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I have been keeping, breeding, and showing various breeds of poultry for around 20 years or so. Quail are certainly one of my favorite birds to keep.
One of the joys of keeping quail is that they can be kept in a relatively small space. Unlike ducks or geese, quail can be kept in an enclosure that offers each bird just a few square feet.
One question I frequently receive from those thinking of keeping quail is ‘Do quail smell?’.
Do Quail Smell?
In my experience, yes quail can smell if their enclosure is not cleaned out on a regular basis. Quail are generally kept in smaller quarters than chickens, ducks, or geese, and as such their droppings tend to be more concentrated and cause more of a smell. Typically, wet quail dropping smell more than dry ones.
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Like all birds, quail pass their urine and poop at the same time. They do not have the ability to urinate separately as mammals do. This typically leads to their poop being fairly wet.
When keeping quail, it is the wet poop that gives off the smell. Once the poop dries out the smell disappears almost totally.
The secret to stopping quails smelling is to either clean them out daily, or at least every other day, or find some way to make sure their poop dries as quickly as possible after the quail have passed it.
How Often should you clean quails out?
In my experience, if you do not want your quails to smell, and especially if you are keeping them in the house, you need to clean quails out daily, or at the very least every two days.
The frequency with which you will need to clean out your quails will very much depend on the number of quails you have and the size enclosure you are keeping them in.
In the past, when I have kept quail inside the house, I found that 4 quail in an enclosure measuring around 16SqFt needed cleaning every day.
I would not be in a hurry to keep quail in the house again.
How often should you clean quails out when kept outdoors?
These days I only keep my quail in outdoor runs. The maintenance is much easier and the birds all seem a lot happier. My birds have a coop, which I have to clean out twice a week. I keep them on shavings, which go straight onto the compost pile when I am done with them.
The quails run is on the dirt, and I rake it over two or three times a month to freshen the soil. I also add a lot of old compost from the raised beds when I empty them out.
I keep my outdoor quail runs covered to keep the majority of the rain out of the quail runs. I find if I can keep the area the quails poop in dry, it smells far less.
In my experience, wet quail feces tend to smell a lot more than dry quail feces.
How to stop quail from smelling?
My first recommendation to stopping quails smelling is definitely to clean them out more often. Needless to say, the more poop there is in a quail run, the great the smell.
If for some reason you are not able to clean your quail coop or run out 2 or 3 times a week, then there are some things you can do to try and reduce the smell coming from the quail run.
Give the quail more space
One action that in my experience always helps reduce the amount of smell from the quail is to give the birds more space.
If you keep 6 birds in a space that is 12SqFt, I think it is fairly obvious the waste will be more concentrated than if you keep the same number of birds in a space that is 120SqFt. More space typically means a lower concentration of waste in any one area, and therefore less smell being given off.
Biochar is very similar to charcoal, although it is made using a specific process. According to regenerationinternational.org, Biochar is;
a charcoal-like substance that’s made by burning organic material from agricultural and forestry wastes (also called biomass) in a controlled process called pyrolysis.regenerationinternational.org
Adding Biochar to the quail bedding goes a long way to reducing smells. The main smells from the quails’ poop are caused by ammonia. Biochar adsorbs gases, liquids, and ions. Ammonia is typically present in all three forms.
By adding Biochar (like this bag I usually just order from Amazon.com), to the quail litter, the odors released by the quail poop are greatly reduced.
Do remember, adding Biochar to the quails’ litter is not a substitute for good husbandry. It does not give us the opportunity to be more relaxed about the hygiene of our birds, it just reduces or even eliminates odors altogether.
Using a wire screen floor
Another option to help reduce smells from quail is to keep them in a run with a wire mesh floor. Quail do surprisingly well living on wire mesh, and every time they go to the bathroom, the poop drops straight through the bottom of the run and onto to ground below, where it can be swept or washed away by the homesteader.
I have seen many homesteaders who kept their quail in elevated runs with a wire mesh floor, which they rotated around their vegetable plot, allowing the quail to fertilize bare soil prior to the waste being dug into the soil for bacteria to break down.
I have kept hundreds, maybe even over a thousand quail in my time as a homesteader and poultry breeder, and if there is one thing I can assure you, it is that quail smell.
It is actually the quail’s poop that smells, and whilst you can’t stop them from pooping, you can make some changes to their environment that will reduce the smell, making keeping quail more pleasant for you, and certainly more pleasant for the quail.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out an article I wrote recently titled ‘Why are my quail eggs not fertile?’.
- Biochar: Helping everything from soil fertility to odor reduction ecofarmingdaily.com
- Reducing Nitrogen Loss during Poultry Litter Composting Using Biochar K.C. Das, Nathan Melear, Donald Lakly