View Full Version : Raising Quail

12-13-2007, 04:08 PM
Raising quail is inexpensive, easy, provides very healthy low-fat white meat, and supplies the fertilizer you need for your home garden. The moderate start-up costs for raising quail are well worth it. A simple 8x8-foot open-sided pole building is fine to start with. You can also use an empty corner in an existing outbuilding. Wall in the upper half to keep strong winter winds away. Sturdy wire should be applied over the bottom half to help keep pets and predators at bay. There are a lot of wild critters, including snakes, that like to snack on quail and their tasty eggs. At eye level on each side of the building, hang a 30x30x14'' grow-off pen built with 1/2"x1'' mesh wire. At the end of the building at waist height, construct a simple frame to hold a brooder, breeder pen, and incubator for the quail. Keeping the birds off the ground helps reduce the chance of parasite infestation or disease. It also makes cleaning up after the birds quicker and easier. You are almost ready to begin production.

Cortunix quail
A source for chicks or hatching eggs might be your local feed store. If not, there are several mail order companies that can provide eggs, chicks, equipment, and the supplies you need. The Japanese or Cortunix quail are the fastest growing and reproducing birds. After just 16 days in the incubator, your initial egg purchase should provide at least a 50-percent hatch rate. Feed the baby birds a game bird starter mix for the first four weeks and a game bird grower mix for the next two weeks. For a small operation, select the best nine females and three males from the hatchlings as breeders and move them to the breeding pen. The remaining hatchlings are now old enough to butcher for the dining table. Maintain a three-to-one female-to-male breeder ratio for the best egg fertility. At this age, the breeders can start laying eggs. Begin feeding them a game bird breeder mix that contains the higher calcium needed for healthy egg shell production. Keep the breeders under 16 hours of light daily, and they will begin to lay eggs. Maintaining the same number of hours under lights will keep your Cortunix quail laying eggs throughout the year.
Under prime conditions, each female bird will lay about 300 eggs each year. When your breeders are laying eggs consistently, collect hatching eggs daily. Keep the eggs in a cool dark place until they are ready for the incubator. Collect eggs for 10 consecutive days, then set the batch of eggs in the incubator at 99-1/2 F. Maintain humidity levels identified with your incubator instructions. Eggs should always be kept pointy end down and need to be turned twice daily to keep the yolk centered inside the eggshell. You can do this manually or with the use of an automatic turner. Once hatched, transfer the chicks to a pre-warmed 100 F brooder. Each week, drop the temperature in the brooder by five degrees. At four weeks old, the young quail can be moved from the brooder to one of the grow-off pens. At six weeks old, the birds are ready to be processed for the dinner table. The eggs, while small, are also considered a delicacy.
Typical quail-rearing setup with breeding pen, brooder, incubator (white box), and grow-off pen
Quail poop is like brown gold for your garden. Its low on odor and isnt very messy to deal with. Shovel up your excess quail manure each week and move it to a garden manure bin to age until it breaks down before using it on plants. It is high in nitrogen, and when fresh, it can burn plants. In the heat of the summer, if the manure does emit much odor, a light covering of lime will eliminate it and sweeten the pile.
Low in fat and high in protein, the all-white-meat quail is served as a delicacy in many fine restaurants. You can enjoy dining on this nutritious bird from your own home-grown stock with surprisingly little effort. Quail eggs are also a delicious delicacy served in many professional kitchens. It takes about three Cortunix quail eggs to equal one small chicken egg.
An average six-ounce skinless quail contains about 123 calories, 40 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein, 50 percent niacin, 30 percent vitamin B6, and 28 percent of iron. The same bird has only 1.2 grams of saturated fat, 1.2 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.1 grams polyunsaturated fat, and 64 grams of cholesterol.
Whether you choose to pluck or skin your birds is a matter of personal preference. The skin has very little fat, unlike most commercial birds raised for maximum weight gain. When plucking, be careful not to tear the skin, as it is very thin. The skin does provide a suitable protective covering that prevents the meat from drying during cooking, so there are advantages to plucking. However, when cleaning a large number of birds for the home dining table, you might find it more efficient to skin the birds. It is far less time-consuming, and your fingers wont be worn out after cleaning a flock.
Starter Cortunix quail breeding flock in breeding pen
Euthanize your birds by quickly removing the head. Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the wings and feet. You can then pluck the birds if you desire. To skin the birds, dunk them in a sink of cold water for a few minutes to cool the skins. This helps keep the feathers attached to the skin when it is removed and loosens the skin from the body. After the birds are plucked or the skin is removed, use your shears to split the bird lengthwise up the back. Remove the innards. If you have access to an outdoor hose, a blast of water into the body cavity will quickly remove any residual particles. The birds are now ready to be wrapped and frozen, or canned for future use.
Your first dozen breeder birds will provide you with hundreds of quail and thousands of eggs during the year. Replacing your breeder stock annually maintains peak production.
The cost of feed and supplies is minimal considering all the meat and eggs you get for your efforts.
Batter-fried quail:
12 quail
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. salt
1 cup pancake or biscuit mix
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. seasoned pepper
2 envelopes instant chicken broth
vegetable oil
Cover quail with salted water. Chill at least one hour. Combine remaining ingredients in a paper bag. Remove quail from water, and shake in bag of mix. Fry in hot oil only until golden brown. Serves 6.
Grilled quail:
2 quail (skin on) per person
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle quail with lemon juice; salt and pepper. Dip in melted butter and roll in breadcrumbs. Grill about 5-6 minutes on each side.
Baked pineapple quail:
8 whole quail (skin on)
1 can (20 oz.) sliced pineapple (drain and reserve juice)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 small thinly sliced lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Sources for quail hatching
eggs and equipment
GQF Manufacturing Company
P.O. Box 1552
Savannah, GA 31402-1552
Phone 912-236-0651
Fax 912-234-9978
[email protected] ([email protected])
www.gqfmfg.com/ (http://www.gqfmfg.com/) Stromberg's Chicks
P.O. Box 400
Pine River, MN 56474
Phone 218-587-2222
Orders only 1-800-720-1134
Fax 218-587-4230
[email protected] ([email protected])
www.strombergschickens.com (http://www.strombergschickens.com/)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange quail, breast-side down, in a shallow baking dish. Blend pineapple juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, rosemary, and cornstarch. Pour pineapple juice mixture over quail. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Turn quail breast-side up and arrange pineapple and lemon slices over quail. Baste with sauce and bake until quail are fork tender, 15-30 minutes longer. Salt and pepper sauce to taste and serve over quail. Serves 4.
Drunken quail:
6 quail
6 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sherry
salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces chopped mushrooms
6 ounces long grain wild rice (cooked)
Brown quail in butter. Remove birds to baking dish. Add flour to butter. Stir well. Slowly add broth, sherry, and seasonings. Blend thoroughly. Add mushrooms, and pour over quail. Cover and bake at 350 for 1 hour. Serve over rice. Serves 6.
Stuffed quail:
4 quail (skin on)
dressing (see below)
salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth or hot water
Stuff birds lightly with dressing; salt and pepper. Place birds in a deep saucepan with vegetable oil. Cook until well browned, reduce heat, and cook slowly for 20-30 minutes. Make gravy of drippings thickened with flour, and add the chicken broth or hot water. Serves 2-4.
1-1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
1-1/2 cups of finely chopped celery
half finely cut onion
1/3 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 egg (or 3 or 4 quail eggs)
1/3 tsp. dried savory
1/3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. powdered rosemary
1/3 cup broth or water
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Stuffs 6-8 birds.
Home-pickled eggs:
5 dozen peeled hard-boiled eggs
pickling solution:
2 pints white vinegar
1 pint water (less for tangy eggs)
2 Tbsp. salt
1 medium chopped onion
1 ounce pickling spice (2 ounces for spicy eggs)
Bring pickling solution to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Let cool and strain. Place eggs in sterilized quart canning jar. Cover eggs with cooled solution. For best flavor, let eggs soak in solution in the refrigerator for at least three days.
Hard-boiled quail eggs:
Place 2-5 dozen eggs in cool water with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Hard boil 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent yolks from settling to one side. Plunge into cold water until cool enough to handle. Eggs peel easier if one week old before cooking. Place in cold water or refrigerator until very cold before peeling. Peel by rolling egg on hard surface to loosen shell. Shells can also be dissolved by placing in full-strength vinegar for about 12 hours, agitating every several hours. This leaves the egg enclosed in the membrane.
Serving suggestions: Dip in sea salt; coat with lemon mayonnaise then serve on salad; dip in favorite salad dressing; heat in cheese sauce; sprinkle with cheese and brown under broiler; heat in curry sauce and serve with rice.
Brine eggs:
hard-boiled quail eggs in shell
brine solution: 2 ounces salt per pint of water Place eggs in sterilized canning jar with shells still on and cover with brine solution.

