Tennessee red quails, variants of bobwhite quails (Colinus virginianus), stand out for their handsome coloration, large size and resistance to disease. Because of their size and their feisty personalities, Tennessee red quails need more space than other bobwhites. They also tend to be more aggressive than other bobwhites, so don’t keep them with other poultry.
The cheapest way to acquire quails of any sort, besides adoption from an animal sanctuary, is to buy eggs and hatch them yourself. The main drawback with eggs is that you won’t know the sex of the offspring and might end up with too many males. You need about three females for each male to help avoid fighting. Given the nature of this variety, it is definitely better to have too many females rather than too few. Hatching eggs requires an incubator set at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the eggs daily. When they hatch, chicks without a mother should be kept in a shelter for the first two months, with a heat lamp whose output you'll gradually reduce.
Because of their feisty nature, Tennessee red quails need as much space as possible -- at least 2 square feet of floor space per quail, but preferably more. Free-ranging is an option, provided local regulations allow it and your neighbors don’t object. Bear in mind, some of your quails are likely to be picked off by predators -- quails are small enough to make tasty snacks for all sorts of animals. All quails, free-range or otherwise, need a secure shelter to sleep in. A standard chicken coop should do, provided it is predator-proof. Use straw or wood shavings as bedding.
The antisocial aspect of Tennessee red quails seems to apply to humans -- if you are after affectionate pet quails, choose a different variety and raise them from small chicks. Otherwise, care is straightforward. Feed the birds and change their water daily, shoveling any droppings at the same time. These dropping are rich in nutrients and useful in your garden. The same goes for their bedding, which you should change at least once a week.
Food and Drink
Drowning is a danger for quail chicks; they must be able to reach the water, so most bowls won’t do. A shallow dish with pebbles in it is a cheap option, or you can buy custom quail waterers. Feed chicks on a quail chick starter and gradually transition them to adult food once they are about 4 weeks old. Supplement the basic diet with fresh produce. The birds will eat the odd bug in their pen, but even free-range quail probably won’t find enough food to provide a full, balanced diet.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.