Raising Quail for Food - Happy Wife Acres (2024)

Raising Quail for Food

“I want to raise chickens for eggs and meat, but we can’t have chickens where we live, so we’ll have to wait until we buy land in the country.” Have you ever said that? Or maybe you can have chickens, but would like to add some variety to your dinner plate. Have you thought about quail?

Our quail experience started abruptly. We had thoughts of adding quail to the farm, but it was one of those “someday” thoughts. Then the Happy Wife went to a poultry swap-meet alone, and came home with 66 fertilized quail eggs. There was suddenly a rush to construct housing for future quail.

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Figure 1 – Coturnix Pharaoh Quail

We learned a lot in our first year. We learned that quail are fairly easy to raise, are consistent layers, and taste great! And you can raise them in a garage or backyard. If you have considered raising quail, here are a few of the Pros and Cons of raising quail for food that you should be aware of.

Pro #1 – Fresh Eggs Daily. Quail are great layers. A quail in its first year will lay almost every day. And you won’t have to wait long. Unlike chickens, which take about 5 months to start laying, quail only take 6 weeks. Sure, it takes 5 quail eggs to equal one chicken egg, but if you want fresh eggs and can’t have chickens, quail eggs are a great alternative.

The taste is similar to chicken eggs, but with different nutrition. Ounce for ounce, quail eggs have less choline, but significantly more riboflavin, vitamin B12, and iron. Some people with egg allergies say they can eat quail eggs.

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Figure 2 – Quail Egg vs. Chicken Egg Nutrition

We love to eat hard boiled eggs. Place eggs in boiling water for just 3 minutes! Transfer them to an ice water bath to cool. Then peel and eat…and eat…and eat! They can also be cooked any way you would eat chicken eggs.

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Figure 3 – Quail Eggs Ready for Peeling

Some people say their quail slow down or stop laying in the winter. Quail egg production is highly affected by light; much more than chickens. We added LED lights normally used under kitchen counters. You can buy a kit with 6 light strips for under $50. Then plug it into a timer to give them 12-15 hours of light each day.

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Figure 4 – LED Light Kit

Pro #2 – Fresh Meat. Quail grow quickly. In just 7 to 8 weeks, they’re ready for processing. The final product is small (just ¼ pound), so you’ll probably want a couple for dinner. The meat is delicious. It’s all dark meat, and the taste is somewhere between chicken and duck. Quail is a game bird, but it doesn’t taste too gamey. And it’s not greasy like duck. It can be roasted, braised, or grilled. We like ours cooked on a grill press. Because they’re small, they cook quickly (15 minutes in the oven, 5 minutes on the grill press).

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Figure 5 – Quail Cooked on a Grill Press

Pro #3 – Raise Quail Where Chickens Are Banned. Many towns and neighborhoods specifically ban owning chickens. Check your local ordinances. Many don’t mention quail. I’m not telling you to ignore the law, but since quail are raised in cages and don’t make much noise, if you keep them out of sight, who will know? The females rarely make any noise, and the males make a sound like a songbird.

Pro #4 –Quail Don’t Take Much Space. Because quail are small and raised in cages, you won’t need much room. Cages are often stacked, so several groups can be raised with the same floor space. You’ll read that quail should have 1 square foot of space per bird, but you could easily push that to 3 birds per 2 square feet, especially for grow outs that you intend to eat.

We first built two 2’ x 6’ cages that stack, and later bought a Chick Tower from Tractor Supply. The Chick Tower has 5 levels, each with about 9 square feet. Each level comes with a waterer, feeder, radiant heater, and slide-out poop tray. We made some modifications to the doors to allow more airflow and the floor to allow poop to easily fall. You can see the video about replacing the floor at https://youtu.be/Fdk1UpKlIz8.

The tower retails for $1300, but is sometimes on sale for $900. Quail cages shouldn’t be higher than 12-15 inches, since quail tend to jump straight up when startled. If they have too much room to jump, they’ll jump and break their neck. The Chick Tower levels are short, so they’re perfect for quail.

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Figure 6 – TSC Chick Tower, Great to Raise Quail

We also built a small quail cage for tabletop use. It’s 2’ x 3’, and could hold 6-10 quail. It took a couple of days to build and the final cost was around $60. You can find the video and list of materials at https://youtu.be/PKZCSQWAV9U.

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Figure 7 – Home Built Quail Cage

Pro #5 – Easy to Process Emotionally. If you eat meat, something had to die. If you have trouble with death, you’re not alone. However, quail are about the easiest to dispatch from an emotional perspective. It’s not friendly, it doesn’t sit on your shoulder, it doesn’t look at you with longing eyes. It’s a bird. And the older they get, the bigger jerks they become, sometimes scalping and pecking out the eyes of the weaker ones. Compared to dispatching a rabbit, quail are about as emotionally easy as it gets.

Pro #6 – Easy to Process Physically. When we process chickens, it takes about 45 minutes to set us the cones, scalder, plucker, table, and buckets. For quail, you probably already have the equipment: a pair of scissors, 3 buckets, and a garden hose. The entire process takes about 4 minutes. And cleanup is just as easy.

