Quails have the ultimate ROI is far as backyard farming goes. You can expect eggs at 10 weeks of age, and be able to distinguish sexes between 4-5 weeks. Coturnix males have rusty brown breasts whereas females have spotted black and white feathers on their breasts.
My friend lives in a townhouse and he keeps quails on his porch. They are the perfect pet if you don’t have a fenced yard or a place to keep chickens and ducks. They are small, quiet and adapt easily to cage life. If you don’t feel like building yourself a quail cage, you can easily substitute with a large rabbit cage.
The best kind of bedding for quails is cedar or pine shavings, which you can buy from your local feed store (the price should be around $7 for 3 cubic ft). Quails can get sick quite easily and are prone to Cocci, a protozoan which breeds like crazy in wet environments. For this reason, you want to buy bedding which is extremely absorbant. The quails I bought were 3 for $2. They are incredibly cheap. I thought I didn’t need that many, but the farmer I bought them from insisted that I take more. I learned later why.
Baby quails are extremely fragile. Unlike ducks, if you drop them, which is easy to do because they have little wings and freak out when they get touched, they will probably not make it. Not to mention the Cocci… when an outbreak occurs, it’s a scary sight. One of my females was excreting blood all over the place. By the time I got the meds from a feed store, it was too late for her. Luckily, the others were medicated and have now become immune to the nasty unicellular organisms.
Four days after cocci treatment, my female laid an egg. I wasn’t sure if it was safe to eat the egg, as the official advice is to stop feeding them cocciodiostat 5 days before slaughter. There was no mention of eggs. Apparently, the amount of coccidiostat inside eggs and it’s effect on humans has never been studied. I think it’s pretty much eat at your own risk. And ate I did…
I feed my birds Gamebird food which is 30% protein. Quails require a lot of protein as they eat a lot of insects in their natural environments.
Quails are a lot of fun to watch, but they don’t bond that well with humans. It’s kind of like keeping pet hamsters… but better , because hamsters don’t lay 300 eggs a year! Farmers generally use a 4 to 1 ratio girls to boys for their breeding as male quails are extremely exuberant.
Quails breed best when there’s at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. Even so, my quails bred all through winter when there was only 6 hours of daylight. These guys work hard.
Some quails can even lay 1-3 eggs in a day! They will lay continuously until 2 years of age before they start winding down. If you want to keep your quail kingdom running, it’s probably best to keep hatching out new ones.
For extra fun, provide your quails with a sandbox at least 2″ deep. Loose feeling earth beneath their feet triggers a bathing reaction which will keep their feathers clean and parasite free.