One of the major problems of rearing quail in confinement is cannibalism (see section on “Cannibalism”). Debeaking is removing the tip of the bird’s beak so that the beak ceases to be a puncture tool and, at the same time, becomes an ineffective tweezer for pulling small feathers. Quail debeaking is commonly performed with nail clippers, scissors, and electric debeakers.
Debeaking can be done on schedule or as needed. Debeaking at day old by snipping off about one-fourth of the upper beak (from tip to nostrils) prevents early cannibalism but has to be repeated every 2 or 3 weeks. Be careful with snips not to split or crack the beak. If producing birds for shooting preserves, debeak with nail clippers or scissors. Birds should have natural beaks when released, both for looks and, if unharvested, for survival in nature.
With an electric debeaker birds can be debeaked at 1 day of age or later when needed or at convenience of operator. Remove about one-half of the upper beak measuring from tip to nostrils. This is usually sufficient for the life of a meat-destined bird although if picking reoccurs, a second debeaking may be necessary. Sick or weak birds should not be debeaked; stress will make the problem worse. Be sure the depth of feed is increased for 6 days after severe debeaking. The bird’s beak will be sore, and, if hit against the bottom of the trough when feeding, the bird may not eat as it should — another stress.
Provide proper ventilation and avoid drafts. Always provide ventilation to eliminate stale air, ammonia, dust, and moisture and at the same time provide fresh air. Any time you detect ammonia at your height, it is much more severe at the birds’ level. Eye damage and respiratory problems, as well as poor working conditions, result. In other words, “If your house smells, so does your management.”
Brooding Schedule Guide By Age
24 hours before removal from hatcher
- Turn on all brooders, set at 98-100ºF, and check temperature of each brooder at edge of hover and 3 inches above litter or wire. Leave brooders on.
- Place fresh water in jars around each side and just outside hover so that water will be warmed by brooders. If wide troughs are used, place marbles or clean stones in trough to prevent drowning.
- Place brooder guards around brooder, feed, and water.
2 hours before removal from hatcher
- Place egg flats, paper towels, or corrugated cardboard near waterers. Place starter feed on these. Remember, do not use slick paper or slick cardboard for feed trays: birds will become spraddle legged on slick surfaces.
- Check temperature of brooders.
- Cull weak and crippled birds. Debeak lightly if cannibalism has been a past problem.
- Check brooders daily and nightly to observe birds and see if they’re comfortable. Birds at this age cannot stand wide variation of temperatures.
- Keep waterers filled and cleaned.
- Remove paper or flats containing feed each evening to prevent collection of droppings from creating a problem. Place fresh feed on fresh paper daily.
- On the third day move brooder guard so it is 4-5 feet larger in diameter than hover.
- Weather permitting, brooder guard may be removed by the fifth day.
- Place additional larger waterers and feed troughs in pens on the fifth day. Some eliminate this step by initially placing all waterers and feeders used throughout brooding.
- Reduce brooder temperature to 95ºF on the seventh day.
- Begin removing small waterers, one each day, until only larger type remain. Do not allow small waterers to remain empty; instead remove the small waterers.
- Remove feed flats, one each day, until only larger feed troughs remain. Allow the birds to venture farther from the heat, but use common sense in relation to weather conditions.
- Confine birds to brooder area at night, but do not confine under brooder.
- Clean jar or pail waterers at each refill. Clean watering troughs daily.
- Keep fresh feed before birds; remove dusty and powdery feed daily.
- Reduce brooder temperature to 90ºF on 14th day.
- Keep feed and water before birds at all times.
- Allow birds to go into runs on warm days and provide heat so they will have it if needed. Do not confine birds as closely to brooder at night.
- Continue to clean waterers and to remove dusty powdery feed from troughs.
21 days and after
- Reduce brooder temperature to 85ºF on the 21st day and continue to reduce the temperature 5ºF each week of brooding thereafter. Several 1-3 degree temperature decreases are preferable to a single large decrease. This reduces the possibility for chilling, especially when weather conditions worsen.
- Continue sanitary procedures.
- Do not fail to keep water and feed available at several areas within each pen.
- Transfer to grow-out pens.
- Cull and lightly debeak as you transfer.