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When living in an area where raising larger poultry such as chickens is not an option, quail are a great alternative. Most HOA’s typically allow you to raise quail even when other types of birds are frowned upon. The truth of the matter is that as long as you keep the smell from the quail manure under control they will probably never even know that you have them. Quail are relatively quiet birds. Even when 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 trouble? Yes quail are small, weighing in between 3 ½ to 5 ounces, so it may take 1 to 2 quail per person for a meal. The eggs of course are also small, taking about 5 quail eggs to equal 1 large chicken egg. An adult quail will eat between 20 and 25 grams of food a day, which will probably run you about 2 cents a 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 a little over two years. So in less than 2 months they will be ready to eat or better yet they are ready to reproduce.An important thing to remember is that through the years Coturnix Quail have lost the instinct to hatch their own eggs so you will either need an incubator or you will need to place them under a chicken. Coturnix Quail, which are the most commonly raised quail are easy to identify as either male or female by the color of the birds chest. Female birds have a speckled chest while males have a light brown colored chest without the spots. Quail typically reproduce between the months of 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 a light to their cage you can extend the season and get about 300 eggs per year per adult hen. As they grow older those ladies will get tired and produce less. The eggs are also very edible and in some areas considered a delicacy. There is really very little difference in taste between quail eggs and chicken eggs, as a matter of fact if it wasn’t for that size thing I don’t think you could tell the difference.
You will want to raise your birds in a cage to keep them safe from predators such as those relentless hunters, dogs and cats. You will want to give them about 10 inches of space per bird and try to keep the cage about 8 inches tall. Quail do fly and can hurt themselves by hitting the top of the cage if they have enough room. The typical cage has a floor of ½ inch wire fencing so that they are able to walk on the floor and their waste can fall to the ground. If you are a gardener the waste from these birds makes for a great fertilizer. If for some reason you don’t like the idea of keeping them in a cage you can let them out in a fenced in area but as I mentioned before they do fly so you will need to clip their wings.
Quail are fairly docile birds so if you do have an escapee, stay calm. Don’t run or chase after them or you will frighten them and they may take off for good. Just slowly walk up to them and corner them and you will easily be able to pick them up. If you really think you need to you can use a net but again do it carefully and they should be easy to catch.
Quail really get into things. By that I mean they get into their food and their 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 that they do not become ill from bacteria or disease. Chicks should be fed starter until they are 6 to 8 weeks old to make sure that they get enough protein. Although you can give them chicken feed it is best to give them quail food or game bird food. Do not allow their food to get wet. Wet food will mold and can kill your birds.
When your quail lay eggs you can store them for about a week prior to incubating. This will give you a chance to collect several eggs to hatch at one time. When you store them you want to place them pointy side down and try to store them in a cool area between 50° to 55° Fahrenheit or 10° to 13° Celsius. Handel the eggs very carefully because they are quite fragile. Make sure to wash your hands prior to handling, perspiration, oils, or other foreign matter can permeate the egg causing bacterial growth. Also ensure that your incubator is clean and sanitized prior to use as the chicks are susceptible to disease. When choosing eggs for incubation pick 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 for at least 24 hours prior to using it to make sure it is working properly and is up to temperature. Coturnix quail will require a temperature 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 do not have an automatic egg turner. 3 days prior to your eggs hatching you will want to stop turning your eggs. If you are turning your eggs by hand it is a good idea to mark your eggs with a circle on one side and an X on the other so that you can keep track of the side they are on. Make sure that if you mark them to do it in pencil and not ink. Ink can penetrate the shell. Coturnix quail will take up to 18 days to hatch. If you are raising Bob Whites they can take up to 23 days. The humidity in your incubator should range anywhere from 25% to 60%. As your chicks hatch leave them in the incubator until they are dry.
Once your quail are dry you can move them to a brooder. A brooder is some sort of large box or container with a heat lamp. You will need to keep that brooder temperature around 98° Fahrenheit or about 36.6° Celsius Then drop the temperature about 10 degrees a week until you reach the outside average temperature and your birds will be ready for the great outdoors.
Quail are easy to raise, inexpensive, a great food source and can be entertaining to raise regardless of where you live.
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