Grit Blogs > The Urban Bystander

Raising Quail: The Itty City Biddies

Carolyn Evans-Dean head 

shotWhen we were first thinking about bringing home some farm inhabitants, we were thinking along the lines of that timeless children’s tune, “Old MacDonald”. Between the choruses of moos, oinks and quacks, we realized that we had forgotten one important fact: We live in the city and the local ordinances made those critters illegal. With their various barnyard smells and sounds, they are not considered to be good neighbors in an urban environment.

Through a quirk of fate, an internet friend introduced us to the species that Old MacDonald overlooked: the Itty City Biddies AKA Coturnix quail. A small group of these fabulous birds can produce both eggs and meat for your family’s consumption, while only occupying the amount of space required to park a car. If you’ve never considered raising quail, then you may be missing out on the perfect (little) poultry.

When we eventually pack up to relocate to a farm, the quail will always have a place in our hearts and on our property due to their easygoing nature and their low maintenance. Quail require access to fresh water, gamebird feed and secure housing to keep neighborhood cats and dogs from bothering them. That is about it!

Quail Photo 1 

Domesticated in Asia, Coturnix quail are the kissing-cousins of chickens, pheasants and partridges. Hens begin to lay eggs at six weeks of age and birds of either sex can be slaughtered at seven weeks of age. They consume very little feed, making them an economical choice, too.

Quail Photo 2 

Quail Photo 3 

Fairly gentle birds, Coturnix quail come in many varieties and are easily raised in small spaces. Unlike chicken roosters, the crow of a male quail isn’t as long, nor does it carry as far. The sound always reminds me of that duck on those tv commercials. Aside from the crowing, most Coturnix quail make a pleasant chirping sound, which is similar to that of a cricket. This makes them a community-friendly choice, even for those living in the close quarters of an urban or suburban environment. Our quail are housed close to the garden, which ensures that they receive a steady diet of bugs every time that the garden is weeded. They aren’t at all picky. If it can wiggle and fit into their mouths, then they will endeavor to eat it!

Quail Photo 4 

We’ve noticed that having caged birds in the backyard encourages other species to hang out in the yard. We get regular visits from grackles, crows, robins, sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, pigeons, doves and the occasional peregrine falcon.

Quail Photo 5 

As with any livestock, you’ll want to check with the local zoning office and respective state government to determine if quail are permitted in your area. In many states, it is illegal to raise or release domestic game birds without a government-issued permit.

boudicca boudicca
1/26/2012 5:56:41 PM

This is a grat article Carolyn, thank you for sending me the link! Quail sound just right for me in terms of size, noise and easy to look after. I am going to be doing a little bit of local research and will be picking your brains about these dear little birds again! It's doubtful that I will be able to go ahead until the summer as I have soooooooo much to do! Your blog here is tremendous! I laughed at the description of some of your bread making disasters (above), I have had many dough disasters myself! I will be coming back to visit your blog! Thanks again, Boudicca :)

nebraska dave
12/23/2011 9:50:09 PM

Carolyn, don't get me started with squirrels. They are the rascals of the neighborhood. There isn't any thing they can't find a way into, on top of, or under. I have had less of a problem since I had to cut down both trees in the back yard.

carolyn evans-dean
12/23/2011 12:03:44 AM

Hi, Dave! I've had pet rabbits in the city but it is rare to see a wild one in my area. We do have squirrels and groundhogs galore, though, and they like to play in my vegetable garden, too. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, too!

nebraska dave
12/22/2011 10:43:04 PM

Hey Carolyn, Nebraska Dave here. Welcome to the GRIT blog community. Quail are a game bird that has a seasonal hunting slot here in Nebraska. I'm not sure we can raise game birds. They seem to be a perfect fit for urban birds to raise. Deviled quail eggs. Ha, who would have thought it would be a delicacy. I wish you well with your quail endeavor. The only birds I have seen raised in Nebraska has been parakeets and pigeons. Like who needs either of those. Rabbit raising is allowed within the city limits but I don't think chickens are allowed. My animals are what ever decides to live in my yard and think that my garden is their buffet. Two rabbits took up residence this year under the Lilac bush. I think is was a Mom and baby until the Mom disappeared. I haven't seen the baby now that the garden is sleeping for the winter. There is a wooded area just down the hill from me so hopefully they have hunkered down in that area for the winter months and will forget all about my luscious garden when spring comes. Have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

carolyn evans-dean
12/22/2011 4:04:04 PM

The eggs make great deviled eggs for party appetizers, too! They can be so pricey to buy in a specialty market and yet it is so economical to raise your own quail eggs. Who knew that you could be a gourmet on a budget?

cindy murphy
12/22/2011 1:44:35 PM

Hi, Carolyn. I agree with Jennifer - the quail eggs are beautiful. And so tiny! The only place I've ever seen them before was on Food Network cooking shows. Looking forward to hearing more of life on the Itty City Farm. Welcome to GRIT.

mary carton
12/22/2011 1:50:55 AM

Welcome to GRIT Carolyn from myself and the hooligans. I found some quail eggs when I was little and hatched them under a chicken. When they old enough I couldn't eat them; they were pets by that time.

jennifer nemec
12/20/2011 6:25:07 PM

Welcome to the GRIT community, Carolyn. Those quail eggs sure are beautiful!