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Urban Farming: Alternatives to Backyard Chickens

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Urban Farming: Alternatives to Backyard Chickens

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.

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Read more: Eco-friendly tips, Everyday Pet Care, Green, Humor & Inspiration, Lawns & Gardens, Less Common Pets, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, Pets, ,

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62 comments

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12:27PM PST on Jan 11, 2014

thanks for the article. Im wondering how high quail go when they are scared? (Wondering if I could keep them in a backyard loose which has a high fence).

I used to keep a few chickens in my backyard who I allowed to roam free in it (only one ever flew over the fence once when I was away for a couple of days.. so it appears if they are happy they shouldnt wander far). I also had a duck (until a spider bit it).

Anyway.. the quails have my interest esp since now I only foster indoor cats for the rescue.

12:49AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

We now have 4 hens at our organic farm in New Jersey : )

4:04AM PDT on Sep 8, 2012

Another possible pet.

4:21PM PDT on Aug 4, 2012

Dale O., you seem quite defensive about eating meat. I'll agree that there are far less destructive and cruel ways to include meat in one's diet than eating meat 3 times a day sourced from factory farms.

The problem is that the huge majority of meat consumed does come from these horrible farms, and many people eat way too much of it. So the problems that people point out associated with meat are very real, regardless if a small % of people don't patronize factory farms.

9:45PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Dale dont put ideas in your head,cause you are gonna watch them on the Animal Planet :P
sweet potatoes..lol!

4:44PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Hmmm ...

3:03AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Interesting ideas...

12:48AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

This is interesting.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

What does eating meat have to do with raising urban poultry? I will eat meat when and if I want. Eat your broccoli if you wish but do not tell me what I can and cannot eat. My meat is organically raised, non-factory farm, free range along with my veggies which are GMO and pesticide free. What next, travelling to Africa and asking the Lion to consume sweet potatoes? Hold one out for him and see if he will gladly switch his zebra and other meat diet for veggies.

I also enjoy organic free range poultry and eggs are tasty as well. Mind your canine manners!

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Chickens on the farm were certainly characters, running free range and enjoying themselves having many things to do. At night they went into the small barn to keep them safe from Roach The Weasel (big fangs and he loved chickens) and other predators.

Urban chickens and quails don't have as much space to roam (not that the chickens used the entire 100 acres) but quails and chickens, ducks are delightful.

People are not going to give up eggs, if you don't wish to eat them then don't. Unless one eats tons of eggs every day there is nothing unhealthy about it. Unless there are roosters around, the eggs don't become cute fuzzy chicks. Some people eat chickens, quails, meat and yes, eggs. If eggs aren't on your menu, try an avocado and leave the rest of us alone!

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