12-13-2007, 04:37 PM
Quail - How to get started

Japanese have raised them for centuries. They were called "Bible quail" by the early American colonists. Modern homesteaders like myself call them Coturnix (from their generic name, Coturnix coturnix). As a wildlife biologist by training, agronomist by profession, and urban farmer by choice, I highly recommend to anyone wanting to raise animals for food in the city to give quail (http://www.premier1.net/~arzy/index.html) a try. Their small size makes them ideal for raising either in a garage, the basement, or on a outside deck. Beginners should start with the Coturnix quail (http://www.northwest-gamebirds.com/quail.htm) . Six to eight of these can be reared within a square foot. A good number to start with is 20 birds: 12 females and 8 males. The males are polygamous meaning they mate with any and all females. The recommended ratio of females to male is 2 to 1 but I usually put in a few extra males to ensure good fertility. These quail possess a remarkable resistance to disease, start laying at six weeks of age, and can be consumed at four to five weeks of age. The meat is fortified with nutrients and has a very low cholesterol percentage. Dressed, the hens weigh about 4 to 5 1/2 ounces with the male being slightly smaller. Eggs weigh about 1/3 ounce which is about 8 per cent of the body weight of the hen as compared to three percent for chicken eggs. After you've been raising Coturnix successfully for awhile, the next step is to try Eastern bobwhite (http://home.att.net/~DanCowell/fran.html#quail) . These are larger than Coturnix quail, take about 14-16 weeks to start laying, and are monagamous. This means that females pick their mates so you need the same number of both sexes. Their eggs are white and smaller than those from Coturnix. The other species listed on the above web site are some of the fancier species and are raised more for pleasure than for eating.
By law, anyone raising quail needs to obtain a game bird license from their local department of Natural Resources as these birds are considered as wildlife. The license in New Brunswick is $10 and renewable each year.
Where to find helpful information

Beginners should give some thought to joining one or more game bird associations. As a member, you will receive a monthly newsletter containing valuable information on the different aspects of game bird breeding, find names of breeders from whom you can obtain breeding stock or eggs for incubation, and obtain lists of suppliers for materials and equipment required for this hobby. In Canada, there are at least five game bird associations and quite a few more in the United States. I am a member of the Canadian Ornamental Pheasant and Game Bird Association and the American Pheasant and Waterfowl Society (http://www.upatsix.com/apws//). After becoming a member, you can request a breeder's directory containing a list of all the names and addresses of breeders as well as a listing of the different species of game birds each member raises. By contacting these breeders, you can make arrangements to have either live birds or eggs for incubation shipped to you. If you decide to start off with birds, ask a lot of questions from the game bird breeder to make sure that he/she has disease free stock and that male and female are unrelated. Hobby game bird breeders are not required to have their birds checked by a vet and sometimes you end up with animals that are not in too good a shape so buyer beware. Generally speaking though, most game bird breeders are honest and will provide you with good quality breeding stock.
The internet also has an abundance of information on quail as referenced throughout this article.

