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When you live in an area where raising larger poultry like chickens is not an option, quails are a great alternative. Most HOAs usually allow you to raise quail even when other types of birds are frowned upon. The truth is, as long as you keep your quail’s scent under control, they’ll probably never even know you have them. Quails are relatively peaceful birds. Even when the males crow, they sound like other birds in the area and will go unnoticed.
Okay, quail can be raised anywhere, but are they worth the effort? Yes, quail are small, weighing between 3 ½ to 5 ounces, so you may need 1 to 2 quail per person per meal. Eggs, of course, are also small, they take about 5 quail eggs for 1 large chicken egg. An adult quail will eat between 20 and 25 grams of feed per day, which will probably cost you about 2 cents per day to feed them. In the long run, that would be a pretty good return on investment.
Another great thing about quail is that they reach adulthood at 6 to 8 weeks and have a life expectancy of just over two years. So in less than 2 months they will be ready to eat or better yet ready to breed. The important thing to remember is that over the years Coturnix quail have lost the instinct to hatch their eggs so you will need an incubator or you will need to put them under the chicken. Coturnix quail, which are the most commonly bred quail, are easily identified as male or female by the color of the bird’s breast. Female birds have spotted chests, while males have light brown unspotted chests. Quail usually breed between March and September when they are able to get 14 or more hours of sunlight. When the days get shorter they will stop laying, but by adding light to their cage you can extend the season and get about 300 eggs per year per adult hen. As they get older, those ladies will tire and produce less. Eggs are also highly edible and are considered a delicacy in some areas. There is really very little difference in taste between quail eggs and chicken eggs, in fact if it weren’t for the size I don’t think you could tell the difference.
You will want to keep your birds in a cage to protect them from predators such as those ruthless hunters, dogs and cats. You want to give them about 10 inches of space per bird and try to keep the cage about 8 inches high. Quails fly and can injure themselves if they hit the top of the cage if they have enough room. A typical cage has a ½ inch wire fence floor so they can walk on the floor and their waste can fall to the ground. If you are a gardener, the waste of these birds is an excellent fertilizer. If for some reason you don’t like the idea of keeping them in a cage, you can release them into an enclosure, but as I mentioned before, they fly so you’ll need to clip their wings.
Quail are quite docile birds, so if you do have an escapee, stay calm. Don’t run or chase after them or you will scare them and they can take off forever. Just slowly walk up to them and corner them and you’ll be able to pick them up easily. If you really think you need to, you can use a net, but again do it carefully and they should be easy to catch.
Quails really get into things. By that I mean they get into their food and water and where they go, they go. In other words, as they climb into their food and water, they will leave their waste there. You will need to keep these things clean so they don’t get sick from bacteria or disease. Chicks should be fed starter until they are 6 to 8 weeks old to ensure they are getting enough protein. Although you can feed them chicken feed, it is best to feed them quail or game feed. Don’t let their food get wet. Wet food will mold and can kill your birds.
Once your quail lays eggs, you can store them for about a week before incubation. This will give you a chance to collect several hatching eggs at once. When storing them, you want to place them pointed side down and try to store them in a cool area between 50° to 55° Fahrenheit or 10° to 13° Celsius. Handle the eggs very carefully as they are quite fragile. Be sure to wash your hands before handling, as sweat, oils, or other foreign substances can penetrate the egg and cause bacteria to grow. Also make sure your incubator is clean and disinfected before use as chicks are susceptible to disease. When choosing eggs for incubation, choose eggs that are clean and free of cracks. Do not wash the eggs or you will remove the protective coating or bloom from the eggs and they will not hatch. You will need to set up and run your incubator at least 24 hours before use to make sure it is working properly and up to temperature. Coturnix quail will need a temperature of around 99.9° Fahrenheit or 37.7° Celsius if you are hatching Bob White quail you will need a temperature of 99.5° Fahrenheit or 37.5° Celsius. Your eggs will need to be turned 2 to 3 times a day at the same time if you don’t have an automatic egg turner. 3 days before the eggs hatch you will want to stop turning the eggs. If you’re turning the eggs by hand, it’s a good idea to mark them with a circle on one side and an X on the other side so you can keep track of which side they’re on. Make sure that if you mark them, you do it with a pencil and not with ink. The ink can penetrate the shell. Coturnix quail will take up to 18 days to hatch. If you are raising Bob Whites, it can take up to 23 days. The humidity in your incubator should be in the range of 25% to 60%. While your chicks are hatching, leave them in the incubator until they are dry.
Once your quails are dry, you can move them to the bra. A brooder is a kind of large box or container with a light bulb. You will need to keep the temperature in the litter at about 98° Fahrenheit or about 36.6° Celsius. Then lower the temperature by about 10 degrees per week until you reach the outside average temperature and your birds will be ready for the outdoors.
Quail are easy to raise, inexpensive, a great food source, and can be fun to raise no matter where you live.
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