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Introduction

I imagine many (or even most) people who practice some sort of self-sufficiency involving DIY slaughtering would hold some reservations with the whole process. The subject of DIY slaughtering or even commercial slaughtering is a difficult one but it is part of life. For the majority who eat meat, we shouldn't take for granted the food we consume and home slaughtering has magnified this belief in me. For those who are vegetarian and are appalled by the thought of any animal being slaughtered for human consumption, I respect your views and will never stand on a soapbox trying to convince you otherwise.

I have been growing, cooking, and eating my own quail for several years now and I must say I rate this achievement as one of my best self-sufficient ventures so far. Quail growing suits me because they are an easy meat to produce. For someone who wants to grow animals for food but lacks the expertise, space and/or finances to keep larger livestock, quail is an excellent choice. Also, I kind of like the exoticness about quail, it's long history as a domesticated bird, the fact it's a highly rated restaurant dish, and in Australia keeping quail for food isn't widely common practice so it's an interesting pursuit.

My feelings on Processing Quail

The act of home-growing quail for consumption is 90% fun. The eggs are small, so a backyard incubation set-up can be very low cost ($100-$200) taking up little space to potentially generate 100-plus birds at a time. With a little innovation brooding the tiny chicks (which are just so very cute) is low cost too with a container and a light bulb doing the trick. Children love the chicks (and so do the adults) at the point of hatching a quail chick is no bigger than a USB stick. The chicks are feisty, easy to care for, fun to handle, and as they grow older looking after adult quail doesn't get any harder...Until it's eating time.

This is where the other 10% comes in as the 'not fun' part of home-growing quail for consumption. Let me divulge to you some inner truths about me... I hate killing anything. Sometimes I even have trouble removing a tomato plant from the garden that has self-seeded in the wrong place let alone ending a living creatures life! Kind of strange for someone who did spend 21 tough years in the Army.

Anyway, I do eat meat and I enjoy it; therefore, I figure if I am prepared to accept meat from others (like my local butcher) I should be able to process some of my own meat. However, I draw the line at slaughtering anything bigger than a quail (unless it's a fish – and no, I don't know why). And, that's how come I only have layer chickens rather than meat chickens because I would rather not slaughter and process any land animal from the size of a chicken or bigger. Occasionally, I am required to euthanise one of my hens due to illness etc and I carry the task out reluctantly indeed.

Once, I processed and prepared one of our hens for the table and whilst the family had a finger-licking, lip-smacking feast, I ended up forking my chicken nuggets around the plate like a two-year-old child's first encounter with brussel sprouts. It's not that I feel terribly sorry for the chickens –maybe just a little, more so, the processing (killing, plucking and gutting, to put it bluntly) of the animal suppresses my appetite somewhat. I have heard of people who happily work in abattoirs but then don't eat meat or like to catch fish but feel queasy about eating fish – perhaps psychologically I am similar to them.

Don't get me wrong, processing quail isn't a pleasant experience for me either just because they are small and I can feel a little queasy consuming a quail I have personally murdered. However, I do think I am getting better with time at eating my home butchered quail and I especially like them grilled on my Weber Q peri peri style (which happens to be my next quail post).

Post edit: I should update this article and state that I do slaughter ducks to eat occasionally also, but again, it's not something I have gotten used to doing.   

My way of coping

My main reasons for better tolerating the process to bring quail from the pen to the plate are:

 

  • Quail are simple and quick to kill;

  • Butchering quail is easy and not as 'messy' as other animals;

  • Quail is a short-lived bird and the responsibility is on me to refresh my stock (so in my mind it's a necessity);

  • As a family, quail is one of our favourite foods; and

  • Last, but trivially, quail don't tend to bond with humans like other poultry or animals can.

Justification

So, how do I kill something I have provided for and watched grow? Not easily!

I try to justify the killing in the following ways:

 

  • My animals have been given the best care and have had a good life. Certainly, my quails are kept in conditions far better than quail farms just like home-kept chickens are generally better kept than battery farmed hens.

  • If I don't slaughter my animals someone else has to anyway. Thereby, I know if I do the killing just as my quail have had a good life, they have a quick and painless death also with no travelling or lengthy waits in crammed holding pens or unsatisfactory conditions causing undue stress.