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Figure 8 – Quail Are Easy to Process

You’ll find several YouTube videos about how to process quail. Watch them to find a technique you are comfortable with. Or visit someone who will let you observe in person. Here is a video we made about processing quail: https://youtu.be/vDH6ay4f3sE.

Pro #7 – No Extra Freezer Required. Large animals like a cow or pig might require an extra freezer to store the meat you’ll get once each year. But quail are small and you’re processing them throughout the summer, so there’s little impact on the freezer you already have.

Pro #8 – Efficient to Grow. Animal growth efficiency is measured in something called the Feed Conversion Ratio, or FCR. FCR is a ratio of how many pounds of feed it takes to make a pound of the animal you’re growing. The FCR for quail is similar to layer chickens at around 3.5 pounds of feed to produce a pound of animal. To produce a ¾ pound live quail, you’ll need about 2.6 pounds of feed.

Pro #9 – Quail are Sustainable. As a homesteader, you want to be able to make more out of what you have. Remember those 66 quail eggs the Happy Wife came home with? We had a terrible hatch rate with only 11 babies. But they grew up and we incubated more. By the end of that year, we hatched over 340 quail. We don’t incubate in the winter, but in spring we started incubating again, and after those eggs hatched and matured, we processed all the old quail to maximize egg production and keep the flock young. The point is that all the quail we have today came from those original 11.

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Figure 9 – Quail Eggs in the Incubator

There are a few Cons. I think they’re all minor, but you should be aware.

Con #1 – Cost of Housing. This is true no matter what you raise. Even with chickens, your first egg will cost you about $800. You could have just a few quail for eggs, and raise them in an inexpensive rabbit cage, but if you plan on raising quail as a regular meat source, count on at least 3 cages and a brooder plus an incubator.

Con #2 – They Poop a LOT! Because quail grow so fast, they eat and poop a lot. You’ll notice it because they stay in a cage and don’t roam. Just get used to it!

Con #3 – Variety is Limited. Different breeds of chickens can happily live together, but not quail. Quail that look different often attack each other. If you want a variety of breeds, count on more cages. But if you just want eggs and meat, who cares?

Here’s a summary of the Pros and Cons:

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Here are few tips to help you get started.

Feed. Because quail grow so quickly, they benefit from high protein feed initially. You can use regular chicken layer feed, but we recommend a higher protein. Layer feed is 16-18% protein. We use a turkey starter feed with 28% protein. Once the birds reach maturity, you can switch them to a lower protein feed.

Incubate Regularly. Whatever you decide for housing, you’ll want quail in 3 groups: babies (up to 2 weeks old), layers, and grow outs. Quail hatch in only 18 days. Our newborns spend the first two weeks indoors under a heat lamp in a brooder. We’ve used a plastic tub, a premade rabbit cage, and a homemade chick cage. After 2 weeks, transfer them outdoors. You could keep them in the house, but quail poop is a special kind of stinky, and they make so much of it! Your nose will tell you when it’s time for them to go out. Your first quail will become layers. However, about ½ of them will be males. Keep a couple for future fertilized eggs, and eat the rest. Once you start getting eggs, incubate on a regular basis. Those will become your grow outs.

Want to kickstart your quail program? Buy fertilized eggs from someone who raises quail, and refill the incubator as soon as hatching is over. You’ll have 3 hatches before your first ones begin to lay!

With one incubator, you could incubate a group every 3 weeks. In a steady state, you would have 1 brooder, 1 cage for layers, and 2 cages for grow outs. The grow outs spend 2 weeks indoors, and 5 weeks outdoors. By the time the third group is ready to go outside, the first group is ready for processing, so you’ll have an open cage. And you’ll have more fresh meat every 3 weeks.

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Figure 10 – Every 3 Week Incubation Schedule

Incubation doesn’t have to be expensive. If you don’t have one, there are small incubators that hold about 35 quail eggs for around $55. Here is a review we made of one: https://youtu.be/Z1Ve5uAmzQE.

Get Started Inexpensively. If you search out hatching eggs, you’ll probably pay a lot. But if you can find a source of quail eggs from a local homesteader, chances are they keep males with the females so they can incubate frequently. Ask them. If you buy eggs for eating, they’re probably fertilized and ready for the incubator! They might not be purebred show quality quail, but you want eggs and meat.

Quail Need Special Attention. Baby quail are tiny, but grow fast. For the first couple of weeks, you’ll want to help them survive. Baby quail often fall in and drown in a regular chicken waterer. You can either put marbles or rocks in the waterer, or buy a waterer for quail. The drinking area is very small. You can also buy just the base, which fits quart size plastic bottles or mason jars. Also, since quail have difficulty walking on wood chip bedding, use blue shop towels in the brooder for the first 2 weeks, or paper towels in a pinch. After 2 weeks, the chicks will be fully feathered, won’t need a heat lamp or special waterer, and can be transferred to a grow out cage.

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Figure 11 – Quail Waterer and Blue Shop Towels

How Many Quail Will You Need?

Eggs. Five quail eggs equals one chicken egg. If you eat a dozen eggs per week, then count on needing 5 dozen quail eggs. Plus you probably want more to incubate. Quail lay nearly every day, so a dozen layers will give you about 7 dozen per week.

