Interested in trying quail, several questions

Discussion in 'Quail' started by Jrose, Nov 1, 2014.

  1. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I currently free-range chickens and heritage turkeys. It's wonderful to see them out there together. I'm curious about trying quail too. The turkeys are lawn ornaments, the chickens are for eggs, I think quail would be dual egg and meat production.

    I have 25,000sq ft fully-fenced for my other birds currently. If the quail can't join in there free ranging, I have another 2,000sq ft pasture area I can fence and dedicate to them, assuming I can make it 'quail proof'.

    I've read that on the whole, true free ranging is a good way to loose birds. But I thought I'd ask some specific questions:
    Is it possible to keep quail within a fenced area? If so, what size fencing/gaps can they get through?
    Is it generally safe to intermingle chickens and quail in open range (with plentiful undergrowth and hiding places)?
    Is there a breed of quail that is keen on coming home to the same nest/house at night, like other birds? Or is there a breed 'free-ranging' would work best with? Maybe a larger size, less prone to flying?
    If not free ranged, but rather fully enclosed in an outdoor area, how much space per bird is sustainable without having trampled ground?
    What is their egg production rate?
    Can they easily breed and hatch naturally on their own?
    What is their hatch and growth rate (so I can calculate for meat)?

    Thanks in advance for any input!
     
  2. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    I do not know much about quail, but I have thought about getting them quite a few times for pets. The main put-off was that every set up I have seen is cages, and I refuse to keep caged birds. I am curious to see what people will say. I think it is a great idea.
     
  3. dc3085

    dc3085 Chillin' With My Peeps

     
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  4. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sounds like it would just be easier to dump them in the yard and let them free range. Either way they will get eaten, and it sucks to have them in cages.
    I have seen videos of people who have them in large fences. I guess I know of one person who does not have them in a cage, my grandmother's neighbor has a bunch of quail in a fenced enclosure. But I think you could only do that with Bob Whites.
     
  5. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

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    You can keep them in large aviaries. I have never ever kept my Bobwhites in cages. They enjoy the freedom of the space and contact with the ground. They are much happier if they can fly, dust bathe in real dirt and live in a more natural environment.
     
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  6. dc3085

    dc3085 Chillin' With My Peeps

    No one is saying that you have to keep them in a cage. TwoCrows is a fantastic example. Her birds are "caged" in that they are protected from predators and contact with wild species but they still have fantastic environments to live in. My cages are much smaller but still filled with driftwood, rocks, and with sand floors. You don't have to give them a the entire outdoors, in fact it's better for your local wildlife if you don't.

    No bird that you are able to hatch or purchase is really fit to be allowed to intermingle with the population. The reason shooting preserves work without damaging the environment is because the birds just flat out lack the instincts to survive. It is also why release has proven be ineffective to restoring populations. These birds are domesticated and have diluted genetics and instincts. There are sometimes a few holdovers but their effect on the population is nil. Since you or the people that you would purchase eggs or birds from don't go through any sort of disease testing other than possibly pollorum/typhoid you would actually be quite remiss to free range your birds with that factor considered. One chicken with corzya could wipe out entire flocks of native quail. There is no effective test for coryza and chickens rarely display any symptoms of it. Coryza is one disease of many. Here is a picture of a quail with an advanced case of it.

    Obviously the larger your enclosure the harder it is to keep it predator proofed or safe from contact with wild birds, but not by any means impossible. The large majority of the hundreds of thousands of birds generated for shooting preserves each year are raised in flight pens with simulated natural environments. Some of the large pheasant farms have hundreds of acres of flight pens and obviously they are predator proofed. It can be done but it has to be done properly. There are many threads on BYC that can guide you in making your cages or enclosures pretty much fool proof if you're willing to spend the time and energy to do it.
     
