage when they are mature. The breeder box cage has multiple seperate cages to divide them which helps you keep the ideal ratio of male:female birds together. A good ratio is one male to 3-4 females, depending on the male. The males are darker than the females and will frequently be seen mounting the females and pulling feathers off their neck. Yeah, not very romantic.
You will want to build your breeder cage with a slight tilt on the bottom the eggs will roll to the edge for you. We have an opening on our edge with the wire flooring extending past the bottom of the cage and the edge rolled to catch the egg. This is nice so you don't have to open the cage daily and upset the birds.
This is our watering system. We use the same set-up for our chickens - see that post for the bucket photo and directions. You may be able to see the small wooden box in this cage. We put dried grass clippings or small leaves and let them use this for dust baths.
With proper housing and diet, your quail will produce lots of eggs for you. There will come a time that you will start wondering what to do with all those eggs. Here's a picture of our babies hatching in the incubator. Yes, the egg turner is still in there - we obviously didn't count our incubation days right! We eat some (fried, scrambled, boiled and pickled) and incubate some.
Later I'll post some quail egg recipes. Yummm!!
Once you get used to all this, you will want to progress to the next stage: butchering the quail. This is not hard to do - imagine yourself going dove hunting and cleaning the doves. You'll get about that much breast meat, by the way. Some people like to cook up the entire bird, but to me, the dark meat is so small on this bird that it's just not worth it. You can cook quail just like you cook chicken. If you find the taste different, just use half chicken meat and half quail meat. At this point, I don't find alot of value in butchering these birds. It's a bit too much work for the little bit of meat. However, in honor of trying to live a life where we waste nothing, we butcher at times but mainly reserve it for when we have an abundance of birds or need to cull out aggressive ones.
Finally, how do you make money off these birds? We sell them at times from one week old to mature. You can even sell the dressed out birds frozen (meat).
I hope you enjoyed this post and that it gives you another avenue to explore in trying to live off the land and provide inexpensive yet high quality food for your family. There's much more you will need to know if you plan on incubating quail. This post will give you enough to get started and let you decide if you think quail will be a good addition to your hobby farm. Get 6-10 quail - keeping in mind the proper ratio of male:female with the goal of raising them for eggs. Once you get that down and have become successful at using your eggs, you will want to learn more about breeding them. You will need an incubator, a brooder box and have a basic understanding of breeding to prevent in-breeding problems.
As always, we want to remind you to start small and expect big results!