The latest addition to our farm is a group of these little guys.  We have been talking about raising quail again, but hadn’t decided when to do so. I had talked to a friend who will be having Jumbo Brown quail this summer about getting some eggs to hatch, but this little flock appears on Facebook and were an excellent deal, so we started now.  Funny how life will put things in front of you when you least expect it.  These 23 chicks were advertised as Texas A & M white quail, and Papa’s previous experience with quail lead him to believe that they are truly the A & M.  This was the kind he was wanting, the price was right, so we made arrangements to purchase them.  They were eight days old when we picked them up yesterday and seem to be healthy and lively. 

Why would we want to raise quail?  There are actually many reasons.  The meat from quail is a very light, white meat and is quite delicious.  The eggs are considered by many to be a high end delicacy especially when boiled and pickled. The birds themselves mature rapidly and reach maturation and start laying eggs at approximately 8 weeks, and are ready for processing around 6 weeks.  This makes the time from birth to freezer one of the shortest of any meat animal.  The area needed for quail is small.  A nice pen or hutch could easily be placed in an urban yard.  There is no noise associated with them, so they are a good option for an urban homestead to raise some of the family meat supply, providing there are no zoning restrictions.  Papa and I are the only ones at home now, so many times a whole chicken is just too much for us.  We get tired of eating chicken before we get it all eaten. The smaller size of the quail makes them perfect for a single meal for the two of us. 

While there are many positive reasons for raising quail, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the negative aspects as well.  Each person should do their research and become familiar the requirements, pros and cons of raising any animal before making the decision to move forward and add it to their farm or homestead.  Some of the disadvantages to raising quail domestically are their broody habits, or lack of.  Quail are prolific egg layers, however they will seldom “go broody”, set and hatch their own eggs. Unlike the Bob White quail that are native to Missouri, the Texas A&M and other Cortunix breeds seem to lack the natural instincts for setting and hatching.  The eggs will need to be incubated to hatch and replace the adult birds as they age.  While the size of the birds make them great for a meal for Papa and myself, if you have a large family you will need to take into account the small size of the birds when planning how many to raise and how much to place in a package together at processing time.  While most of these quail will not have the natural broody instincts they will have retained their natural flight instinct when startled, which can lead to broken necks when they are startled and hit the top of their cages.  They will need an area that free from sudden noise and other things that might startle the birds. They are also susceptible to drafts, cold and dampness, so their shelters need to have attention paid to those issues.  And finally, predators can be a problem, especially when the birds are kept in lightweight cages. 

Do your research, learn all you can and if you decide to start raising quail, I don’t think you will be disappointed.  Let me show you how our birds will spend the next few days. 

Several years ago, Papa made our small brooder box to hold baby chicks in the first few hours after hatching before being moved to our larger brooder box in the barn.  It is a small lidded box that has a screen in the top for ventilation, a porcelain light fixture for a bulb for heat, and room for a small feeder and a small water dish. 

The light bulb is enough heat to keep them warm because of the small area and close proximity to the chicks.  The cord runs out the back and plugs into a standard outlet.  There is no switch to go bad, plugged in is on.  The lid lifts for easy access to clean bedding, refill feeders and add water.

These little guys did surprise me, and I quickly realized that much greater care needs to be taken when opening the box.  The flight instinct is strong even at 8 days.  I realized how high they could fly after two flew out and I had to pick them up off the floor before they disappeared under the couch.  We will leave them in this small brood box for 3 or 4 more days, so that we can keep a close eye on them.  They will then be moved to a larger brooder box, that is made similar, but has an area to hang a larger heat lamp and room for larger feeders.  They will also be able to be provided with more water.  They will eat and drink a remarkable amount over the next 4-6 weeks, considering their size.  When they are almost mature, and the weather warms a bit, they can be moved to a quail house and outdoor run. We will shut them up at night, even as adults to avoid attracting predators, which could include opossums, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, hawks and more. 
I’m not an expert in raising quail, though we have had some in the past and while they have some specific special care needs our job for these birds is the same as any of our other animals.  We must provide food, shelter, clean water and protection from elements and predators.  In return, they will provide us with food for the table.  Food that we know the ingredients and freshness of.  Just as the Pioneers of yesterday, provided sustenance for themselves and their families, we are also the providers for our family.  Yesterdays pioneers had many more difficulties to overcome.  As a modern Missouri Pioneer, I am glad to have the electricity to provide power for a heat lamps that will keep our birds warm.  I am glad to have running water and the choice of commercial feeds to make the care less labor intensive, but I am still proud to be able to provide farm raised meat for ourselves and our families.   

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