The Quail Have Started to Lay! Plus, How Quail Differ from Chickens

New Homestead Developments!

As of this morning, July 21st, I have a total of 4 quail eggs.  Produced by my in-house Coturnix!

Homesteading, quail, coturnix

An adult Coturnix quail, which I am assuming is a male.

Apparently I have at least two or three females and at least one male.  There are  seven mature birds of this species here.  I am not good at sexing Coturnix quail yet – and these quail are of different coloration patterns to begin with.

I found the first three on Sunday (the 19th), and like chickens, quail don’t lay more than once a day.  However it is possible I missed a lay that may have happened the day before – I wasn’t really paying attention to them that day, and it was a small egg I noticed when I changed their bedding Sunday, blending into their old bedding.  I found the fourth just now this morning.  And yesterday morning, I saw mating behavior.

For the first 3-4 weeks, assuming a continual good supply of eggs, I plan on eating.  After that, I am planning to incubate and hatch these future quail.  I am not confident that the initial run of eggs would be fertile or thriving.

Homesteading, quail, quail eggs, coturnix

The first three eggs laid here! Size from one half inch to 0.75 inches.

How Quail Differ from Chickens – Besides Size!

When I discuss quail, I am only referring to Coturnix quail.  Here in Massachusetts, only Coturnix and button quail are legal to own and raise without a permit.  All other species are native to the US, and thus Massachusetts notes that permitting is needed.  Other state requirements may vary so check yours.  And other countries may have other requirements, or no restrictions at all.

Quail and chicken share the same scientific lineage classification, down through order (Galliformes) and family (Phasianidae).  This family also includes pheasants, peafowl, ptarmigan, (and some classifiers also include turkey, and guineas).  The family consists of heavy, ground feeding birds, and includes a wealth of “game” birds.

Next in the order of classification:  Chickens are in the genus Gallus (contains 4 living species, all considered Asian junglefowl; my quail are in the genus Coturnix, which covers 6 species of still-extant quail.  (Some of the information in these past two paragraphs came from Wikipedia.)

Button quail are super-tiny, and are not really of interest for raising unless one is a dedicated hobbyist.  My plans are for meat, eggs, and the propagation of future generations.

homesteading, chick, Plymouth barred rock

A young Plymouth barred rock chick, currently of the same size as the quail.

Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) are domesticated.  You can even make some of them your friends – which is to some strong level, but not completely, breed-dependent.  They descend from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), a southeast Asian bird.  Quail (Coturnix japonica) are not domesticated.  Although I have found a few online posts about be-friended quail, don’t go into raising these expecting to develop some pets. However, being small, they are easy to care for (once they get past the first couple weeks of life).  There are a number of different breed of Japanese quail, and my batch contains a hybrid mix of several of these.  No, I don’t know which is which, and besides this will express phenotype (how they appear) as opposed to true genetic genotypes.  

Chickens and quail can eat the same feed.  When these quail were babies, I used a dedicated grain-coffee-grinder to chew up their food for them, not to a fine powder, but to something more suitable for their baby beaks to take up.  I used (chicken) chick starter feed.

homesteading, quail, coturnix

A frontal view of this quail (same quail as the the one at the top of this post.) Quail won’t stand still for photography.  Notice the delicate feet in comparison to the chick. 

You can get day-old chicken chicks to order via hatcheries with a minimum of a 3-bird order, depending on hatchery and where you are located (they take into account likely weather, and distance from hatchery) – I had a 7-minimum order).  Day-old quail from hatcheries require a minimum of 25 babies, or in most cases, a minimum order of 50.  Really?  I can’t do that, but if you are able to, pool with your neighbors who might desire to raise them as well!  At any rate, I got my day-old’s from a local quail breeder, and I could specify a LOT less than a hatchery can safely ship (that’s why hatcheries do it… body warmth keeps them alive during the USPS shipment timeframe here in the US. – well, as long as we actually HAVE a United States Postal Service here.)

Baby quail are less hardy (by far) than baby chickens.  I’ll talk about that in some future blog post.  Just one word to the wise:  Don’t go down in the middle of the night to replace water in a shallow dish without wearing glasses, should you be myopic.  I set the dish back down on a young’un because with my blurred vision, it faded into the background of pine chips.  This one was dead when I went back down in the morning.  NOTE, I have discovered, for future quail-rearing expeditions, that you CAN buy young quail waterers that you can fill up so you don’t have to stumble downstairs overnight just to hydrate your babies.  Or to put what you scrounged up to use atop one, inadvertently.  Said waterers are not easy to find, but now I am PREPARED!

