Raising Quail Over Winter and Snow

Get tips for raising quail over the winter months and what to do when it snows.

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Recently a reader asked how to raise quail through the winter, she lives in Minnesota and it occurred to me this question would be a valuable resource for those interested in raising quail in colder climates.

Raising Quail in the snow is something I haven’t experienced because the winter temperatures in North Texas are pretty mild. However snow can hit our area and when it does this promps creative thinking to provide warm areas for the quail during those times.

The thing to remember all animals have amazing instincts and were blessed with proper insulation to help them survive year-round.

We’re going to first cover some quail facts and then I’ll offer solutions for raising quail in colder temperatures.

The following information can be applied to Coturnix and Bobwhite quail.

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Quail Facts

  • Quail have a short life span/2 -4 years.
  • Quail tend to nest closer together during the off breeding season.
  • Quail nest in tall grass for protection.
  • Quail will use shelter boxes for additional warmth and protection.
  • Quail have resourceful instincts.

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Let’s talk Lifespan and Egg Production

Quail have a short lifespan which means holding a large flock over winter is questionable.  If you’re considering establishing a flock for the purpose of eggs I would also encourage raising for meat.

Quail living on the ground will produce eggs from spring to late fall.  Normally after this time you would harvest the entire or majority of the flock for meat.

By shrinking or removing the flock allows the ground to replenish and detour feed expenses as the birds won’t be producing eggs for the next 4 – 5 months.

 

During This Time you Have 3 Options:

  • Keep the entire flock over winter.
  • Harvest the entire flock prior to winter.
  • Harvest part of the flock prior to winter.

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If keeping a flock over winter is the goal then preparations will be necessary for those cold and snowy winters.  How to proceed will be based on the size of your flock, current quail housing and any exterior available buildings.

 

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For Light and Strong Winters

This habitat is an example of a large outdoor quail run, it’s a favorite and works well for rotational housing.

With mild winters I use shelter boxes for additional protection and sometimes include hay bales to the interior for additional insulation.

For stronger weather like snow I would cover the walls and roof with tarps or plywood to keep the snow from invading their space.

You don’t have to cover the entire run, simply mark off a section and keep the snow from invading their living space.

To make your own shelter boxes read here.

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If you live in areas further north where snow is active for months at a time I would recommend harvesting the entire flock in the late fall after they stop laying eggs.

However, if that’s not an option for you then I would shrink the size of your flock because it is possible several will not survive the winter.  This is unfortunate and it happens even in nature.

Harvesting for meat is a personal choice and if that’s not an option then think about selling your flock on craigslist or if raising a native breed release to nature in the fall before winter sets in.

These are possible solutions if you choose to hold over a small or large flock. The following tips will involve more labor, time and funds to implement.

The Most Sensible Solutions

  • Shrink the flock to one male and 5 or 6 females.
  • Bring the flock indoors – to a shed or barn space.
  • House in a smaller setting – similar to a rabbit cage that is off the ground.
  • Depending on your interior space you could also use a  set up like this.
  • Remember to add additional hay into their interior home to help keep them calm and warm.

 

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How you choose to raise quail through the winter is a personal choice but the goal is to keep them warm.  Hay bales are my favorite resource for insulation and understand that saving a smaller flock over winter makes more sense than a larger one.

My favorite option for where I live would be to downsize the flock for winter and harvest the rest for meat.

This way you have a starter flock for next spring and can begin increasing quail by incubating eggs in the early spring.  Simply repeat incubating until you have the flock size you desire.

With all that being said, sometimes I like to have a break over the winter and if I’m raising bobwhites which are native to our area then I’ll release my flock in the fall and purchase a new batch of chicks in following spring.

The quail I have shared in today’s post are coturnix; they’re the hardiest of all quail breeds and have amazing instincts when given the opportunity to use them.

