If you'd like to raise your own eggs but don't have room or zoning for chickens, quail provide an easy alternative. They lay eggs as young as 6 weeks old and produce more eggs per pound of feed than a chicken. Proper housing is crucial for success with quail, and you can easily provide adequate housing for the early weeks of your quail's life with inexpensive materials available at your local hardware store.
A plastic tote with walls at least 18 inches high makes an ideal temporary home for your baby quail until she is fully feathered. Fill the bottom of the container with 3 to 4 inches of bedding such as pine shavings or straw. Cover the bedding with old newspaper for the first five to ten days. Sprinkle her food on the paper initially. This helps her recognize and peck at actual food, rather than trying to eat small particles of bedding, which can cause digestive problems.
Basking in the Glow
Hang a heat lamp over one end of the tote from a beam or other object that cannot tip over and start a fire. This allows your chick to move closer or further from the heat source to regulate her body temperature. Adjust the height of the lamp to a level where the temperature on the bedding beneath it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plan to keep more than one chick in the brooding pen, use a red light bulb to create a darker environment where they will peck each other less. Reduce the heat by 10 degrees each week until they are fully feathered.
Watch Your Chicks Around Water
Fresh, clean water is crucial to your chick's survival, but is too often the cause of a chick's demise. Quail chicks drown even in shallow water and quickly succumb to hypothermia when wet. Purchase a commercial water fount with a wire insert that prevents her from getting in the water. Alternatively, make your own waterer using a shallow container such as a jar lid filled with pebbles so your chick cannot get in or get wet.
All Grown Up
Your quail is fully feathered and sexually mature by 6 weeks of age. If you intend to release your quail on your homestead, she should be raised in a group of 15 to 20 quail and have access to about 15 to 20 acres of agricultural fields or natural areas with plenty of hiding spots. If you intend to keep her in a pen, construct a sturdy predator-proof aviary with a minimum floor space of 2 square feet per bird. You can keep her indoors in an 8-inch square or larger wire cage with one other bird. A cage with a low ceiling is best to prevent her from flying up and whacking her head on the ceiling.
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