Quail requires 14 to 18 hours of light per day to assure maximum egg production. Male quails or any quails grown for meat intake can be given 8 hours of low-intensity light per day. This lighting discourages the birds to engage in activities such as fighting and mating, thus, making them fatter.
Quails that lay eggs early should be separated and be used as a breeder while those which lay eggs the very last (or table egg layers) should be increased for egg production.
According to BAI, if female quails do not respond to the males’ “mating call” which is usually based on its hoarse and shaky voice, this signifies that they are not happy or satisfied with their mates. It is therefore important to take note of the males’ capacity to co-produce to expand the brood. The usual population ratio is 70 females against 30 males, (1 male to 3 females is also ideal). To make sure that you have the sufficient number of quails, check your birds. If female quails have feathers on the back, it is certain that there are enough males; if there are few males, the females will fight. However, there are situations that female quails do not fight even if there isn’t a single male.
LDC recommends the following feed consumption at different quail stages: (Stage/bird = Feed Consumption/day)
- Chick stage = 7g/day
- Growing stage = 17g/day
- Laying stage = 23g/day
This is proven with table egg layers where it is separated and taken care of without a male.
Take extra custody in picking quails as they panic easily and struggle when caught. Excessive handling can hurt or even kill them. If laying quails are transferred, expect a gap in production for about 2 to 3 weeks as they are in the adjustment period. Avoid introducing new breeds (for example, putting a Japanese Seattle to a Negro group) into an established group.
Pre-Incubation Egg Care
Success in quails starts with good pre-incubation stage. MSU enumerates the following steps to take care of eggs prior to incubation:
- Collect eggs 2 to 3 times a day if birds are raised in colony cages or on the floor to prevent egg shells from cracking.
- Handle eggs very carefully, quail eggs are thinner than chicken eggs.
- Eggs stored prior to incubation should be kept in cool place at approximately 13° C and at about 70% humidity.
- Do not hold eggs more than 7 days prior to incubation, as hatchability will be reduced considerably after that.
- If eggs have to be stored for a considerable time, cover them with polyethylene plastic bag to help prevent drying of egg content.
Fumigate the eggs after they are collected within 12 hours after they being placed in the fumigator. Do not fumigate eggs that are 2 to 5 days old.
Incubation and Hatching
Usually, quails nurture their own eggs but other breeds like the Bobwhite do not naturally incubate, hence the need for an incubator. If you decide to use one, study carefully the instructions to avoid problems. NSW identifies two incubators commonly used — the still-air and forced-draught or fan-ventilated incubators. Still-air incubators have a normal incubating temperature of 38.3°C for the first week, 38.8°C for the second week and not exceeding 39.5°C until hatching is completed.
Humidity is important in small still-air incubators, thus avoid opening the incubator unless you need to turn the eggs. The eggs must be turned by hand three to five times a day and put a mark on the eggs to connote the number of turns. It is advised to transfer the eggs to different locations in the incubator in case the temperature is not consistent. To prevent newly hatched chicks to slump in hatching trays, crowd the eggs or attach cheesecloth to the bottom of the hatching tray before the hatch.
Forced-draft or fan-ventilated incubators should have a maintaining temperature of 37.5°C and a relative humidity of 60% until the 14th day. The NSW suggests turning of eggs every 2 to 4 hours to prevent embryos from sticking to the shell. On the 14th day, candle and remove any cracked eggs or dead embryos. Transfer the eggs to the hatching trays and stop turning. If there is a separate hatcher, maintain its temperature at 37.2°C with a relative humidity of 70%. The incubator should not be opened during the hatching process. If all procedures have been followed, the chicks may be removed on the 17th or 18th day.
Incubation without using these machines is also possible. Gather quail eggs and put them under a hen. Remove all chicken eggs and wait for 17-18 days for hatching.
It may take ten hours for chicks to fully pop out from their shells. After hatching, the incubator should be cleaned, disinfected and fumigated.
Though quails are hardy and resistant to diseases, they can still be affected with common poultry illnesses. Proper sanitation is the primary solution to avoid all health problems and regularly disinfecting the equipment is highly recommended. Birds that appear sick should be quickly separated and immediately take out dead birds. Consult a veterinarian or an animal expert for a guaranteed health safety