By s.e. smith, Networx
When most people hear poultry at home, they think of chickens, thanks to the current trend of urban cluckers. It turns out that there are a lot more options than that, and I talked to Mendocino County organic farmer Gowan Batist, about some of the varied poultry people can keep at home, including some birds that can be kept indoors, for urban gardeners with especially limited space. (For information on urban goat herding with minimal space and plumbing, Bay Area urban farmer, Kitty Sharkey, advises.)
Meet the coturnix quail, Gowan’s personal favorite.
“I would really love to see quail replace chickens as the urban poultry of choice,” she explains, pointing out that their overall needs are much lower than those of chickens, while they reliably produce delicious, high-quality eggs. Coturnix quail can be comfortably kept in a large terrarium or hamster cage inside or outdoors, and there are usually no municipal limitations on keeping them, which is not always the case with chickens.
These small birds mature quickly, eating a mixture of poultry scratch and egg-laying mixture. Like chickens, they can also eat food leftovers; they particularly fancy salad greens. They’re also easy to tractor, for people working with poultry in their gardens, and unlike chickens, they don’t need a lot of vertical height to feel comfortable. In fact, they prefer low cages with some hiding spots, because they’re ground-dwellers.
Coturnix quail eggs are available for people who want to hatch at home, and it’s also possible to buy through a breeder. She does warn would-be quail keepers to watch out, because the birds are startle fliers, meaning that they will fly straight up when alarmed. It can help to keep them in a pen accessed through the side, and to be careful when moving them to reduce the risk of injuries; if the roof of a pen is high enough, coturnix quail can actually break their necks when they leap up out of fright.