Not long ago, only upscale diners and hunters ate quail. Today, an increasing number of folks raise quail for meat and eggs.
Quail require less space and are quieter than chickens and turkey, making them the perfect addition to urban backyards and rural barnyards.
Urban farmers note some cities that ban backyard chicken, allow quail. Individual states may require a license to raise game birds. Check state and local regulations before raising quail.
The term “quail” refers to large group of birds. There are hundreds of species of quail worldwide. Coturnix Quail make superior meat birds and good egg layers.
Coturnix mature quickly and grow fast. They begin laying eggs in 7 weeks, 17 weeks earlier than Bobwhite Quail. Mature hens lay up to 300 eggs a year.
Birds raised for meat can be harvested after 7 weeks, when they reach full size and maturity. Jumbo Coturnix dress at 10-14 ounces- twice the size of Bobwhite.
Quail chicks are smaller and more fragile than other poultry. Most hatcheries require a minimum volume of 50-100 chicks to ship.
Purchasing fertile hatching eggs is an alternative way to start or build your quail covey.
A forced or still air incubator is required. You can purchase an incubator with egg turner for less than $100 at your local farm supply store. The quail rail accessory costs an additional $18. Consult the model manual for incubation instructions, temperature, and settings.
For best results, incubate fertile eggs upon arrival or when collected. Hatch rate decreases dramatically after 7 days in storage. Coturnix Quail have a 17 day incubation period.
Quail chicks spend the first few weeks of life in a brooder. Their survival and health depends on clean, warm, and dry living conditions.
A brooder can be purchased, constructed, or made with repurposed materials. The brooder should provide a minimum 1 square foot for every 4 chicks. Add pine shaving bedding material to brooder floor. As chicks grow and gain coordination, some people switch to elevated wire floors for sanitation.
The brooder should maintain a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week. Reduce the temperature by 5 degrees F each week thereafter, until it reaches room temperature. I hang a heat lamp in the center of the brooder, and place food and water stations at the edges. I monitor chick behavior to determine if brooder temp is adequate, and adjust lamp height accordingly: if chicks gather and pile under lamps they are cold, if they scatter away from lamps they are hot.
Experts recommend multiple food and water stations. Low profile water troughs accommodate small quail. Quail chicks require ¼ to ½ inch water trough space per chick.
Gamebird starter feed provides chicks with balanced nutrition. Do not feed chicken starter to quail; it does not provide adequate protein. Quail chicks require ½ to 1 inch feed trough space.
When your birds get too big for the brooder, move them to grow-out pens. Grow-out pens should provide a minimum 1 square foot per 1-2 quail. Grow out pens should have multiple stations for food and water. Each mature birds requires ¼ to ½ inch water trough space, and 1-2 inches of feed trough space. Transition to gamebird grower feed at this time.
Grow-out pens may be indoors or outdoors. Mobile grow-out pens made of small wire mesh can be used for quail and other gamebirds. Pens must be fully enclosed to prevent birds from flying out. Gamebird netting is a safe, affordable, and effective alternative to wire enclosure.
Add plants, grasses, and branches to pens to provide quail with natural shade and shelter. Unlike Bobwhites, you do not need to separate Cortunix males and females into mating pairs. They will mate, nest, and lay eggs in sheltered areas of pen. However, they will not hatch out their own eggs in captivity. Eggs should be collected twice daily.
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