Quail Versus Chickens: Urban Homesteading

Urban homesteaders who want to add livestock into their rotation are generally limited to small fowl. Backyard chickens and more recently quail (and ducks) are a go to for the small urban homestead. Why? Urban Homesteads usually have one premium: SPACE, and lets face it a goat needs some room to roam. But which is the best choice of livestock? Bring in the great battle royale Quail Versus Chickens for the Urban Homestead.

Couple of things before we get down to Quail v. Chicken!

  1. I’m not adding ducks to the mix. They are an option, but I consider anything that needs to account for water and potentially plumbing to be for a more advanced livestock keeper. (Argue away in the comments)
  2. We are discussing coturnix quail. They are the most ‘domestic’ of quail. There are a ton of other varieties that have more specialized needs than listed here.

Now Down to the battle: Quail Versus Chickens

We are going to look at the following factors:

  • Space
  • Noise/Ordinances
  • Feed/Water
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Pet Factor

Quail Versus Chickens: Space Requirements

Goes to QUAIL.

For urban homesteads space is always limited. And if your space isn’t limited then I don’t want to hear about your Shangri-la in the city (#jealous). But for the rest of us working with usually less than half an acre, space matters! I’m just going to call it here: QUAIL WIN

quail versus chicken space requirements illustrated by coop size.
Let us have a visual illustration of the size needed for 13 quail versus 15 chickens…

Space Requirements

  • Quail 1.5 square foot total
  • Chicken 4 square feet (coop) + 10 square feet (run) = 14 square feet (if not free ranging)

Internet wisdom says 1 square foot per quail. I personally would go more in the 18-24 square inches per quail. I like space for all of my animals and provide over the minimums for all my animals. I wouldn’t be doing this if I felt like factory farming was a great thing.

In addition to the general space requirements chickens just need more complex accommodations. They need roosting bars, nesting boxes, and run space to move around. Quail need…. A floor and roof? In fact roofs that are much higher than 2 feet (but shorter than 6 feet) can end up potentially hurting a bird that ‘flushes’ and can get up enough velocity. Quail floors can be open mesh or cages can be stacked. I will be honest, my quail have an old small chicken coop with access to wood chips, dirt, a small ramp and coop space (which they use). I also throw in fresh grasses etc, because I like my animals to have a more natural life, when I can. I’m not into the stacking wire cages, but if that works for you, then you do you boo.

One final piece on space: Free Ranging Quail v Chicken

Free ranging quail is just not a thing as far as I can research. They aren’t terribly domestic (even when I handled the little boogers since hatching them). I mean every, single. time. I change their food or water they act likes it is the first time they have seen these objects and they are most certainly harbingers of their impending death. Quail free ranging would equal quail gone.

My chickens have a lot of access to the backyard and woods. I had to put up a small section of bird netting so the would leave the neighbors south facing foundation the hell alone. There was no where else they wanted to sun themselves… but this outdoor time has been great. We get lovely orange yolks, haven’t seen ticks on humans since we let them out, and cut our feed costs considerably during the summer. Also, there is just a real soothing aesthetic to watching the chickens happily scratch and root around the yard. Its like watching a feathered fish bowl. So if you want that free-ranging aspect then consider chickens may be more for you even if they take up a bit more space.

Quail Versus Chickens: Noise and Ordinances

Goes to QUAIL

Oh boy, Quail win on the noise and ordinances (most of the time) for an urban homestead. First noise: Quail ladies are basically silent. Unlike the clucking, chattering, bantering, constant racket of a group of hens quail are soooo quiet. Your neighbors will likely be unaware quail even exist. (Although, I don’t condone clandestine homesteading, the hideability of quail may be a huge factor in strict neighborhoods)

Now for the menfolk! Roosters are loud. Even teeny, tiny bantam roosters are loud (click for proof). I cannot even begin to discuss how much crowing, one rooster can do during the day. In our city, roosters aren’t even allowed (Though I can hear across the street. One of the neighbors does not subscribe to this law). Even if roosters are allowed your neighbors may hate you. Just saying.

Male quail aka cocks (Not making that up folks snickers while typing) call during mating season. Its a metallic sound… I find it pleasant, albeit a little odd to hear in Western North Carolina. The neighbors just thought some odd songbird had moved into the neighborhood. Everyone was a-okay with the quail and basically didn’t know they existed.

