Updated: Aug 5
A Native Species of Bird Deserving Attention
Northern Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) are ground-dwelling bird native to Canada. While they are a popular quail breed for hunting and training game bird dogs, their conservation status is listed as "near threatened" with their population decreasing (Wikipedia, 2022). With their stunning "wild" appearance and their soothing whistle-like call, Northern Bobwhite Quails produce nutrient-packed "super" eggs, making them a great alternative to raising chickens.
The newest additions, four-week-old Northern Bobwhite Quail chicks, enjoying their roosting bars in their modern coop with caged run.
Due to their conversation status and their native origins, the Northern Bobwhite Quail fit in perfectly with our other Indigenous heritage breeds at The Red Pony Stands. These two factors alone are what sold us on adding them to our livestock, but it turns out their eggs and manure also make them desirable from a sustainability perspective. In addition to their unique beauty, these quails are extremely cold hardy, making them a delight to keep all year round.
Little But Mighty Eggs
Quail eggs are smaller than chicken eggs (about three quail eggs equals one regular chicken egg) but contain significantly more fat, protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 by weight, which is no wonder why they are labelled as a "superfood" by some food enthusiasts. For example, quail eggs contain double the amount of iron and provide over 77% more vitamin B12 than chicken eggs (see www.thehappychickencoop.com for a detailed nutritional value comparison). The Northern Bobwhite Quail egg is all-white, as opposed the artsy spotted egg of their early-maturing Coturnix cousins. At about 22-24 weeks of age, Northern Bobwhite Quail begin producing eggs at a one-egg-a-day rate. One quail egg a day keeps the doctor away!
Personally, we love the idea of gathering fresh quail eggs right outside our door every morning as opposed to purchasing non-organic 24-packs of Coturnix Quail eggs from the grocery store at $4.99 CND plus tax, a price tag which is likely to increase further due to the current Avian Flu outbreak. But it is less about the cost and more about the pride in raising native birds, relying on unmedicated natural feed, and knowing exactly where some of our food is coming from.
Our modern Northern Bobwhite Quail coop with four nesting boxes and an attached wire run for foraging access and plenty of light.
Northern Bobwhite Quails have a fairly small space requirement per bird (though we encourage caretakers to exceed the minimum, where possible) and their quiet demeanour and soft, infrequent calls makes them ideal for the urban backyard farmer.
High Quality Fertilizer
It turns out that quail manure makes really good organic fertilizer for the garden. According to www.HayFarmGuy.com, quail manure contains higher nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) compared to chickens and other farm birds. Here is the handy NPK ratio comparison for common poultry and livestock manure (and as an added bonus, quails make more of it per bird too!):
If that isn't compelling enough, raw quail manure is apparently more nutritionally dense and less likely to harm garden plants because it is more fluid (or diluted) than other poultry manures (while not affecting its nutrient content), meaning it can be applied directly to fruits and veggies. Or, it can be composted and applied as decomposed organic matter (www.HayFarmGuy.com).
Northern Bobwhite Quail manure is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium & is a safe fertilizer for gardens.
If you have been following us on Instagram (@theredponyfarmstead), you would have noticed that we have recently constructed raised garden beds out of recycled, heat-treated pallets (for virtually free!). Since learning about the benefits of quail manure for our 60'x25' organic garden, we plan on building portable wire cages that can be placed right on top of the raised beds for the purpose of fertilization. If that isn't low cost, low maintenance, we don't know what is! To top is all off, we have installed a rain catchment system and a solar panel to power a heated waterer during the chilly winter months.
Portable quail cages with a unique triangular design (Source: Kijiji, 2022)
Don't get us wrong, chickens are great for many reasons and Northern Bobwhite Quails have their own considerations to keep in mind (e.g., high protein and calcium feed requirements, less meat per bird [if harvesting], seasonal layers, just to name a few). But for us at The Red Pony Stands, the reciprocal relationship of preserving a declining native species of bird while providing nutritious farm-grown food for our family is a "win-win" in the sustainability books that checks all of our (nesting) boxes.