If you have additional questions referring to raising quail in the snow and winter please leave a comment or email me at gardenupgreen@gmail.com

 

 

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16 comments

  1. Nola Marth says:

    We live in Canada. 100 years ago California Quail were introduced to our area and have gone feral.
    Last year in spring a day old chick was tangled in our neighbours garden netting down at the community garden.
    It was injured, no parents in sight, cold and exhausted. I put her in with our 2 chickens.
    I ground up some seed and chicken starter in the coffee grinder thinking… It will die.
    Nope… She spent the winter on top of the chicken cage in the dining room.
    Directing the world from her window. They are amazing creatures.
    In spring we acclimatized her to the garden again in a bird cage.
    One sunny afternoon she was chatting back and forth with the wild males…
    The hens were seemingly ignoring everything, having a dust bath.
    We opened the cage and Sam wandered out and walked about 20 ft to a clearing.
    In an instant she was surrounded by 1/2 a dozen female quail.
    They had a very polite conversation and then they all turned as one
    and took her along into the underbrush with them. So classy…
    This was her original flock. Did they know her? Wouldn’t surprise me.
    I heard a sound and realized that the patriarch roo was watching this also.
    There is always one male that watches overall.. The younger males control areas.
    Much like elephants actually. Male quail run 3-4 degrees hotter temperature in winter.
    They are required in a covey to warm the flock in a huddle.
    The big boss gave me a long look, an approving sound and then walked away.
    Now all the quail show me their families and I’m treated as safe.
    Birds have a comfort zone around them much like humans.
    They will sit beside you but like to be at least a foot away in front.
    If your flock won’t let you get that close… You are doing something they don’t like.
    Talking loud, moving fast, direct eye contact. Putting your arm down towards them.
    Extending a wing is an act of dominance and aggression.
    Don’t pat your hens on the back. That is where a rooster climbs on.
    Don’t touch their heads… That is where they get dominance smacks.
    Tickle them under their crop if you have to touch them.

    So your advice… Is completely backwards.
    In the wild, flocks build up their numbers for winter.
    Around here they will do 2-3 batches of chicks in a year.
    There seem to be a lot of females born in spring and a lot of males in fall.
    The males guard the flock perimeter and are picked off by any predators.
    They lose a lot of heat through their feet. Metal seems the worst of ideas.
    Keep in mind that if given the choice, quail will not mess in the nest area.
    The wild ones around here live in evergreen trunk wells in the snow.
    If you want to build a cover, make a baffle with a middle hay or straw stuffing.
    With an escape out the back would work. Plant seed holding plants.
    Plant oils are and excellent high protein that creates heat.
    Amaranth, rye, fescue, quinoa. And leave them stand all winter.
    Did you know that the spring hatch is timed to the cottonwood and poplar fluff?
    They have a tiny little oil seed that gives the chicks bone building oil.
    Followed by green shoots that build muscle. All tiny enough for them to eat.

    This winter we have 5 corturnix and 1 bobwhite in residence.
    They have pair bonded into couples. Each pair is in their own 2×3 pet cage.
    They love to kick around a couple of handfuls of straw in a solid bottom.
    I ‘clean the barns’ once a week and toss it all on the garden.
    They have about a 4″ plastic bottom tray that they love to hide behind.
    Even with open doors all day, they don’t visit each other in person.
    Just chat through their open doors at each other.
    They love watching the weather channel, listening to music, eating popcorn
    Mooching apple chunks and pomegranates from me and taking sand baths in a bucket.
    I put the bucket in front of their cage and they run out and hop in…thanks lady!
    Hilarious, entertaining, And still laying an egg 7 days a week.

    Call me goofy… But if you make yourself responsible for a life.
    Kids, critters, employees, friends, family…
    It puts you under obligation to make life as comfortable, safe and fulfilling as possible.
    We are supposed to be modelling the big guy…

    Matthew 6: 25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns — and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan?…

    1. Carole says:

      Great story and thanks for sharing, lots of details but unfortunately I don’t have time to comment on everything. I’ve written about quail behavior previously, this post was not about that topic. How a person chooses to raise their quail depends entirely on their goals. In the states the majority of folks raise Coturnix and bobwhite quail for self reliance. I get that may offend others, reality is some people prefer raising their own food than purchasing from the store. We call it getting back to basics. I don’t raise quail in cages but others do and I was sharing the most sensible way to care for quail in much colder climates than mine. I’m in Texas; I also mentioned we rarely see snow but having growing up in WA State I do have an understanding of how to deal with things when temperature drop. I agree Bobwhite males are amazing and will also incubate and raise their young, I was blessed to experience this over the summer and fall. We’ve also had wild quail visit our farm and hang out near the sanctuary with hopes to join our flock. The males will perch, send out a call to encourage flock growth and it’s always amazing when they show up.

