If you plan on incubating your own first stock you will need to find a reputable breeder. Eggs can be shipped safely through Priority mail in specially made foam egg holders. You can usually get a fairly decent hatch rate even though they were shipped. You can expect about a 50 percent hatch rate on shipped eggs.
I purchased my first Coturnix Quail eggs from Apple Country Gamebird and was very happy with my success. You can find other Coturnix quail breeders online and even join a Coturnix Quail Facebook group to find other Coturnix Quail breeders.
Coturnix Quail are an excellent livestock and easy to reproduce. Most Styrofoam incubators hatch out quail eggs just fine. No need for an automatic egg turner as long as you can turn them 3 times a day. It only takes a careful roll with your palm over the tops of the eggs. The eggs only need to be turned for 14 days. Stop turning on day 16 so the chicks can work on cracking their shell open.
Keep the temperature at 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit or as close as possible. Humidity is not as big of a concern. Some people add water, and some hatch out dry (using no water). I add about a 1/4 cup when I start to incubate and another 1/4 cut on day 16 when I stop turning. Coturnix quail eggs are really easy to hatch. By day 18 you should find eggs hatching; I leave the new chicks in the incubator for 24 hrs. before moving to a brooder. Birds are born with full stomachs so no need for food or water on the first day of hatching. Eggs can hatch as late as day 20, so have some patience.
From the incubator, the quail will go to a brooder. A brooder is nothing more than a place to keep your chicks at a specific temperature, away from drafts, while keeping them fed and watered. Heat the brooder up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week. Then drop it 5 degrees every week until you get to 70 degrees. At this point you won't need supplemental heating.
Line your brooder with the bigger wood chips that can be bought at any feed store. The fine wood chips can be eaten and more easily be wet with water. I just sprinkle a bit of new wood chips every other day. At the end of the week, just scoop out the chips and replace them.
I use 2 incubators. Since I incubate 100-200 at a time, I have a 2' x 3' incubator I use for the first 2-3 weeks. Once the brooder starts getting tighter as they grow, I put them in a 6' x 6' wood brooder and they stay there until they can fit into my wire pens. This conserves heat so you won't have to heat such a big area in the first 2-3 weeks.
There are multiple waterers and feeders for your birds. The most important thing to keeping quail chicks alive is keeping them dry. Don't put in big waterers. Use the small waterers so they can drink without hopping in and getting wet. I also sit the waterers on a 1" wood pad so they won't get wood chips wet.
Quail manure is easy to deal with. The cages should have metal wire with 1" x 1/2" rectangles. This allows the manure to fall to the floor or onto trays. Either way, it's is easy enough to clean. If you grow plants, compost this manure for 12 months and, sparingly, add it to your soil as an amendment. You can even sell your quail manure!
Quail need high protein content. Finding non-medicated feed above 20 percent can be difficult but is necessary. I would even make sure you can find the right feed before getting quail. I use 24 percent Dumor non-mediated game bird feed. It can be ordered in most feed stores or bought online.
Medicated feed will kill your quail. Some breeders use medicated feed sparingly when they see birds acting sick, but it can kill healthy birds. If I have birds that get sick, I would rather cull them than try medicated feed because I think it gives me stronger birds.
Other good feeds for quail are insects such as mealworms, redworms, and soldier flies. I know my birds love sprouted wheat grass and barley as well as berries, ragweed, sorghum sunflowers and cowpeas.
Any homestead could benefit from raising quail, and if you live in the city but want to try and become more sustainable, consider the Coturnix quail. Just check out local and federal regulations on this bird.
Photos property of Richard Bogdanowicz.
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