Alas it seems not all yardbirds were created to be equal on this earth. Whilst quail and chickens can certainly be kept in the same vicinity as one another, to keep them in the same enclosure would be a recipe for disaster for several reasons:
- Chickens aren’t known for being particularly aggressive creatures, but nonetheless, quail being the smaller of the two birds makes them vulnerable to attack by the chickens.
- There is some risk of cross contamination of disease, in particular Coryza
- Quail can fly further than chickens, therefore many open topped chicken enclosures will be unsuitable for quail
- Feed requirements differ between the two, and there is no point wasting expensive quail feed on chickens
Keep Quail and Chickens Separated
I’ve never witnessed chickens attacking quail, but I know how they’re prone to behave when a smaller creature does find its way into their pen because I once witnessed a helpless frog get torn limb from limb by my chickens. Not a pleasant sight, and certainly not one I would want to repeat or encourage!
The only way to avoid the chickens attacking the quail is to ensure there is a physical barrier between them. It’s not enough to simply have a separate hen house/roost and feed containers and no dividing fence because, let’s face it, neither bird is intelligent enough to understand the concept of ‘boundaries’!
How Quail and Chicken Living Requirements Differ
The major difference in requirements between chickens and quail stems from the fact that quail are far more competent fliers than chickens. Chickens are known for being able to fly short distances, which can be prevented by clipping their wings, however the same cannot be said for quail. This smaller, lighter and more agile bird will make short work of any fence, such that most open topped chicken enclosures won’t stand a chance of keeping them in, regardless of whether you choose to clip their wings or not.
Arguably you could go to the trouble and expense of putting a mesh roof on top of your enclosure, but for the hassle of doing this you might just as well set up a smaller, dedicated, fully enclosed quail enclosure that takes care of this problem and many others. Interestingly enough, quail only require about 1 square foot of living space per bird in order to be healthy, whereas chickens require about 8 to 10 square foot, so there isn’t a lot to be gained by lumping the two into the same space, when quail only require such a small space of their own.
Besides their propensity to make a quick escape just because they’re anatomically gifted to do so, you might also find that quail kept in amongst chickens will readily try and bolt for the sky whenever a chicken decides to crow particularly loudly. In such a spontaneous event the quail is unlikely to be thinking anything beyond getting the hell out of there, which can result in some fairly disastrous collisions with mesh enclosures, and worse, the hard ceiling of a hen house.
Then there’s the subject of poop: chicken poop is pretty nasty stuff at the best of times, and when diarrhea comes into the equation the grossness factor goes up tenfold! Whilst chickens can easily side step the stuff, quail are much smaller and more prone to getting covered in it which isn’t nice for them or you should you need to clean it off.
How Quail and Chicken Feed Requirements Differ
Whilst chickens will gladly gobble up just about anything and still produce good quality eggs, quail require a much higher quality feed. The only exception would be if you were rearing quail simply for meat, in this case you can get away with feeding them cheaper chicken feed.
For quail to produce good quality eggs requires quail layers pellets, which are generally speaking more expensive than chicken feed. Given that it’s more expensive than chicken feed, the last thing you want is for your chickens to go and eat it. Naturally of course, if you quail and chickens are bunking in together there will be nothing to stop your chickens gobbling up the quail feed, and the quail will be largely helpless to stop it.
Coryza is a nasty infection that affects poultry the world over, characterized by similar symptoms to those that humans might suffer with a cold or flu, such as respiratory infection and nasal discharge. Unlike a cold or flu however, coryza can often be fatal to chickens, with up to 20% of cases leading to death.
There’s some dispute over whether or not quail can be affected by the same bacteria that causes coryza, or whether chickens pass on similar infections that have similar symptoms. Either way it is well documented that quail often soon fall ill when relocated to live alongside chickens, regardless of whether the chickens appear to be ill themselves or not.
Being the smaller of the two creatures, quail inevitably suffer more severely than chickens, so your quail population might be killed off by an outbreak, whereas your chickens may well survive.
There are vaccines available to those whose chickens experience regular outbreaks of coryza, however this is unnecessary for most non professional keepers. The most important thing is to maintain good practice in terms of cleanliness, ensuring that drinking water is regularly changed and enclosures regularly cleaned of droppings.
And of course in this case, most importantly of all, keep your quail completely separated from your chickens.
The Exception To The Rule
Just like anything based on individual experience, there will be some people who claim never to have witnessed animus behaviour from their chickens towards their quail, and have them happily roam freely together. Whilst I believe this is probably rare, I can see that in circumstances where the chickens and quail occupy a very large area (in an open farmyard for example) they might be sufficiently spaced apart so as not to get in each other’s way, but even then I wouldn’t risk it.