When contemplating eggs on the farm, all too often the go-to bird is the chicken. Sometimes that is substituted with ducks or geese, but overall chickens are the chosen bird because they are easy to care for and usually have decent temperaments. Chickens can be let out to free range during the day and secured in a coop at night to avoid predation. The also require very little additional food, making them an inexpensive egg laying choice. However, they are far from being the only option, and another bird worthy of consideration is the quail, and quail eggs.
If you’ve never had a quail egg, now is the perfect time to start. Though smaller than the eggs you are probably used to, quail eggs are just as delicious, if not more so. Some people detect a hint of sweet when eating quail eggs but also present is more richness due to there being a larger yolk to white ratio. The shell is gray with brown spots and is about the size of a grape tomato and the general makeup is largely similar to that of a chicken’s egg but with a bit more fat, minerals, protein, and vitamins. Preparation is done the same way as you would with a chicken egg with the only difference being that it takes about five or so quail eggs to add up to the volume of one chicken egg.
In order to embark upon a journey filled with quail eggs, you’re first going to need to acquire some quail. Before bringing them home, however, it is imperative that you have an area set up to house them. Unlike chickens, quail will wander off, so they need to be kept in an area that restricts their movements. This can be essentially the same type of enclosure as a chicken coop but the mesh you use needs to be small enough that quail cannot squeeze through to escape and also durable enough that a predator cannot get inside. Your goal will be to keep them warm and dry as well as safe. Although chickens may roost, quails tend to huddle together in corners, so adding a roost to your coop is not necessary. Bedding should consist of hay, straw, shavings, wood chips, or similar and should be replaced weekly.
For feeding quail, a clean water source as well as a place for food and a bowl for ground egg shells which should be provided free choice to hens to help with egg laying. Their actual food is something you can mix yourself. A combination of wild bird seed, oats, and flax seeds sates their appetites quite well. They should be fed this quite daily in an amount that keeps them at a good weight and satisfied (usually about a handful of seed). Supplementing with worms and bugs from time to time is also a big hit.
When picking out quail to become part of your egg laying operation, you’re going to want to make a good selection. First of all you will need hens to lay eggs, usually to the tune of about four females to one male. Females are identifiable by spots or a speckled look on their chests whereas males tend to be free of markings in that area. Signs of a healthy quail include a high activity level, bright eyes, and a full set of feathers (no bald areas). There should be no unusual discharge around eyes or vent and birds should not appear lethargic or underweight.
Once you get your quails home and settled in, they should begin to lay eggs within about a week. This will take place in the corners where they nest and if eggs are not promptly removed (checking at least three times daily is advised), quails may peck at and bust eggs open. If you wish to hatch eggs, the gestation period is around 21 to 23 days. Egg storage should be done in the fridge but they have a short shelf life (four days, give or take), so plan to eat them promptly.
Although they can be a bit quirky in comparison to a chicken, quails are beautiful birds that will provide you with tasty eggs. They are also fun to watch as they scurry about which makes them entertaining for the younger generations of beginning farmers that might come your way. If you want to try something different than the traditional standby that is the chicken, give quail and their eggs a try today!