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When you live in an area where raising larger poultry such as chickens is not an option, quail are a great alternative. Most HOAs usually 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 of the quail manure under control they will probably never even know you have them. Quail are relatively quiet birds. Even when males scream 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 between 3 ½ to 5 ounces, so it can take 1 to 2 quail per person per meal. The eggs are of course also small, taking about 5 quail eggs to equal 1 large hen’s egg. An adult quail will eat between 20 and 25 grams of food per day, which will probably run you about 2 cents per 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 lifespan of just over two years. So in less than 2 months they will be ready to eat or better yet they are ready to breed. An important thing to remember is that over the years Coturnix Quail have lost the instinct to hatch their own eggs, so you will need an incubator or quail. you will have to put them under chicken. Quail quail, which are the most commonly raised quail, are easily identifiable as males or females due to the color of the bird’s breast. Female birds have a spotted breast while males have a light brown breast without the spots. Quail typically breed between the months of March and September when they can receive 14 or more hours of sunlight. When the days get shorter they will stop laying but by adding light to their cage you can extend the season and get about 300 eggs per year per adult hen. As they get older those ladies will tire and produce less. The eggs are also very edible and in some places are considered a delicacy. There is really very little difference in taste between quail eggs and chicken eggs, in fact if it wasn’t for that size 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 like those relentless hunters, dogs and cats. You’ll want to give them about 10 inches of space per bird and try to keep the cage about 8 inches high. Quail do fly and can injure 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 can walk on the floor and their waste can fall to the ground. If you are a gardener, the waste of these birds makes excellent fertilizer. If for some reason you don’t like the idea of keeping them in a cage you can let them loose in a fenced area but as I mentioned before they fly so you will have to clip their wings.
Quail are pretty docile birds, so if you do have an escapee, keep calm. Don’t run or chase them or you’ll scare them and they might 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 gets 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 they don’t get sick from bacteria or disease. Chicks should be fed starter food until they are 6 to 8 weeks old to ensure they are getting enough protein. Although you can feed them chicken feed, it is best to feed them quail food or game bird food. Don’t let their food get soggy. Wet food will mold and can kill your birds.
When your quail lay eggs, you can store them for about a week before hatching. This will give you a chance to collect multiple eggs to hatch at the same time. When you store them, you want to put them point side down and try to keep them in a cool area between 50° to 55° Fahrenheit or 10° to 13° Celsius. Handle the eggs very carefully as they are quite fragile. Be sure to wash your hands before handling, sweat, oils or other foreign matter can permeate the egg causing bacterial growth. Also, make sure your incubator is clean and sanitized before use, as the chicks are susceptible to disease. When choosing eggs for incubation, choose eggs that are clean and free of cracks. Do not wash the eggs or you will remove the protective coating or blooms from the eggs and they will not hatch. You will need to set up and run your incubator for at least 24 hours before using it to make sure it is working properly and is up to temperature. A Coturnix quail will require a temperature of around 99.9° Fahrenheit or 37.7° Celsius if you are hatching a 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 a time. time if you don’t have an automatic egg turner. 3 days before your eggs hatch you want to stop turning your eggs. If you’re turning your eggs by hand, it’s a good idea to mark your eggs with a circle on one side and an X on the other so you can keep track of which side they’re on. Make sure that if you mark them do it with a pencil and not ink. Ink can penetrate the shell. A Koturnix quail will take up to 18 days to hatch. If you breed Bob Whites they can last up to 23 days. The humidity in your incubator should range anywhere from 25% to 60%. While your chicks are hatching, leave them in the incubator until they dry out.
Once your quail are dry, you can move them to a breeder. An incubator 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 fun to raise regardless of where you live.
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