Why Quail Are The Perfect Animals For Hard Times
Yes, Even If You Live In A Flat
I've already previously mentioned how important I think these birds are to anyone aiming to have any level of food self-sufficiency. In the article Growing Food In Your Flat, I briefly went into why I think they're the perfect animals for our limited UK space, even if you have no garden at all.
If there is one things I am passionate about, it's self sufficient cycles. Allow me to explain;
In my garden the quail are part of a system that pretty much run without intervention at this point. The quail primarily live in a two by three (meter) cage which is full of plants that are either medicinal for them (thyme, oregano, rosemary) and plants which are edible for them; such as cress, mustard, rocket, lambs lettuce, oats, einkorn, nettle, red clover, chard, slender lespedeza and even asparagus. While they don't eat the asparagus, they do eat the asparagus beetle. This enclosure feed them, and allows plants which struggle with pests such as the Asparagus to be as low maintainence as it's possible to be. Their feed costs were low just with this enclosure. I pretty much planted what was beneficial to them and then let them grow. I don't have to worry at all about asparagus beetle because the quail absolutely devour them. Additionally, all the quail droppings mean that everything in that cage always grows like it has a rocket up it's arse. I don't have to worry about fertiliser because the quail provide all of that on their own.
To make this system even more efficient, the quail cage is set up inside a larger fruit cage where I grow espaliered apples, plums, nectarines and cherries, along with peas, carrots, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, red currents, black currents, thornless blackberries and two grapes.
Once the day starts I open the quail cage, and let them wonder out into the fruit cage. In this time they fertilise the soil, are able to forage and dig for more bugs, eat any of the fallen fruit and kill any slugs and pests. The slug killing part is where these birds are my absolute champions. It's for this reason that I grow my more delicate plants inside the fruit cage on a low raised bed. Provided I put mature seedlings in the fruit cage - not tiny seedlings they could eat - the quail protect them from slugs, aphids and caterpillars.
My last layer in this system is that all kitchen and garden waste is shredded and laid out on the fruit cage floor. There it is eaten, breaks down into the wood chip paths, is broken down by bugs and slugs (which then get eaten by the quail) and within three to six months has turned into the most potent fluffy rich compost you have ever seen. You should see how incredibly my plants grow in this area. It's buzzing with life and a constant stream of food. Better yet, it's almost no work at all. It's a beautiful, easy system which maintains itself, and at the heart of all - is the quail.
I know other people who are equally as passionate about chickens, goats or ducks. While I am working towards owning other animals, when it comes to poultry I have no interest in owning anything else than quail for the following reasons;
1. They are perfect for small spaces.
The rough rule of thumb is that you can comfortably keep four quail in a square foot space. Personally, I think this kind of spacing is cruel and makes them prone to sickness and poor quality eggs. But it does give you a good idea of how little space you need for them to thrive. My aim is to own around eighty in total.
2. They are quiet. Even the male birds!
This was a huge selling point for me since I wanted to have fertilised eggs I could incubate into new flocks, but I didn't want everyone to know I had birds. Quail solve this problem. You could easily have 300 birds in your garden and they'd make less noise than a dog. Given that everything in the wild - from hawks to magpies - hunts quail, they really can't afford to be loud.
3. Their eggs are richer than chicken eggs
With a much larger yoke to white ratio, the eggs are much more filling I find.
4. Their eggs are beautiful
In my home everything gets reused. Egg shells get ground up to grit for the worms and the compost. Now that I have quail I still do this (along with giving the egg grit back to the quail to eat) but I also save some of the eggs and use them to decorate the house during Easter and Christmas.
5. Less Food For More Eggs
The ratio of food to egg production is SO much more efficient than chickens. They also stop eating once they're full, unlike chickens. Once I made the food forest for the quail cage, and then added the secondary fruit cage around them, the feed requirements went down even further. If push came to shove, and the supply chain crumbled even further than it already has, I would be able to keep them alive just from the garden.
6. More Eggs
The eggs might be smaller, but they lay more regularly than chickens. In addition to that, the eggs are rich in protein, iron, vitamin B, C and vitamin A. As someone who struggles with two autoimmune diseases and anemia, these eggs have made a huge difference to managing these problems.
7. Easy to process
When I say process, I mean the process of getting them from garden to table. If this is not something you are personally looking to do, then the quail will still be important addition to your garden. But if want more than just eggs from them, then these birds are possibly the easiest introduction to learning how to effectively and humanely butcher. This is something that is quite important to me because I think we have a responsibility to be humane, something that would never be possible for them if they lived in the wild. No quail dies peacefully in the wild. They are constantly at risk from lack of food, other animals, cold and lack of water. The only thing lower than them on the food chain are bugs. So I think we have a duty to provide all of the benefits of captivity, with none of the drawbacks of the wild.
Even if you're not looking to eat them, it should be noted that you may have to dispatch one or two if they become sick (or like happened to me just this morning) or an animal fatally injures them. Have a sharp pair of secateurs on hand just incase.
Just please clean them regularly if you keep them indoors.
If you're keeping in your home in a rabbit cage, then you need to be absolutely meticulous about regularly cleaning them. This is for your own health as much as theirs since their feathers can be incredibly irritating to anyone with sensitive lungs or asthma. In fact, if you do have anyone who suffers from any kind of breathing difficulty in your home, I would highly suggests you do not keep these animals inside.
If you like my series of articles on resilience training (or prepping) you can follow me for more daily articles, or leave me tip and request a particular topic be covered. As detailed in my first post, I unfortunately have a lot of experience with resilience training, and in these strange times it's a skill I'm hoping to share with as many people from the UK as possible.
This series is mostly written in the order it should be approached, specifically for UK readers. You don't need to panic, you don't need a massive budget and you can protect yourself more and more by taking small steps to improve each day. Not sure were to start? Start with my oldest article first and then work your way through them. I'll have a new article for you soon.
About the Creator
A Very English Prepper
I've been prepping for over 10 years. Now, I want to share how you can get started.
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