Author: Dr. John Abbass
Can You Free Range Quail? A Brief Overview
There are different types of quail that are found all around the world. They are also kept as game birds and also for the production of valuable products such as eggs and meat. Quail rearing can be profitable and productive if it is conducted in a welfare-friendly environment.
Can quails be free-range? Another meaning of free-range is simply “Freedom”. This question is commonly asked by the farm owners. They show curiosity to know whether it is better for them to keep quails free-ranged instead of confining them to a cage. As mostly, quails kept for egg purposes are kept in battery cages.
Here, we will have a sharp look to see how we can keep quails in free-range settings.
What Type of Quail Housing Should you Have?
It is necessary to remember that housing is a very much important component while raising quails. This is also an integral part of quail welfare. Housing should be secure and give mental, physical, and social benefits to quail for its good growth and production.
Most quails are kept in cages, pens and their movement is restricted because just like other game birds, quails also have the instinct to fly. The flight is an important secondary defense line for them. There is much debate on keeping quail in free-range settings.
What is a Free-Range Quail System?
Coming to the point, free-range housing systems in which birds have access to outdoor settings to roam and spend some time in a specific part of the day. Opposite to a closed system, in which birds have to stay confined in a specific enclosure for 24 hours. Specifically talking about the quails, then generally, it is not a good idea to free-range quails due to many reasons. Later on, we will discuss which measures you can take to free-range them.
Why Free-Range Systems are Challenging for Quail
It is clear that quails are not poultry birds, they are actually game birds. They have flight instinct and can fly in minutes to the next place without even giving the guarantee of coming back to the place.
But Coturnix quail also called Japanese quails have been documented to be kept as domesticated birds long ago. It has also experimented that, due to their easily domesticated abilities, they can lose their flight urge to an extent. But again there is a need to see all the aspects with details while domesticating quails,
Another, important factor of not free-ranging quails is the danger/threat of predators. As you know, quails are smaller birds, hardly one pound in size; they can be easily targeted by predators. They can become delicious food for both ground predators, even your farm dogs and sky predators such as hawks and vultures.
Free-ranging quail would be like an open invitation and you literally won’t like to welcome predators.
Even if you clipped their wings, raised them in a fenced area, and locked them up at night a sky predator could still snatch them during the day in a matter of seconds.
This is why free-range settings pose dangers and create a lot of questions for quail keepers.
How Do You Free Range Quail?
Free-ranging quails meaning they are not being confined in a pen or living in a ground pen. they have the run of the yard, and may or may not return to a pen in the evening, depending on your setup. If you are leaning toward raising your quail outdoors, in a pen on the earth, you are thinking of a round pen.
For instance, hunters may even choose to free-range their game birds so they keep their protection instincts sharp- making it a little more challenging when using the quail for sports purposes.
In the UK and France, there are some quail rearing farms where they are rearing quails in free-range systems. They set up free-range replacers to the barn or battery cage systems, with quail being housed outdoors in large netted enclosures where they have access to nesting areas, foraging areas, dust baths, and piles or brush (or similar) for cover.
Now we will have a look at some important strategies that can be helpful in free-ranging the quails.
Protecting Your Quail from Predators
In free-range systems, predators cause the biggest problems for the quail owners. Better management includes effective planning to control the predators in a good way.
Naturally, quails have the ability to hide in the grasses, bushes, and shrubs. It is a good idea to plant plenty of bushes, shrubs to safeguard quails from the sky predators. If a hawk is lurking at quail, it will quickly hide in them. Finally, this will provide quails a natural shield to protect itself from dangerous predators.
In addition to that, trees can also act as a safeguard to protect your quails from ground predators. Interestingly, quails can get some flight-height, much more than chickens, so if they are having danger on the ground then a nearby tree may just save their lives.
Fence in your yard to keep predators out, and quail in and acts as a shield to external dangers.
You should also be conscious of the cats. They can also pose a greater danger to your quails. Their entry should be strictly monitored and restricted in the yard.