  • As I previously mentioned, I prefer to consciously refresh my quail stock whilst they are healthy rather than wait for them to show signs of ageing and dying (possibly stressfully) through natural or other causes. Although my breeding stock is generally an exception and if they have stopped laying etc I will let them live on and they often pass naturally (usually by sudden heart attack). However, any overstock usually gets the chop within 12 weeks because past this point quail are not great eating and keeping too many birds just for the sake of it costs money plus increases the chances of disease, in-fighting, etc.   

  • And finally, the “that's life” rule meaning I'm a carnivore and there's no way to pretty it up, I eat meat and so does my family, unfortunately for quail, they're part of my food chain.

    Feelings are normal?

Will I ever get totally used to murdering quail? My belief is I am not isolated in feeling this way so I guess my issue with slaughtering my own animals is likely the same as others and therefore probably quite natural. I am not sure if I can become a cold-heartless-killer and then freely enjoy eating at the end of the process but I'm going to persist and hope I improve; because, there's nothing better tasting, fresher, or healthier than home-grown produce... even if you have to murder it yourself.

If you have a view on this subject feel free to start a thread in our forum or leave a comment below.

Look, and see the Earth through her eyes

Mark - Editor SSM

 

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Comments (18)

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 voters
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Hello. I am desperate for information so I'm posting here. I got my first coturnix quail 7 days ago. After the first 24 hours, I have had one die per day. The breeder swears they were healthy and that all of hers and the others she has sold are...

Hello. I am desperate for information so I'm posting here. I got my first coturnix quail 7 days ago. After the first 24 hours, I have had one die per day. The breeder swears they were healthy and that all of hers and the others she has sold are thriving. I got 22 4 week old birds to start with. I asked for all females but she admitted a couple of males may have slipped through. The day after I brought them home, it started raining like it's the end of days for four days straight. I had the birds in a 5 x 4 chicken coop outside and moved them into a barn due to the weather. I noticed the first one struggling. Off to himself, making a lot of noise, eyes closed and wobbling. I had to go to work so I left and when I came back he was on his side and near death. I placed him in a secluded area. In the morning, he was dead and there was a second one dead. Later that day I noticed a third acting the same way. I brought him into the house and put him under a heat lamp. I put him and the rest of the flock on Corid. I switched from well water to bottled water. I changed their feed from chicken feed to game bird feed. I moved the birds from the barn back outside. The one I brought indoors was very strong by morning and was even flying about the room. I put him back in the coop. Later that day a different one was dead. The last two to die died the same way. They would all make it through the day and seem very active and alert. I keep their bedding super dry and change the water a lot. I gave them an electrolyte drink. Every day in mid afternoon I find one dead that seemed just fine in the morning. I have disposed of all the bodies and so I can't confirm if they were male or female. I feel like I have all females now. No birds have shown any signs of injury. I am just at a loss as to what's going on. Any clues at all? Thank you.

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It's difficult to tell to be honest without seeing some pics and getting more information but the birds should have been on a gamebird starter feed from the beginning so that's the first problem as quail can be particular with their feed when...

It's difficult to tell to be honest without seeing some pics and getting more information but the birds should have been on a gamebird starter feed from the beginning so that's the first problem as quail can be particular with their feed when young (or at any time) and as a consequence are prone to starving. Also, larger feeds can lodge in their necks causing problems when they're chicks. It's possible they contracted some virus although quail are pretty hardy and also the stress of moving or high/low temps can cause fatalities in young birds rather quickly. All the best

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Thank you for this thoughtful article. I just started raising quail & had to euthanize my first bird a month ago after she suffered a serious head injury (I think a predator flushed her up during the night). It was not easy, but went well. I...

Thank you for this thoughtful article. I just started raising quail & had to euthanize my first bird a month ago after she suffered a serious head injury (I think a predator flushed her up during the night). It was not easy, but went well. I had trouble sleeping for a few nights. I prepared her for dinner, but couldn't bring myself to eat her for a few days (though she was tender and tasty when I finally tried her). It seems like it is a part of responsible quail raising, but it did cause a lot of conflicting emotions. Thank you again for your article. I've read it half a dozen times in the last month as I process the experience because I know I will have to do it again someday. I'm not sure I can raise then for meat as others do, but there is something reassuring knowing I am able to do what is necessary when the time comes.
Cheers!

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  1. 5 / 5
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Thank you Demi for sharing your experience with us. This article was written nearly 5 years ago now and I still have reservations killing quail (I guess I never have "gotten used it") but I do accept the process because as you wrote "knowing I am...

