Mailbag May 2, 2013 Quail vs Ducks or Chickens

Yesterday, I received a comment from a regular reader, Darren from Green Change. com, and  I thought I should expand on my reasoning.

“Just a quick comment to thank you for all your quail articles. I didn’t think quail were worth messing about with (small eggs and little fiddly bodies for meat!), but you’ve managed to convince me otherwise. We’re heading into winter Down Under now, but I’m hoping to spend some time getting set up for quail and giving them a go next spring.”



As this article is being published, I’m actually meeting a friend, in order to start handing over some of my Muscovy ducks, eventually getting rid of all of them. I’ll also be selling my chickens for the same reason – quail provide everything the other two bird species provide, only with fewer inputs, and less hassle. Also, quail are the lowest profile bird. That has a lot to be said for it in an urban setting.

The trade-off in egg size is made up in speed and quantity. And by no longer having free-range birds in my backyard, I get to make peace with my wife as well as no longer having to fence off my raised bed gardens.

That’s not to say that I think that chickens or Muscovies are a bad choice, far from it. It’s just that in my particular setting, I can get everything from quail and use less of my property to do it.

I STILL believe that Muscovies are the go-to bird of choice in a true hardship situation, from another Great Depression to a Mad Max scenario. I started with 4 birds about a year ago. Two didn’t make it to adulthood, deciding to jump into he neighbor’s yard where a pair of hungry, bird-eating dogs waited.

The two remaining were a male and female. About 6 months after I purchased these ducks, I had my first hatch of 10 ducklings. I allowed 4 to reach adulthood (we ate the rest, tasted GOOD), and have since had another 10 duckling hatch, as as I type this out, I have two other nests, one with 10 eggs, the other with 16 eggs.

That is 4+10+10+ a possibly 26 more. Let’s call it 45-50 ducks in less than a year. And only in about a year.Imagine how many I would have if I allowed more to reach adulthood. Its no wonder these birds are frowned upon when you see them around municipal ponds and apartment waterways.

While I do provide them with fresh water, I rarely have to feed them, they just don’t seem interested, preferring to forage for themselves. And I only have a small 35 gallon plastic pond for them to swim in, something that they rarely do.

Muscovies are simply a fantastic bird for self sufficiency….as long as you have the space and the means to keep them from foraging in your garden, if you have one.

As to chickens, let’s face it, you are far more likely to get interest in chicken eggs or meat than you are in Muscovy or quail eggs or meat. Our society has trained us to think of chicken as “normal”. If you are looking for income supplements, chicken eggs have a higher demand, and acceptance, than either of the other two bird species.

Ultimately, if I were to ever have a larger parcel of land to live on, I would again have Muscovies and chickens, along with my quail and rabbits. It has been an interesting experiment to see how well each would do with our urban setup. I don’t consider either to be a failure, rather as an option that we prefer less than the others.


Thanks for the great comment Darren, I wish you well on your Quail adventures. You will be amazed at the simplicity and speed of quail production.


That is about all for now, we had some localized adventures last night that I’ll go into for tomorrow’s article.

Also, by tonight, the next episode of’s podcast should be posted, Episode 101. I was honored to have been asked to sit in and talk about all things Florida Hillbilly, and compare my learning curve to theirs in Texas. I’m nervous and excited about how the show went. I’m hoping Aaron is a genius at audio editing…for his sake, and my pride’s. Aaron and Jason were a lot of fun to talk with, and I’m hoping to speak with them again, on air or off, since they have a LOT of great ideas for self sufficiency in an urban setting….there is something to be said for over engineering a project. :)


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  1. Hey, awesome, thanks for the followup DB!

    I’ve got muscovies (and pekins, and Indian runners), Australorp chickens, and meat rabbits. I’m always interested in trying something new, as long as it doesn’t upset my wife too much. We’re on an acre, so have plenty of room to experiment.

    Around here, I’ve found chicken eggs are actually a little hard to sell. They’re cheap in supermarkets, and there are plenty of other small-scale chicken-keepers selling them. Duck eggs have been much easier to sell when we’ve had surplus – they’re not readily available elsewhere, and are coveted by country women for baking. I’ve no idea how quail eggs would go, but I suspect they may sell OK for the novelty factor. People do like to indulge their kids :-).

    I think rabbits would sell well. I’ve seen very small ones in supermarkets for $16-20 each, and the butcher sells medium ones for $25 and large for $34. Those prices probably sound ridiculous to you! They’re especially sought after by some ethnic groups, even at those prices – I have Maltese, Italian and Egyptian friends that are very keen.

    I’m finding rabbits to be a much simpler meat source than ducks or chickens (easier to look after, faster to grow, and easier to process), so I’m thinking of scaling back on the poultry. Maybe just the chickens and pekins for eggs, and muscovies because they look after themselves. I’m interested in guinea fowl too, because they’re low maintenance and keep your yard clear of ticks.

    My vet and the local college are interested in buying rats from me, so I’m even thinking of breeding them. I’m sure I could sell plenty to local reptile and predatory bird keeps as well.

    And then we’ll see where quail might fit in.

    So many ideas, and so little time! :-)

    1. I’ve heard that folks with allergies to chicken eggs can eat quail eggs, so if that is true, there is a captive audience…

      As to local butchers, I visited about a half dozen of them in my area, and NONE of them actually did more than cut meat that was shipped to them. They weren’t more than meat cutters, all of them using the same supplier. Part of this country’s problems is the litigious nature of our mentality – our politicians feel they need to protect us from our own stupidity, and have turned good, wholesome things into contraband. Whole milk and fresh meat are a few of these things. I still cannot understand why the same folks that say whole milk is illegal, also say that Coke and Pepsi are OK for our kids to consume. WTF?

      A local butcher, that actually butchered, would be fantastic. So would getting $25 for a rabbit!

      And I have time and ideas…just not enough space or money 😛 We all have our issues. Luckily for some of us, its the struggle that makes the effort interesting.

      Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

  2. Having land, I’ve got space for ducks, rabbits, chickens, horses, etc.
    I’ve had chickens off and on for years, I love fresh eggs. I’ve got a large family, and we can really pack away the eggs. I eat 3 eggs for breakfast daily, and my wife eats between 2 & 3, the youngest eats between 1&2. I probably need a good dozen layers, I’ve got 3 (plus a free range banty & a rooster).
    I did just pick up 19 ducks, 4 geese.
    We’ve also got 20 rabbits & a bunch of fish in the pool.

    Now I’ve just got to get the system down properly and we’ll be good to go. We really need to get the incubating thing down and I’d have more than enough chickens for the eggs & table.

      1. We’re thinking about getting some turkeys too. then I can have a double tur-duck-in on thanksgiving. one with eggs & one with birds :)

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