Cages need to be ready prior to obtaining the birds. People who are handy with tools can build their own cages or you can buy a pre-fabricated cage. Rabbit hutches are also ideal for quail. These are made of welded wire, are strong and very durable. There's also a sliding pan underneath for catching the droppings. I raise all my quail on wire. This prevents them from eating their faeces something which if left uncontrolled can result in a condition known as ulcerative enteritis causing sickness and even death.
I make all of my cages using one inch by one inch square welded wire for the sides and top; for the bottom I use one-half inch by one inch. You can buy the welded wire from your local farm co-op as well as the hog rings to attach the pieces together to form a cage. Size is a matter of personal choice and budget. My cages for Coturnix measure 24"W x 48"L x 16"H. For the door, you simply cut a square hole in the middle. Make it large enough for the biggest item you intend to place in the cage. Quail love to dust bathe so in all of my cages, I put a plastic stackable vegetable container from Canadian Tire and fill the bottom with clean sand. Feed troughs need to have a cover otherwise the birds will get in and scratch all of the feed out. The birds also need water. To provide water, the easiest thing I have found is a pop bottle fountain. These are made of plastic, snap securely on the neck of a bottle and project 2" through the cage. It comes with a spring that you attach around the bottle to hold it against the cage. If you should ever get into this is a big way, then you will need to rig up an automatic watering system. Cages, feed troughs and watering devices may be obtained from any of the suppliers listed below.
Cage location

Location of the cage is also important. Inside the aviary, my cages are suspended on a wall using shelf brackets. Two holes large enough to be able to slide the cage along the metal brackets are cut on the back of the cage. I have eight cages, four in each row with newspapers beneath each cage on which to catch the droppings. Droppings are solid in nature making them easy to be collected, bagged, and dumped in a compost pile at a friends farm. If cages are put outside, make sure the birds are sheltered from cold, wind, sun, and rain. The birds will adapt well to cold winter weather provided they're able to acclimatize to seasonal temperature changes. Birds I want to stay outdoors all winter are first put outside in the summer. All of my outdoor pens were designed so that at least one-third of the cage is surrounded on all three sides and top with exterior grade plywood. It is suggested that wooden parts be painted to facilitate cleaning.
Being a city farmer, it is important to invest a bit of time and effort into building something that is aesthetically pleasing not for the birds but for the neighbours to enjoy. I could easily just slap a few sticks together and wrap some wire around these but I don't think I would have gotten very far with my request to keep quail in the city if I'd chosen that route. I encourage all urban farmers raising animals in the city to give due consideration to this important detail.
Note that Coturnix quail kept outdoors will not lay past autumn so if you want eggs year round, they must be kept indoors. I keep them in an aviary inside my garage. And the key to getting eggs year round is light. Mine are on a 15-17 hour photoperiod. A timer in the aviary provides lighting from an incandescent light bulb.

Apart from being able to eat fresh eggs and have a good meal once a month, one of the most fascinating aspects of this hobby is to artificially incubate the eggs. Starting around Easter every year, eggs are collected daily and put in a cool humid spot; the basement is ideal for storing eggs. Eggs are stored pointed end down and kept for no more than seven days. The eggs are then placed in an incubator for however many days are required for the chicks to develop inside the eggs. Coturnix quail develop in 17-18 days while Bobwhite quail require 23 days. There are all sorts of incubators to choose from. The HOVA-BATOR incubator (http://www.cagenbird.com/prod021.htm) was developed over 25 years ago and is the first one I started with. This incubator is made of styrofoam. It is very susceptible to changes in room temperature so if you decide to purchase one of these, it should be located in a room where the temperature stays constant. Get one with a turbofan to increase the air circulation within.
If you ever get into breeding rare and endangered species, you will probably want to invest into something a bit more sophisticated like a Sportsman 1202, a cabinet style incubator (http://www.randallburkey.com/). Both the HOVA-BATOR and the Sportsman 1202 are manufactured by GQF Manufacturing Company located in Savannah, Georgia. Artificial incubation is both an art and a science. To get good results when incubating, you need just the right combination of good quality eggs, a temperature which stays constant, good ventilation, and right moisture conditions. Be sure to read the instructions and either buy or pick up a book from the library on incubation. And, if you decide to start with a HOVA-BATOR, you should invest in an automatic turner unless you want to turn the eggs yourself daily, at least three times.
Once the eggs are ready to hatch, you need to increase the humidity so that the chicks don't get stuck as they're pushing out of their shell. This is done by filling the troughs in the bottom of the incubator tray with water. Three days prior to hatching, the eggs should be placed on top of the hardware cloth (wire mesh) which comes with the incubator. If a turner was used, it should be removed. The hardware cloth gives them an excellent foothold when they attempt to stand. Some people put newspaper on top of the wire which is a bad mistake as it is too slippery and leads to crippled chicks. As a matter of fact, I have even started using something called "slip grip" on top of the hardware cloth in the incubator. You can buy this at your local Canadian Tire store. It's the same thing people use for lining the shelves in their cupboards to prevent expensive dishware from sliding off when positioned vertically. It's completely washable and reusable. The chicks should be left in the incubator for 24 hours. During hatching, avoid opening the incubator because it causes the moisture to escape and keeping that moisture in is extremely important for a good hatch. Depending on what model you're using, hatching can take place over a very short or somewhat longer time period. Eggs developing in the Sportsman will hatch within a few hours whereas those from a HOVA-BATOR take a whole and sometimes two days. That's because the Sportsman is a better machine than the HOVA-BATOR. Don't invest in a Sportsman until you've been doing this for a couple of years and you know that you want to stick to this for awhile. A Sportsman incubator is a huge capital investment if you're just trying this out to see if you like it or not.


