Starting with quail for meat on a shoestring budget

Discussion in 'Quail' started by JordanCDollar, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. JordanCDollar

    JordanCDollar New Egg

    Apr 8, 2012
    Hello all,

    I have been a gardener my whole life, and have often though about keeping animals, but I have not lived where it is allowed, and I didn't think I could deal with processing. I was horrified when Safeway (owners of Randalls Grocery where I used to work) just announced that they would no longer be using pink slime in their meats, meats that I had been buying and eating for years. Recently I watched Food, Inc and decided that the commercial meat industry just seemed dangerous and irresponsible to me. Anyway, buying supermarket meat is really just outsourcing my squeemishnes to places where my meat animals would experience much worse treatment than I could give them at home.

    I have started buying my meats at farmer's markets and from area producers, but that is very expensive and anyway, I would like to raise some animals myself. In a year I am moving and hope to move somewhere that I can have chickens and goats, but where I am now the HOA will not allow it. So that has me thinking about quail. I would be raising for both meat and eggs. I would probably go for A&M as my wife isn't really a huge fan of dark meat. I need to get started fairly cheap though. My wife is a teacher and I am a minister, so money isn't in great supply. I want to know some tips for building a very cheap quail setup so that I have plenty of money for feed and more expensive items like an incubator.

    So please, I would like your budget tips on coops, runs, brooders and the like.

    I also have a few miscelaneous questions:
    will quail forage for bugs to supplement their diet like chickens do? If so is a quail tractor set up a good idea?

    If I have 7 foot privacy fence and plug all the gaps could I let the quail run free in the backyard if I clip their wings, or can they fly over or will predator birds get them?

    Is the difference between eggs that I will hatch and eggs that I will eat other than one goes in an incubator and the other in the fridge? In other words if I am wanting to keep some eggs to eat do I need to keep the males separate from the hens whose eggs I want to eat?

    How many should I start with and how many should I keep if I want to feed my wife and I quail a couple of times a week?


    Jordan in Austin TX
  2. JHaller

    JHaller Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 23, 2008
    Austin TX
    Hi, Jordan,

    I'm an Austinite too, maybe we could split an order of 50-100 chicks or eggs and keep the cost down?

    You don't want them loose in the yard under any circumstances. The tractor is a good idea, but they won't tear up the soil surface as well a chicken. You'll need to park the tractor at night so that raccoons can't dig under it, or move birds to a protected cage.

    You want to make the quail cage so that a pack of roving pit bulls can't crash through the hardware cloth and get to your birds. I recently lost my breeding pair when some new animals in a nearby rent house tore loose aged fence pickets in two yards and got into my back yard. Predator protection is everything. The rest is easy. Allow about a cubic foot of floor space per bird

    For weekly meals, figure on two birds per serving. Assuming you have freezer space, you probably want to slaughter 3-4 times per year. Quail need 6-8 weeks from hatch to slaughter, and you'll want 8 quail per week to supply two meals to two adults.

    Keep a few extra birds to supply fresh eggs, which can also be boiled and pickled and kept in the refrigerator for salads and snacks. No need to separate males and females, eggs can eaten or hatched as needed.

    I am still new to quail keeping, but I believe this is a great solution for city dwellers to supply themselves clean protein. Even apartments often have enough space for egg-laying quail.
    1 person likes this.
  3. JordanCDollar

    JordanCDollar New Egg

    Apr 8, 2012
    Nice to see a fellow Austinite on here! I'm actually living out in Manor at the moment, but Austin is easy enough for people to find. Do you know about the legal side (I'm not currently planning to sell anything, just home consumption)? Are there any Texas laws on raising quail that I need to be aware of?

    How many do you keep right now?

    What kind of setup do you use? How tall do the cages need to be to avoid them quail hurting themselves? I may take a while to scratch up the money and do the building, but when I do I would be happy to split an order.
  4. JHaller

    JHaller Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 23, 2008
    Austin TX
    I'm not an expert on the laws, but my understanding is that you don't need a license for coturnix or bobwhites if you aren't selling them. Texas Parks and Wildlife may have other restrictions on other breeds or varieties. Within the Austin city limits, people only need 25 feet of clearance between their bird cages and the neighbor's home. For chickens, it has to be 50 feet.

    My setup is dreadful, so I can tell what not to do. I'm using an A-frame chicken tractor, which has only 4 birds at the moment, one male with 3 females. They are reasonably well protected in the upper deck, and I keep the ladder closed so they can't go the pen below. I had to tighten down the locking system, because raccoons can stick their little paws into a 1/2 inch opening and snatch the birds. I lost half my colony before I got it right. My system is awkward, I have to stoop a lot to care for the birds.

    Their overhead space is almost 24 inches, but they would be find with 12", lots of people use less. I'd favor cages that could be used with multiple animals, in case you want you to try bobwhites or something else.

    I had two favorites for a breeding pair, but those were housed in 30" square chicken coop, but they were killed by the surprise attack from new neighborhood dogs. That coop has to go, need something MUCH more sturdy.

