People keeping quails commercially for the purpose of profitable eggs and meat production tend to use domesticated Japanese quail or Jumbo quail.
South Africa is home to two indigenous quails, along with the Blue Quail which is a summer breeding migrant. The Common quail (Coturnix coturnix) occurs in grassy habitats, including in cultivated fields, so many smallholders will have them on their lands. The Harlequin quail (Coturnix delegorguei) is also found in grasslands, open savannahs and fields.
However one cannot keep indigenous birds without a permit.
Producers favour Japanese quails for commercial quail production because they are good egg producers and have more meat.
Why Keep Quails?
Why should smallholders consider farming quail as a means of adding to their income?
- Quails are smaller sized bird, so the feeding costs are comparatively lower than chickens or other poultry;
- These birds are hardy and prone to fewer disease;
- Quails grow very fast and gain maturity faster than any other poultry;
- Meat and eggs of quail are very tasty, delicious and nutritious. So it’s a great source of food and nutrition.
- Quail farming needs small capital, and labour cost is very low.
- Quails are very strong bird and diseases or other health problems are less. So risks are less in this business.
- Quail meat contains less fat. So, it is suitable for high blood pressure patients.
- The eggs are extremely low in cholesterol and can be cooked in the same way as chicken eggs;
- Quails lay 250-300 eggs in their first year, which can either be sold or hatched. This means consistent profits almost all year round.
- Quail eggs also provide an excellent source of feed for snake and reptile breeders and pet shops.
- Their food to meat or eggs converting efficiency is satisfactory;
- You can raise 6 to 7 quails in the same place that is required for one chicken – this number would require .9 square metre;
- The market demand for quails is on the rise. That’s because their meat and eggs are extremely beneficial and are used in the treatment of various diseases: diabetes, obesity, tuberculosis, kidney and liver diseases, hypertension and more. Their meat is low in fat, but high in protein and essential nutrients;
- Quail feathers are much sought after by the fishing community as they are used as lure;
- Quail meat and eggs are being successfully exported.
Housing Your Quails
Quails are small birds ~ an adult weighs between 150 to 200 grams and an egg weighs around 7 to 15 grams.
Housing needs to be well-ventilated to ensure a constant flow of air. Temperatures should be between 28-32C°. Quails can be kept in a shed or in a cage. You can raise 50 quails in a cage measuring 120 cm length, 60 cm width and 25 cm height. The birds need access to clean water and the cage must be cleaned regularly.
If you choose to use wood products as litter, make sure it is wood shavings and not sawdust, as this dust can cause respiratory problems in your chickens. Care must be taken not to allow the litter to get wet. This causes the litter to smell which attracts flies, bacteria develops and ammonia forms. The fumes affect the birds’ lungs and sinuses.
In terms of feeding, there is no specific quail feed available, so chicken food is used – layer pellets, chick crumbs or mash. An adult quail consumes about 20 to 25 grams of food daily. The feed can be supplemented by greens. Greens are an excellent source of additional nutrients and can reduce your feed bill too. Lawn grass and fresh leafy vegetable trimmings can be given. Wild grass, especially when seeded is readily accepted as a feed supplement by both chicks and adult birds.
They start laying eggs within their 6 to 7 weeks of age, thus providing a quick return on your investment. The eggs take about 16 to 18 days to hatch.
For maximum egg production, 16 hours of lighting period is required daily inside the quail house. Keep newly born quail chicks in a brooder house. Chicks need artificial heat and temperature management system for 14 to 21 days from their birth.
Part of your initial outlay will also include an incubator, as quails do not sit on their eggs. This also means that a reliable power supply is of the utmost importance. There are products available that act as alarms when the power supply is interrupted.
Eggs will start hatching after 16 days. The chicks are then kept in a brooder for three to four weeks, where they are kept warm by lights. Once they are fully fledged (the feathers and wing muscles are sufficiently developed for flight) they are moved to the permanent cage.
If you are going to start a quail farming enterprise you will need to draw up a proper business plan. And work according to the plan. A good quail farming business plan should include almost everything related to this business such as your production purpose, products you want to produce, housing, feeding, breeding, health care and marketing.
Your focus can be on egg production, meat production or on breeding for the live bird market. Entrepreneurs have also made businesses out of selling pickled eggs.
While quail meat and eggs are popular all over the world, they are still considered a delicacy in South Africa, so your marketing needs to acknowledge that. It’s up to you to convince your customers of the value of all the products.
To read more on poultry click here.
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