If you're a fan of farm-fresh eggs but don't live on a farm, you can still get your egg fix by raising coturnix quail in your house or apartment. Coturnix do well when they are kept in small enclosures, such as a reptile aquarium (sans the reptile, of course), or a cage meant for rabbits or guinea pigs. The females of the species are very quiet and lay an egg nearly every day. The males trill instead of crowing, and the birds are fairly odor-free, making them one of the easiest quail breeds to raise.
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Where to get quail
Coturnix quails are a small type of domesticated quail that actually do better in cages than running around outside. In fact, unlike chickens, coturnix quail usually don't return home to roost, so if you let your quail outside for some fresh air, you might not ever see it again. Other quail breeds are larger than coturnix, require more space, and are best kept in quail enclosures outside.
You can order baby quail online, usually during the summer months. However, many hatcheries require a minimum order of 30 to 50 quails so they can keep each other warm enough during the time they're shipped from the hatchery to their destination.
Head to a local feed store to see if they'll order quail and sell you the exact number you want. One quail will get lonely without any of its own kind. Four or five quail can live in a reasonably small enclosure. Keep in mind that it takes five quail eggs to equal one chicken egg, so if you want to feed your family fresh eggs every day, you might need to buy more quail.
Raising baby quail in totes
There's no need to invest in a fancy quail setup. A plastic tote that's at least 18 inches high is ideal for downy chicks. The solid sides help hold in the heat and eliminate drafts, and the height allows you to hang your heat source at the correct level to maintain a 100-degree temperature on one end of the tote.
The tote is a temporary home for your baby quails. When your chicks are feathered out, they'll attempt to fly, and a low roof on their cage that is 10 to 12 inches high will keep them from flying up and bonking their head. Quails who are allowed to fly will never return should they escape.
Watch your quail around water
Baby quail love to immerse themselves in a water dish to drink, but a wet chick can quickly succumb to hypothermia. It's also not unusual for quail chicks to drown even in shallow water.
Make sure to "drownproof" the water source. The smallest size of poultry waterer affords a narrow ring from which chicks can sip. If you are a DIY type, use a very shallow bowl and fill it with pebbles or small river rock so that the quails can sip from between the pebbles but can't get into the water.
Keep them warm
Put 3 to 4 inches of straw in the bottom of the tote to provide cushioning for your chicks and give them a warm, soft place to snuggle for a nap. Chopped straw bedding is available online or through your local pet store.
Your quail chicks will need supplemental heat for about four weeks until they are fully feathered. You can secure a board across the open top of the tote to suspend a heat lamp near one end of the enclosure.
Feed baby quails well
Feed baby quails a starter diet that has 24 percent protein for the first six weeks of life. After that, you will reduce protein to 18 percent by switching to a layer diet for female quails that you're raising for eggs. If you're planning on using male birds for meat, put them on a finisher diet. Although both diets are 18 percent protein, the layer diet contains higher levels of calcium and phosphorus needed for egg production.
If quality quail feed isn't available, you can substitute turkey feed. Some formulas for chickens are also suited for quails; however, check the protein content and other ingredients to make sure your quails will get adequate nutrition.