Chicks should be placed under a brooding lamp after being removed from the incubator. Again, there are all sorts of sophisticated equipment on the market ranging in price from $30.00 to $280.00. I use a cardboard box with a brooder light base. The boxes used are fairly large ones so that the chicks will not outgrow their accommodations too quickly. For the beginner, this is what I suggest. Get a Y-shaped electrical socket from your local hardware store as well as a brooder lamp which comes with double insulated electrical components. Screw the Y-shaped socket inside the brooder lamp base and then mount two incandescent light bulbs inside the socket. In early spring, I recommend using two 60-watt bulbs; as summer progresses, use two 40-watt bulbs. The reason for using two bulbs is so that when one burns out in the middle of the night or when you're away at the office or something, the chicks still get heat from the other bulb. Always keep a good stock in hand and replace the burnt one as soon as possible. Also use two different aged bulbs so they don't both burn at the same time.
One last thing about light bulbs. I use a spray can called Beauti-Tone (Home Hardware brand) enamel and paint the bulbs either red or blue. I have tried other brands but the paint never seems to dry well on the bulb and produces a burning odour after the lights have been on for awhile. Chicks kept together in a relatively confined space such as in a brooder have a tendency to peck each other, a nasty habit which can lead to deformed beaks and sometimes even death. Poultry and game bird breeders have discovered that if you use coloured light bulbs, the chicks are less prone to peck each other. The lights should be attached about 16 inches off the floor. Wood shavings are used for bedding for the first four weeks. After the chicks have been in the brooder for 10 minutes or so, check their behaviour. If you see them huddled together in one large group with each of them trying to get to the centre, which is the warmest part, then they're too cold. Put a cover over the box leaving a space for air of course. If you see them with their beaks open panting for breadth, they're obviously too hot. Raise the light bulbs or remove the cover if one is present. If they're randomly distributed throughout the brooder or laying on top of the shavings in a circle surrounding the outer periphery of the brooder lamp, you've got the temperature just right.
Feeding chicks

Feeding these small chicks is relatively easy. I normally start them off with Turkey Starter which is medicated with Amprol to control coccidiosis. A non-medicated Turkey Starter does not exist. Actually, it's not such a bad idea to have a medicated feed to start them off with because the first few weeks, they walk, play, and defecate in their food and water all the time. The medication prevents them from getting ill. Turkey starter crumble is too big for the small quail chicks to eat, so for the first couple of weeks, I pulverize the feed by putting two cups at a time in a food blender. The food is then placed in a dish made from the bottom of a two-litre milk carton. They'll quickly learn where the food is if you lightly tap on the food with your finger. It's important to teach them where the food is during the first couple of days because after three days, they'll be scared of you and your finger and run off at the opposite end of the box whenever you come near.
To provide water, get a plastic quail base from one of the suppliers listed below. These have a narrow drinking slot to prevent the chicks from getting in and drowning. Alternatively, you may use a Petri dish or something similar and fill it full of marbles or small stones. The disadvantage in doing this is that the birds will defecate in the water which means more work for you as the water will need changing often. After about four weeks, I start introducing Purina Flight Conditioner in the food dish at a ratio of 1 part Flight Conditioner to three parts Turkey Starter. Seven days after that, I bump that up to two parts Flight Conditioner to two parts Turkey Starter so that after four weeks they're off the medicated feed and are eating out of the same troughs used by the adults.
After the chicks have reached four weeks of age, I transfer them into a cage of the same size and dimension as that used for adults. In early spring, I move the lights to this cage also and leave them there until I start noticing that the birds no longer use them as a source of heat. At six weeks of age, you will start noticing small eggs in the bottom of the cage. Two weeks after that, the eggs are more uniform in size and you can expect one a day and in some cases, as many as 250 a year. You can start setting eggs from those birds in your incubator after the birds are about eight weeks old.

One of the most comprehensive sites containing useful information on breeding quail, incubating eggs, and brooding chicks may be found at http://www.thatquailplace.com The Mango City: Urban Agriculture in Belm, Brazil (http://www.thatquailplace.com/)
"It is a tribute paid to a hard working and ingenious people, who against all odds survive in one of the poorest metropolis in Latin America, frequently complementing their monthly income with fruits, herbs, spices, medicinal plants, and all sorts of animals, cropped or raised in front and backyards, in idle public and private plots, existent either within the urban tissue or in the wider peri-urban areas." Posted September 24, 2002 . A favourite book on quail which I'd recommend is entitled Quail, Their Breeding and Management (http://www.hancockwildlife.org/test/quail.htm) by G.E.S. Robbins.
Preparing the birds for the dinner table

The usual method of slaughtering the birds is to sever the head in one quick movement. The most effective tool I have found are a pair of sharp pruning shears. The bird is then placed in a plastic pail with cover and allowed to bleed. After preparing enough for a meal, which for our family consists of a dozen birds, I take the bucket inside the house. The bled birds are immersed in scalding water (148 deg. F) for five seconds and then put in a large bowl. After being scalded, the bird is skinned starting from the neck down to the wings and the legs. Cut the wings and legs just below the joint. To gut them, a pair of scissors is used to slit the bird down the back. Don't slit the breast because that's where the bulk of the meat is located. Once gutted, with the neck cut off close to the body, the birds should be chilled. I normally dump them into a large bowl filled with cold water and some ice cubes. After I have skinned and gutted all twelve birds and left them in the bowl to be chilled, I pick each one up again and give it a thorough cleaning picking off any pin feathers left behind or any organs that didn't come off during my initial gutting. I then either put them in the fridge, freeze them, or prepare them for a meal. There are all kinds of quail recipes (http://www.northwest-gamebirds.com/recipe.htm) available. The thing to remember is that the meat has almost no fat so that if the birds are roasted in the oven it is important to wrap them in something like bacon.
The feathers and guts are taken to a local veterinary clinic and incinerated for a nominal fee.
A favorite recipe of ours is to put a dozen birds in a slow cooker with a couple of sliced onions, salt and pepper and the whole thing topped off with water. Leaving the birds to cook overnight or during the day while you're at work allows the birds to produce and cook in their own broth. Cooked this way, the birds are very tender and absolutely delicious. We also use the broth for making soup and as a base for fish chowder.
The eggs are consumed fresh. After they've been refrigerated for a couple of days, use a steak knife to saw through them and cook a dozen or so for your kids for breakfast on the weekend. Quail eggs have long been known as a good substitute for people who cannot eat eggs from poultry and for people with allergies. They can be hard-boiled and pickled also.
List of suppliers

