Coturnix quail, scientifically known as Coturnix japonica, are small birds that have gained popularity among backyard enthusiasts and small-scale farmers for their prolific egg production, flavorful meat, and ease of care. These birds are not only low-maintenance but also efficient when it comes to space and resource utilization.
In 2022 we hatched our first batch of Coturnix. We chose quail over chickens for a few reasons and if you are debating if you should raise quail instead of chickens or vice versa here are a few things to consider.
Quail don’t take up a lot of space
Coturnix Quail are much smaller than chickens, requiring significantly less space. A standard cage size of about 1 square foot per quail is sufficient. This makes quail ideal for those with limited space.
When it comes to housing quail, two common options are battery cages and aviaries, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The choice between these two systems depends on your specific goals, space constraints, and ethical considerations. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each in another post, but in the end, we decided an aviary was the best option for us.
Chickens are larger and need more space to roam. A typical guideline is 2-3 square feet per chicken in a coop and 8-10 square feet per chicken in an outdoor run.
Chickens like to roost at night, so provide sturdy roosting bars or perches for them to sleep on. Each chicken should have about 8-12 inches of roosting space. You’ll also need to provide nesting boxes for chickens for a safe and clean place for hens to lay eggs. Each nesting box should measure about 12×12 inches and be lined with straw, hay, or other suitable bedding material.
Quail are ground-dwelling birds meaning they will not roost and do not need roosting bars or perches. They do not require nesting boxes as they will lay their eggs where they please. Often out in the open in plain sight.
Low Feed and Maintenance Costs
Quail are relatively low-maintenance. They require less food compared to chickens due to their smaller size. Adult quail consume about 0.25 to 0.5 ounces (7 to 14 grams) of feed per day per bird. Young quail chicks eat even less, starting at around 0.1 ounces (3 grams) per day and gradually increasing as they grow.
Like chickens, quail enjoy a wide variety of foods including mealworms, garden scraps, dandelion greens, and live bugs.
Chickens require more feed and attention depending on their breed and purpose (meat or egg production) and consume varying amounts of feed. Laying hens, for example, typically eat around 0.25 to 0.5 pounds (113 to 227 grams) of feed per day per bird. Broiler chickens (raised for meat) consume more, often averaging 0.5 to 0.75 pounds (227 to 340 grams) or more of feed per day per bird, especially as they approach processing weight.
Factors such as the specific breed, age, health, and the nutritional content of the feed all play a role in determining how much each bird eats. Additionally, chickens are larger birds and have higher nutritional needs, which can contribute to their higher feed consumption.
Also Read: Modern Homesteading
When raising quail or chickens, it’s crucial to monitor their feed intake and adjust accordingly to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients for their growth and well-being. Providing a balanced diet with appropriate protein levels for their life stage is essential to optimize their health and productivity.
Another thing to note is that quail are generally hardy and less susceptible to some common poultry diseases than chickens. Chickens can be susceptible to various diseases, and maintaining their health may require more attention and care.
Noise and aggression
Quail are generally quieter than chickens. They produce soft cooing sounds, which are less disruptive in urban and suburban settings. Chickens can be noisy, especially when they cackle after laying eggs. Roosters, if kept, can also be quite loud with their crowing.
Coturnix Quail are social birds and tend to get along well with each other when housed in appropriate group sizes. They are known for their docile and calm temperament, which makes them suitable for backyard poultry keeping and small-scale farming. Chickens have a pecking order and can exhibit aggressive behavior, especially if overcrowded. Some breeds are more docile than others.
It’s important to note that individual quail behavior can vary, and there may be exceptions. Certain factors can potentially lead to more aggressive behavior in quail such as during the breeding season, when male quail may become more territorial and engage in competitive behaviors towards other males.
Efficient Egg Production
Quail are known for their impressive egg-laying capabilities. A single Coturnix quail hen can lay up to 300 eggs per year, and they start laying at a young age (around 6-7 weeks). Chickens also lay eggs, but their production varies by breed. Some chicken breeds can lay around 200-300 eggs per year, while others are bred for meat and may lay fewer eggs.
Quail eggs are small and delicately flavored, making them a sought-after ingredient for gourmet dishes, appetizers, and snacks. Quail eggs are lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol but are proportionally higher in protein. Both types of eggs offer valuable nutrients, and your choice may depend on your dietary preferences and nutritional needs. Each quail egg provides about 1-1.2 grams of protein. Large chicken eggs provide approximately 6 grams of protein.
Quail they mature quickly, usually ready for processing at 6-8 weeks of age. Chickens are larger birds, offering more substantial meat yields. They take longer to mature, with processing typically occurring at 16-20 weeks for broilers and longer for heritage or dual-purpose breeds.
Quail meat is lean, tender, and has a slightly gamey flavor that appeals to many culinary enthusiasts.
Quail meat is a good source of protein and essential nutrients, including B vitamins (B2, B3, B6, B12), iron, zinc, and phosphorus. It is known for its relatively low-fat content. Chicken meat is also rich in protein and contains various vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. The fat content varies depending on the cut, with skinless chicken breast being lower in fat compared to dark meat.
The choice between raising Coturnix quail and chickens ultimately depends on your space, goals, and preferences. Quail are excellent for small spaces, efficient egg production, and a unique meat option, while chickens offer more substantial meat yields and are well-suited for those with more space and an interest in larger birds.
Consider your available resources and what you hope to achieve with your poultry before making your decision. Some even choose to raise both quail and chickens to enjoy the benefits of both!