Cages need to be ready prior to obtaining the birds. People who are handy with tools can build their own cages or you can buy a pre-fabricated cage. Rabbit hutches are also ideal for quail. These are made of welded wire, are strong and very durable. There’s also a sliding pan underneath for catching the droppings. I raise all my quail on wire. This prevents them from eating their faeces something which if left uncontrolled can result in a condition known as ulcerative enteritis causing sickness and even death.

I make all of my cages using one inch by one inch square welded wire for the sides and top; for the bottom I use one-half inch by one inch. You can buy the welded wire from your local farm co-op as well as the hog rings to attach the pieces together to form a cage. Size is a matter of personal choice and budget. My cages for Coturnix measure 24″W x 48″L x 16″H. For the door, you simply cut a square hole in the middle. Make it large enough for the biggest item you intend to place in the cage. Quail love to dust bathe so in all of my cages, I put a plastic stackable vegetable container from Canadian Tire and fill the bottom with clean sand. Feed troughs need to have a cover otherwise the birds will get in and scratch all of the feed out. The birds also need water. To provide water, the easiest thing I have found is a pop bottle fountain. These are made of plastic, snap securely on the neck of a bottle and project 2″ through the cage. It comes with a spring that you attach around the bottle to hold it against the cage. If you should ever get into this is a big way, then you will need to rig up an automatic watering system. Cages, feed troughs and watering devices may be obtained from any of the suppliers listed below.

Cage location

Location of the cage is also important. Inside the aviary, my cages are suspended on a wall using shelf brackets. Two holes large enough to be able to slide the cage along the metal brackets are cut on the back of the cage. I have eight cages, four in each row with newspapers beneath each cage on which to catch the droppings. Droppings are solid in nature making them easy to be collected, bagged, and dumped in a compost pile at a friends farm. If cages are put outside, make sure the birds are sheltered from cold, wind, sun, and rain. The birds will adapt well to cold winter weather provided they’re able to acclimatize to seasonal temperature changes. Birds I want to stay outdoors all winter are first put outside in the summer. All of my outdoor pens were designed so that at least one-third of the cage is surrounded on all three sides and top with exterior grade plywood. It is suggested that wooden parts be painted to facilitate cleaning.

Being a city farmer, it is important to invest a bit of time and effort into building something that is aesthetically pleasing not for the birds but for the neighbours to enjoy. I could easily just slap a few sticks together and wrap some wire around these but I don’t think I would have gotten very far with my request to keep quail in the city if I’d chosen that route. I encourage all urban farmers raising animals in the city to give due consideration to this important detail.

Note that Coturnix quail kept outdoors will not lay past autumn so if you want eggs year round, they must be kept indoors. I keep them in an aviary inside my garage. And the key to getting eggs year round is light. Mine are on a 15-17 hour photoperiod. A timer in the aviary provides lighting from an incandescent light bulb.