How to Harvest Quail for Meat

Get Step by Step tips for how to harvest quail. They make a great meal with a couple sides raised right from the homestead. #Homestead, #HarvestQuail, #Quail

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Learn how to harvest quail for meat

Warning – Images in this post may offend.

How to harvest quail is about processing for the purpose of meat.  Some folks shop for meat at the grocery store where others raise or hunt their own.

We do all three in our home and growing up it was very similar.  My dad was a fisherman and hunter so it was normal to walk in the shed and see him processing fish, crab, ducks, and so on.

The smell was always less than desirable but it never offended because it was natural and he did an amazing job processing protein for my mom to turn into a healthy meal.

Last week I was contacted by a reader asking how to mentally get ready to process quail.  This was a fantastic question because I will say if you have a heart it can be difficult.

Here’s the thing, I do have a big heart and this task isn’t easy. Over the years I’ve discovered it’s much easier to cull something you didn’t raise.

From the beginning of raising our quail I decided to be the processor, knowing this ahead of time really helps.  We have a theme on our farm; all animals have a fantastic life and one bad day.  I guess the bad day is either when they’re sold to leave or harvesting arrives.

So how do I do it?

My best advice is simple; I shut off my heart, basically go cold and get the job done.

I almost put my brain on auto pilot with this thought, “If I needed this meat to survive there would be no hesitation.”

The other thing to remember is these birds have a short life span and in reality if ordering quail in a restaurant isn’t difficult than what’s the problem with harvesting your own?

The quail I’m processing in this post are coturnix, they cannot be released so raising for meat is common sense and knowing where your food comes from just makes sense.

So let’s get started – this post is for you quail readers and anyone who loves to learn new things.

Begin with These Supplies

  • Sharp pair of sheers
  • Gathering cage
  • Two bowls, one for remains the other for processed birds
  • Plastic garbage bag or tarp for a clean work space

Prior to gathering quail make sure they have water available and remove all feed the night before.  After you gather the birds the following day place a cloth over the cage to help them stay calm.  Processing goes fast and these birds move quick so pay attention and make sure you have a strong hand.

The First Cull

The first cull is always the hardest so just get it done.  Hold the quail in one hand and snip the head off into the bowl, it will bleed and spasm, this is their nervous system shutting down.  DO NOT let go, let it bleed out peacefully before moving on.

The bird is dead once that head is removed; this is why you want sharp snipers so there’s no hesitation.  I place snipers in the freezer an hour before beginning because it goes even faster.  This was the hardest part of the process now let’s break the rest into simple steps.

Removing Unnecessary Layers with Snipers

  1. Clip off wings
  2. Clip off legs at the joint, just below the feathers
  3. Peel off feathers

Peeling the feather coat is easy, cut a slit  opening at the neck and just peel it off.  Notice there’s no fat on the bird, its all meat which is fantastic and a great protein boost.  The next part is kind of like biology class so buckle up!

Remove the Internal organs

This part is a little tricky if you have large hands.  First cut open the bottom area and clean out the interior by pulling.  I use two fingers, give it a tug and it pulls right out.

Remove additional feathers, because there will always be a few left behind and wash out the bird with fresh water.

Repeat the process until the entire project is complete and you’re done.  Clean up should be a breeze; remains can go into the garden compost.  Make sure to clean your snipers so they’re ready to go next time.

Refrigerate overnight

When you finish, cover the quail in a dish and chill in the fridge overnight prior to cooking; this will tenderize the meat.  Skip this step if your quail are 12 weeks or younger.

Wasn’t that easy?

Processing quail is a breeze compared to say chicken where plucking is involved. It’s my hope you found this post helpful, it was never my intention to offend anyone with this information, simply here to help and inform so that you can have a positive quail experience.

Learn how to harvest quail for meat


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  1. Stephanie Williams says:

    If I wanted to leave skin on how would I remove the feathers instead of taking off like a coat? Thank you so much. Love this site so far!

    1. Carole says:

      It’s not possible honestly unless you decide to pluck which would be a mess. Much like chicken plucking after the bird is culled you would quickly dip in hot water real and begin plucking. These birds are very efficient and they don’t have a thick skin layer so removing them both off together is faster.

  2. debi gagermeier says:

    This was so educational. Thank you. Questions though…..why does keeping the nippers cold make the de-heading easier? Also, my concern is that when I go to cut the head the shears would just slide along the neck and not cut. Do you use a pair of like heacy kitchen meat shears or garden pruner type shears? Love all your posts on these great little birds.

