Aside from the fact that quail eggs are gloriously adorable, there are quite a few other reasons to consider getting your hands on these little gems.
Quail are easy birds to keep and care for, and since they are considered game birds, they can also be kept in some cities where chickens are not allowed. Someone who is dying to raise their own meat and eggs, but lacks the space for chickens can easily keep a handful of quail to satisfy their desire to be more self-sufficient.
Incredibly, there are many different types of eggs in the world, and yet, most people only eat chicken eggs. Some are even uncomfortable thinking about eating any other egg than the ones found in the grocery aisle. Unfortunately, those are also the people missing out on the taste and nutritional benefits of different kinds of eggs, specifically quail eggs.
What Do Quail Eggs Look Like?
If you are raising quail and chicken together, you’ll definitely notice how different the eggs are. When comparing a quail egg to a chicken egg, you will have to hold back your instinct to “awwww” at the adorable little speckled quail eggs. They are reminiscent of a malted milk ball in the shape of an egg during the springtime candy surge.
Compared to a duck egg, the quail’s egg looks like a little jelly bean, and if you have Button quail, they literally are the size of a jelly bean. However, the Button quail is not kept for egg production and slightly more of a pet than anything else.
The quail egg is considered to be a pee-wee-sized egg and is shaped like a chicken egg—just smaller. They are cream-colored with a variety of speckles and spots splashed over the shell. The eggs look as though a three-year-old took a paintbrush and splashed brownish paint all over the little eggs.
Since everything else about quail eggs is smaller than a chicken egg, you might think that there are also less of them. On the contrary, quails are prolific layers, and some breed can lay up to 300 eggs per laying season.
What’s more, is some breeds will begin laying eggs at 6 weeks of age. Compare that to the 24 weeks it takes for chickens and ducks, and you will quickly see how nice it is to have fresh eggs quickly.
While it can seem impressive for a quail to outlay some chickens, it is worth noting that a quail’s life span is approximately 2 years compared to the lifespan of a chicken or duck at around 8 years. So you get a lot of eggs in a short amount of time, especially if you have a breed like the Japanese quail, which has been known to lay an egg per day.
Additionally, as you will see, you need more quail eggs to make up for a single chicken egg, and even more for a duck egg. So, you have to weigh out whether you think you are getting a deal or not for your quail eggs.
On the other end of the spectrum, ducks usually lay half the amount of quail eggs per year (around 180), but again, you need many more quail eggs in place of a large duck egg.
Collecting Quail Eggs
Now you know your quail lay a lot of eggs, and maybe even more than chickens you raise, but where do they lay them, and how do you find them?
Unlike chickens, and more like ducks, quail are ground birds and enjoy nesting in the ground amongst grasses and shrubs. With that being said, quail aren’t very picky about where they lay their eggs and don’t need to have a nesting box like chickens do. Instead, they would prefer a bit of straw or even sand to lay their eggs in, if they are feeling organized. Otherwise, they may just plop their eggs wherever they happen to be at the time.
If you raise quail in a quail cage, you can purchase cages that have a built-in tray with a slant that allows new eggs to gently roll down and out of the cage. The tray prevents the tiny eggs from getting dirty and trampled by quail, and make them easier to collect.
If you keep your quail in a ground pen, or free-range, you may have a harder time tracking down your lovely little eggs. Your best bet is to check quiet areas that are grassy or have a lot of straw. Depending on your hens’ personalities, they may not even seek out a special place to lay, unless they are broody.
What Do Quail Eat?
You might wonder why this is relevant to eggs, but it really is, because what your birds consume has a lot to do with the nutritional value and taste of the eggs you eat.
Quail get most of their diet out of seeds and grains, with the addition of other proteins like bugs and grubs. If you free-range your quail, chickens, or ducks, their eggs will be much richer than what you might find from a grocery store egg.
When birds have access to their natural diet, you can usually tell the difference in the eggs due to color and flavor. Yolks are brighter, more orange, and the taste isn’t as bland as store-bought eggs.
The thing about quail eggs is that they aren’t very easy to come by, so most of the quail eggs you find will be from neighbors, friends, farmer’s markets, or high-end food stores. This probably means that any quail eggs you eat will be relatively fresh and non-commercialized. However, most keep quail in cages rather than ground pens or as free-range due to their size and the number of natural predators a quail has.
Taste of Quail Eggs
There is a common misconception that quail eggs taste different than chicken or duck eggs when in reality, all three eggs have very similar tastes (depending upon how they were raised).
Quail eggs are not gamey in flavor, as some might suggest. The most significant difference isn’t in taste but in consistency. Similar to eggs of a Guinea fowl, quail eggs have a high yolk-to-egg white ratio. Which means the eggs come out much thicker, and creamier when used for cooking or baking.
