To Bird or not to Bird...
My family loves raising quail. Our birds wormed their way into our hearts and help alleviate my farming itch. I've been writing about quail weekly for a few months and this article is an attempt to help balance enthusiasm with reality. Without further ado, here are my top 5 reasons why you should NOT raise quail.
Reason 1 - Vacations require more coordination
As with any pet, raising quail requires a commitment. They must be routinely fed and cared for. Therefore, every vacation requires finding a 'quail sitter'. You can't simply leave them unattended for the weekend. Furthermore, you may find the number of quail sitters limited as many people would rather not deal with cleaning dropping pans.
Reason 2 - Legal ambiguity
We initially found our interest in quail as an alternative to the legally restricted activity of raising chickens. Quail are a gamebird (instead of poultry). City code specifically bans poultry, but makes no mention of gamebirds. We believed (and still do) that raising quail is within the legal boundaries. However, we've recently discovered that animal control disagrees. Please note that the individual that we've been working with has been very accommodating and polite. They actually agree that quail are fully city code, but state that they are not allowed under county code. The frustrating part is that they can't actually point to any part of the county code to support them. So, please be aware that in PG County, no quail (not even the Button quail that you find in pet shops) are legal according to the unelected officials interpreting the law to us. Thankfully, in Anne Arundel county (where we are actively attempting to move) the law very clearly enumerates your animal rights. All this to say that your harmless attempt at basic homesteading may come to a sudden end due to an overzealous official.
Reason 3 - You have to be comfortable with poop
Quail poop is a resource. You can think of it as free fertilizer. However, if you grow up in a city environment (like me), you will probably be put off with the daily poop cleaning. Naturally, poop also attracts flies.
In addition to the poop catching trays (assuming a setup similar to mine), our quail like to poop into their water containers. This simply takes talent as they are pooping through the wall of their cage into the water container. Obviously, to maintain a healthy environment, cleaning out the water troughs is a must.
Reason 4 - Slaughtering a live animal is unpleasant
In America especially (but through most of the first world countries) we are blissfully detached from the nasty necessities of putting meat on the table. Quite simply, a creature has to die for you to enjoy a hot dog, burger, or steak. I have no problem with this, but I do believe that people in general should be more in touch with the cost of their food. Specifically, that their subsistence is coming at the cost of shed blood.
The first live bird that I butchered was a nerve racking experience as I'm trying to make the process as painless as possible for the bird. After the fatal snip, expect the bird to convulse, blood to squirt, and muscles to twitch. Cutting through tendons can cause the feet to clasp. All in all, I consider butchering an unpleasant, but necessary reality.
Reason 5 - Quail can be emotionally taxing
You've invested a lot into your quail. You probably put in hours of research before even purchasing an egg. You may have been turning your eggs religiously for the past three weeks. You've felt the elation of hearing tiny chirps coming from your eggs. You have seen your first quail hatch. Now, you check on your birds and see that one has died because your water container is a bit too deep. This is simply gut-wrenching as you feel personally responsible for your quail. After a few more die (maybe due to birth defects or other first-time mistakes) you start to wonder how everything is going so horribly. Will any of the birds end up surviving? This is very common for beginners and it can be extremely taxing.
The decision is ultimately up to you. Raising quail is not without cost. My personal opinion is that they are worth every inconvenience. Regardless of what you decide, hopefully you find this post helpful.
Best wishes to whatever you decide to pursue!