    My goal is learn breeding, hatching, and brooding (the chicks are SO tiny!) and overcome my resistance to slaughtering and butchering living things for the table. I don't have targets for stocking the freezer or canning the meat. I enjoy eating the eggs, and am still looking forward to the meat.

    I'm planning to install a stacked system and try to keep about 10-12 layers and 2 males, with occasional hatches to produce meat and replace the breeding stock.

    I recently tried hatching for the first time. It was a dismal failure. I have one surviving chick, so I bought 10 more day-olds to keep it company (lucky to find them!). I can brood baby chickens, but we'll see how these itty bitty critters do!
  5. cva34

    cva34 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 10, 2011
    Van Vleck ,TX
    Did a quick read .You need to keep the M/F ratio more like 3 Girls to 1 Boy to keep fertility up...Your Garden will Love them Plenty PO PO and wasted feed and sand from sand bath. They can easily waste more feed than they eat.There a man in Gonzales (not to far from you) jimsbirdhouse that builds Quail feeders that are the best I found to reduce waste....Good luck....cva34
  6. JordanCDollar

    JordanCDollar New Egg

    Apr 8, 2012
    I just saw your post on your hatching experience, sounds pretty bad, but I guess pretty much everyone will have a horror story or two before they have everything figured out. What does your 30X30 coop look like? Are you interested in getting rid of it?

    I have been thinking of maybe making 4-5 wire boxes that I could put on a garage storage type shelf that I could then attach to the shelf. I am not sure if the quail would be calm enough for me to take the boxes off the shelf and set them on the ground to let them eat some bugs and fertilize the ground during the day, but if they did I could put them back up out of reach at night or when I am away and if cold weather came I could bring the shelving in the garage or cover the whole thing. I think I could probably craigslist or Habitat ReStore most of the supplies.
  7. brushycreek

    brushycreek Out Of The Brooder

    Hello to my fellow Texans! I am also a "newbie" and in the process of setting up. Hope to order my breeding stock and about 200 chicks next week. My goal is to supplement my families income by selling the meat and eggs as well as keeping some for my own use. Regarding any licensing, I understand you havve to have a game bird breeders license to raise Bob White's but do not for the Coturnix. Go on the Texas Dept. Of Fish and Game site for licensing information. Seems to be an easy process and affordable. We plan to start small with the meat quail and eventually raise the Bob White's for the game preserve/hunting market. My advise and in no way am I an expert, research and more research via the internet and books. There is so much information, ideas on pens,advise and tons of other stuff via the net. Google any question and you can get answers from numerous sources. I am located in Red Oak, 25 miles south of Dallas just a short 3 or so hours down I-35. Good Luck to you annd will keep updated on my progress and would love to hear about yours also. Bye for now!
  8. Jimsbirdhouse

    Jimsbirdhouse Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 25, 2010
    Gonzales, Texas
    For all you" newbie", You will need a license in Texas for Bobwhite but not coturnix.,You can get a form from Texas Parks &Wildlife buy writing to them at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept
    License Section
    4200 Smith School Road
    Austin, Texas 78744
    If you are going to raise less than 1000 birds your license will cost you $27.00. This is a class 2 Game Bird Breeder License,If you need more info,Birds,Eggs,Chukars or Feeders I live about 65 miles South of Austin in Gonzales. I hope this will help JIM
  9. jbobs

    jbobs Chillin' With My Peeps

    So if you wanted to serve one quail meal per week for two people, at 2 birds per serving (this is a little conservative, I'm not a big eater and I can eat at least three lol) you would need 208 birds in the freezer per year. If you divide that into four hatchings throughout the summer/fall, you need 52 birds. When i want x number of birds I usually put in double the number of eggs - the hatch rate might be 90% or it might only be 50%, so I least I have myself covered. to get 100 eggs in 7 days for incubation you would need about 14 laying females and 3 males. You could fit these guys into a 2'x10' wire cage and have a separate pen for your grow-outs - I don't think the youngsters would need a full 1 sqaure foot of space per bird, you could probably half that, since you are butchering them just before they reach maturity which is usually when the problems start.

    When I was keeping lots of birds before I left for uni I was living in an agri zone right next to a residential zone - and dogs constituded 90% of my predator problem. And half the time there is an ignorant person standing up for them on the other side of the fence. So build your cages strong! The shame about it is that often the birds die of fright or from bashing their heads repeatedly against the roof in an affort to escape so you have losses even if the dogs don't get in. I used to keep rabbits too and this was a huge problem.

    I'm not sure if you would exactly save money doing this instead of buying the equivalent in meat, but you would at least know your birds were well treated and home-grown, chemical and cruelty free.
  10. MobyQuail

    MobyQuail c. giganticus

    Sep 10, 2010

    good post with the numbers and the preds.

    I think I did the math on my quail meaties to 42 days costs me ~1.40$ a bird, 3 birds per pound. $4.20/pound for processed quail meat.

    definitely worth it to me.


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