Back to differences:

Quail can FLY, and they love to POP UP, vertical like helicopters, but a lot faster.  Chickens flail about the task, and while they have some upward momentum, they go just about as much horizontal as vertical, all things considered.  Chickens, when they land somewhere outside of their brooding box (still immature here), or outside whatever penned them in — will act a bit confused.  Quail will just keep going.  They’re like popcorn, popping because they CAN.  (The word is, either house them in something with a LOW ceiling, or something with a high – six feet or two meters more – ceiling.  So they don’t hurt themselves.)

If you let them free range, quail will probably NOT come home at night.  Plus they are great predator feed.  So are chickens, but they stand a better chance at self-defense from smaller predators.  I’ve seen where people have made quail tractors, so they can let them forage better – but if you make one, put in a floor of some sort.  Due to uneven ground (even discounting burrowing) predators can easily get in, and a small one like a weasel or skunk can have a great dinner at your expense.

Quail don’t roost at night. Or at least they don’t require it.  They are not known to roost in trees in the wild, either.  Quail and chickens are both diurnal, and are ground feeders.

Quail don’t do nesting boxes.  And, if they are going to go broody, it won’t happen until the hen has laid her batch of eggs to nest.  Even so, a variety of sources have indicated my best bet for making a second generation is to incubate and hatch out my own quail.  

Male maturity is so much MUCH more obvious with chickens than with quail. It turns out that male chickens grow much larger than their hens, while quail males may be smaller than the females – who, after all, have to lay those (to them) ginormous eggs!

I have seen sources that claim that the best ratio of male to female quail for breeding purposes is 1:3 or up to 1:6.  Depend on whom I read.  Chickens usually do best with a 1:5 and ABOVE ratio – roosters need more hens than do quail.  (And, the hens will THANK YOU for that!)  In any case, dalliances work the same way in both species.

Quail will start producing eggs between 2-3 months.  Chickens – well, my first batch of heritage hens took from birth at the first of May until mid-November to start production.  Chicken eggs will start out small, but my quail gave me full-sized (for quail) eggs at the outside – 2 of 3 eggs.

Both chickens and quail enjoy sand baths, which I provide for them at maturity, or when they enter long term housing.

Both like grit to help them digest better, and mature females like calcium supplements they can enjoy ad libitum.  Use the baby chick grit and baby chick calcium supplement for the adult quail – I suspect grinding up either of these with your dedicated “coffee” grinder will not be a good idea for said grinder!   In any case, I wait about three weeks or so to provide grit.

Don’t house them together.  They have different personalities, and it just isn’t a good idea.  No intention of experimenting – even though my baby chicks and my adult quail are currently of equivalent sizes. (Even if in the lower photo montage this doesn’t appear to be the case.)

homesteading, quail, quail eggs, coturnix,

Shared at:  Farm Fresh Tuesdays, Homestead Blog Hop,

Fiesta Friday  with  Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau, 







About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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12 Responses to The Quail Have Started to Lay! Plus, How Quail Differ from Chickens

  1. What a treat! Their eggs are so beautiful too.

  2. So interesting, thank you. When our kid was in preschool they had projects to hatch eggs in an incubator. We ended up with 7 hens of mixed varieties, they were such fun and the eggs were delicious. I would have them again but there are too many predators where we live, we have photographed the foxes and skunks coming onto our property every night.

  3. I love quail eggs (the yolks are creamier than chicken’s, I think), and I like the meat, too. You’re so lucky to be able to raise your own quails. Our HOA is a pain in the a** !! I doubt they’ll let us raise poultry in our backyard.

    • A shame – quail are not obnoxious, and they are relatively quiet. The males will crow but you can’t hear them very far. Once the quail reach maturity, they even stop chirping – which anyone would mistake for a songbird sound anyway.

  4. Great info as always!! My old old dog, Blitz, who was a husky border collie mix, a Borski? and I were walking one day when a quail popped up out of the leaves on the trail in front of us. It was like a cannon shot and we hadn’t even seen him/her literally 2 feet from us. Blitz didn’t miss a beat, just plodded on. Having always had golden retrievers or labs or a mix of both, all of who would have pointed leaped or chased, I was kind of amazed at his complete lack of bird instincts. But it was fun to see the quail after my initial shock!

  5. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #339 - Fiesta Friday

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