The wonderful world of Quails

Ducks 17-9-20 SM Farm

How long have you been keeping poultry?

I have kept birds for as long as I can remember and over the years have kept a wide range of breeds from Finches to Emus and everything in between.

Recently I have developed a keen interest in Quail due to their small size, intriguing nature and excessive growth rate.

What got you into keeping Quail?

I realised there was a gap in the market for Quail, especially within Northern Ireland, and I decided to start a business, ‘Kilkeel Quail’, in 2017 selling mainly hatching eggs online.

I started with approximately 30 female Pharaoh Coturnix and 10 males I hatched from various sources. In a few years I have grew to over 500 breeding birds in various breeds and generally have up to 500 growers at various stages throughout the year.

Can you mention a few breeds of Quail? Which is your favourite breed and why?

At the moment I have nine breeds of quail. The main breed for egg laying are the Coturnix breed. Some people call these Japanese. They lay a speckled egg. There are many colour varieties in these. Just to name the most common few I keep ‘Pharaoh’, the standard brown colour ‘Italian’, the gold colour ‘English white’, mostly white with small brown or gold patches, Tibetan/Range, reddish colour.

Some Coturnix have been bred to be larger for meat and they also consequently lay larger eggs. They are referred to as ‘jumbo’ Ornamental breeds. These are arguably more attractive and less common breeds of quail and consequently more expensive.

Breeds include Californian, Bobwhite, Blue scale to name a few. It’s very hard to say a favourite as they are all so unique. I do find myself steering towards the Bobwhite, though, due to their beautiful call (Bob-White). I could find myself sitting listening to them for hours on end on a summer evening.

What are the greatest challenges with Quail?

It seems that there are very few problems with keeping Quail. They are very resistant to diseases although they should be kept separate from chickens. Cock birds will tread hens excessively and cause bald patches from breeding but this can be easily fixed by limiting access to the females or keeping them separate altogether.

What is your greatest achievement?

Recently I have discovered a sex-linked cross from crossing different coloured Coturnix. This is when the females will all hatch one colour and the males another.

I have a line of Celedon Coturnix I have been working on for the past year. They lay pure blue eggs. I have also hatched a couple of Albino Coturnix which I believe are extremely rare.

Since quail develop so quickly, from hatching to point of lay in eight weeks, it is possible to create many different crosses within a short time frame.

The different colours fascinate me and I’m continually experimenting and improving on colour and size in both eggs and birds.

Where do you market them?

Nearly all my eggs are advertised and sold online as hatching eggs. I then send them through the post in specially made boxes. I also supply eating eggs to local shops and plan to distribute these further afield in the near future.

If you were starting out in poultry is there any advice that you could give someone?

Quail are a great bird to start your journey into poultry. They don’t require as much space as other breeds due to their smaller size and therefore require less feed. They can lay a surprisingly large amount of small healthy eggs for the table all year round.

Unfortunately, they can’t be allowed to free range as other poultry can as they don’t have the ‘homing instinct’ chickens have and would simple walk or fly away. A small rabbit hutch is ideal for keeping a few quail.

Their eggs are approximately a third the size of a hen egg, although despite their small size they are considered an extremely healthy superfood. They have five times more iron and potassium than a chicken egg with a richer taste due to the higher yolk to white ratio. They are also higher in protein, vitamin A & C. Perfect size for salads and kids.

n Feel free to follow on Facebook by searching for ‘Kilkeel Quail’ or I can be contacted by email kilkeelquail@mail.com

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