David Chifuna (40), a Lusaka-based insurance underwriter, is successfully farming quail as a sideline business. It is not unusual for Zambians to run a part-time business while they work a full-time job.

When David decided to farm quail as a second income stream he had no experience. His savings of about K4 000, and a chicken run that was in serious disrepair at the back of his property in Kamwala South, Lusaka, were his only resources.

 “Although I have this can-do attitude, I had concerns about succeeding given my meagre resources and lack of experience,” David says.

“Underwriting comes with responsibility, you could make a mistake and the company ends up having to pay millions in a claim, so risk management is 80% of the job. What mattered most, when I was putting the plans for my quail venture together, was to reduce the risk,” he says.

David rehabilitated the chicken run, hired a full-time helper and bought his initial stock. For hatching and brooding, he negotiated a barter system buying feed for the farmer who incubated and brooded his chicks.

A year after start-up, David sells 120 mature birds every week.

David farms Japanese quail which he says are easy to rear and fast-growing. Feeding costs are relatively low with adult quail taking in between 25g and 30g of feed/day. Broiler quail are ready for the market at five weeks and quail lay their small eggs as early as six weeks. Davis gets K15 to K20 for a mature bird.

David’s farm labourer keeps the run clean and the birds fed and watered.

An established quail farmer, who lives nearby, incubates and broods the 250 eggs a week that David gets from his 500-bird flock. Hatching is between 16 days and 18 days and the chicks go to the brooder for a week before they are collected.

David has had no disease event since he started farming quail but he vaccinates strictly according to the vet’s vaccination programme. Quail generally have low mortalities.

David’s customers are small restaurant owners and individual people who order birds by contacting him through his Facebook page or WhatsApp. David says access to these platforms is a highly effective marketing tool. “My goal was to get 150 customers but I get as many as 500 orders.”

Admin is a big part of working in the insurance world and the skills David has learnt have made it easier for him to track sales and develop a client data base.

It is very important to do the homework and be as informed as possible before you begin a new farming venture, says David. “I spent time reading through the available literature and talking to experienced quail farmers.”

David rolls his sleeves after hours and weekends to spend time in his quail farming business.

The Japanese quail is a hardy little bird (adult weight is 200g), inexpensive to raise that will thrive in small areas with the proper care. A quail start-up needs relatively lower capital investment than a chicken start-up; the lower space requirements mean that outbuildings like a garage or small shed will provide adequate housing and shelter.

These ground-nesting game birds are members of the pheasant family. Although they are wild birds, they adapt well to domestication and cage rearing. Quail meat and eggs are sought after products.