Why a Quail Tractor?
I have been keeping quail for a while now and I very quickly decided that keeping them in static cage type setups was not for me. I wanted to make a quail tractor to move my quail around the suburban farm like many people tractor their chickens. Reasons for doing this are many and varied. Firstly the quail manure helps to build soil as you move the tractor around the farm. This of coarse also means that manure is ending up exactly where it is needed with no need for the middle man (me) to carry it around. The system also gives quail the chance to snack on the grass, weeds and of coarse any insects they might find. This cuts down on the food bill though I dare say insignificantly (actually I measured it, it is insignificant). Tractoring the quail also makes me feel good as I like to think the quail are happier in this kind of setup, anthropomorphising I know. Unless you are keeping commercial quantities of quail, where material cost and space are an issue, tractors are certainly a viable quail keeping option. There are virtually no downsides to keeping quail in tractors in my climate at the Boobook Farm site.
Quail Tractor Design
I began by researching quail tractors. I found next to nothing and so had to adapt what I knew about tractoring chickens and keeping quail in cages. Pictured above is my first attempt at a quail tractor. With two of these I can keep about 30 quail at densities I am comfortable with. The tractor is simply three 600x600mm bays with handles on one end and a water drum platform and wheels on the other. Going in I had decided that the quail tractor had to have automatic water and I wanted to use drippers to minimise mess. I accomplished this by having a pvc pipe that travels from the water drum, through each bay and to a tap on the far end that acts as a drain for the system. Each of the bays has two water drippers from the pipe (two is one and one is none, always have backups).I won’t go through the intricate details of building the tractor, though you can probably figure most of it out from the pictures. The reason I’m not going into detail is that I plan to do a full ‘how to’ article once I am entirely happy with the design. The mk1 version pictured here has issues that have become evident over the last 4 months or so of use. While I am very happy with the bay dimensions and automatic water system, I have serious concerns about how long it will last. In particular the water holding platform is already looking a little weathered and weak. The lid can also be a pain in that you basically open three bays to get to one. While quail wont fly unless startled, this can be an issue.
Improving the Design
Moving forward I am now working on mk11 of the Boobook Farm quail tractor. It is going to be built with a steel frame and will have an externally serviced feeding system. Regarding the lid, it will remain a one piecer. Having external feeders though will enable me to reduce the access hole size under the lid. This will reduce and may even completely negate the risk of escaping quail. I had thought about making each tractor two bays wide (so 6 bays per tractor). I decided against this as I appreciate being able to move the narrow tractor between trees and garden beds. The current tractor is miles ahead of the old cages, but these improvements will make it that much better.