Berry Hill Limited, 75 Burwell Road, St.******, ON N5P 3R5.
Tel. no.:1-800-668-3072
Cutler's Pheasant and Poultry Supply, Inc.
1940 Old 51
Applegate, MI 48401
Ph: (810) 633-9450
Fax: (810) 633-9178
E-mail: [email protected]
Web page:http://www.cutlersupply.com (http://www.cutlersupply.com/)
G.Q.F. Manufacturing Company, PO Box 1552, Savannah, Georgia, USA 31498.
Tel. no.: (912)236-0651
Ranch Cunicole G.L.R. Inc., 515, Rapide Plat Nord, St-Hyacinthe, Quebec.
Tel. no.: (514)799-5170
Seven Oaks Game Farm and Supply, 7823 Masonboro Sound Road, Wilmington, NC 28409-2672. Tel. no.: (910)791-5352
E-Mail: [email protected]


American Pheasant and Waterfowl Society, W2270 US Hwy. 10, Granton, WI 54436
Canadian Ornamental Pheasant & Game Bird Association, 221 Sheridan Street, Brantford, ON N3S 4R2

12-13-2007, 04:44 PM
Coturnix or Japanese quail (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) are a delight to raise, their space requirements are small, they dont eat a lot, convert feed into protein efficiently, and are much more congenial creatures than even the sweetest-tempered chicken. These engaging fowl have been raised under domestic conditions since the Pharos ruled beside the Nile.

The modern Coturnix has been bred to begin producing eggs when less that two months old. Once she starts laying, the hen will produce an egg daily for at least a year. The males are equally rapid growers, being ready for the table at six to eight weeks of age.

Coturnix eggs are nearly identical in taste and nutritional quality to chicken eggs. Coturnix hens, however, need less than two pounds of feed to produce a pound of eggs. Chickens need almost three pounds of feed to make that same pound of eggs. You can use the eggs yourself or sell them in gourmet markets. Because of their small size, they are especially attractive as hors doeuvres, either pickled or hard-cooked. Five Coturnix eggs equal one chicken egg. Quail eggs are all different in appearance, being speckled and mottled.

Coturnix are very easy to prepare for eating, also. Because of their small size, three can be beheaded at the same time. Bleed the birds and then dunk them into scalding water briefly. After scalding in 148 F water plucking should be easy. Chill after plucking, remove the entrails (reserve giblets) and either cook or freeze. Recipes (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) for quail are easy to find, they can be prepared any way chicken is cooked. Two birds are considered a serving.

Quail meat is delicious. Even the breast meat is dark, as is true of all birds that fly. The taste is nearly identical to chicken but really needs to be tasted to understand the difference. The meat is tender and can be broiled, baked, roasted, stir-fried, or stewed. Stewing would be a good way to used old hens that are no longer laying eggs every day.

There are three ways to get your first birds, you can either buy adult birds, chicks or hatching eggs. If you are only interested in keeping a few dozen birds for eggs, buy young hens. However, to get both meat and eggs you will need to purchase young chicks or hatch your own eggs.

The hatching rate for Coturnix eggs is about 60% and generally half of them will be young cocks. The same ratio usually applies to day-old chicks, as it is impossible to sex them before they are at least two weeks of age. At this age, most males will start to show their distinctive color differences. The males have reddish breast feathers and the females are speckled and grayish. Separate the cocks and hens as soon as you can determine their sex.

If you are going to keep your own eggs to hatch for replacement birds, it is a good idea to get a few males from another source so that your gene pool remains varied. If you keep breeding related birds back to one another, you will weaken your flock and recessive abnormalities will begin to show up. At the very least, you will soon have hens that do not lay daily and fertility will decrease.

Because of their small size, Coturnix can be kept in small pens. Plan on a square foot of space per bird. When startled, quail tend to fly straight up and can gain enough upward momentum to break their necks when they hit the top of the cage. If your cages are high enough to allow flight, make the tops of burlap, nylon netting, or canvas, otherwise you will be removing dead birds as they smash themselves on the solid cage tops.

Cages can be raised or rest on the ground. Many quail breeders favor raised cages because they are easier to keep clean. The droppings fall through to the ground and can be raked up and removed to the compost (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) heap without disturbing the birds. In raised cages, the birds will never be standing in manure and the eggs will remain clean.

A nesting or brooding box is necessary if you want to get eggs. This should be a solid box with a small opening for the hens to enter and leave by and a large door for you to collect eggs and change bedding (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#). You should be able to get into the nesting box from outside the cage. You can keep 40 birds in a cage three feet by three feet by seven feet. The nest box should be 16 inches by three feet by three feet.

**** birds being raised for meat can be kept in outdoor pens constructed by draping bird netting over shrubs (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#). This will give them room to exercise and fly. They will also get some food by capturing bugs. Encircle the shrubs with wire mesh and anchor it to the ground so predators can not get underneath. Drape the netting over the shrubs and fasten it to the wire securely. Remember that raccoons are very good at invading pens to steal free meals and make your quail enclosure safe.

