Archive for the ‘coturnix quail’ Category
Well yes and no!
Like most animals they are in tune with the seasons and during the winter month they will stop laying. It makes sense since any eggs that would hatch or young being born during the colder months would have a smaller chance of survival. This reduction in egg laying is triggered by the shortening of the day, less sunlight means less eggs.
While they naturally will slow down or stop laying eggs in the winter you can trick them by providing supplemental lighting. If you can provide 12-14 hours of light per day the quail will quickly return to laying every day. My recommendation is a simple string of Christmas lights with an inexpensive weather proof timer, both readily available at stores that have forgotten that we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet, but I digress. These lights are weather proof, cheap to run (lower power usage), and easily hung around whatever cage you are using.
I recommend setting your timer based on your sunset time, meaning have the lights come on early in the morning to extend the first part of the day and go off either later morning or early afternoon. This allows the bird a more normal ease into the darkness of night as opposed to a sudden removal of the lights after dark and them walking into walls or something crazy. You don’t need to run them all day, just until after sunrise then they can go off saving even more energy.
Depending on your climate though you may need to collect eggs more often than once a day. Frozen eggs tend to crack and let in the bad bacteria. So make plans to collect at least twice a day or more if you climate gets and stays below freezing for extended periods.
Final thoughts – some people will say this practice is bad for the birds and they need to have a time of dormancy to recovery or it will shorten how long or how well they lay in future years. I believe to each his own. In my system I will use lights to keep them laying into winter and as spring time nears I hatch out new birds and replace all my layers with new stock. So I never know what I may be losing in future years.
Been a while since I posted, so thought I would begin with a post for folks looking to get started raising quail for eggs and/or meat in their backyard.
1) Cage or pen
You will need a minimum of a 2X2 area for each pair or trio of birds. This is a minimum and more is better. The needs here are pretty simple, something to keep the birds in and predators out. While there are a lot of crazy flight cages and things you could build, I recommend starting small and building up to it. Check Craigslist or eBay for a rabbit hutch or something similar. Place it in a location that gets good ventilation, but not direct sun in summer. I also recommend a raised cage with a screened bottom. This allows for a cleaner area for the birds to live in without you constantly needing to clean it.
OK, this seems obvious, but be careful. Some birds have specific requirements, limits, or permits in different states and locations. I recommend checking your state and local requirements before making any purchases. For beginners I highly recommend Jumbo Brown Cortunix quail. These birds are easy to keep and identify the male from the female based on feather color. Also, they usually have no state or local restrictions. They too can be found on Craigslist. If you are daring you can get an incubator and some hatching eggs, but might want to save that for later.
I recommend a good quality game bird feed of at least 20% protein, I use Purina brands. Some folks want to mix their own so they know what the birds are eating, but it is very hard to do this and provide proper protein and nutrition/vitamins needed by the birds. Just starting out go with store bought and if you want to mix your own, transition the birds to it slowly later so you can watch for any problems.
Fresh clean water, fresh clean water, fresh clean water! Get it? The birds need fresh clean water at all times regardless of weather or season. In the heat of summer, fresh clean water. In the middle of an ice storm in winter, fresh clean water! It will depend on your cage setup how you do this, but give it some thought or try different things For me, down the length of the cages I added a piece of PVC pipe with a slot cut into it. This allows me to easily clean it out or remove ice.
Lastly, anything you do requires some time. Quail do need much! Feed them once a day, fresh clean water twice a day, collect eggs and remove waste as it builds up. I can do all of this in about 10-15 minutes a day and 15-20 minutes extra on weekend to clean out from under the cages.
Hope this helps and inspires someone to get started raising quail!
I have gotten a couple of questions lately about “free ranging” quail. While this works well for chickens, ducks and other fowl it is not recommended for quail. They tend to fly off never to be seen again. They don’t tend to roost in the same place each evening making free ranging difficult.
If you check my site I recommend a smaller cage for urban quail, about 2X3 foot. If you have more room you could use what is called a flight cage. It is a larger completely enclosed area that will allow the quail some height and distance to fly and exercise. It is usually used by growers who intend to sell their quail for training dogs to retrieve. Quail used in this way need to have strong flight muscles. it could also be used at ground level (as opposed to raised cages with wire bottoms) to allow the birds some ranging. It creates a real problem if part of your intent is to raise the birds for eggs, they are harder to find in such a setup.
Although I have never heard of it being used with quail, I would assume you could also used what is called a chicken tractor (search it). This would allow the birds some ground contact and a chance at natural foods like insects.
I would recommend regardless that you can a small box with some sand in it the cage to allow for some natural stimulation of the birds. Although the don’t need the grit if given a all purpose feed, it cant hurt them.
Well it has been hotter and drier than hades here in the mid-west. My birds are really slow on the egg production. Been keeping them good on fresh water and feed, but when it is a 107 degrees I understand if they decide not to lay. I’m going to wait for it to finally cool down (has to eventually right??) and then determine which ones to cull. Around that same time I plan to order some eggs (new blood line) and hatch out some replacements.
