During the war, quail could save millions of Ukrainians from hunger and poverty. Only 1m2 is needed to grow this bird. For this, 200 dollars is enough. Investments begin to make a profit after 2 months. The income is 25-40 per cent of the invested funds per month. However, several reasons do not allow the quail to become a national bird in Ukraine.
Growing quails is not as widespread in Ukraine as growing chickens. However, during the war it is necessary to change the current situation. There are several reasons for this.
For quails, it is not necessary to build special premises. Any warm room can be used to grow this bird. It can be an apartment, an apartment balcony, a garage, a residential building and a barn. Any Ukrainian who owns housing or commercial the room can grow quail. And all because the quail is a very small bird. The weight of this bird is 80-300 gr.1 That is the quail is similar in size to a parrot. If people put cages on 3-4 floors, then on a room area of 1m2 can accommodate 90-120 birds. And this is enough to get an average of 40-50 eggs every day, which is enough to feed one person. That is, only 1m2 living space can provide food for one person. In any apartment or house, people can find free place of this size.*
A small investment is required and this investment pays off quickly. Quail eggs are small. Raising chicks requires a simple and small incubator that can be installed anywhere, even on a desk. An incubator measuring 60x60x27 centimeters holds 270 eggs. This incubator automatically turns eggs and controls the right temperature. In manual mode, people only need regulate humidity. Such an incubator costs only 2200 hryvnia2 or $60 according to the official rate.3 In this incubator, chicks hatch from 40-80 per cent of eggs.* Cases of death of chicks are rare. Usually chicks do not get sick, but die choking with drinkers or chicks are crushed by other chicks.
Such an incubator allows people to get at least 100 birds at a time. And this is enough to feed 1 adult with eggs.
The cost of a hatching quail egg starts from 2.8 hryvnia or $0.07 at the official exchange rate.4 That is, to completely fill the incubator, you need $18.9 (270 eggs). This price includes possible egg breakage during transportation (10 per cent). But this price does not include shipping costs. The total purchase price of the incubator and eggs is $78.9 excluding shipping.
Cages for keeping an adult bird can be made by yourself. In this case, the price of a cage block for keeping 100-120 adult birds is only $100. This price includes not only the cage but also drinkers, feeders and a pan for cleaning bird faeces. By comparison, buying a cage for 100 birds will cost about 10,500 hryvnia or $287.5
In general, $200 is enough to start a business. Investments begin to make a profit after 2 months. The period of incubation of a quail egg is 16-17 days. Then it will take about 45 days to grow an adult bird that can lay eggs or has the maximum weight for sale.
Quail meat and eggs are very expensive. Price 1 kg. quail (4 birds) starts from 160 UAH or $4.3.6 This is comparable to the cost of boneless pork. By comparison, the price of a whole chicken starts at 79 UAH or $2.1.7 At the same time, the price of a chicken leg starts from UAH 72, or $1.96.
That is, chicken is half the price of quail.
One quail egg is half the price of a chicken egg. But the nutritional value of one chicken egg is equal to 4-5 quail eggs.9 That is, quail eggs are disproportionately expensive compared to chicken eggs. So the starting price of one quail egg is 2.5 UAH or $0.06.10
The starting price of a chicken egg is two times higher and equals 5 UAH or $0.12.11 But a chicken egg is 4-5 times larger than a quail egg! Such a high price level is explained by the fact that quail meat and eggs are elite and dietary food. People who grow quails turn out to be in a favorable position. They can buy a lot of ordinary food by selling quail meat and eggs.
What prevents the cultivation of quails?
A quail farm may seem like paradise if not for the hell of reality. There are several reasons that hinder the development of this business.
All the benefits of raising quails for meat are depreciated by the high cost of feed. The cost of feed, which is necessary for growing a quail for 45 days, is 5 times more than the price of the meat of this bird. That is, the quail chick becomes unprofitable on the 7-8th day of its life. Feed for adult birds is very cheap. But chick food is extremely expensive. The price of food for chicks is almost 5 times than for an adult bird. One kg of specialized feed for chicks costs 20 UAH or $0.54, while 1 kg of food for an adult quail costs 5 UAH or $0.13.*
This problem cannot be solved without special state subsidies. Agriculture subsidies are a more normal practice in the EU, USA and Australia. But in Ukraine, due to the weak economy, this is not common. Large producers can solve the problem by purchasing large quantities of feed or by producing feed themselves. However, most villagers and newcomers to business cannot lower prices by such methods.
