Day four in my week long series about quail. I’ve written about my setup and my brooder live video feed, I’ve talked about my incubator, how I built it and the incubation process, as well as talking about brooders, feeders, the importance of water, and how to make a self waterer. Today we talk about quail housing.
Affordable housing doesn’t usually bring to mind wire vs hutch, but in the case of homesteaders, it does. Quail have simple requirements, food, water, shelter. Add in a little entertainment, and you’ve provided them with a Quail Utopia.
How you get there has many avenues. Here is how I currently do it.
Coturnix quail have extremely modest space requirements. An adult bird does very well with only 16-25 square inches of space. That is a 4×4 to 5×5 inch space. A 1 foot x 1 foot cage can house up to 5 birds!
Since I raise rabbits in wire cages, my first quail cage was an unused rabbit cage. But rabbits breeding the way they do, the unused cage quickly came back in demand, so I needed a fast fix. Lucky for me, I had some spare cage wire around, not enough to build a rabbit cage, but enough to keep around for cage repairs. Since quail just happen to have an unusual problem that rabbits don’t- wings, there was enough wire to build a shorter cage.
This is ideal since quail can leap into pseudo-flight and if they get enough of a leap, can crush their own skulls upon impact with the ceiling of a 18 inch cage. I have a couple end up with bleeding skulls in the rabbit cage I had, so I ended up hanging a towel across the upper half of the cage, effectively lowering the ceiling.
High ceilings are not a good idea for quail cages.
So my new quail cage was 24 by 36, but only 12 inches tall. They seemed to not mind the low ceiling, and I stopped having head trauma in my little guys. And I can fit as many as 35 or so birds in this space. I’ve house 25 in it, and never had an issue. They actually seem happier in larger numbers.
I felt that was too invasive to their environment, so I build a second cage, this time with a sloped floor. This resulted in the eggs rolling to the front of the cage, so gathering was easier.
My final modification was to reinstall the cage front up 1.5 inches and back 3 inches. I then installed a hanging 1 inch strip of cage wire attach only at the top. This caused it to act like a flapping door. This 1 inch wire strip pivots outward from to allow the eggs to roll through.
The three inches of the protruding cage floor to allow me to bend the wire into a little egg gutter. I now walk up to the cage and simply pick up the eggs from the front. No more invading the Quail Inner Sanctum, and the quail seem happier for it.
Here is a picture of the setup.
Another issue I had with quail was the messy nature of the way they eat. They flick their heads from side to side with their beak in the food, flinging a large amount out of the feeder and onto the floor, or in the case of a wire cage, to the ground below. This was a HUGE waste, and I quickly became annoyed at the amount of wasted food I had on the ground. Quail feed is on the upper end of the cost scale, and I wasn’t about to continue buying 50 pound bags of feed to have half of it end up wasted. So I started looking at ways to prevent the waste.
Ultimately, the best answer, however you resolve it, is to locate the feeder below the birds feet, and far enough away that they have to extend their necks a bit. The way I set mine up also included a gravity fed storage system made from an inverted two liter bottle. Here is the feeder setup along with the quail and their messy habits. I still lose some feed, but nowhere near as much as before.
Here is my feeder:
The trough is a piece of 2 inch PVC with a section cut out for access and caps on the end to hold the feed in. The bottle is held in place by a piece of 4 inch PVC with a cut though it in one place. (These act as some mighty fine clamps in a pinch BTW, I used these when I built my pirogue) The PVC clamp is threaded through the cage wire and the bottle slid into it.
And here is my entire cage setup.
Now here is the great part about quail housing. You can raise these amazing little birds in just about anything. I’ve seen them raised in walk in aviaries with 15 foot ceilings, as well as Rubbermaid tubs with screen tops. Cardboard boxes would work in a pinch, too.
My point is, quail housing is flexible. If you live on 100 acres and have a giant walk in barn, you can raise these things easily.
And if you live in an apartment in Arizona, you can get a large tote, cut an opening for air and light, put a piece of screening on top, throw in some aspen shavings, and put the whole thing under your computer desk and have a decent little spot to grow a few quail. An 18 gallon container would be enough room for as many as 18 birds, and if they were all hens, they would provide you with the equivalent of 5 or 6 chicken eggs EVERY DAY.
(Keep in mind the more birds, the more waste per day, so plan accordingly. Also be sure to have ventilation holes in the sides.)
And if you wanted to, you could simple buy a bird cage, and set them up in that as well. This finch cage could be enough space for up to twenty birds, though I’d add in a drop ceiling to prevent skull fractures.
Housing quail can be as simple or as complex as you like. They quail simply don’t care, as long as the are fed, watered, sheltered, and entertained. Anyone can do it, I promise. Raising them is very simple.
And another simple thing about quail is the processing them for meat. Check out tomorrow’s post to see how simple it is.
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