The short answer to "can I keep quail and chickens together" is NO.
However, I do understand why people would ponder the thought of keeping quail and chickens together because why have two pens when you could simply have one? Well, there are some very good reasons why people shouldn't house these birds in the same pen and in this short article I'll outline the main ones.
Our quail pen is a separate enclosure within our chicken pen (image above)
The reasons why you shouldn't keep these two beautiful species of domestic poultry together in the same pen are:
- Chickens might kill the quail – I once saw the aftermath of what happened to a sparrow that unfortunately fell into my chicken pen (I suspect it had broken a wing) and without going too much into detail all I could see was a frenzy of hens and when I got down to the pen all that was left of the sparrow was bloodied feathers and bones! Having said that, whenever my quail have come into contact with my hens (usually by accident) the chickens haven't been over aggressive towards them apart from the odd peck; however, I wouldn't trust keeping them together full time.
- Quail can fly further than a chicken – Most people let their chickens out of their enclosures at times to free-range or stretch their legs in the backyard etc. So if there's a mixed flock of chickens and quail it's much harder to manage because if the quail get out of the enclosure it's likely they'll be off and flying. Quail can fly 50 metres in one go given the right conditions and that's a long way particularly on a small property. Most chickens on the other hand, can't fly much at all and can be contained by a neck high fence whereas quail will fly over. The only way it could be done is if you were keeping chickens in an enclosed pen and never let them out. Even then, you'd have to be very careful not to inadvertently release the quail when collecting the chicken eggs or attending to the pen.
- Chickens eat quail eggs – That's right, chickens LOVE quail eggs and they soon work out how to break them and eat the quail eggs shell and all! Therefore, if you are keeping quail to breed or you want to eat the eggs they provide then you can't have chickens in the same enclosure or you'll have no eggs.
- Pen construction for quail and chickens is different – Generally, a quail pen is constructed with small holed aviary mesh whereas most chicken pens are made with chicken wire/mesh. The reason why quail have a smaller mesh is because quail can be targeted by snakes and rodents as an easy food source. Even small snakes that can get through chicken mesh can swallow a quail and rats (as I've stated in many videos and articles before) are the mortal enemy of quail and will kill them. I suppose you could waste money and build the full chicken enclosure out of aviary mesh but for the reasons above and below the case for not keeping these birds together has clearly been made…
- Feed requirements – Quail and chickens require different feed so keeping them in the same pen would cause a multitude of problems. Quail feed is higher in protein than chicken feed and although hens do like to eat quail feed, it's not good for them to eat too much of it. What would happen is the hens would eat all the quail feed and because quail don't care much for chicken feed (especially the larger pellets) the quail would be under nourished so you'd have a mixed flock of fat hens and skinny quail.
I could go on and write more persuasive reasons why keeping quail and chickens together is not a good idea but I think I have covered the main areas and made my point.
Keeping both quail and chickens in the same pen is only fine if the quail are isolated within their own pen within the chicken pen and that's the set-up I have at my place. In other words, quail and chickens should be kept separately.