This is one of the most important phase of your bobwhite quail program. Failure to brood properly can result only in disappointment. Here are some basic guidelines.
Clean Brooding Area
First, thoroughly clean the brooding area. This includes walls, ceiling, floor, wire, and all equipment. One of the best aids is strong water pressure to knock down dust, waste material, cobwebs, etc. Take all equipment outside and wash, clean, and disinfect. Leaving this equipment out in the sun is very beneficial; the sun is one of our best disinfectants.
After thorough cleanup, and only then, use a commercial disinfectant on the walls, ceiling, wire, and floor. Using a disinfectant before cleanup is a waste of money; you cannot disinfect a dirty area.
Use Moisture-Absorbing Litter
Put moisture-absorbing litter on the floor. Do not use litter that has been used for any previous fowl. And do not use sawdust or hardwood shavings. Sawdust and hardwood shavings can allow mold and fungus spores to develop and results in respiratory problems. Chick quail also commonly eat sawdust, which is not desirable. Pine shavings and builder’s sand are the most commonly used litter materials.
Provide at least a 2-inch deep layer of litter in the brooding area. Keep the litter dry; wet litter promotes many undesirable problems like internal/external parasites, eye damage from ammonia, molds etc.
Types of Brooders
Various makes, models, and capacity brooders are available. Your plans now and for the future are governed by what type you use. Take time to plan your future desires regarding quail before you purchase equipment. Poultry and game bird equipment suppliers can give you information on the various types of brooders. Be sure to purchase a type that is easily and accurately adjusted.
Brooders should operate at least 24 hours before arrival of the chicks. This gives you sufficient time to make necessary adjustments, repairs, or replacements, and takes the chill off the brooding area. Be sure each brooder is operating according to manufacturer’s directions. Check temperature at the outer edge of hover brooders and at approximately 1-inch above litter. The correct temperature is very important to the health of the chick quail.
Guide for Brooding Temperatures
- First Week = 98 – 100ºF
- Second Week = 95ºF
- Third Week = 90ºF
- Fourth Week = 85ºF
- Fifth Week = 80ºF
Always observe the chicks to see if they are comfortable. If they tend to pile up or crowd near the center of your heat source, more heat is needed. If they stay way out and do not go under the center, it is too hot. They should spread out comfortably under the brooder in a circle from the center out.
Time will vary as to how long heat should be provided. In warm weather, after a month, only night heat may be needed. Any time quail are sick, heat should be provided regardless of weather. A sick quail usually acts chilled; but by providing heat you help the bird overcome the problem and lose fewer birds.
Use brooder guards the first few days to prevent the chicks from wandering too far from the heat. An 18-inch high corrugated cardboard guard closely encircling the brooder is sufficient to contain wandering chicks. Many producers move the guard on the third day until it is 4-5 feet larger in diameter than the hover. Normally, the brooder guard can be removed after 5 days. Again, judgment on your part, according to your conditions, should determine what is best.
Before the chick quail arrive provide feed on rough cardboard flats or paper towels. Do not place feed on slick material, it can cause the chicks to be spraddle legged. Have at least two feeding and watering areas per pen, and place them close to the brooder so birds do not have to be chilled when eating or drinking. Place clean fresh water in water jars the day before chicks arrive. The brooder heat (which should be on 24 hours before the chicks’ arrival) takes the chill off the water and prevents shock. Birds fresh out of an incubator can be overly chilled by drinking cold water. Marbles or clean pebbles in the water troughs attract birds to the water and prevent the drowning.
Provide Enough Space
Provide sufficient floor, feed, and water space. Overcrowding and lack of feed and/or water availability can result in serious problems. Never have fewer than two feeding or drinking sources per pen of birds. The amount of floor space needed is shown in the guide below. However, conditions may require deviating from these recommendations. Experience dictates what is needed.
These guidelines help keep you from varying too far from the normal. Due to different conditions and different management on each farm, what works well for one quail producer does not necessarily work well for another.
Minimum Space Needed by Age of Quail
||10 days – 6 wks
||6 wks – 14 wks
||5-10 birds/sq. ft.
||1-2 birds/sq. ft.
||1-2 sq. ft./bird
|1 linear ft./
|2 linear ft./