There are even more problems in the production of chicken eggs. Quail is very sensitive to feed quality, temperature and other conditions. A slight change in these characteristics is the reason that egg production is reduced. There is also a very high percentage of defective birds. In some cases, about 70 per cent of quails do not lay under any conditions.*
However, it is possible to find defective birds only after a month and a half, when the bird becomes an adult. Until this time, the quail has to be fed. It increases costs and reduce business profitability. A large proportion of defective birds is the result of the poor quality of the quail breed. There is no certification in Ukraine of breeds of quails on the basis of documents. The breed is determined visually due to external signs. But this is not an efficient way to determine quality.
The intervention of the state and professional organisations is necessary to improve the quality of the quail breed. Expensive food for quail chicks and poor quality of the quail breed hinder the development of the industry.
Development of the industry in a nationwide format
In Ukraine, the quail growing industry has not been formed. The first quail farms appeared in Ukraine in the 1990s.12 However, even now the market is only 20 per cent full of supply. There is a steady demand for quail eggs and meat only in large cities. For rural residents most regions of Ukraine quail is not a traditional bird.13
The peak of quail meat and egg production was in 2014. Since then, both indicators are decreasing. So in 2014, 638.8 million quail eggs were produced in Ukraine. In 2020-2021, this figure was only 400 million units. In 2014, 1.3 thousand tons of meat were produced. In 2021, 1.05 thousand tons of meat were produced.14
The reasons for the reduction in production are the rise in the cost of feed. Incomplete legislation also has a negative impact. For example, for each batch of goods, the farmer must draw up a sanitary invoice. Quail eggs and meat are sold in small batches. Therefore, farmers need a lot of sanitary invoices. Each document costs money. The price of sanitary invoices can reach 2 per cent of the turnover.
There are 560 quail farms in Ukraine. Of these, only 10 enterprises are large. These firms have more than 50 thousand head of quail. About 50 firms are medium-sized. These farms grow from 10,000 to 50,000 quails. The rest of the farms are small. These enterprises grow less than 10 thousand quails.
The share of small companies in the total production is constantly growing. And the influence of large companies is declining. According to the latest data, large companies provide only a quarter of production. The share of small firms is almost 40 per cent.
The annual market turnover is $43-56 million15 and the profitability in business is 25-40 per cent.16*
All commercial enterprises independently regulate the quality of feed. To do this, farmers control production by purchasing large quantities. In this case, farmers can dictate to the manufacturer which components to use in production. Some farmers produce their own food. To do this, farmers buy all the necessary components from agricultural producers. Villagers can’t do that. Villagers raise a few birds. Therefore, they are forced to buy small quantities of feed at a high price. Also, the villagers cannot control the quality of the feed. High price and poor quality feed makes the cultivation of quails not profitable for the villagers.*
Since the beginning of the war, the owners of quail farms have had the same problems as businessmen who breed chickens.17 Regular blackouts made it impossible to produce chicks. Since the industry is not developed, there are no statistics on how the war has affected business this year. But it is known that the owner of one of the largest quail farms is trying to sell his business. A farm in the city of Krivoy Rog is being sold for 2.1 million euros. The market also has supply of medium-sized farms. These enterprises cost a little more than 100 thousand euros.18
Perhaps only some time after the end of the war, there will be data on how things are in this area.
Without state intervention, the quail will be an exotic bird for Ukrainians. But if officials see the benefits in this business, then everything can change. There is a lot of potential hidden in a small quail. With the right government policy, this bird can become of strategic importance for the whole Ukraine. Quail can become a driver for the growth of small businesses in agriculture and save millions of urban residents from starvation. Stimulation of the population of Ukraine quail breeding can be more profitable than paying various social benefits. After all, it is more profitable for the state to help people to earn money than to constantly support unemployed people.
* Personal experience of the author.
14. https://www.seeds.org.ua/ukraina-mozhet-stat-vedushhim-postavshhikom-produkcii-perepelovodstva-na-mirovoj-rynok/ 15) http://www.perepelka.org.ua/ukrrin.htm