It occurred to me today that I have told you that I raise quail to eat but had not really told you about the quail themselves. Corturnix or Japanese Quail are a species of Old World Quail (a mid-sized bird in the pheasant family) from East Asia. They breed in Europe, Manchuria, Southeastern Siberia, the Korean Peninsula and northern Japan then migrate south to winter in southern Japan,southern China and even Africa. They are terrestrial and grasslands are their normal habitat.
The first record of domesticated are from 12th century Japan where an Emperor claimed to obtain relief from tuberculosis after eating quail. This caused quail to be bred more for meat and eggs. By 1910 eating quail and quail eggs was widely spread throughout Japan.
Male and female quail can be told apart by the plumage on their breasts. Males will have much redder breast than females. Males also have an odd gravely crow which is rather startling when you first hear it. Males are usually mature by 10 weeks, females slightly sooner at 8 weeks.
Corturnix quail eggs are cream color with brown blotches or speckles. Corturnix are extremely good layers and lay almost daily.
Cortunix will not hatch their own eggs in captivity so an incubator is needed if you are going to raise them from eggs. The eggs take 17 days to hatch and then the quail need to be brooded at slightly lower temperatures than chick though I have brooded quail and chicken chicks together successfully. Quail are said to need game bird starter for the higher protein but I feed mine laying mash and have no problems. I have my breeders in cages we made from hardware cloth and wood; one on top of the other; 4 ft x 18 inches.
Quail can be butchered at any time after they are full grown. I cut the heads off mine, let them bleed out and then wait 5-10 minutes before dry plucking. If you pluck too quickly the skin tears but if you wait too long the feathers don't want to come out. If the skin tears wait a few more minutes. I don't like to skin my quail because they have very little fat on them and need the extra juice the skin provides. We have found we need three quail each to make a satisfying meal. I like to bake my quail with cream of mushroom soup poured over them and extra mushrooms in the pan.
The eggs can be used any way you would use chicken eggs but, of course, you have to use more of them. When I have a lot of them I like to make pickled quail eggs. Today was a day that I had a lot of them. I had a hatch today of 10 more quail and by the time the hatch gets finished and I get the incubator cleaned and ready for more those that had been sitting here would have been bad so I pickled them.
I boiled them just like I would regular eggs and peeled (and peeled, and peeled) them.
Then I used just your standard pickled egg recipe:
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp pickling spice
2 cups white vinegar
2/3 cups water
I also added some chili powder on that never ending quest for a hot pickled egg.