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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org