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Quail and Chickens: Deadly Roommates?

January 9, 2014

20130531_214327Microbial resistance to antibiotics is on the rise, in part because of inappropriate use of antibiotics in human medicine but also because of practices in the agricultural industry. Intensive animal production involves giving livestock animals large quantities of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent infection. These uses promote the selection of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations. There are a lot of contradictory statements on the Internet about integrating flocks and with the rise of microbial resistance to antibiotics, it is not recommended to house different species together due to disease transference. Quail, although often said to be disease resistant, can get diseases from other fowl. This in turn can drop population numbers and ruin the gene pool and lines if they are integrated with other fowl.

The question then arises; should quail and chickens be housed in the same pen? The answer is no. Quail, although hardy, can become weak. Quail make wonderful food staples to the self-sufficient life. We want strong and vigorous disease free birds. They have a different diet than chicken, they have a different reproduction period than chicken. They grow fast, reproduce fast, and lay in a matter of 6-7 weeks, if Coturnix. If they are the New World Quail like Bobwhite, they will lay and reproduce the following Spring from which they hatched. Quail require a high-protein diet to thrive, they should be housed off the ground to be free of disease, and away from rain and harsh elements. Not many antibiotics can cure a quail once they get sick … you can lose your entire flock. If Mycoplasma or coryza is present, culling may be needed to preserve your flock. Chicken harbor diseases and ailments  and if housed with a quail, the quail can catch these diseases and may most likely die. 

Many of the horrible diseases we see today are due to the integration of fowl and lack of disease management. Avian influenza is one such disease. The treatment for bird flu is to cull, unfortunately. Dr. Robert Webster, a scientist from St. Jude Hospital, wrote: ““An even more important step would be to reduce the opportunity for interspecies transmission by marketing chickens separately from other avian species.” He mentions  chicken are the cause of many outbreaks. Biosecurity is very important in this matter.

How would you manage housing chicken and quail? I would highly recommend having chicken on one side of your property and the quail in the garage or the other side of the property. That is what I do personally and have not had any issues.

Should quail chicks and chicken chicks be brooded together? This is another question. If you hatch a quail chick and stick it with another species, you are risking your quail. It is recommended to have separate brooders for each species you hatch out or get. Bleaching the brooders, using vinegar, or Oxine will disinfect the brooders before each use. Chicken chicks and quail chicks require different diets at hatch, therefore make sure you have the diets under control. Make sure you wash your hands before handling each species. 

Should you allow chicken to brood and hatch quail eggs? The answer is once again no. The quail eggs are porous and anything the chicken carries can penetrate the shell, and will pass along to the quail. When the egg hatches, the chick will catch anything that broody mama hen has carried in her past. This chick will pass on any disease or resistant strain to the next generation. Many viruses that chicken transfer to quail will in fact lower production to the point of infertility.  

My advice: house quail away from chicken, build up your lines and cull heavily. Produce the very best you can. Quail are neat creatures and if the message is out, we can bring back strong genes and work together to provide people with the best quality bird. 

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Alexandra Douglas is the author of Coturnix Revolution: The Success in Keeping the Versatile Coturnix: Everything you Need to Know about the Japanese Quail. She has also authored a shorter book on Inc...