A flock of quail is called a covey, a female is called a hen, and a male is called a roo or a cock
Can’t get enough of your chickens, geese, guineas, and ducks? Or don’t have the space to keep any of those birds? Well, I invite you to consider the Coturnix quail.
The Coturnix quail (also known as the Japanese quail) is one of the more common non-poultry birds kept by farmers. The Coturnix has had a significant role in humans’ lives since at least the 12th century, and may be a fun addition to your flock.
Unlike chickens, which can take as long as six months to begin laying, quail can begin to lay as early as six weeks of age. One of my first females, Skeeter, began laying at six weeks one day and has steadily produced an egg a day since.
This fast-laying nature and the relatively calm disposition of the quail coupled with its small need for space, make it ideal for raising in an urban environment. Plus, they produce more eggs per amount of feed than any chicken.
A quail’s small eggs are rich and delicious and considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Indeed, one of the wives of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, was known for her cravings for quail eggs.
Because I’m not much of a chef, my quail eggs see more air-time hardboiled in salads or for bite-sized deviled eggs for parties (as good as conversation pieces as they are treats). These images are of Skeeter’s eggs (still quite small) matched against some white, store-bought chicken eggs.
Quail are also a great urban addition, because it’s easy to quickly determine their sex, which is especially helpful if you want fertile eggs to hatch, or if you want as many layers (females) as possible.
And while chicken roosters are considered a nuisance (and you may be fined for keeping them) quail roos are much calmer and, outside of some coloring variations (and a totally charming “call”) are relatively similar to the females.
I took these photos of one of my roos and one of my hens to show the differences in coloration between the male and the female quail, the females being the birds on either end in the photos above (Left image, left quail: female), (right image, right quail: female). Females have spotted, light-colored breasts, while the male’s breast lacks spots (for the most part) and has a rusty color, similar to a robin. The males also have a darker, rusty coloration to their face, around the eyes.
Check out these other articles on raising quail:
– The Coturnix Quail Chick
– Raising Coturnix Quail
– The Natural Therapeutic Coturnix Egg
– Quail Meat Comeback (With Recipes)
– Pickling Quail Eggs
– Quail – the Itty City Biddies
– Adding Quail Eggs to Banana Bread
Need more convincing? Here is what some readers have to say about their experiences raising Coturnix quail:
During the 1970s I raised Coturnix quail and now again, I have 5 hens. Aside from the fact that they amaze me with their ability to lay endlessly, day in and day out, I am surprised that I can put them in a kennel and haul them all over the countryside (I have no one to feed and water them at home) in my truck and they lay just as well as they do at home. I can’t imagine how many hundreds of miles they have traveled with me! Normally, I keep them in a nice cage in my shed, but when our weather here in Colorado’s high country got down to 28 below, I put them back in the dog kennel and kept them in the kitchen. I always use cedar wood chips on the bottom and that keeps the odor down. They seem to be happy with almost any arrangement. Four of my hens are white, one is the brown like the above quail. I could write more about my adventures with Coturnix, but don’t have room. And, yes, of course, I eat the eggs!
I raise ducks so I can compare those to chicken eggs. To be honest there is not much of a taste difference but the yolks are a much more intense color and the eggs are HUGE compared to x large chicken eggs. I notice the biggest difference in baking as the batter tends to be ‘plushy’ and pumpkin rolls and cakes come out VERY moist. A friend of mine may be supplying me with pheasants and quail this Spring as her hubby is a local science teacher and he is always looking for someone to take the class projects at the end of the year.
Oh, Bobwhite are indeed wild. Coturnix are not at all wild unless you terrify them somehow! I had several generations of them, and if you hatch them yourself, they become the most endearing pets. Would never again keep Bobwhites, but would keep Coturnix today if I had the room!