Quails are fabulous game birds to add to your backyard farm or homestead. They are easy to raise and provide a good source of nutritious eggs and meat.
The problem with having birds on your farm is that they can fly. And, you do not want your quails flying away after you have spent time and money raising them.
Quail can fly. They have strong wings but they do not fly long distances. In general, they prefer to remain on the ground. Quail will fly into trees for roosting. They will also fly if they detect danger from predators. Quail will fly distances of up to 100 yards and can reach speeds of 40 mph.
Will quail fly away?
Although quail can fly, they generally prefer to remain on the ground. They are happy to move around by running or walking. When they take flight, they have an abrupt take-off and fly for a short distance. They may fly up into trees to roost. Quail will also fly to escape predators if they are frightened or fear attack.
While you may not have to worry too much about your quail flying away, sudden bursts of flight may take them over walls or fences, making it difficult for them to return home.
At what age do they learn flying?
Baby quail will leave their nests after a few days of hatching. The parents continue to look after the babies, feeding and caring for them. At around 10 to 14 days old, baby quail can fly short distances. Families, however, prefer to travel along the ground by running or walking, often in a single file one behind the other.
Can they fly far and high?
As they grow stronger, the distance that baby quail can fly increases. Most species of adult quail can fly distances of around 100 yards.
Flying speeds are around 30 to 40 miles per hour. Quail don’t fly high but can rise up to tree branches that are out of reach of predators on the ground. Although they have strong wings, most species of quail cannot sustain long flights, and as such are not able to migrate.
One exception is the European quail, known officially as Coturnix coturnix. This bird can undertake longer migratory trips.
Quails take off in short bursts with a lot of noise. This is known as flushing and can give you quite a scare if you are not expecting it! Domesticated quails do not fly long distances. When your birds are provided with adequate food, water, and shelter, they find fewer reasons to fly and naturally adapt to staying in one place.
In the wild, quail live in habitats that provide dense ground cover. By running and hiding, they are able to escape predators, making it unnecessary for them to fly.
Will quail fly back?
Quail don’t fly far and will fly back if they are trained to know that their home is a place of safety where they can find warmth and shelter.
This will apply to quail that are free-ranged. If you keep your quail enclosed in strong, safe coops, you won’t have to worry about them flying away.
How to prevent them from flying away?
Although quail do not generally fly, you need to ensure that yours won’t. You don’t want to be searching around the neighborhood at night with a flashlight looking for your quail!
The first step is to ensure that your quail enclosure has a roof. The coop must be strong and secure so that if they do fly, they won’t escape. Quail need less space than other domesticated birds, but they will be happier in larger spaces. If you have space, your ground pen can be built in the same way as a large aviary with a roof.
Another method to prevent quail from flying is to clip their wings. This must be done carefully and humanely so as not to harm the bird. Gently trim the flight feathers at the tip of one wing.
This causes the bird to be unbalanced when trying to fly and they will not be able to travel far. Remember that quails molt and lose their feathers. When the new feathers grow back, you will have to clip them again. If you don’t, your quail will be able to fly again.
Follow these steps to trim your quail wings
– Gather your equipment – sharp scissors, garden gloves, and a butterfly net
– Get a willing helper
– Catch a quail in your butterfly net and gently remove her, holding the wings cupped in your hands
– Move your quail to a safe place
– Wear gloves and extend one of the wings out. Your helper can hold the bird while you do this
– Clip the longest flight feathers back to around 1/2 inch
– Return the quail to his enclosure
– Repeat with all your birds if possible so you don’t have quail with wings of different lengths
Can you free-range quail? Will they return?
You can free-range quail, but you will need to spend time training them to return at night. Unlike chickens or ducks, quail need more time to learn where home is. Teaching your quail to return home is vital. If not, they will end up as meals for predators. They may freeze in colder weather and drown in heavy rainfall.
Quail are generally persuaded to come home by other quail. Start by keeping your quail in their enclosures for a few weeks. This allows them to become familiar with their safe surroundings.
When you let them out, create a smaller area for them to roam. You can use temporary fences or hay bales to mark out the space. Keep some hens back in the cages. The hens will naturally call the quail as evening falls and they will come back in to nest together for warmth and safety.
Provide fresh food and water when they return. Apart from eating gamebird food, quail love to eat treats like peas in the pod, broccoli, chopped cabbage, quartered apples, mealworms, and raisins. Offer these to your quail when they return.
Not only will it encourage them to come home, but it makes a great bonding experience. When your quail see you coming out with the food bag, they are sure to come running home.
Practice this routine regularly for a few weeks. Quail will learn that the coop is a place of safety where they will find food and shelter. Once they know this, you can allow your quail to wander further away from the coop.
Is it bad for quail to keep them in a closed coop or pen?
Quail can be kept in an enclosed area. This can be a pen, a coop, an aviary, or even a large rabbit hutch. These homes are suitable for smaller backyard farms where you don’t have space to allow your quail to free-range. Some farmers prefer not to free-range and always keep their quail enclosed.
If you are going to keep your birds closed up you need to take some precautions. Your birds should always be dry, well-fed, and have adequate fresh water. Coops must be cleaned regularly to prevent disease.
Their enclosures must be safe and secure so that predators cannot gain access. Use wire or hardware cloth that won’t allow mice, rats, snakes, or weasels to gain access. Predators can smell quail from far off and will come looking for a tasty meal.
Don’t overcrowd your birds as this can lead to illness and unhappiness. Plan to give each quail around 1 square foot or more. Ensure that the ceiling is at least 8 feet high to allow for short bursts of flight. Provide bedding for your quail in the form of grass, straw, hay, or even sand. Don’t use cedar shavings as they are toxic to quail.
To remove mites from their skin and feathers, quail need to dust bathe daily. Provide a low tray of sand in the corner of your enclosure. To make your enclosure more homely and natural, you can add branches that quails can jump onto for height. They also like to hide under brush piles.
Happy quail in enclosures will mate and lay eggs. During the mating season, try to keep your quail separated into pairs. During the egg-producing season, quail will lay one egg per day with a clutch size of around 10 to 15 eggs. The hens will lay eggs in brush piles, under shrubbery, in shallow holes in the sand, or anywhere else once they are ready to pop out.
If you don’t have space for a large coop, a smaller cage can be adequate. Make the roof a height of 12 to 18 inches maximum. This will dissuade the quail from trying to fly.
So to answer the question – Is it bad to keep quail enclosed – the answer is no, provided your enclosures are clean and safe, and you provide adequate food and water. Keeping quail in a closed coop is not bad, but some farmers find that it is more humane and healthier for quail to run around freely on their property.
Keeping quail in your backyard farm gives you a source of meat and eggs. They are small birds that are easy to raise and do not require large amounts of space. Although they can fly, quail generally prefer to stay on the ground. However, if you do choose to free-range your quail, you will need to train them to return at night.