Coturnix is an efficient breed and,
because my experience was positive, I
wanted to try raising native quail. This
led me to building an additional run
and ordering a batch of Bobwhite quail.
This variety is not as hardy, and beginning with chicks can be a tragic experience if you’re not familiar with the
birds’ behavior. Some breeders report
that almost half the Bobwhite chicks
die, and almost all admit to losing 20 to
30 percent of the birds in the first week.
If you do try this breed, please remember that you can do everything “right”
and still have a great number die. If
it’s any consolation, even a greater
percentage die in the wild.
I quickly discovered that raising native
quail is unique, and the learning process goes beyond biology. This makes
raising quail a one-of-a-kind homeschool project the entire family can
Acquiring Native Quail
Let’s move forward with how to
acquire quail. Before you begin you’ll
want to check to see if there are any
state or local laws against doing so in
your area. Laws will vary across the
country; your county agricultural office
is a good place to begin your search.
You can purchase at a variety of online
hatcheries. Most will sell eggs for incubation, baby chicks, and sometimes
full-grown breeding pairs.
If you have experience incubating eggs,
this would be a great place to begin
optimizing your learning. Otherwise, I
recommend beginning with chicks.
New quail chicks are about the size of
a 50-cent piece and need to be handled
with extreme care. Dropping them can
cause injuries and even death.
Quail chicks will arrive via USPS in a
vented cardboard box about two or
three days after hatching. This means
you need to be available to pick them
up first thing in the morning at the post
Prior to their arrival you should already
have brooders prepped and ready to
use. So what’s a brooder? A brooder is
like a nursery for baby birds.
* Plastic tub (I use traditional black
* Build a wood frame lid with enclosed
wire (otherwise, they will fly out)
* Small water dish with marbles placed
in the rim (otherwise, they will
* Electrolytes added to their water
(shipped chicks can become dehydrated)
* Small, narrow food dishes (they love
to sit in their food, believe it or not!)
* Hay for bedding (the closest element
to grass, and they can hide in it)
* A heat light with a dark orange bulb
(keeps them warm before the feathers grow)
* Wild game feed crumble at 30
percent protein (grind this the first
Your chicks will live in the brooder for
the first three to four weeks. A clean
brooder is necessary; this includes
removing the birds to a safe place while
you wash the tubs with soapy water,
replace bedding, and clean food con-
tainers. I clean tubs every other day and
the dishes sometimes twice a day.
These birds are messy—worse than
chickens and ducks—and they love to
sit in their food! I can’t stress enough
how cleanliness will be the product of a
healthy flock. Unfortunately, they will
eat their own feces at this age, which
can cause disease, and it’s your job to
make sure they do not.
These birds have incredible flocking
instincts; however, when they’re
chicks, they don’t like to be overcrowded. Finding that perfect ratio varies
between flocks. Supervise the first 24 to
48 hours; if you notice pecking, remove
the bully and place it in another brooder with quail its own size.
Any wounded chicks need to be removed into their own brooder as well,
so they can heal; removing reduces additional pecking. Larger chicks will pick
on the smaller ones; they can become
cannibalistic, and this is very unpleasant. Always use a dark orange bulb as
this can control pecking and help keep
your quail calm.