When it comes to backyard birds, it would be wonderful to adopt the mantra, “The more, the merrier.”
In the case of many types of barnyard poultry, it is easy to keep a melting pot of birds together, and while it’s possible to raise both quail and chickens on your farm, it’s not such a good idea to raise them in the same space—unless you have ensured the safety of the quail.
Why Quail and Chickens Shouldn’t Be Raised Together
When I say raised together, I mean in the same space, where they can have direct contact with each other. Anyone can keep chickens and quail on the same property without problems, as long as they are not kept in the same pen. Keeping them at least 50 feet from one another will ensure that there will not be any of the following problems amongst your flock and covey of quail:
1. Disease Can Be Passed From Chickens to Quail
With any poultry, diseases that are passed from one bird to another is inevitable. Some of the deadliest illnesses passed between species are passed from wild birds to domestic birds. When something like this happens, humans have very little control over the situation.
There are diseases that chickens can carry that have little to no effect on the chook carrier but can kill a quail if they contract it. A common disease passed between chickens and quail is called Coryza, and no this isn’t a fancy exotic dish from your favorite 5-star restaurant, it’s a deadly disease.
As for the coryza disease, you may or may not be able to tell if your chickens have it—sometimes symptoms present themselves in chooks, and sometimes they are merely carriers. Some things to watch for, in both chickens and quail, are:
- Pale Combs and Wattles
- Swollen Face
- Swollen Eyes
- Not Eating or Drinking
- No Longer Laying
Both species of bird can be treated with antibiotics, but the disease will remain with them for life and can be passed from bird to bird. Quail are more difficult to treat than chickens, and the prognosis is usually death.
In short, you can take your chances by housing your quail near your chickens but, if you prefer the better safe than sorry approach, you gotta keep em separated.
2. Chickens Are Bullies
Now now, I know you love your chooks, so don’t get upset here, but you’ve seen them working out their pecking order, and know very well they can get a little too rough with each other. There is no difference between chickens and quail when it comes to the importance of a pecking order.
If you were to keep your little quail with your chickens, they would be on the bottom of the pecking order. Quail may not get access to feed, they could be injured, or even killed by an aggressive hen or rooster. As gruesome as it sounds, chickens may even like to eat quail; remember, chickens are omnivores.
Quail are just too small to be able to establish themselves in a small space with a large flock of chickens. So, to be fair, give them their own coop where they can develop their own pecking order.
3. Quail Fly High
Yes, chickens can fly too…kind of, but quail are faster and more agile. If you try to keep them in a pen together, you have to be ready to deal with the different flight behaviors of both species.
Chickens may try to clumsily dodge their way between your feet and out of the coop, while quail can fly straight up and out if you don’t have a proper “cover” for your coop. What’s worse, escaped quail may not return if they don’t feel like it, or due to the number of predators a quail might encounter once free.
4. Chickens Like to Eat Quail Eggs
If you’ve ever had a problem with chickens eating their own eggs, quail eggs are going to be a much bigger issue for you.
Chickens are remarkably curious birds, and, to a chicken, a little quail egg is just dying to be pecked. You will lose a lot of delectable eggs to your chickens’ inquisitive nature.
When chickens have a taste of quail egg, they will undoubtedly be back for more of the same. If you aren’t raising your quail for eggs, perhaps this doesn’t bother you; however, would it bother you if your chickens picked up a different bad habit from eating quail eggs—like eating their own eggs?
Chickens know an egg is an egg, so it’s quite possible that after consuming quail eggs, they would start pursuing their own eggs; egg-eating is a challenging behavior to break.
5. Different Feed Requirements
Quail have a different diet than chickens: they are granivores, meaning the majority of their diet consists of grains and seeds. They don’t mind a few bugs or insects from time to time, but they need a specifically formulated food (Game Bird Feed) to thrive.
It can be tricky to keep chickens out of quail feed and vice versa, and the only way to ensure each is eating what they need to remain healthy and productive is to keep them in separate coops.
It’s Possible to Raise Chickens and Quail Together, But Not Easy
So, now you know why you probably don’t want to keep your chooks with your quails, but let’s look at a few scenarios where it MIGHT be ok.
1. If Quail and Chickens Were Raised Together
If your chickens and quail were raised in the same brooder, they might tolerate each other as they grow. However, due to their different instinctual behaviors, they may not mesh well as they age. Some have kept quail and chickens together in this kind of scenario; however, the problem of feed requirements hasn’t been solved…unless they are free-range when they are older. Still, quail require a different feed as a chick than a chicken chick, so ensuring each gets what they need can prove to be nearly impossible.
2. If the Quail are Kept With Bantams
Bantams are small chickens, and quail can most likely hold their own against an aggressive banty chicken, especially if you keep the small bantam breeds. However, if you have a nasty bantam rooster, you will most likely lose quail to the aggressive roo.
3. Free-Ranging Quails and Chickens Together
A free-range scenario might be one of the most plausible options for those who are confident they can pull off raising both quail and chickens in the same space, but only if there is ample room. The two types of birds will form their own flocks and coveys and will most likely stay out of each other’s feathers.
Feeding your birds separately will continue to be an issue, and the concern for diseases does not go away. You can, however, teach your quail to recall in the evenings—the process of releasing quail, and leaving a few hens behind in the cage to call the free-range birds back in the evening—until they know where home is. It’s possible, but not always as easy as it sounds.
On the other hand, if you have chickens, you know they love to check out uncharted territory around the yard, and free-range chickens will undoubtedly take a look in the quails’ pen for any goodies that may have gone overlooked by your quail. Therefore, they are leaving droppings, and possible disease and bacteria, for the quail to contract when they return at the end of the day.
Some people raise quail and chickens together, and most of them do so on a free-range basis; however, it is worth nothing that quail do not free-range as smoothly as chickens, and they have many more predators to be concerned about.
In a nutshell, it may be easier, and safer, to raise these two species of birds separately; however, if you understand the problems can arise, you can come up with your own solutions to combat anything.