Just ask Stephanie near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She and her son used The Garden Coop DIY chicken coop plans to build a spacious poultry paradise for a mixed flock of quail, bantam hens, and. . . read on to see what else.
SEE UPDATE BELOW
Yet even though people have been keeping quail for thousands of years, you won’t find them at the top of the list of common backyard pets.
“By far we get the most requests for chicks, and ducklings are becoming more popular as well,” says Naomi Montacre, owner of Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply in Portland, Oregon. “We do get some requests for quail, though, and we have sources to put people in touch with.”
Naomi believes that as more city folk get into raising chickens, they’ll open up to other possibilities over time. “I don’t think any bird will surpass the chicken in popularity,” she says. “It’s easy and classic. But I do know that the people who like quail really like them.”
Safe to say Stephanie is one of those people. We asked her more about her decision to include this tiny game bird in her backyard menagerie. Here’s what she told us:
I grew up in the Western North Carolina mountains and had free-range chickens there, which was the best childhood experience ever. For my birthday, I bought an incubator and decided to hatch out eight quail.
I had intended on turning them loose at my parents’ property in the mountains, but the kids and I bonded with the little guys and couldn’t bear to let them go (free-range quail are synonymous with “dinner”). They are bobwhite quail and make such a pleasant unobtrusive sound. All my neighbors love them and have enjoyed watching them grow into adults.
Quail may mean dinner for some, but it’s the quail’s tiny eggs that are the prize for many backyard fanciers. They’re considered a delicacy in many parts of the world and, although small, pack a serious nutritional punch. Quail eggs may also serve as an alternative for people with allergies to chicken eggs.
Inquisitive about quail?
While you may need to dig a little deeper for information on raising small game birds in your backyard (at least compared to what’s out there on chickens), if you like variety or are drawn to the docile temperment of quail, it may be well worth the research. Here are a couple of obvious places to start:
- BackYardChickens.com Quail Forum – Yes, there’s a special quail forum on BYC.com, as well as forums for pheasants, ducks, geese, turkey, ostriches, and more.
- The Game Bird Gazette – A how-to magazine on keeping and raising pheasants, quail, partridges, peacocks, pigeons and doves, ducks, and other game birds.
So how’s life in the coop?
Stephanie tells us that The Garden Coop has been working perfectly for all her birds. It has all the essentials for housing just about any type of poultry or backyard bird — shelter from the elements, plenty of room and height, security from flying and digging predators, light, ventilation, and easy access for care and cleaning.
More importantly, it’s something you can build yourself and customize to your needs, beautifying your backyard while helping you stay on budget. Pre-built or custom-built chicken coops often run double or triple the cost of materials, so if you have the time and like to learn new things, DIY is the way to go.
So given that sometimes birds of different feathers flock together, what’s next for Stephanie’s Carolina coop? “We’re going to incubate a few chukar pheasants to add to the mix,” she says.
UPDATE: Three and a half years later. . .
Stephanie sent us this update to let us know how the co-housing experiment played out for her birds:
I have now completed the “quail experiment.” Chickens and quail are just so different, it doesn’t really make sense to combine them housing-wise. The quail cannot be let out because they’ll fly away, whereas the chickens like to be let out every day to free range and they wander back home at dusk. Also, although either bird will eat the other’s food happily, they have different protein requirements which will make a difference in the long run.
I had always intended to release the quail into the wild to help replenish their numbers in the North Carolina mountains where deforestation and predation have really hurt them. I’m sure they are much happier there, as they were nervous little creatures and not nearly as personable as my hens.
She says her hens are still happy in the coop, and she continues to get positive feedback from those who see it.
Thanks to Stephanie for sharing her pictures and experience. Do you keep backyard birds other than chickens? Any special housing tips to share? Let us know with a reply below.