Coturnix Quail

Japanese Quail

We have had Japanese quail for several years now. I have not found them to be as I expected in that they do make some loud calls occasionally (nothing compared to a rooster however). And they do make nice sounding calls too which was unexpected (almost like a cross between a frog and cricket) , but when you don’t get much sleep any noise in the quiet of night is unwelcome.

They have amazed me however with their productivity in the egg dispatching department. One hen usually lays an egg a day with sometimes an offering of an am and pm egg occasionally. They take up little room which was one of the reasons I looked at them for our petit paradis, though I would like to range them a little more on a larger area and move them frequently so they get access to grass. This is not how you will find them raised on a google search of the subject and in fact, with some of the set-ups I am amazed that the birds are so tolerant of their conditions.

I have also struggled with the brutality and frequency of the males when it comes to copulating. It is nothing for a male to clean the top of the females head of feathers through frequent attempts to mate and indeed draw blood. Quite literally, any change to the cage can send the males into a mating frenzy. Adding fresh feed or water, insects or vegetation. Checking for eggs. Walking past the cage. It is astounding how frequently it occurs and I have often wondered whether a biologist has ever sat and observed how many times this would occur over a day for the average Coturnix male.

Anyway, they are otherwise delightful birds to have throughout the garden. We have three small cages in various spots around the garden and they are very tolerant and easy to care for.

Our initial interest was for egg production and meat. We have thinned out some of our numbers and having eaten quail before I was not disappointed, but primarily at the moment we are holding steady on our current population (to reduce food costs) and will look at a breeding program when we move to the new house and garden to increase numbers for egg and meat production.

Domesticated coturnix have lost much of the breeding instinct so eggs are usually incubated by bantams or other light weight poultry or more easily with incubators. We have had the rare occurrence of one of our females hatching an egg that grew to an adult female. My wife is hopeful that this breeding instinct might be revitailised in the young female and that she will make a good mother. We shall see how this works out. It would be much easier than relying on an incubator!

The eggs are quite pretty with distinctive mottled browns and creams. They average around 10 grams. The adults can startle quite easily, though ours have settled at the moment and appear to be little disturbed by a regular black cat that visits our garden. From my observations of this cat it is not disturbing the quail or guinea pigs and simply sits waiting for long moments for a mouse to appear or actively stalks for mice in the undergrowth between quail cages and near the rabbit cages.




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