There are plenty of converts who have tasted quail eggs and will never go back to chicken eggs just due to the creaminess of their texture. To sum it up, quail eggs are lighter in flavor than duck eggs and creamier in composition than chicken eggs.
Which Breed is Best for Eggs?
There are about 5 different breeds that are most common amongst quail owners, and some are more suitable for egg laying than others. For example, the Button Quail is more of a pet, and won’t often be raised for their teeny tiny eggs. The Coturnix quail is a fantastic meat bird due to its rapid growth and meat-heavy carcass.
The quail that is most often touted for its ability to lay many eggs, and early, is the Japanese quail. This breed, similar to the Coturnix, matures at about 6 weeks of age and begins laying shortly thereafter. The Japanese quail will live about 2 years and lay around 200+ eggs their first year.
Selling Quail Eggs for Profit
If you are thinking of selling your quail eggs at farmer’s markets, grocery stores, or restaurants you can usually ask a premium for them, as they are still considered to be quite exotic and rare. They even appear a tad more expensive than a chicken or duck egg, so don’t be afraid to ask a little more for them.
Selling eggs from your home can be an excellent way to recoup feed costs, or make a little extra cash, but some states have permits and licenses that are required before you can sell your eggs. This is to ensure the safety of the consumer when purchasing your products. Local, state, and even federal laws can vary, so always do your research before setting up your roadside stand or contact restaurants. Usually, there’s a bit of red tape involved, but once you have it out of the way, it becomes much easier, and less stressful knowing you are following the rules.
The Benefits of Quail Eggs
Quail eggs pack a protein-punch, especially for their size. And according to the USDA Food Composition Database, when comparing chicken eggs to quail eggs, they are higher in B12 and protein. When reviewing these charts, remember to take into consideration ratios of eggs due to size differences.
So, when you consider the size of the quail eggs, they actually do cram more vitamins and minerals into a smaller package. However, due to the high yolk-to-egg white ratio, they are higher in cholesterol— but this is considered to be good cholesterol and not as harmful as initially thought.
Plus, you can always skip the egg yolk and simply eat the egg whites instead—although it will take quite a few quail eggs to make up a complete meal of egg whites!
Eating quail eggs may help support the nervous, digestive, and respiratory systems due to high vitamin content. And since quail eggs are considered to be antioxidants, they may also assist in the elimination of harmful toxins.
These tiny eggs may help those with low red cell counts, or anemia, by increasing the red blood cells. In comparison to chicken eggs, quail eggs have two times as much iron!
Some studies show quail eggs may assist in combating allergies due to the homogenate structure of the cells in the eggs. You can read more about this research here.
Lastly, the protein-punch packed by quail eggs is impressive. Just go easy on them, because they do still have that large amount of cholesterol.
How to Eat Quail Eggs
Oh, let me count the ways. You can eat quail eggs precisely the same way you eat chicken or duck eggs. The only caveat is that you need more of them if you are looking to replace a chicken or duck egg with a quail egg.
Substituting Quail Eggs for Chicken or Duck Eggs
If you are replacing a chicken egg with quail eggs, you need at least three eggs. And if you have a large duck egg, you will need even more. If you are in a situation where a recipe calls for a specific amount of chicken eggs, you can always use a food scale to weigh your eggs to ensure your recipe doesn’t flop.
Cracking Your Quail Eggs
Though they may be small, quail eggs are not as fragile as you might thing. In fact, the membrane inside the shell is much firmer than a chicken or duck egg. To open a quail egg, you cannot merely crack it on the side of a bowl or your countertop. Instead, you should use a serrated, or paring, knife to saw the top of the egg off.
How Long to Boil Quail Eggs
As you may have guessed it takes a lot less time for a little quail egg to boil than a chicken egg. You should only boil your quail eggs for 2 minutes, and then remove them from the water and run them under cold water.
Boiled quail eggs will be a bit more difficult to peel than a chicken egg, but because they are now firm, the membrane does not pose as much of a problem as it did as a raw egg.
Imagine using your small hard-boiled quail eggs in salads, sandwiches, as a garnish, pickled, and as poppable deviled eggs. Yum!
How to Use Quail Eggs for Baking
As long as you compensate for the size difference, you can replace chicken eggs with quail eggs for baking anything. If the dish is extremely egg-heavy, and you’ve had to use a lot of quail eggs, you can consider adding a few minutes to the timer due to the heft of the yolk-to-white ratio in your quail eggs.
Overall, quail eggs aren’t much different than other types of eggs we consume daily. With that being said, they do have their benefits.
Aside from being adorable and fun to serve, these little eggs will provide your family with tons of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. So, why not start your own small covey of quail?