Living in the city or on a smaller property means that keeping a breeding flock of chickens is difficult. Often urban homesteaders don’t have the space or the legal ability to become more self-sufficient with traditional poultry. You may want to consider raising Coturnix Quail. Quail produce both meat and eggs quickly and efficiently. They can even be kept in a garage or indoors if you are severely limited on space for livestock.
Coturnix quail need less living space
Instead of a coop and run or pasture, quail can live in a discrete hutch. It’s easy to tuck a hutch into a private corner of the property, and the neighbors don’t even have to know you are raising them. Here are some detailed picture on building a quail hutch from Suburban Sustainability. You can adapt rabbit hutches or even old chicken brooders in housing for your quail. Mature birds only need one square feet of space, and they can even be raised indoors or in a shed or garage! Attainable Sustainable has an interview that discusses raising them indoors. If keeping them indoors or in cages isn’t your thing, then you can absolutely raise them on the ground. 104 Homestead has pictures of several different styles of on the ground pens that they have used.
They are quieter than chickens or ducks
They aren’t completely silent, but given that they are so small, and game birds, the noises that they do make shouldn’t bother your neighbors any more than the wild songbirds would. Obviously a rooster is super duper loud. Chickens can also be rather noisy when they lay their eggs. Ducks just go off quacking whenever they get startled day or night. The only animal I can think of that are quieter than quail are rabbits. (Rabbits are pretty awesome for urban homesteaders as well; read more about them in Are Rabbits Right For You.). If you’re not sure if the noise level of quail will work for your situation, Imperfectly Happy has a sound clip of what their crow sounds like.
They mature quickly
You can hatch your eggs in just 18 days, and they will reach maturity by about six weeks. In less than three months you can go from fertile eggs to full grown adults LAYING eggs! With such quick maturity times you can select your breeding stock for each successive generation. With enough genetic variety you can breed your own for quite some time before bringing in new genetic lines. This article from Mother Earth News includes information on sexing the birds.
The hens lay an egg a day depending on the amount of light, just as chickens do. You will need one male per group of 2-5 females depending on your breeding plans. The excess males provide a gourmet source of meat, just like chickens do. You could quickly scale your production up or down. Maybe you want to provide food for your own table. Or perhaps you’d also like to bring in extra income for your homestead from the sales of meat, hatching eggs, adult stock, or eggs.
You can butcher them in your kitchen
When you live in the city, butchering day can be rather awkward, if not totally impossible. Because quail are so easy to dispatch and process you can do it all in your kitchen, with a pair of shears. There’s no need for an extensive set up, pricey tools, or a private outdoor area. If you want to see the process, there are several videos on YouTube. Don’t watch if you don’t want to see it, but here’s a good one where you can see how it works in the kitchen.
Some people may think they should just raise quail for eggs, but even if you purchase new hens, there are going to be excess males somewhere along the line. Part of homesteading is becoming more aware of the impact our choices have on the entire life cycle of the species we make a part of our lives. Urban homesteaders often have to outsource parts of the nitty gritty details, but quail are one of the few that we can be full participants in the circle of life for our livestock.
They are easy to care for
Quail can be an ideal livestock for people who may have physical difficulties caring for a larger species. They don’t have large coops to be mucked or huge feeders to be filled. There are no ponds to manage or electric fencing moved around on pasture. A mason jar chick waterer filled with pebbles is their water source, and their feeders are equally dainty. Here’s how you could make your own feeder from a soda bottle from Linn Acres Farm. Their bedding or trays can be dumped into the compost bin. If they are outdoors, you could compost directly underneath the hutches. They do need daily care, but it isn’t physically demanding or overly taxing. This is also a plus if you needed to hire a house sitter so you can go on vacation!
If you want to be more self-sufficient, you absolutely need to think about adding quail to your backyard homestead.
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