Brooding Japanese Quail

Small but mighty, quail chicks need only a few accommodations during their first few weeks.

Photo by Adobe Stock/Agnormark

Japanese quail (also known as coturnix quail) are remarkably low-maintenance birds. Even after hatching and brooding several generations of quail, I’m always surprised at how rapidly they grow and adapt to their environment. They’re smaller at hatching size than most fowl, so they do require minor brooding accommodations, but otherwise need few basic amenities. And don’t let those minor brooding differences deter you; they’re all things that can easily be worked into an existing brooder setup, or you can build an inexpensive brooder for small flocks.

Temperature Techniques

Temperature is the first variable to consider. Since quail require a relatively high incubating temperature of about 99 degrees Fahrenheit, the brooder needs to be comparatively warm at 95 degrees for the first week. Have the brooder light or heating element going for a few hours before transferring the chicks from the incubator, and take temperature readings to ensure accuracy and consistency. This way, you’ll avoid temperature shock when moving the chicks from incubator to brooder. Over the following weeks, decrease the temperature by 5 degrees every week. Depending on your brooder, you can achieve this by opening vents in the lid and/or increasing the distance of the heat lamp from the brooder. Aim to accustom the quail to outdoor temperatures a week or so before you move them to their outside location at 6 weeks or older.

If your brooder achieves temperature via a central heating lamp, keep an eye on the chicks’ behavior for the first 15 minutes after you put them in. If they’re all huddled together underneath the light, the temperature is too cool. If they avoid the light completely and stay only along the edges, it’s too warm.

Most brooding bulbs are 250 watts, but depending on how much you can safely draw from your circuit, a 125-watt bulb can also work — just run a temperature check and make sure the brooder can stay warm enough. Also, consider using an infrared bulb instead of a bright-white bulb, as it can reduce aggression when the chicks reach 4 to 5 weeks of age.

 I prefer to use a metal clamp light, because the reflector hood helps direct heat and light into the brooder, and the clamp is strong and secure. If you go this route, make sure the surface you clamp the light onto is stable and that the light isn’t too close to the chicks or anything flammable.

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