  7. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Great info! This is helping me to form a clearer idea of my options. I do still have a few questions and clarifications;

    Just for reference, I have no wild quail in the area; not within a few miles in any direction and certainly not on my property. If they escaped they'd either get snatched by a cat or dog or run over.

    From what I read the jumbo coturnix are about the size of a pigeon and a great entry breed, so I'm eyeing them.
    I would assume any hole greater than 1 1/2" would be an escape route for this size of quail?
    What kind of experiences do folks have with the quail flying? How high can they get up, how far can they go in flight?
    In relation to this, if they have a run covered in 2"x4" galvanized wire fencing, will they injure themselves on this kind of roof if they spook and fly up?
    Do they enjoy roosting, perching, etc as stimulation and exercise, or do they much prefer ground habitat to hide in? Both?
    What is their sleep habit? Do they just drop wherever and sleep? Alone or in a group? Will they choose to retreat to cover at night?
    Are the coturnix heat/cold hardy if left in an outdoor run with cover and shelter year round?
    If they severely lack instinct, do they just drop eggs wherever, or do they frequent lay boxes/nests?
    I've read 25 female to 8 male coturnix is a good sustainable ratio for meat and egg production. Does this sound accurate?
    And finally, if the quail must be incubated by machine, how are the chicks best raised/handled? Are they thrown in with the adults or raised separate until adulthood?

    I really appreciate the info :D I'm an info sponge, bear with me! I've been scouring google but have been unable to find detailed info.
     
  8. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

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    How ever one keeps quail is a personal preference really. Some prefer for ease, to keep them in pens or cages, I prefer the aviary style set up.

    Quail are ground dwellers and do much of their living hiding among brush and low hanging branches in the wild. So yours will appreciate brush piles of real or fake foliage. Fake Christmas trees work really well but you can use the real thing....

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    I found that I was bringing in leg scale mites on the live branches and switched to fake foliage. They do like to survey their territory from a high perch or branch, but will spend 95% of their time on the ground. They don't roost up like chickens at night, but do appreciate to get off the ground at night....

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    My base is railroad ties, one buried level to the ground and another on top. The quail will sleep up on these railroad ties at night to get off the ground.

    They will use an enclosure and it is best to offer one if you have harsh winters. You will need to lock them in it for a few nights so they know to use it for safety and sleeping on cold nights. If you don't do this, they won't go in.

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    They go through this pop hole into a rabbit hutch inside a greenhouse on the other side of this wall.

    Quail don't go broody, so yes, you will need an incubator. You will need to brood them yourself until they are 5 or 6 weeks old. If you want to mix them in with the rest of the group, they will need to be kept in a cage within your large enclosure for 3 or 4 weeks so everybody sees, nobody touches. After a month they should be acquainted enough to not kill each other.
     
  9. Jrose

    Jrose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I love the images and setup ideas, twocrows! I've got a huge brush pile for the finches and my freedom bunny, I could easily make another for quail. Did you have any input on a roof/netting/wire over the run? Also, have you tried keeping grass/pasture growing in the run with the quail?
     
  10. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

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    Quail do not do well in mud of any kind. Their feet are so tiny it clumps up on them and causes all kinds of issues. And a wet run will breed all sorts of bacteria and parasites. So keep it covered. You can go with a solid roof or something retractable like a tarp attached to a bar you roll up and unroll. I have used both and it is nice to let the sun in sometimes.

    Quail do enjoy grasses. I use potted grasses for them. I have never tried keeping them on grass, but again, it may harbor too much disease. You want a floor of some sort of litter you can rake up once a week depending on how many quail you have in your space. I use Bermuda Grass Hay. Most feed stores carry it in large bales. Quail do LOVE clover! It is to die for! So if you can grow some of that in a raised bed in the corner, they might really enjoy that.

    Quail love the goodies as well....chopped up raw veggies, cabbage, quartered fruit, dried fruit, corn on the cob, mealworms, greens of all kinds, etc.. and will eat from your hand.
     

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