How about everyone else? How is the summer treating you and your birds?
Side note: regarding the bunnies, thanks to the intense heat we had to move them inside. We were doing the frozen 2 liter bottle thing, but it wasn’t enough. The pregnant does was looking pretty bad. Now fingers crossed that a little air conditioning will allow her to complete her pregnancy successfully.
My new favorite show is Barter Kings. I have been inspired to do a little cleanup and get rid of some stuff I don’t use for some stuff I might use. 🙂 It started when I listed some old exercise equipment, I have gotten several offers, power washers, car stereos, but nothing that interest me yet. I am going to wait it out as I know New Year’s resolution time will be when I might get some better offers.
For a few weeks I have been contemplating getting some rabbits to raise as a meat source. I already I have a rabbit hutch I use as a grow out cage for the quail, so why not. Plus for those keeping score I am raising quail to cover the fowl department, I have tilapia in my aquapontic setup to cover the sea food department, I just needed a red meat source to have the complete protein set up in my small suburban backyard. Rabbits are small and quiet, so they are perfect to keep the neighbors happy. I was looking online for someone close and with a good low price. I really don’t have any money to be spending on this new hobby or at least that is what my loving wife told me, so I was really looking for someone with a “Free Rabbits” posting.
After going through the offers for the exercise equipment, it finally hit me, why not try to trade quail for rabbits and save my cash. That’s just what I have tried. I listed them and didn’t get any hits at first, but then realized I had them in the wrong category. I re-listed and had three offers (two for cash and one for the rabbits I wanted) within 24 hours. I now have arrangements to trade the 5 week old quail I recently hatched (15 total remaining) for two does and a buck New Zealand mated trio of rabbits. Woo Hoo! This ROCKS!! Anyway, I will be making the trade this coming weekend and will post an update with how it went and maybe some bunny pictures. 🙂
UPDATE. So I made the trade, meet the bunnies, first picture is the buck, the second is the doe. They are both Giant Flemish/New Zealand mixes. As an added bonus the female is already breed and should give birth in about two weeks – what have I gotten myself into??????
Last week I moved the remaining chicks to a brooder I keep in the shed. I say remaining because I lost 3 chicks leaving me with 19. The shed will protect them until they fully feather out and when they are about 5 weeks old I move them outside to a grow out cage (old rabbit hutch). At about eight weeks I will match them up 2 female to one male in the breeding cages. Can’t wait to try and determine male/female on the white ones.
I have been a little lax in my posting, but with good reason: I took the winter off. My new favorite phrase: “I sent all my birds to freezer camp” last fall because I didn’t want to deal with stomping through the snow to replace frozen water. But who would have guessed 4th warmest winter. 🙁
Anyway spring is here and time to get back at it. I ordered some eggs on EBay and they came in over the weekend. I gave them a couple days to settle from traveling and placed them in a warm moist incubator this morning. 17 days should have chicks a cheeping. I stuck with the jumbo brown quail as they are easy to raise and identify the sexes. Plus they are good layers and meat birds – dual purpose.
My plan is to order a couple different sets of eggs over the next couple of months to diversify my flock DNA.
I’ll keep you posted on the hatch and have a great spring!
Raising quail in your backyard can be both fun and profitable. I mainly do it because it is the highest form of farming my city allows on my small lot. It provides meat and eggs for my family and gives me a hobby. I keep anywhere from 20 – 50 birds at a time with 18 dedicated to eggs and the others in various stages of grow out for meat or replacement breeders. Each female will lay a single egg a day or every other day given the time of year and lighting conditions. I have raised mostly coturnix quail, this year I plan to try some Texas A&M. It should be interesting since you cannot sex them by color.
First you will need a cage. A good rule of thumb is about two square feet per bird. I have cages I found on Craig’s list specifically made for raising quail, they are slanted so the eggs roll to the front. There are plenty of plans online, so I won’t labor the point. I also have an old two part rabbit hutch that I use as a grow out cage. Make sure the birds are secure against predators. I lost several birds early on until I used a small size wire to cover the cages. Give the birds a place of shade to get out of the hot sun, some sort of roof system will also protect them from rain. Also, make sure it easy to clean up below the cages. I spread straw below mine and rake it once a week onto the compost pile before adding new straw. Keeps the smell down.
If you are looking for fertile eggs it is recommend to have 3:1 female to male ratio. I have found 2:1 works better in my smaller cages to keep the fighting down.
Feed is very important; if you want consistent egg laying it should be 24% or higher protein. Personally I use the Purina Layena. Occasionally they also receive extras from the garden, fruits, vegetables, and greens. In addition, for sustained egg production a calcium supplement like crushed oyster shells is recommended.
Thanks to my wife, the kids got me an egg turner for father’s day. After my last hatch plus eight weeks of noisy babies I was going to wait, but couldn’t stand it and loaded the incubator up again. It will hold like 140 eggs, but if my hatch rate improves not sure what I would do with all so I only loaded 47.
So once again I had about 50% hatch rate. I was able to sell a few and at 8 weeks I butchered 14.