Can You Free Range Quail?

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Can Quail Be Free Ranged

The idea of possibly free ranging quail sounds pretty fantastic doesn’t it?

So, the question, “Can You Free Range Quail?” unfortunately is followed by a loud and clear “NO.”

If you’re like me, being told “NO” wasn’t what I wanted to hear either. However, this encouraged me to dig deeper and figure out why.

I wanted to see if perhaps a solution was realistic because housing these birds in cages wasn’t an option.

Why You Can’t Free Range Quail

  • They’re a gamebird, not poultry and their instinct are to fly away.
  • They’re under 1 lb. which makes them the perfect catch for predators.
  • Even if you clipped their wings farm dogs would find them delicious.

When I came to grips with the idea quail couldn’t be free ranged that’s when I decided to raise them enclosed on the ground.

It was a good solution and one that continues to inspire my efforts.

Can you free range quail

Notice the little one to her left, isn’t it cute?

Let’s go into detail about these factors because there’s more to understand which should explain why free ranging quail isn’t possible.


Quail are Gamebirds not Poultry

Its true quail are gamebirds, from the pheasant and partridge family and they have very defined instincts.

Quail travel in a covey by foot seeking places to nest on the ground. If danger is present their instinct is to fly away.

The minute they take flight, they’re gone with no point of return, like a wonderer traveling from one city to the next.

They may stop in a nearby field but the idea of finding them and then trying to catch is pretty slim.

I also mentioned that quail are not poultry. I’ve been seeing online where some are referring to them as poultry and I disagree.

Yes, Coturnix also known as Japanese quail are stated to be a domesticated bird.  Where that’s true I wouldn’t recommend raising any quail for the idea of a pet because they have a very short life span.

When I was raising a variety of coturnix there was a situation one morning when the wind pulled the door from my hand and a few birds escaped.

They quickly explored the ground, flew away in seconds and never returned.

I knew they wouldn’t be back because after watching them live naturally for several months it was obvious, they were very different from traditional poultry like chickens.

Smaller Birds and Predators

Quail are like bait for animals who prey and kope out homesteads. Ground predators and sky predators like hawks and vulchers are always hunting for food.

When you’re homesteading there are so many things to consider and how to keep predators off the land is no easy task.

Since quail are way under 1 pound, they’re easy to grab any time of day. Free ranging quail would be like an open invitation and I’m not sure why anyone would want to welcome predators.

Even if you clipped their wings, raised them in a fence area and locked them up at night a sky predator could still snatch them during the day in a matter of seconds.

Farm dogs or even the neighbors dogs will also be curious because even they know they differ from chickens.

Knowing this and not wanting my efforts to be in vain, I choose to raise quail on the ground in an enclosed habitat that’s also fenced off from those wild threats.

The experience has been fantastic and led me later to focus my attention on raising bobwhite quail for meat and release.

It’s my hope this helped explain why free ranging isn’t recommended and if you’re looking for ways to raise quail on the ground be sure to check to check out my book, Quail Getting Started.  

You can find it in my shop via eBook or at Amazon in print. 


Can Quail Be Free Ranged

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  1. I incubated three dozen eggs and ended up with a lot of quail babies. I had a very large and protected cage permanently made inside another pen. The chicks have done great in the cage, but within a week it was time to let them out into a bigger pen.

    The pen is protected against grabby predators like raccoons and birds, but a determined snake can still get in, so every night I put them back in the cage. It’s worked out so well, that I plan to keep a few breeders over the winter. As soon as we can catch up on chores we’ll buy some more wire to snake proof the upper half of the pen, then we can leave them out all day.

    If this continues to work out the way it has, I think I might try your strategy and plant a few nibble plants along the edge that gets sun and rain. I’ve really enjoyed raising the quail. I never would’ve considered it without reading your posts. Thank you!

    1. Carole says:

      Hello Maria – thank you for taking the time to share this. Though I haven’t had any issues with snakes this will be helpful to other who are raising them on a smaller scale. They’re awesome little birds and I definately prefer them over chickens.

  2. Sue Harvey says:

    I had a California quail that lived in a cage in the chicken coop for about 3 weeks after his mate died in the quail cage. He escaped the cage in the chicken coop and free ranged with the chickens for 2 yrs! He was in love with one hen and followed her everywhere. He would sit on the edge of the laying box when she laid an egg. He roosted with her. It was 4 yrs ago before I had a phone so I never got any videos. It was an amazing thing to witness. One day he looked a little wobbly and was dead 2 hours later. I called him Gray. He was a great quail. I still miss him.

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks for sharing a sweet story. You must have a very sweet chicken flock because normally they peck away at quail.

  3. Patti says:

    I can see people wanting to raise them as pets because they are super cute. Good to know the whys and hows of caring for these creatures. Might be something that I do at my next home which hopefully will be in the near future.

    1. Carole says:

      Yes and many do raise them as pets, I think it’s human nature to want to connect. Because we raise them for meat and release I can’t connect but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy watching them while they grow. That would be so neat if you tried it – could be something you and hubby could do together? I’ve really enjoyed mine, they force me to slow down…

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