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In any disaster, one of the first things that starts to run out is food. Whether it’s a riot, a hurricane or a city on lockdown, calamities tend to clear out grocery shelves faster than a Thanksgiving sale. Which is why it makes sense to have your own emergency foodstocks ready for any contingency. But it’s even better to start growing or raising your own food supply so you have a sustainable way of feeding yourself all year round.

But this can be a challenge for some people, especially those in the city, because of time constraints and issues with space and keeping animals within their living spaces. But even with these limitations, there are ways of making your own miniature farm in an urban setting. And by farm, we don’t just mean crops — some animals, like quail, can be raised in a small cage that you can keep indoors.

Advantages of Raising Quail

Because of their size, most people assume that chickens are a better choice for raising meat. Chickens will provide more meat and larger eggs for larger meals. Quails, however, have some surprising advantages over their larger cousins and even other animals:

  • They’re cheap

For around $5 each, depending on where you’re located, the age of the quail and the time of the year, you can have a pair of breeding quails. You can search in local ads or ask around in the local farming community—this way, the quails are already acclimated to your local climate.

Another alternative to buying live quail is buying the eggs, which can be had for around $20 (again, this can vary depending on many things) for 50 eggs.

Quails require very little, and can be bought cheap

Aside from living space, the electricity needed to power their heating lamp and the cost of their feed, they don’t really need anything else. A 50lb bag of feed (you can feed them turkey feed) usually costs around $15 – $25 and will last for a couple of months for a handful of quails.

  • They provide more meat for the buck

People keep quail for a variety of reasons– Some keep them as pets, some breed them for business and some use them to train hunting dogs. But the most common reason for raising quail is for their meat and eggs.

Quails have a number of advantages over other birds that make them better candidates for your backyard farm. Quail meat can be prepared and cooked just like chicken meat, but quails mature faster and can be made into food in as little as 6 weeks, compared to chickens which require at least 8 weeks. Quails are just as nutritious, and have a stronger flavor compared to your usual store-bought chicken (although it’s not as strong or distinct as other bird meat like duck). Their eggs are smaller (around a quarter the size of a chicken egg) but can be used just like chicken eggs and are good candidates for canning or pickling.

For these reasons, quails can also be a sustainable resource that you can trade for other goods even during peaceful times. Just prop an ad saying that you would like to trade your quails for another item– you’ll be surprised with the offers that you’ll get.

Quail can provide quality and tasty meals just as well as chicken or duck.
  • Quails are easy to maintain

Because of their size, they require less space than chickens. If you plan to raise just a handful, you may even be able to keep them in your apartment (to be sure, consult local laws and your own lease contract about keeping poultry within your residence).

You only need 1 square foot for each bird to make sure they’re stress-free, although this is an ideal number and some people have had success raising them with less space. They also don’t roost, so you can keep their pen low (1.5 feet will be enough and will lessen the chances of injury).

Being smaller than chickens, quails are good alternatives if you don’t have much space

These birds aren’t choosy when it comes to laying their eggs so there’s no need to construct a separate nesting box, just make sure to check and clean their pen regularly to lessen instances of manure-covered eggs.

Unlike chickens, quails aren’t as noisy- a handful are barely noticeable. Daily maintenance will include feeding, refreshing their water and collecting their waste to keep it from accumulating too much.

  • They’re not picky eaters

Quail need 24/7 access to food and clean drinking water, but you only have to replenish their feed and water once a day. You can use turkey feed that corresponds to the stage of growth of your quail, and you can add small bugs, seeds and even table scraps with it.

  • Quails aren’t picky homeowners

Quails are hardy birds that don’t fuss over the location of their nests, but you’ll have to make sure to protect them from predators that can eat them or their eggs, like rats or cats.

Get a cage with the guidelines mentioned earlier in mind (1 square foot per bird, 1.5ft high) for your quail pen. Cages with wire floors work best, because this eases maintenance and keeps your quails healthy—their waste can slip through the gaps (and into a pan with straw or hay), to minimize waste buildup. To make sure their feet don’t fall through the gaps, choose wire that’s no more than a quarter inch for the pen’s flooring.

  • You can use their waste to fertilize your garden

Quail manure can be very good for your plants, and you can collect your quail’s waste for use as fertilizer for your garden. Just make sure to compost it– fresh quail waste has a high nitrogen content and will burn your plants when used immediately.

  • You like them? Make more of ‘em!

If you like your quails enough, and you have the time and the space needed to accommodate more, you can start breeding them as extra income or as bartering items.

Although not required, placing some hay or straw inside your quails’ cage will make it easier for them to lay and hatch their eggs.

Keep a ratio of 1 male for every 2-4 females. Make sure each breeding group has their own separate cage– males can be aggressive towards each other and fight for the females. Make sure their pen is in a quiet and undisturbed place, free from loud noises. They’ll usually start breeding during the spring and summer, but it’s possible to extend this to include fall and winter by hanging lights on top of their cage to simulate daylight (just be sure to switch them off for 8 – 9 hours during the evening to let your quails sleep and prevent them from getting too exhausted). You can add some hay or straw in their cage to encourage them to lay their eggs there, but in most cases, this isn’t necessary. Once they lay their eggs, you can let your quails hatch them, or you can buy an incubator and hatch them yourself.

If you think you don’t have enough time or space to raise your own source of meat, quails are the way to go. A small cage, some feed and two of these small but hardy birds can be the start of something big.