Meat. Let’s assume you will eat quail once per week. An adult serving is 2 quail. And let’s assume you will incubate eggs every 3 weeks. Once the quail are ready for processing, you would eat 6 quail every 3 weeks. You can expect a 70% hatch rate, so to get 6 quail, you’ll need to incubate 9 eggs. For a family of four, you’ll want to incubate 36 eggs every 3 weeks. You’ll probably want extra so you can entertain and stock the freezer for winter.

Raising quail isn’t for everyone, but it seems to be increasing in popularity, especially for those in controlled neighborhoods. For a little effort, you’ll have fresh eggs and meat, and know exactly where it came from! Plus it’s delicious!

Take me to more educational articles!

Raising Quail for Food - Happy Wife Acres (2024)


Is it cost effective to raise quail for meat? ›

The cost of raising quail for meat can vary depending on a number of factors, including the cost of feed, housing, and other supplies. We tracked all of our quail raising supply expenses starting out and they came to about $1000. Granted, we didn't go cheap on things like the incubator.

What is the most profitable quail to raise? ›

Dominating the scene with their unparalleled egg production, Coturnix quail (also known as Japanese quail) are the go-to breed for enthusiasts and commercial breeders alike. These feathered friends start laying eggs as early as 6-8 weeks old and can produce a staggering 200-300 eggs per year.

Is raising quail worth it? ›


Raising quail comes with many benefits – from delicious eggs to tasty meat to endless hours of entertainment from these quirky birds. If you're looking to add birds to your homestead, your backyard, or even your patio, you might just want to give quail a try!

What are the disadvantages of quail meat? ›

A high intake of protein is not suitable for your health. Always seek advice from a physician if you want to consume Quail meat frequently. Quail meat should not be consumed by those who suffer from knee joint discomfort or joint pain, also known as inflammation of the knee.

How much is a full grown quail worth? ›

The innerwebs say quail can sell for $15 per processed bird. That's a potential $210 value in meat from that two year cycle, only growing out what we need to maximize our egg production and keep our own breeding stock going. Selling them live, well I know a guy who gets $8/bird….

How many acres do you need for quail? ›

Groups of bobwhites, called coveys, tend to hold an average of 10–15 birds. About 15 acres of land will theoretically support one covey of quail, but research has shown that quail populations thrive on large tracts of contiguous habitat. Realistically, one covey would need considerably more space (Williams et al.

Is there a demand for quail? ›

The global Quail Eggs Market driving factors are increasing demand for Quail Eggs in various food products and cosmetics. Increasing demand for naturally laid Quail Eggs by health-conscious consumers is adding another factor in driving the worldwide Quail Eggs Market.

How much money do quail farmers make? ›

Quail Farmer Salary
Annual SalaryWeekly Pay
Top Earners$45,000$865
75th Percentile$34,000$653
25th Percentile$33,500$644

What is the lifespan of a quail? ›

Small twigs, grass stems, leaves and feathers line the nest. Average life expectancy for a wild quail is 1.5 years although on occasion they may live for up to four years. Mature birds average eleven inches long and weigh from 5.1 to 6.5 ounces (160 to 200 grams.)

Are quails high maintenance? ›

They're friendly, inexpensive, gentle and even lay edible eggs that are considered a delicacy in many countries. Before you bring a pair home, your quail will require a calm housing environment, protein-rich food, company and fresh water daily.

Why are quail so hard to raise? ›

Quail Need Special Attention.

Baby quail are tiny, but grow fast. For the first couple of weeks, you'll want to help them survive. Baby quail often fall in and drown in a regular chicken waterer. You can either put marbles or rocks in the waterer, or buy a waterer for quail.

Is keeping 2 quail OK? ›

Breeding groups of quail should be made up of one species only, usually one male and two females in each aviary. Having too many males in a cage will cause fighting and unsuccessful mating. Many quail will lay throughout the year if conditions are suitable but the normal cycle is from spring to autumn.

How much room do 100 quail need? ›

Provide adequate space.

As a general rule of thumb, your enclosure should offer 125 sq. cm (about 20 sq. in) per bird. Your quail habitat needs to be at least 30 cm (about 1 foot) high in order to accommodate vertical flight without causing injury to the quail.

How many eggs do quails lay a day? ›

On average a quail will lay about one egg per day at peak production. Egg production will begin to slow down around the age of 2-3 years. Quail require about 14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs. Their egg production can be extended by providing a light source during times of the year with shorter daylight hours.

Is quail meat profitable? ›

Raising quail may be a more profitable alternative to chickens due to their higher egg price and salvage meat values.

How long does it take to raise quail for meat? ›

Pro #2 – Fresh Meat. Quail grow quickly. In just 7 to 8 weeks, they're ready for processing.

How much meat can you get off a quail? ›

Yields. Rarely will you find a quail weighing more than 5 ounces and once dressed these birds weigh, on average, 4 ounces. Obviously, some of that weight is bones, but it's likely fair to say you'll get 2-3 ounces of actual meat from each quail.

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