How to get started

Japanese have raised them for centuries. They were called “Bible quail” by the early American colonists. Modern homesteaders like myself call them Coturnix (from their generic name, Coturnix coturnix). As a wildlife biologist by training, agronomist by profession, and urban farmer by choice, I highly recommend to anyone wanting to raise animals for food in the city to give quail a try. Their small size makes them ideal for raising either in a garage, the basement, or on a outside deck. Beginners should start with the Coturnix quail . Six to eight of these can be reared within a square foot. A good number to start with is 20 birds: 12 females and 8 males. The males are polygamous meaning they mate with any and all females. The recommended ratio of females to male is 2 to 1 but I usually put in a few extra males to ensure good fertility. These quail possess a remarkable resistance to disease, start laying at six weeks of age, and can be consumed at four to five weeks of age. The meat is fortified with nutrients and has a very low cholesterol percentage. Dressed, the hens weigh about 4 to 5 1/2 ounces with the male being slightly smaller. Eggs weigh about 1/3 ounce which is about 8 per cent of the body weight of the hen as compared to three percent for chicken eggs. After you’ve been raising Coturnix successfully for awhile, the next step is to try Eastern bobwhite . These are larger than Coturnix quail, take about 14-16 weeks to start laying, and are monagamous. This means that females pick their mates so you need the same number of both sexes. Their eggs are white and smaller than those from Coturnix. The other species listed on the above web site are some of the fancier species and are raised more for pleasure than for eating.

By law, anyone raising quail needs to obtain a game bird license from their local department of Natural Resources as these birds are considered as wildlife. The license in New Brunswick is $10 and renewable each year.

Where to find helpful information

Beginners should give some thought to joining one or more game bird associations. As a member, you will receive a monthly newsletter containing valuable information on the different aspects of game bird breeding, find names of breeders from whom you can obtain breeding stock or eggs for incubation, and obtain lists of suppliers for materials and equipment required for this hobby. In Canada, there are at least five game bird associations and quite a few more in the United States. I am a member of the Canadian Ornamental Pheasant and Game Bird Association and the American Pheasant and Waterfowl Society . After becoming a member, you can request a breeder’s directory containing a list of all the names and addresses of breeders as well as a listing of the different species of game birds each member raises. By contacting these breeders, you can make arrangements to have either live birds or eggs for incubation shipped to you. If you decide to start off with birds, ask a lot of questions from the game bird breeder to make sure that he/she has disease free stock and that male and female are unrelated. Hobby game bird breeders are not required to have their birds checked by a vet and sometimes you end up with animals that are not in too good a shape so buyer beware. Generally speaking though, most game bird breeders are honest and will provide you with good quality breeding stock.

The internet also has an abundance of information on quail as referenced throughout this article.