Like most birds, Coturnix like to take dust baths in hot weather. If your birds are in raised cages, give them a cat-litter (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) pan full of dry soil for dusting.

Always provide the birds with fresh, clean water. Very young chicks can easily fall into water and drown, so take this into consideration when selecting water dishes. Special waterers made for small birds can be purchased. These containers have small openings for the birds to get at the water but too small for them to fall in and drown. Study the ready-made water containers (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) and you should be able to duplicate them with a little ingenuity and some empty milk jugs.

Birds being raised only for meat will thrive and grow plump on a high-carbohydrate diet. Hens will need laying mash if they are to produce lots of eggs. Most feed stores sell special feeds formulated for quail and other game birds. Be sure to read the label carefully and do not purchase feeds that have been treated or medicated. You should not have any trouble buying untreated feed for your birds. Tell the feed store people that your are raising birds organically and they will steer you to the correct products.

You can supplement your hens diet with chopped greens from the kitchen. Food scraps that you would normally put in the compost pile can be processed through the Coturnix hens first. Chop leaves and other vegetable (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) scraps fine enough for the birds to eat easily and there will be almost no waste.

**** birds can be given all sorts of table scraps like stale bread (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) and cakes. You only need to keep these birds plump and happy and they do not require extra nutrition for forming egg shell. Even if you use a few of them for breeding to get fertile eggs, they will still do very well on a basic diet of quail scratch and stale bakery (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) products. The added bonus of raising quail is their pleasing voices. They are not raucous and shrill like chickens (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) and listening to them coo and whistle to one another can be very soothing after a stressful day. Your quail **** birds will never wake you from a sound sleep by crowing loudly under your bedroom (http://ky.essortment.com/coturnixquail_rksp.htm#) window.

12-13-2007, 04:46 PM
When raising quail and keeping a flock during the winter months. Some preparations will have to be made. Obviously it is best to have some type of quail house that keeps out the cold winter drafts. As you know from brooding the quail chicks, cold drafts can be a major enemy to raising quail.
If a quail house is not available then you will have to shelter your quail from the elements in another manner. You could build a small boxed in enclosure, in the quail's pen, with just a big enough opening for them to enter and exit. This would help in giving your quail a place to covey and avoid the winds somewhat.
You should have a minimum of 15 to 20 quail per pen to create a covey for warmth. Also if you are not raising your quail in some type of quail house and have them on wire off of the ground. You will definitely want to at least take a tarp and drop it completely around the coops from floor level to the ground. It will help prevent drafts from coming up through the bottom of the cage. This is very important. On real cold windy days, it would be a good idea to cover the entire cage. Just make sure to allow for some ventilation.
You can also put a small wattage light bulbs in the quails covey area. This can offer them some help with warmth. I prefer a colored bulb enclosed, so they can't come in contact with it.
Another problem with raising quail in the winter months, is water icing up. You will have to keep an eye on this, to make sure your quail always have water available. Never add anything to the water just to keep it from freezing, the additive would probably kill your quail.
Hay is usually a great winter bedding for warmth but would have to be changed at least on a weekly basis. As you should know, the problem dropping build up can cause. Should not be much of a problem in the winter but why take chances with your quail.
In the wild they covey in very thick brush and grass to avoid the elements the closest you can come to creating that type of environment the better your quail will do.
You have probably raised your quail from eggs and have been observing them ever since. If you have, then you should have some type of idea from their actions, if there is a problem. The quail have a way of telling you when they are under stress and need some type of attention. Learning how to read them is all part of raising quail.
So when preparing your quail for the cold winter months, use a lot of common sense and observation.
Give the quail cover from drafts, rain and snow. Make sure they have drinkable water not ice and enough quail in the same pen to create a covey. Giving the quail a little help with a man made heat source would also help.

12-13-2007, 04:49 PM
Raising Japanese quail

By Maurice Randall, Former Livestock Officer (Poultry) and Gerry Bolla, Former Livestock Officer (Poultry) and published by NSW Department of Primary Industries..


Japanese quail are hardy birds that thrive in small cages and are inexpensive to keep. They are affected by common poultry diseases but are fairly disease resistant. Japanese quail mature in about 6 weeks and are usually in full egg production by 50 days of age. With proper care, hens should lay 200 eggs in their first year of lay. Life expectancy is only 2 to 2 years.

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/contents/07-06JapQuail1.jpg Figure 1. A pair of Japanese quail
If the birds have not been subjected to genetic selection for bodyweight, the adult male quail will weigh about 100140 g, while the females are slightly heavier, weighing from 120160 g.

The females are characterised by light tan feathers with black speckling on the throat and upper breast.
The males have rusty brown throat and breast feathers. Males also have a cloacal gland, a bulbous structure on the upper edge of the vent that secretes a white, foamy material. This unique gland can be used to assess the reproductive fitness of the males.http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/contents/07-06JapQuail2.jpg Figure 2. Quail eggs are distinctively marked
Japanese quail eggs are a mottled brown colour and are often covered with a light blue, chalky material. Each hen appears to lay eggs with a characteristic shell pattern or colour. Some strains lay only white eggs. The average egg weighs a10 g, about 8% of the bodyweight of the quail hen. Young chicks weigh 67 g when hatched and are brownish with yellow stripes. The shells are fragile, so handle with care.


Research indicates that grouping a single male with two or three females will generally give high fertility. When quail are kept in colony pens, one male to three females is sufficient and reduces fighting among males. Pair matings in individual cages also give good fertility. Fertility decreases markedly in older birds. Avoid mating closely related individuals, because inbreeding increasesthe incidence of abnormalities and can greatly reduce reproductive performance. For this reason, it is desirable to record hen numbers on the eggs, incubate them in groups, and permanently mark the chicks at hatch time.

Pedigree records can be kept by using commercially available wing bands to identify quail of all ages. Quails can be identified temporarily by a little oil paint on the back feathers (not on the skin) or fingernail polish on the toes.

