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!
- 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)
- 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:
- 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 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 1.5-2 square feet 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Craft Thyme is excited to announce that our fresh eggs are for sale (for local pickup) straight from our small urban homestead! If you live in the Asheville, North Carolina area and are looking for tasty eggs from happy chickens you have come to the right place. Our eggs are never washed, never refrigerated, and lovingly laid by our happy hens. You get a fresh egg, truly free ranged on our local property.
How do you buy our fresh, ungraded eggs? Message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We plan to sell at local markets this summer but until then we provide a pickup location in West Asheville, NC for our colorful, local eggs. Current cost $5 a dozen. Will sell in larger and smaller quantities.
Why aren’t the eggs washed?
When chickens lay eggs they create a protective coating called a bloom around the egg. This bloom keeps the bacteria out of the egg making for the freshest experience! We keep a clean coop and nesting boxes but occasionally you may see some mud spots on the eggs.
Shouldn’t those eggs be refrigerated?
No! One of the best things about fresh eggs is you do not have to refrigerate them (up to 45 days) but you can refrigerate them if you want (up to 3 months).
What do your chickens eat and why should I care?
Everything! Our chickens get lots of time on our pesticide free lawn, they roam our wooded areas, and the dig in any garden bed I happen to not be watching. What they are doing that entire time? Eating whatever they fancy! Dandelions, worms, bugs, wild cherries, lettuce, you name it, they eat it. We also provide fresh feed, on demand, anytime the girls want. This means the chickens get plenty of exercise while their eggs taste of the seasons and have bright flavorful yolks.
So why are your hens so happy?
Our hens get the pampered life, from living in a Taj Ma-coop when they can’t free range to lots of pets, scratches and neck rubs. We make sure they get lots of dust baths, a clean secure coop to live in, and a basically stress free chicken life.
If these eggs are so great why are you selling them?
Right now we get anywhere from 8-12 eggs a day. Domestic hens lay almost every day during the warmer months. Regardless, of what we do they will still produce eggs unless they were sick or starving (not happening in this house). That means that even as a family of 6 we can only eat so many delicious eggs each week. The money made from our eggs goes right back to the care of the ladies.
Can I hatch these eggs?
No, right now we do not have a rooster and our eggs are not fertilized. These means no chicks will hatch. If that changes we will make sure to update this section.
Is it legal to sell eggs without a farm license?
By North Carolina egg law we are allowed to sell 30 dozen ungraded eggs without a license. Let me repeat that, 30 dozen! That is a lot of eggs, and while our girls produce, we are no where close to that many eggs.
The custom built, modern, chicken coop is finally here folks. I quit totaling hours, cost, and number of minor flesh wounds received somewhere back in March. Building a custom chicken coop is definitely a labor of love BUT you get an end result that can REALLY meet your needs. We chose to make a modern chicken coop design to match our urban locale. We needed something fresh to update our 1927 home space and to compete with all the new modern houses in the neighborhood.
If you are more a video person we made a video tour of the features and construction of this modern chicken coop design on our YouTube Channel. (Also embedded in the post for you convenience)
We had some specific needs in mind with this modern chicken coop design. First, our chicken coop needed to be predator proof, easy to clean, lots of space, and aesthetically pleasing. We live in an urban environment with a good mix of old houses and very modern structures. This means we can’t let the chickens roam all day but that we can build a modern looking structure and still have it blend nicely with the 1927 house. If it looks large in the pictures, that is because IT IS. It is hooouge… 14 by 7 feet in the main structure alone. The u legs of the runs are 4 feet wide and 6 foot and 10 foot long respectively. This gives us slightly more space than needed for 14 large chickens. If you are thinking of making your own coop I have a series of chicken calculating spreadsheets that I will make available soon for everyone to use.. We want to keep the chickens in a location with above standard size spacing since the whole point of raising fancy backyard chickens is to have a good environment for their egg production. Happy, healthy chickens make yummy eggs.
We also planned the chicken coop with our neighbors in mind. We are highly sensitive to our neighbors needs, simply because it seems like the neighborly thing to do. We wanted to make it look good and smell decent because, frankly, I would want that type of thoughtfulness from my neighbors as well. Plus, I have to look at the chicken coop and smell it all the time too!
We probably keep our coop a bit cleaner than most to reduce flies in the city. I also plan to plant lots of herbs around the coop to deter insects and cover smells. Plus who doesn’t love the yummy scent of mint, lavender, and thyme? This modern chicken coop design incorporates a lot of neat features to make cleaning a breeze. Double coop doors with a linoleum under sand make raking our droppings a breeze. Roosting bars and nesting boxes are removable for thorough cleaning. Run doors and human sized runs make raking out wood chips for final composting a lot easier. (Note: Behind the structure I am building a couple compost bins to hold old litter we usually remove a few times a year and replace fully with fresh litter. I am super excited to graduate into my own building projects!)
Safety was paramount to the entire design. When we first moved over to our new home we had chicken issues abound (You can read our tale of chicken woes). Plus I have had enough bear encounters for a lifetime! Remember how I said urban? Yeah we have an odd urban bear population in the mountains… These bears seem to like chickens an awful lot. Anyway, we did as much as we could to deter predators.
First, the structure has cemented posts to anchor it to the ground. Then we wasted ridiculous amounts of money to bury hardware under the entire structure. It kills me to spend money on something you are just going to hide but the hardware cloth keeps digging predators out but allows the thick layer of chips to slowly compost while in location. Half inch hardware cloth and metal roofs cover all exposed surfaces. These are anchored with screws and washers instead of staples. It takes a lot longer to install but really stands up to random dog attacks. All the external doors, including the nesting boxes, have wooden stops to make sure they can’t be easily pushed in and to minimize small gaps in the frames. We used heavy duty slide clasps and hinges for the same reason. If we end up having raccoon issues we can add bolts or locks to the clasps to make sure they can not get in.
Chickens, outside of their will to die by predator, are actually pretty self sufficient when grown. You really just have to offer protection from major elements and lots of ventilation. The coop location is meant to assist with both. Our climate is more often cold than hot. That being said August is not the most pleasant. We set the coop back in a U shape of vegetation (called a sun scoop in permaculture world). In the winter they get sun at different sections of the coop throughout the day. In the heat of the summer they will get morning sun, but shade from the worst afternoon heat. The large windows can be closed in the winter to allow more wind protection but open in the Spring, Summer, and Fall to allow for lots of ventilation. An underfloor ramp allows for fresh air all year around but cuts down on wind. Finally we took the time to line the roof of the coop. That way chickens on roosting bars couldn’t come in contact with cold metal and get frost bite or hot metal and overheat.
Finally we wanted to make this easy, fun, and accessible for our enjoyment. This area was formerly an overgrown dog lot. The kids liked to play down in that area as it is shady in the Summers, but even they stayed away from the overgrown infestation of English and poison ivy. We beat back the wilderness and have all manner of edible and aesthetically pleasing plantings planned for the area. We left cleared around it and plan to have nice paths down and around so you can enjoy the plantings and sit and watch the chickens. Lots of doors and human sized runs allow us to go in with the chickens and easily pass them treats and eventually let them into the yard to hang out. The nesting boxes make for quick egg retrieval and plenty of space to leave the broody ones alone. Finally, we made much of the area view-able from the house so we can always just peek out and see how the ladies are doing.
Overall we are stoked with how it turned out. Now to get our last batch of chicks old enough to join the rest of the flock! Hopefully the chickens will enjoy it just as much as the humans.