      It sounds like you raise quail as pets and I bet they bring you great comfort. Thanks for sharing and hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and wish you all the best.

  2. This was so interesting to me. Living in Queensland, Australia, we never have to worry about snow. Instead I’m busy preparing for the heatwave that’s about to hit.
    Thanks for sharing this on the Homesteader Hop 🙂

    1. Carole says:

      I hear ya as I’m in Texas and July and August can get scorching here too. I use those shelter boxes for them to cool off and then make sure they have lots of water that I also keep covered from the sun. Making sure they have tall grass is also great because they prefer to snuggle under that to cool off and keep warm.

  3. Jane says:

    Hi Carole, I’ve fallen for your Quail! I think I’d be keeping them…Lol! You always talk about farming with a kind heart and that makes all the difference for me. Looking forward to your new ideas!

    1. Carole says:

      I love my quail and the little ones from my bobwhite flock greet me at the door now. I’m going to do a new post on them soon.

  4. Marilyn says:

    I’m starting my first winter with my small flock of quail. Due to a sneaky predator in the night, I now have 1roo and 3 hens, instead of 4 hens.I also learned my hutch needed smaller wire on the sides of the run and to be lifted off the ground. Bed risers from the local bed and bath store worked perfectly. It’s actually a double hutch with a roofed run on both sides. We keep my sons rabbit on one side and my quail on the other. They seem quite content with each other as neighbors. Sunday, our weather took a drop and we are officially seeing winter temps. I tarped the sides of hutch to help block wind and added extra hay to the nesting area in the back. So far they seem to be doing okay. I’m trying Christmas lights to help with the lack of sunlight we recieve. Thanks for the great advice. A heat lamp may be my next addition.

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks for sharing Marilyn and glad you found this information helpful. Loving the Christmas light idea..

  5. Judy Krieg says:

    Thanks Carole! This Minnesota girl will probably try the thin down option for the first winter. And we will see how it goes from there.

    1. Carole says:

      Awesome! I hope you found this helpful and thanks so much for your question in that other post. If I can help in anyway feel welcome to ask.

  6. Cecilia says:

    You always give such great information. I’m sure this will help anyone considering keeping their flock over winter. How’s the downsizing going? Have you put your farm up for sale yet? It’s going to be interesting deciding what to keep or get rid of when we make the final move. Freeing in many ways but hard too. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1. Carole says:

      The downsizing is good pretty much done I’m just at this point where stuff isn’t the main focus my life anymore, more focused on doing and experiences. Yes the farm is up for sale, posted it on election day if you can believe it. Had a neat couple come look at Sunday and thinking of doing an open house this weekend. Ready to move forward so I can be done sorting through stuff. Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving too!

  7. Jemma says:

    Good Morning Carole,

    Settling back into the swing of things, having all of these newborns in such a short time span is a beautiful and exhausting blessing!

    Great information you have provided us today and I always enjoy seeing your acreage and livestock as well as foul.
    You keep such a tidy Farm, and everything has thrived under your care.
    Looks like the cooler weather has brought the duck population back our way, I love seeing their silhouettes framed in a Texas sunset.

    Hope we can get together for lunch soon,
    Jemma

    1. Carole says:

      You did have an exciting week filled with blessings – congrats!! Been busy scaling down the farm and it’s not always easy to do that. Funny you say a tidy farm because it’s true and when people come here that’s the first thing they say. I guess I learned that from my Grandma too because her place was immaculate inside and out. She always use to say, put your best foot forward, the home represent who you are. So as I’ve traveled through life I’ve taken note of that. I love ducks they are so fun to watch, love it when they take off in flight and return, the landing is always so graceful. Yes lunch would be fun. Kind of crazy here now I’ll send you an email later. In the meantime in case I forget – Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

  8. Patti says:

    They are so cute. Nature is awesome!

    1. Carole says:

      Yes it is – I’ve been graphing out my next quail space for the new property. Have some neat ideas!

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