Pre-incubation egg care

Successful quail propagation begins in the pre-incubation period. Eggs should be collected several times a day and stored at a temperature of 15C; a household refrigerator is not satisfactory because it is too cold. Cracked eggs hatch very poorly, if at all. Best results are obtained when eggs are held no longer than 1 week before setting.

Quail eggs should be handled with great care as they are very susceptible to shell damage. The coloured egg shells of quail make candling difficult.

A dirty incubator or hatchery area is a major source of contamination and disease. Thoroughly wash and disinfect the hatching unit after each use with a quaternary ammonium compound or commercial disinfectant. Set only clean eggs, as dirty eggs are a source of disease or infection. Soiled eggs can best be cleaned with fine sandpaper or other abrasives eggs to be incubated should not be washed.

Eggs should be fumigated after they are collected, but alternatively they can be fumigated within 12 hours after being placed in the incubator. Do not fumigate embryos that are between 2 and 5 days old.

Fumigation procedures are as follows:

Use 25 g of potassium permanganate and 35 mL of formalin (40%) for each cubic metre of incubator space.
Put the permanganate in an earthenware or enamelware dish (volume ten times that of the ingredients), and add the formalin last. Avoid inhaling the fumes, or wear a suitable respirator.
In forced-draft incubators, leave the fan running and the vents closed during fumigation; open the vents after 20 minutes.
In still-air incubators, open the incubator and vent after 20 minutes.
During fumigation the humidity should be high, and the temperature must be between 20C and 30C.Incubation and hatching

The incubation period for quail is 1718 days, depending on the strain and the incubation procedures.

Successful hatches depend upon a good understanding of incubator controls; study the manufacturers recommendations carefully, and save them for further reference. The two types of incubators generally available are fan-ventilated (forced-draft) and still-air machines. A forced-draft incubator is preferable, but a still-air machine works well if carefully operated. Some models are designed especially for quail. Japanese quail eggs can be incubated in any chicken-egg type of incubator, although the egg trays in some machines may need modifying. Eggs should be placed large end up in the setting tray.

Fan-ventilated (forced-draught) incubators

Forced-draft incubators should maintain an incubating temperature of 37.5 0.3C (99.5 0.5F) and a relative humidity of 60% wet bulb reading of 30 0.5C (86 1.0F) until the 14th day of incubation. Eggs should be turned every 24 hours to prevent embryos from sticking to the shell. On the 14th day, candle and remove any cracked eggs, infertiles and dead embryos. Transfer the eggs to hatching trays and stop turning. A separate hatcher should be operated at 37.2C (99F) and a relative humidity of 70% wet bulb 32.2C (90F).

If the incubator is a combined setter and hatcher, it should be operated at a temperature of 37.5C (99.5F), but the relative humidity should be increased to 70% wet bulb 32.2C (90F) during hatching.

The hatcher should not be opened during the hatching process. If all recommended incubation procedures have been followed, the chicks may be removed on the 17th or 18th day of incubation.

Still-air incubators

If a still-air incubator is used, normal incubating temperature is 38.3C (101F) for the first week, 38.8C (102F) for the second week and not exceeding 39.5C (103F) until hatching is completed. Temperature should be measured at the top of the eggs. Humidity should be less than 70% wet bulb 29.430.5C (8587F) until the 14th day of incubation; it should then be increased to 70% wet bulb 32.2C (90F) until hatch is completed in 17 or 18 days. Maintaining proper humidity in small still-air incubators can be a problem; do not open the incubator more frequently than is needed to turn the eggs, and do not leave it open for long periods of time.

The eggs must be turned by hand at least three, and preferably five, times a day. A pencil mark on the side of each egg may help to ensure proper turning. It may be desirable to move eggs to different locations in the incubator in case the temperature is not uniform throughout. Newly hatched chicks often tend to sprawl in hatching trays. To prevent this, crowd the eggs into a small area or fasten cheesecloth to the bottom of the hatching tray before the chicks begin to hatch.

Natural incubation

It is also possible to set japanese quail eggs under a broody hen. Bantams are ideal. A group of eggs should be saved and then placed under her so they will hatch together. Any chicken eggs should be removed from the nest. Japanese quail hens rarely go broody.

Brooding and care of young birds

Newly hatched quail chicks are small, and proper brooding temperatures for young quail are very important. They need supplementary heat for about 34 weeks after hatching. A commercial brooder or any other heat source that provides sufficient heat can be used successfully, and should be placed 3046 cm above the floor of the pen. The photo below shows a gas brooder providing supplementary heat for quail chicks housed on deep litter. Measure the temperature at the level of the chicks. Maintain it at about 35C during the first week of brooding. This temperature may be decreased by about 3.5C a week until the chicks are fully feathered at about 34 weeks.

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/contents/07-06JapQuail3.jpg Figure 3. A gas brooder
The best guide for adjusting the temperature is chick behaviour. Chicks that crowd near the heat source and seem cold indicate the temperature is too low. When the chicks tend to settle just outside the hottest area, the temperature is about right. Failure to provide adequate heat during the early days of the brooding period invariably results in increased mortality. Chicks should be protected from draughts of cold air, especially at night.

Care must be taken with small quail to prevent drowning in water troughs. A canning jar with a glass or plastic base, or automatic chick mini-drinkers, work well provided the drinking trough is filled with pebbles or marbles to stop the baby quail getting into the water.

When the chicks reach 1 week, the pebbles can be removed with safety. It is important to provide clean water at all times; water containers or troughs should be cleaned daily.

Litter is used to dilute the droppings and absorb moisture. Wood shavings, sawdust and sand are good litter materials. Litter should be 510 cm deep on the floor and covered with paper for the first week for chicks. Use soft, rough types of paper, as chicks tend to spraddle on hard, smooth paper. Old newspapers are satisfactory but not ideal. Paper towelling is better. Food should be sprinkled on the paper to encourage young chicks to eat. If chicks are raised in wire cages or on a wire floor, the floor surface must be covered with coarse paper for the first week or so to prevent leg injuries.