    1. Carole says:

      Hello Deb so glad you’re finding good tips in the quail posts. The idea of using cold shears came from our farming journey. Prior to kulling sheep we read that when using a frozen knife the animal doesn’t feel anything. I applied that same logic with harvesting quail but what I found was that clip when faster. I believe cold against the warmth is what makes it easier.

      Your concern is valid and why you need to make sure shears are either new or sharpened prior to harvesting. I purchased my harvesting shears from bass pro shop, they’re used specifically for processing and I only use them for harvesting quail. No don’t use garden pruners get a good pair of shears and the process will be a breeze. But like I mentioned you do have to work fast and have a strong hand because they can squirm.

      There neck is small, like the width of a pinky finger so that cut is simply one good snip. Hope that helps.

  3. Shea says:

    I really enjoyed the article, thank you!

  4. Lisa says:

    Hi, when I was a kid my dad hunted wild quail and had me do the butchering, which was easy because they basically came apart in my hands. The same was true of wild rabbits, but the tame rabbits I raised for meat were much more difficult to process (pelts were stronger, joints were stronger, insides more firmly attached). Is this true also of tame quail? Or are they as easy as wild ones?

    1. Carole says:

      Great question Lisa, They are so easy and it’s probably because of how I raise them. My birds get very little game bird feed, the majority of their diet is free ranged bugs and grass grain. I do my best to keep their lifestyle as natural as possible.

  5. Katy Rovetto says:

    Your site is amazing! I was introduced to you by a friend I think you’re acquainted with, Ginger Schafer. Several of us, here in Ecuador, just had a bit of a health seminar and quail eggs became a topic. In Ecuador, quail eggs are very abundant in all the markets. What an asset for us. Now for the quail themselves. Again, muchas gracias for your site.

    1. Carole says:

      Hello Katy – Ginger is sweet soul, we met when we lived in Little Elm, Texas I have to say… your name is really familiar. You wouldn’t happen to be from Washington, State by chance? I remember growing up my mom speaking of this amazing lady with a beautiful singing voice. Then one day she came home with an album.. I remember this one song in particular… Jonah… If I have this wrong forgive me…. was a neat memory to say the least. Back to your comment, I love quail – these birds are so sweet and have been such a neat/practical discovery to incorporate on our farm. Are you thinking about raising them?


  6. Kathy says:

    Thanks for posting! I am getting ready to process some of our quail. I thank them for providing us with food & my husband laughs at me! He is not allowed to watch me anymore needless to say. 🙂

    1. Carole says:

      You are very welcome, I’m glad you found this helpful. Yes I just released the last of my Bobwhites instead of processing and I had to coax them to leave. Thankfully my husband wasn’t here when I was talking to them and telling them to leave. Will be sharing that I hope next week.

      1. Years ago I raised hundreds of coturnix quail. I had cabinet incubators and really cranked these birds out. My only problem was I couldn’t bring myself to butcher the birds. Big problem. I really love eating poultry so I was really missing out, but I still couldn’t bring myself to butcher those small birds. I could butcher chickens, just not the beautiful birds. I ended up finding a market selling the birds to people to train their bird dogs with. Fifteen years ago I was selling these 6 week old quail for $3 a bird. Finally I was able to turn a profit with my hobby. But I sure wish I could have eaten some of those quail. The eggs sure were good though. If I would have seen this web page with your pictures and instructions, I think I could have brought myself to butcher my quail. And what a feast we could of had! Thanks for putting your pictures and instructions out there for us to see.

        1. Carole says:

          Glad you found this information helpful. Processing isn’t easy but the effort is tasty.

  7. Jeanne Hoier says:

    Being in the restaurant business all my life, I never had a problem processing any of the meat or seafood that came through the door. My husband and I hunt, he all his life, me only the last 20 years. He always did the field dressing and I let him. Mainly because he knows the ins and outs of doing it. But I will confess I usually handle the meat after it was field dressed and cold. Until we readily got our limits rabbit hunting. I decided to help.I was apprehensive because they were warm. And just alive minutes before. But he took me through the process step by step as you did. I was looking at the whole thing with a different mindset. It made a difference. We eat well from natures harvest. I feel Blessed.

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks for sharing Jeanne, what an awesome husband it really is a mindset to move forward.

  8. Eric Huggins says:

    Processing your animals is never an easy task on the heart… but it’s comforting to know that they lived a good life and their death serves the purpose of sustaining your family. We go out of our way to waste no part of the animal so it’s sacrifice is used to the fullest potential and not in vain.

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks for sharing Eric, I really enjoy raising our own food.

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