One decade ago, Jenny and Will Ledlow bought 6 acres in central Oklahoma, where Jenny dove into hobby farming. Raising a vegetable garden, pigs, guineas, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and quail, Jenny provides most of the family meals and a lot of fun. Plus, through social media and farmer’s markets, she sells what the family doesn’t use.
“I’m not a quail expert,” Jenny says. “But I’ve had poultry since I was a kid. I learned quail care online, reading books and through years of experience. After reading about quail, I decided to try raising them. In 2014, I hatched around 20 quail eggs that I bought online. I chose coturnix quail because they are fast growing, very productive and fairly easy to care for.
“Quail are not a big investment, and they can provide eggs and meat for people without land. Plus they are quiet and small.”
During the first four weeks, Jenny feeds her quail game bird starter. Then she switches to game bird feed, kale, herbs, lettuce, cucumbers, corn on the cob, mealworms, berries and insects.
For living quarters, Jenny says, “Housing needs to be safe and easy to clean. Most people who raise quail for eggs use stacked cages with roll-out spots for eggs. Metal, wood and wire are common materials used. I move my housing according to the weather. I like movable pens that are about 4 by 5 feet because it is easy to move them outdoors when it’s nice and onto a clean area so I can clean the previous place where they were. It also lets me add things for them to do such as sand boxes, clumps of grass and dirt, and places to hide.
“I protect my quail from predators using small wire on the pens or hardware cloth. Or I move them indoors. I never allow them to free range because coturnix quail are not native to Oklahoma. Also, they would be eaten by cats or other predators. I’ve seen them raised with chickens, but I haven’t tried it. I house them separately from other birds.”
In winter, Jenny’s quail are in sheds, chicken coops and Will’s shop. In summer, Jenny keeps the quail in the shade and monitors for fresh water. One summer she kept them in the garage with a window air conditioning unit.
The Value of Quail Eggs
Coturnix begin laying tiny, spotted eggs at 6 weeks of age. Jenny says they lay any time during the day and during all seasons, including winter (depending on the quails’ ages and housing).
“The chicks hatch in 18 days but can hatch earlier or later,” Jenny says. “They are similar to baby chickens, but they need food, water and bedding changes a lot more often. There are special food and water containers for quail chicks. Plus, they need a heat lamp until fully feathered.
“The eggs start developing at around 99 degrees in an incubator, or underneath their mothers. I have only had a couple of quail try to hatch their chicks, and it never worked.”
Jenny spends 10 to 20 minutes daily gathering eggs, replenishing food, water and sand, and inspecting for injuries. She fills the feeders and the water containers, and spends an hour weekly cleaning the cage/pen and providing new bedding.
“The eggs taste similar to chicken eggs,” Jenny says. “I’ve read that quail eggs have about 15 calories each, and more protein, iron, riboflavin and Vitamin B than chicken eggs. Many sources say they are a super food, and that they can help with health issues such as diabetes.”
For incubation purposes, Jenny stores eggs on the counter. But she cleans the other eggs and stores them in the refrigerator. Although soaking eggs in white vinegar makes the shells come off more easily, removing the shells is still tedious work. She pickles eggs for salads and snacks. As well, she fries and boils eggs, and uses them in recipes.
She says they are great in Asian soup recipes. For recipes, keep in mind that three quail eggs equal one chicken egg.
As for challenges, Jenny says, “The males start fighting around 5 weeks old. If you aren’t fast about separating them, they will pull the skin off the heads of other males. There are different colors of coturnix quail, but only a couple are color sexable, including Pharaoh and Italian. Females have spotted breasts but males don’t.
“Starting with one of those colors makes it much easier to separate the extra males early.”
Quail are great for meat, eggs and pets. By June 2023, Jenny owned 150 quail, but she says to start small, with five females to every male. Don’t mix different ages because older birds will hurt younger additions. If there are bird wounds or food buildup, change the setup.