Even if you are raising quails in a free-range system, yet you must design a coop for quails. It is extremely important to allow them a safe place in the evenings so they can rest without worry. Nocturnal predators, like owls, are keen to have a delicious quail dinner, so when your quail are vulnerable at night, make sure they have a safe zone in the form of a chicken coop.
You can consider raising a Livestock Guardian Dogs with your quail and have a 24/7 babysitter, however, keep in mind that raising a Livestock Guardian Dog takes time. LGD’s are fantastic with other animals, but they must be trained properly and bonded with the animal they are protecting. You should never simply throw an LGD in with your quail willy nilly, it would be quite devastating.
Best Breeds of Quail to Raise
Controling Diseases in Your Quail Flock
Mind it, keeping any kind of poultry free-range can cause exposure to other birds, both wild and domestic, which can raise concerns about illness and death. This is one of those things that you just have to take your chances with.
This is important to keep a sufficient knowledge of diseases if you are rearing chickens and quail together. There are many deadly diseases that can be passed or transmitted through chickens to quails via droppings, and other contact sources.
There are also wild birds that can pass deadly diseases on to quail, and unfortunately, you won’t have control over exposure to wild birds (or their droppings) when you free-range your quail.
You can, however, keep an eye on any threatening diseases in your area by joining poultry groups and watching the news. Knowing the health forecast for poultry will allow you to decide whether to continue to free-range your quail or quarantine them inside to protect them until disease passes if it indeed does. So, it is necessary to make a documented disease reporting and effective control program for a successful quail rearing.
Nutritional Care and Feeding for Quail
Generally, it is thought that quail will feed themselves in the free-range system, as they have open access to everything in the yard. But it should be forgotten that they also need high quality and nutritious diets to stay healthy and sound.
You should feed them with game bird feed that must be full of nutrients and energy to meet their body requirements.
This is recommended to make an excellent feeding plan for quails to keep them energetic and disease-free.
Training Quail to Come Back in at Night
Quail are a bit different from chickens in that they need a little more time to know where their home is, and they must be trained to know how to return to it. Chickens are extremely habitual and want to return to their coop in the evenings. Quail, on the other hand, have to be persuaded to come back by other quail.
Teaching quail to recall will ensure that they return to their coop after a day of free-ranging. They can covey-up and rest safely during the night, away from predators.
To train to recall, keep your quail in their designated coop for a few weeks before you allow them to free-range; this helps them become familiar with their home before you release them. The first time you let them out, keep a few hens back in a separate cage, inside the coop. In the evening, the free-ranging quail will hear the hens calling, and will return to their coop to covey. Feed them when they return, and start a routine.
What are Other Challenges
Quails can be raised in free-range settings but after taking a lot of measures and doing effortful training. It takes time and patience. Quails are more prone to winter stress, so you should be concerned about it. During winter seasons, they should be limited or confined to a designated shelter area and restrict their free-range movement.
All along with that, you should give sufficient attention to baby quails in the free-range system. Baby quails are more vulnerable and easily attacked by snakes, cats, and other predators.
Last but not least, quails are quite intelligent birds; they will like a free-range system if you provide them everything they want. But according to your mind and plan, you can choose whatever system suits you better to raise quails.
Raising Quail Hatchlings
Quail on Pasture
Derégnaucourt, S., Guyomarc’h, J. C. & Belhamra, M. (2005) Comparison of migratory tendency in European quail Coturnix c. coturnix, domestic Japanese quail Coturnix c. japonica and their hybrids. Ibis, 147 (1)
Jones, R. B., Marin, R. H., Satterlee, D. G. & Cadd, G. G. (2002) Sociality in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) genetically selected for contrasting adrenocortical responsiveness. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 75 (4)
KEYWORDS (QUAIL MANAGEMENT) (QUAIL’S HOUSING) (QUAIL’S DISEASES) (QUAIL’S PREDATORS) (QUAIL’S WELFARE)