I love the pleasant homesteading sound of the chickens, but for urban environments the quail are certainly more user friendly.

Quail v Chickens: Feed/Water

I swear this is not a post touting quail but this one

Goes to QUAIL

I’ve had 13 quail for almost 9 months. I have more concerns I might get mold in a bag of feed than use it all. I buy 50 pounds of specialty high protein chicken food or game bird when I find it. I use a bag every three months? Something around that… They are tiny and they just eat hardly anything.

Same thing with water. A gallon waterer last for days. I’m more often dumping their water because it is gross and poopy than they have run out.

Chickens on the otherhand will gobble food. With 15 chickens we go through almost a 50 lb bag of food every 2 weeks when it is cold and they can’t find a lot free ranging. Don’t get me started on water. I have two five gallon waterers, but only one heater in the winter, so I’m getting water all the time for either thaw or thirst!

Chicken versus Quail: Eggs

Goes to CHICKENS!

Its a harder choice to make than one would believe. I looked at 5 important factors:

  • Time to Eggs: Quail
  • Eggs size: Chickens
  • Egg nutrition: Tie
  • Egg sales: Chickens
  • Eggs per lifetime: Chickens

Time to Eggs

Nothing beats a quail. From the moment they hatch to laying an egg is a ridiculous 6 weeks. I literally could not believe how quickly they feathered and started laying eggs. Chickens start laying eggs more along the 6 month range instead of 6 weeks. Yeah you can find some precocious hybrids that lay sooner, but if you are into anything fancy or heritage it may be longer than that.

Egg Size

Do you want to crack open 3-4 teeny tiny fragile eggs? Well that’s what you have to do when you want to have a full egg and you are using quail eggs. On the flip side tiny eggs do make lovely hors d’oeuvres.

Egg Nutrition

Another one of those surprisingly hotly contested subjects. Some people believe that quail eggs have more vitamins or protein than chicken eggs. From my research that isn’t really the case. They do have different nutrition more B vitamin in Quail more D in chicken eggs, etc. But the truth is they are fairly similar in nutrition.

Egg Sales

Many times you can sell quail eggs for a dollar to two more than a dozen chicken eggs BUT finding buyers is not nearly easy as chicken eggs. I don’t ever have to try hard to sell out of eggs. A quick post in our facebook group and they are all gone. Lots of times quail buyers are a bit harder. If you can find a steady buyer then quail might be a good way to go, but chicken eggs are reliable sales.

Eggs per Lifetime

Quail can lay 200-300 eggs per year which rival any chicken BUT they only lay around two years. Chickens will drop off on the amount of eggs they lay after 3 years but if you don’t light them in winter they can lay a generous amount of eggs for 4-5 years. You just can’t be the longevity over time per bird.

One more thing on eggs. I have started tracking both types of eggs and sales this year so I can compare my results in the future. You can use the tracker I use for free!

Chickens V. Quail: Meat

Calling this one a tie.

Quail are small so you are going to need a number of birds to equal one meat bird or dual purpose breed of chicken. But the time it takes to get a quail to full size (6 weeks) and how many you can fit in a small space it is easy to make up the difference. Cleaning both birds are about the same if you want to maintain the skin. This one is going to be up to personal taste.

Quail Versus Chickens: Pets

This goes to chickens hands down if you want pets. Quail if you don’t.

This is Adam’s pet chicken “Turken”. Only a face a chicken dad could love.

Quail just don’t make pets. I mean if you like a cage of nice exotic birds then they would fit the bill, but chickens can be pets. You may not choose to raise them that way (see the above meat comment) but if you want a friendly animal that can come when called and even wants to be held and hang out with you then chickens fit the bill. Honestly, we have some chickens that are such characters they’ll be allowed to retire, but we have a section of flock that just aren’t pets. It works for us, but each homesteader needs to figure out what relationship you want with your livestock and pick accordingly!

The Final Verdict

You’ll need to pick the bird or birds that work for you. We are lucky enough to be able to fit two types into our urban homestead but I can tell you I kind of wish I had started with quail. I adore my chickens and have had them for years, but having quail would have been so much easier in the beginning. They just do not require the upkeep and care chickens do. That being said you really can’t go wrong either way. Hopefully, you can pick from the above factors and choose a small livestock that works for your urban homestead.

A comparison of chickens versus quail based on important factors for the urban homestead.

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