In recent years, raising quail has become an increasingly popular choice for homesteaders with limited space who want to secure their own food supply. They take up very minimal space, yet still, provide high-quality meat and nutrient-packed eggs. If you’ve never raised homestead meats before, quail are a relatively low-cost, low-maintenance option for you to get started with.
Quail can be found on almost every continent, with over 130 different species confirmed around the world. However, certain species have more meat, larger eggs, or other important traits that make them more valuable to a savvy homesteader.
These five best quail breeds will give you the highest yield on meat and eggs, with some of the lowest maintenance, cost and trouble.
Benefits of Raising Quail
You might be thinking, why would I raise tiny quail if I could raise large chickens or even turkeys? Well, if you have space, time, and patience, turkeys or chickens might be the right choice for you. However, raising quail has many benefits that might surprise you.
Unlike chickens and turkeys, quail make very little sound on a day-to-day basis. If you’ve ever raised chickens before, you know how loud and annoying they can be, especially the roosters. On the other hand, male quails are quiet and well-behaved. When quails do make noise, most people describe it as a light singing or whistling sound.
Quail reach maturity much faster than chickens as well. A quail will start laying eggs after about six weeks, about a quarter of the time it takes for a chicken to start laying eggs. In one year, some quail species will lay around 200 eggs. For comparison, one chicken egg would equal roughly the size of five quail eggs.
Raising quail also provides homesteaders an extra way to make money off the grid. Their meat is cherished by many people and can be sold to local restaurants, friends, at farmers' markets, or used to sustain your own family.
When starting your own covey of quail, you have two options. You can either buy hatching eggs and try to incubate the eggs yourself, or you can buy day-old chicks and get started from there. Day-old chicks will take less effort, less equipment, and less up-front cost. To learn more about starting your quail covey, check out Penn State’s Extension on Bobwhite Quail Production.
Whether you buy day-old chicks or hatching eggs, always buy from a National Poultry Improvement Plan certified farm. Just like raising other poultry birds, make sure you keep the quails' cage or coop clean, dry, and stocked with fresh water and feed as needed.
Quail don’t require as much space as other micro livestock. In fact, up until 14 weeks old you can have about three to four quail per square foot of cage/pen space. After 14 weeks, each quail will only need about two square feet.
The tiny amount of space needed to raise quail makes this microlivestock ideal for urban homesteaders and others working with limited square footage. Also, many cities or towns with local bylaws that restrict backyard chicken farming actually allow quail farming. If you live in an urban area, do some research into your local regulations and find out what you can raise in your backyard!
5 Best Quail Breeds to Raise at Home
1. Coturnix Quail
When you think of quail, the Coturnix is likely what you picture. The most popular quail breed in the world, the Coturnix will start laying eggs at six weeks of age, and average between 200 - 300 eggs per year.
If you raise them for meat, the Coturnix will be ready for harvesting after about eight weeks. An average Coturnix will give you around eight ounces of meat after butchering. This might seem like a small amount of meat compared to other poultry, but it’s quite large for a quail.
Due to their quick maturation, high yield of eggs, and tasty meat, the Coturnix species is ideal for homesteaders looking to supplement their own meat supply, or make some extra money selling meat and eggs.
2. Bobwhite Quail
Oddly enough, the bobwhite quail gets its name from the sound of their whistling call, which sounds eerily like someone singing “bobwhite”. It may be a beautiful sound, but it means they’re much noisier than other quail breeds like the Coturnix, which are known for their relative silence.
The bobwhite takes longer to reach maturity than some other quail breeds, and will only lay between 100 - 200 eggs per year. However, the agility and speed of bobwhites has made them a favorite game bird of hunters. Many quail farms raising bobwhites will sell them to game reserves to be released into the wild or used for hunting programs.
Since bobwhite’s take longer to reach maturity, and lay less eggs, they may not be ideal for homestead farms looking to raise quail for consumption.
3. Button Quail
Also known as the King Quail, these birds are smaller than other quail breeds, very quiet, and well-behaved. Because of these traits, button quails can be kept as pets, added to an aviary, or raised in a small ground pen.
They take about 12 weeks to reach full maturity, and will only weigh 1.5 - 2 ounces. Native to warmer climates, these birds don’t do well in the cold. They would be ideal for homesteaders in southern states who might be unsure of raising quail for meat. Start with button quails, and if you don’t want to harvest the birds after they reach maturity, they’ll make a quiet, cute pet bird.
4. Mountain Quail
One of the less common breeds of quail, the mountain quail is the largest quail native to the United States. Reaching maturity takes a little longer than other quail breeds, usually six months, where they will weigh around nine ounces.
Raising mountain quail will require more work than other less labor-intensive breeds of quail. The young will require hand-feeding for a week or two until they learn how to eat. This breed will also generally cost more than some other more common species like Coturnix.
Although mountain quail take a bit more of a skilled and patient hand at raising, the high-yield of meat makes these quail ideal to raise for meat. However, if you’ve never raised micro livestock before, you may want to start with an easier breed of quail.
5. Blue-Scale Quail
Native to some central states and central Mexico, the blue-scale quail prefer to nest on sandy soil and run, rather than fly away from danger. They look very exotic, and have blueish colored feathers.
If you want to start raising quails for eggs, don’t choose the blue-scale breed. These birds only lay from April - September and with much less frequency than other quail breeds.
If you live in an area well-suited to the blue-scale quail, you may want to raise them to attract other wild quails to the area. The breed does very well in the wild, unlike some of the other breeds mentioned in this post. Because of this, they may be better-suited to free-ranging on your homestead.
To learn more about blue-scale quail in the southern United States, check out Texas Parks & Wildlife page on the birds.
Start Raising Quail Today
If you’ve never tried raising your own meat, quails will be a great place to start. Depending on the breed you choose, quails require less work and time to raise compared with raising rabbits, chickens, turkeys, or other homestead livestock. They produce delectable meat, and their eggs contain higher concentrations of protein, B12, and iron than a comparable chicken egg.
Choose a breed that fits your homestead's needs, as well as your own capabilities. Even if you start with just a dozen birds, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more self-sufficient homestead. Plus, if you have any extra meat or eggs, you’ll almost certainly find some people willing to buy them.
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Have you tried raising quail on your homestead before? Let us know in the comments below which breed you prefer.