Quails are becoming more and more popular among homesteaders. They’re prolific egg layers, and you can raise them in a small space. Quails begin laying eggs at around six or eight weeks after hatching themselves, and their eggs are packed with vitamins and minerals. Coturnix and Japanese quail are the most popular breeds among homesteaders.
You could start with a pair of mating quails, but buying fertilized eggs and hatching them is a more economical way to raise these tiny game birds. Additionally, you’ll need to occasionally raise quails from purchased fertilized eggs to avoid problems caused by inbreeding. Inbreeding results in unhealthy quail with high morbidity and low hatch rates.
Equipment Needed for Hatching Quail Eggs
You’ll have to make a small initial investment when you first start raising quail. However, you can reuse most of the items you purchase for many batches of quail eggs.
You’ll want to invest in an incubator with an automatic turner. Hand-turning quail eggs is too time-consuming as you’ll need to turn your eggs several times per day.
You’ll usually need to buy egg rails for your incubator as they’re sold separately. Some incubators come with rails designed for larger chicken or duck eggs. In that case, you’ll need to replace them with quail egg rails.
Thermometer and Hygrometer
Although many incubators have built-in measurement devices, it’s a good idea to place portable thermometers and hygrometers inside to ensure the heat and humidity levels are calibrated correctly.
You can construct a homemade brooder with a plastic storage bin or a large cardboard box. Alternatively, you can buy a ready-made brooder online or at your local livestock supplier. Make sure that there are no openings that tiny baby quail chicks can escape through.
You’ll want to line your incubator and brooder with gravel paper to keep your newborn chicks from breaking their hips and developing splayed legs on the otherwise slippery floor of the brooder. Alternatively, you can use coarse sandpaper from the hardware store.
Brooding chicks need sufficient warmth, or they’ll die. You can give your baby quail a heat source by placing a heat lamp or reptile heating pad in the corner of the brooder.
Preparing Your Quail Eggs for Hatching
If this is your first batch of quail, you’ll probably be in a rush to get your eggs into the incubator. However, you’ll need to take a few preliminary steps before you can begin incubating your quail eggs.
Start the incubator two days before to ensure that the temperature and humidity remain stable before placing your quail eggs inside. Homesteaders should wash and sterilize the incubator before turning it on. Make sure that the humidity remains steady at around 45%, and the temperature sits around 100°F for forced-air incubators and slightly higher, around 103°F for still-air models.
You’ll have to ensure that your quail eggs don’t get too cold or too warm on the ride home. If it’s cold out, you’ll need to warm up the car before placing the eggs inside. Also, keep the quail eggs out of direct sunlight and car heat sources during the trip home. Although most companies pack fertilized quail eggs in foam, you’ll still need to make sure that they don’t bounce around in your car. If quail eggs get shaken, they may not hatch.
After you get your quail eggs home, allow them to sit for up to 12 hours at room temperature before placing them into the incubator. This practice helps the eggs recover from the movement and temperature changes that they undergo during transportation. If you let your quail eggs sit for a while, you’ll achieve higher hatch rates.
You may need to rescue a chick if it has already cut the initial pecking hole but hasn’t emerged after a few hours. You can do this by using a pair of tweezers and gently peeling the shell and membrane pieces away from the chick.
Incubating Quail Eggs
Hatching quail eggs isn’t much different from incubating chicken eggs. However, you’ll need to make a few minor adjustments for the smaller, more fragile nature of quail eggs. You also won’t want to candle your eggs. You can’t see through the mottled shells, and you risk damaging the delicate eggs. Here is the basic procedure for incubating quail eggs:
- Place the quail eggs point-side down on the incubator racks. For the first two weeks, you’ll need to set the temperature just under 100°F, and the humidity should range between 30-40%. Try not to open the door as it disrupts the temperature and humidity levels.
- Lock down the incubator on day 15 to prepare for hatching. At this point, you’ll need to raise the humidity level to a consistent 60-65%. This is achieved by adding small quantities of warm water until you reach the proper humidity level. Quail chicks can die in the shell if the humidity isn’t correct. You’ll need to turn the incubator down to 98°F for lockdown.
- Once the internal environment has stabilized, carefully transfer the quail eggs from the egg turner to the floor of the incubator. Gently place your quail eggs on their sides on the gravel paper-lined incubator floor. Placing the eggs on their sides will help your chicks hatch more easily.
Your quail chicks will begin to hatch around three days after you lock down the incubator. The effect is much like watching microwave popcorn pop. You’ll usually see a few hatchings at first before the majority of the chicks begin to emerge one after another. You‘ll need to leave the incubator on for a few extra days as there are usually a few late arrivals.
One of the biggest mistakes beginning quail farmers make is choosing a brooder that is too small. Even though newly hatched quail are tiny, they grow astonishingly fast.
Homesteaders should purchase or build a brooder that allows each hatchling to have at least six square inches of floor space. Some commercial brooders double as permanent cages, so you won’t need to move your quail again. After you’ve lined the floor with gravel paper, you’ll need to place a heat lamp or reptile heating pad in the corner of the brooder set at around 100 degrees.
Quail chicks will need a constant source of clean water. You’ll have to place marbles or rocks in your water containers to protect newborn quail from drowning. Homesteaders should feed baby quail high-protein game bird feed. You’ll need to grind the crumble in a coffee grinder to make it suitable for quail chicks. After about two weeks, the quail will be large enough to eat the feed without grinding it first.
Once your quail chicks have all been hatched, around day 24, you can move them to their permanent cages. Unfortunately, newly hatched quail chicks are delicate, and you may encounter a sick or dead chick. They should be removed immediately to prevent them from infecting the rest of the chicks.
Hatching Quail Eggs Guide
|Prepare Incubator||Two days before|
|Incubation Temperature/Humidity||About 100°F/45%|
|Lockdown: Day 15- Temp/Humidity||98°F/60-65%|
|Hatching||Around days 18-24|
|Move Chicks to Cages||After day 24|
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