Thank you Demi for sharing your experience with us. This article was written nearly 5 years ago now and I still have reservations killing quail (I guess I never have "gotten used it") but I do accept the process because as you wrote "knowing I am able to do what is necessary" is reassuring indeed. Some people will say, if you don't like killing quail (or animals in general) then don't keep them for food but this is a very simplistic viewpoint with several obvious and valid counter arguments. You don't have to "like" something to do it and you don't have to do something you don't like either... it's a choice. That's why I won't ever undermine anyone who can't slaughter their own birds because I can understand why they don't want to do it; likewise, I will support those who do kill their own quail for consumption or humane reasons. The main point (in my opinion) is, if we do take life we should always honour the sacrifice because good people don't get "used to" killing anything.

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That's an interesting suggestion but would these chemicals get into the meat? If no residue got into the body of the bird and it was safe to eat and the chemicals safe plus easy to use then this method of killing poultry would definitely be worth...

That's an interesting suggestion but would these chemicals get into the meat? If no residue got into the body of the bird and it was safe to eat and the chemicals safe plus easy to use then this method of killing poultry would definitely be worth considering!

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Gas chambers? Chloroform or ether? Let the animal fall asleep peacefully, then decapitate it. Just a suggestion. The meat may avoid death-panic chemicals.

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Hi Tommy, thank you very much for your comment. Yes, sometimes we must do what is best even though doing it is not very nice. It's normal to feel a little bad whenever you kill an animal for food or even kindness (due to the animal being sick or...

Hi Tommy, thank you very much for your comment. Yes, sometimes we must do what is best even though doing it is not very nice. It's normal to feel a little bad whenever you kill an animal for food or even kindness (due to the animal being sick or something) and I'm glad the article helped. Cheers

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Thx for the information I'm a young quail breeder and love the things when my dad told me i had to kill one i was shocked but after reading this i feel better thx

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Hi Tim, thanks for your incite. I also find it harder to dispatch as I get older (well I assume it's age) - I wonder why that is? Appreciate life more...? I'm not sure. I totally agree with your last sentence you hit the nail on the head nice and...

Hi Tim, thanks for your incite. I also find it harder to dispatch as I get older (well I assume it's age) - I wonder why that is? Appreciate life more...? I'm not sure. I totally agree with your last sentence you hit the nail on the head nice and concisely!

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Mark- as ex-army I am sure your conscience has wrestled with the thought of all killing. Your position is true and pure. The taking of life should never be trivialised. I have absolute respect for the objective stance of the Australian Army....

Mark- as ex-army I am sure your conscience has wrestled with the thought of all killing. Your position is true and pure. The taking of life should never be trivialised. I have absolute respect for the objective stance of the Australian Army. Being on the land does not make cold-blooded killers, nor desensitise. I find despatch harder as I get older, but my purpose has always been pure and objective. It is such a pity when the disconnected and idealists cannot bear the thought of killing for necessity, yet are blind enforcers of political and misguided policies of human attrition.

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Hi Jennifer and thanks so much for commenting. This is one of those articles where a writer/blogger cringes when they go "live" with it. I wasn't sure what people would think about my thoughts and about discussing such a macabre topic as animal...

Hi Jennifer and thanks so much for commenting. This is one of those articles where a writer/blogger cringes when they go "live" with it. I wasn't sure what people would think about my thoughts and about discussing such a macabre topic as animal slaughter. I can say, since the article I am "coping" better with slaughtering my own poultry but I still find it a little distressing. Like I said in my article, one main thing that helps is knowing my animals are happy until the end and the end is swift and professional. Cheers, Mark

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~ Hi. This was very well-written and exactly what I was looking for! I've recently become interested in raising poultry for meat & eggs in Australia (just as my grandparents used to), but am worried if I'll be able to cope with the *cough*...

~ Hi. This was very well-written and exactly what I was looking for! I've recently become interested in raising poultry for meat & eggs in Australia (just as my grandparents used to), but am worried if I'll be able to cope with the *cough* slaughter. On the one hand, it seems natural and "right" to raise and kill your own animals for food. On the other... Well, I'm sure you know what I mean. Anyway, I'll be reading more of your posts in the hopes of learning from your experiences. Thanks for writing down your thoughts!

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