Feather picking or other forms of cannibalism may occur when Japanese quail are kept on wire. Beak trimming may be necessary as early as 2 weeks of age and is usually done with a hot-blade-type commercial beak trimmer. The tip of the upper beak can be temporarily removed with nail clippers. After birds are beak trimmed, the level of feed and water in the troughs may need to be increased. Other generally effective preventive measures are to reduce the number of birds per pen to avoid crowding, reduce the light intensity and increase the dietary fibre and grit.

Japanese quail are territorial and will defend their home against intruders. If two groups of quail are to be combined, put them together in an unfamiliar cage or pen.

Housing and equipment

Quail are frequently housed in rooms similar to garages. However, such rooms need to be well insulated, well ventilated and free from draughts, and must provide protection from cats, rodents and predatory birds.

Housing should be designed to ensure comfort for the birds, to make food and water readily accessible and to permit easy and effective sanitation. The adult facilities should reflect the purpose of the project. For example, if the birds are to be raised for commercial egg or meat production, then small pair-cages are suitable. Hobbyists may prefer aviaries or small deep-litter pens that do not require regular removal of droppings.

For cage or pen construction, 7 mm square welded wire mesh is recommended to provide secure footing, prevent leg injuries and prevent chicks escaping through side walls.

Adult quail will live and produce successfully if they are allowed 145 cm of floor space per bird (125 cm per bird on wire floors). Often, in community pens, they will not build a nest but will hide their eggs in the litter. For this reason quail egg producers usually prefer to house their birds in cages. A cage 13 20 cm is large enough for two birds. The cage should have a solid metal or plywood roof to minimise head injuries if the birds take fright.

Adult quail need 1.252.5 cm of feeder space per bird. Ample feed should be present, but if the trough is too full, excessive wastage will occur.

Clean, fresh water should be provided at all times with a minimum of 0.6 cm of trough space per quail. Nipple drinkers and cups are suitable for adult quail. One nipple or cup should be provided for every 5 birds.

Light requirements

Japanese quail require 1418 hours of light per day to maintain maximum egg production and fertility. This means that supplementary lighting must be provided in the autumn, winter and spring months to maintain production.

Males not required for breeding, or any quail being grown for meat production, can be given only about 8 hours of low-intensity light per day. This is not enough to initiate sexual maturity; therefore, the birds do not expend energy on fighting and mating and will tend to fatten more quickly.


A standard ration for either growing or breeding quail may not be available commercially. If this is the case, good quality, fresh, commercial turkey or game bird diets are recommended, preferably fed as crumbles to minimise feed wastage. For the first 6 weeks quails should be fed a diet containing approximately 25% protein, about 12.6 megajoules (MJ) of metabolisable energy (ME) per kilogram, and 1.0% calcium. A good quality commercial starter ration for game birds or turkeys contains about 25%28% protein. If this is not available, a chicken starter ration (20%22% protein) can be used, but the birds will grow more slowly.

The dietary requirements for birds nearing maturity are similar except that calcium and phosphorus levels must be increased. Shell grit or ground limestone can be added to the diets after 5 weeks of age, or it may be provided separately as free choice. Laying diets should contain about 24% protein, 11.7 MJ of metabolisable energy per kilogram, and 2.5%3.0% calcium. The latter may need to be increased to 3.5% in hot weather when the birds eat less food but still require calcium to maintain egg production.

Adult japanese quail eat between 14 g and 18 g of food per day.

It is important to obtain fresh feed, and it should be stored in covered containers with tightly fitting lids in a clean, dry, cool area free from animals and vermin. Feed stored longer than 8 weeks is subject to vitamin deterioration and rancidity, especially in summer months.

Before the chicks are placed under the brooder, the papered floor should be covered with feed and the troughs filled to overflowing. After about a week, when the paper is removed and the chicks have learned to eat, the level of feed in the trough can be lowered to reduce wastage.


Quail, like other species of poultry kept for commercial purposes, must be given proper care and attention. Environmental conditions should be adjusted according to the climatic conditions and the needs of stock of different ages.

Dry food should be available at all times, and drinking water must be cool, clean and readily accessible.

Take care when working with quail, as the birds are easily startled and will struggle vigorously when caught. Excessive or rough handling may kill them. Sudden noises and disturbances should be avoided. Protection from cats, dogs, rats and predatory birds is essential.

If laying hens are moved to new quarters, a pause in production of 23 weeks is likely. Avoid introducing new birds into the territory of an established group.

Disease prevention and control

Sanitary management practices are the best guarantee against disease. Equipment, such as cages, feeders, waterers and tools should be cleaned and sanitised frequently. A commercial disinfectant is recommended.

Japanese quail suffer from some of the same diseases that affect domestic chickens. However, if housing, nutrition, husbandry and hygiene are of a high standard, mortality should not be a problem.

Birds that appear sick should be isolated from healthy birds. Dead birds should be removed immediately. A veterinary diagnosis is desirable before initiating treatment.

Commercial processing and marketing

There is a limited but expanding market for specialist products such as fresh or pickled quail eggs and fresh or frozen quail carcases. However, commercial success requires thorough market research and the ability to maintain supplies of top quality produce.

Quail producers who plan to slaughter and market their own quail are advised to contact the NSW Food Authority for information on regulations concerning construction of processing premises, processing and packaging.

03-27-2008, 01:00 PM
What a great article, I have to say I am impressed by the scope of this one. It caught me off guard to start; who would have though I'd find an article on Quails on a medical site :P Such cute little birds, maybe I'll look into raising a few; well probably not, but if I wanted to I now have a resource ;)


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