COTURNIX QUAIL | HATCHING AND REARING
COTURNIX QUAIL (JAPANESE QUAIL) REALLY ARE A BRILLIANT BIRD FOR ANY SMALLHOLDING OR HOMESTEAD.
Firstly, there are the fabulous eggs they lay. Initially I didn't think these would have much use - after all, I have 30 laying hens. Why would I need MORE eggs?
But customers LOVE them! I sell a dozen at £2. It might not sound a lot, but it adds up quickly...as long as you have a lot of hens. I'm not very good at sexing them yet, but the males have a little gland above their vent which creates a white froth when mating. So, I'll put that knowledge to work and start inspecting.
Secondly, they're really cute. Thirdly, you can grow them for meat. Okay, I know a quail isn't going to fill your stomach hugely. BUT, if you hatch hens for eggs, you can eat the boys as a treat.
Domestic quail do not make good parents. The brooding characteristic has been bred out of these birds, and so it's unlikely you'll get them to incubate. It has been done, but it's probably a better option to use an incubator.
Eggs take between 17 - 18 days to hatch.
And they hatch quickly. Like...you'll be watching and then - POP - out comes a baby. If you're used to chicks or ducks hatching...well quail explode within the blink of an eye. And they rock too! I've never seen this with my chickens, but quail eggs wriggle and rock even before that first pip has appeared.
Incubating and hatching is similar to other poultry. The pretty shells make it hard to candle, so measuring air-sac growth is difficult though. Because of this I tend to run a dry hatch until Day 15. At point, I fill all the water channels, cross my fingers and hope for the best as the humidity goes up.
Okay. I'm just putting this out there - quail babies are SUICIDAL.
THEY DIE AT ANYTHING.
- In the first night, two, yes TWO, drowned. I was using a normal drinker made for chicks. But the baby quail fell face first into the water and drowned.
TIP - use gravel, such as aquarium gravel, in the bottom of the drinker for the first few days. The quail babies can still drink but there's less risk of drowning.
- ONE died because of a loud noise. Yes, there was a bang. I heard a squeak from the incubator. And a chick was dead.
- TWO NEARLY DIED through cold. Don't be keen to move quail chicks into the brooder too soon. They get cold really quickly. I managed to revive these two babies by putting them back into the incubator for a couple of hours. BUT, AS A GENERAL RULE, LEAVE THE CHICKS IN THE INCUBATOR FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS AFTER HATCHING.
FEEDING AND GROWING
Coturnix quail grow REALLY fast. Here are mine at one day, two weeks and six weeks old. From hatching, I fed them on a chick crumb, and then moved them onto regular layers pellets for hens when they were old enough to eat them. You can buy game feed, which would be ideal, but if you keep chickens, I've found quail can eat the same stuff without any problem. Mine are also housed in an outdoor aviary, so they supplement themselves with bugs from the ground, and I feed them mealworms and add calcium to their diet. They also pick up any spilled seed from the finches.
You can see from the six week old video that Japanese quail mature very quickly. My hens began laying around that time, and you could cull boys for the freezer around that period too.
QUAIL VS. CHICKENS
Chickens win out in many ways, both as layers and meat birds. You may also find customers want far more chicken eggs than they do quail eggs <- which isn't surprising given quail egg size. BUT, quails can be a great supplementary bird if you already have chickens. Meanwhile, if you haven't got space for chickens, maybe you have space for quail?
There are many ways to keep quail. Mine are outside on the floor of an aviary. Other homesteaders keep them in wire-bottomed cages. I've also kept some inside in a large cage sold for guinea pigs and rabbits. And, in this scenario, hens can be encouraged to lay around the year too as it's warmer.
It means even if you're in the city - and maybe don't even have a garden - you could keep a few quail happily and get your own eggs (and maybe some meat) at home!
I love these wonderful little birds. Handled regularly from hatching they become extremely tame and are a great addition to the smallholding. I wouldn't be without them at Brimwood Farm.