How to Breed Quail
Some quail are hard to get broody whilst others are easy to breed and will often hatch out a lot more chicks than you may have expected. Because of this, it’s good to be prepared and know what you are doing.
Preparing to Breed Quail
Decide whether you will be able to breed quail. Breeding quail can be hard at times. You will have to have a lot of space to house the quail, you will have to spend a lot of money on feed, water and housing for the quail, and you will have to give up most of your time on the quail.
- Make sure that the seasons favor you. Breed your quails during spring or summer. These are the seasons when your quails start to mate and nest. Keep in mind though, some quail breed year round whilst others mostly go broody during the spring and summer time.
Make sure you have enough space to breed quail. Although quails do not take up much space, they will hatch out a large amount of chicks, and males cannot be housed together. If you're going to continue to breed your quail as a profession, at least three large cages in your back garden, shed or garage is a good starting point.
- Each quail needs at least 1 square foot of floor space. Any less and your quails will not lay any eggs due to stress from confinement.
Place the cage in an undisturbed room. Quails need to be in a peaceful, undisturbed area in order to lay eggs and start to breed. You should not have the following in your area:
- High traffic
- Predators (including pets)
- Loud noises
- Other birds or animals
Consider hanging lights above the cage. Provide lights for 13-16 hours per day, it will increase the quails egg production. Never keep the lights on all day and night; this will exhaust your quails, they need sleep too.
Provide hay/straw for your quails. Quails need to build nests before they hatch out chicks or lay eggs. Give them time and they will soon clutch together about five eggs.
- Sometimes quail will lay eggs in peculiar spots or all around their cage rather than in their nest. They'll lay about 5-7 eggs and then clutch them together in their nest and sit on them. Both male and female will take turns sitting on them or sit on them together.
- Consider adding a nesting box for the quail. You can make a nesting box out of plastic container, pots or small cardboard boxes as long as they have an entrance to them. The nesting box should be a bit bigger than the quail itself and the quail should be able to fit through the hole/entrance.
Decide if you want to let your quails hatch out the eggs or if you want to incubate the eggs yourself. It might be more easy to let the quail hen to hatch the chicks as she will do all the work for you and you will not have to cash out for an incubator. However, some quail don't make good parents and some are hard to get broody.
Keeping Breeding Quail
Choose healthy quails to breed. Whether you are choosing the quails from your flock or from a store, choose the healthiest quail you can see/find. Healthy quail will be:
- Lively, playing around, quite curious and looking cautious.
- Eating, pecking at bits of food or any nearby bugs.
- Drinking, not all of the time but you should at least see the quail drink occasionally.
- Out in the open, quails that are huddled up in the corner are often sick or cold.
Make sure the quails are at least six weeks old. Any younger and the quails are considered as chicks and will probably not be laying eggs yet.
Keep one male with every two to five females. Five females is the maximum amount of quails to have with one male, but you will have to keep at least one male quail in each cage to fertilize the eggs.
- Do not house more than one male together. They will compete for the females and kill each over. Separate the quails in order to keep them from fighting.
Feed your breeding quails a high quality feed. A high quality feed will help your quails breed healthy chicks and can be bought from most pet shops and feed stores.
Leave the quails undisturbed. They will soon start mating, nesting and sitting on eggs. The occasional check up is okay as long as you are calm and quiet.
Leave your quails to hatch out the eggs. Do not touch or mess with the eggs unless necessary, the quail might discard them.
- You may see eggs lying about separate, leave them, your quails are making a clutch before they sit on them. It will take 17-21 days or more for the eggs to hatch once your quail hen has started sitting on them.
Check on your quails more often after the 17th day of sitting. By the 17th day your quail chicks will be close to hatching.
Separate the quail hen and her chicks from the flock. Other quails (especially males) will attack or peck at the chicks, causing serious injuries. Put them in a warm place with bedding, food and water. Consider placing a heat-lamp if the area you live in is quite cold, otherwise, the quail hen will keep her chicks warm naturally.
- Consider keeping the male with the chicks and hen. If he seems like a good father and doesn't peck or trample on the quail you can keep him with the chicks and hen. He might also help the hen care for the chicks.
Observe the parents. See if they care for the chicks properly and make good natural parents. If they abandon the chicks, peck at them, trample on them, or are quite aggressive towards them, they might not be good parents. If they feed them, call to them, and sleep on top of them they are good parents.
Purchase chick starter for your chicks. Feed this to your quail hen and chicks soon after hatching. Try purchasing a chick starter with around 28% of protein to ensure that your chicks will grow into strong and healthy quails.
- Chick starter meant for chickens or turkeys should be crushed up into little crumbles so that the chicks can eat it without any trouble.
Provide water for your chicks at all times. Make sure the water is refilled daily and is always fresh, clean the water bowl once a week and make sure it is shallow enough for your chicks to have access to but won't be at the risk of drowning.
- If you cannot acquire a shallow container to supply the water in, put some marbles, pebbles or something alike so that the chicks will not fall in and drown. You should also keep the water away from the heat source.
Sex your chicks at six weeks old. There are many ways to determine the sex of a quail. If you're planning on selling your quail, buyers prefer ones that are sexed and it's easier to put a price on your quail. Some methods can be seen below:
- Use vent sexing. This is the most accurate way to tell the sex of your quail. If you press lightly above the vent you should see a bump and some white foam coming out. If so your quail is a male, if not your quail is a female.
- Look at the feathers of your quail. Males usually have brighter colours around their neck and head whilst females are usually plain in colour depending on the breed. You can also look at the breast of your quail, common breeds that are male will have a rusty colour.
- Observe your quails behaviour. Males are usually more aggressive than females, and the dominant male will chase the other males or fight them.
- Listen to your quail. Males such as the coturnix quail will crow now and then and females do not. But if you have button quail, females might also crow mainly to call for chicks.
- Observe your quail during breeding season. Males will mount on top of the female and hold on to the females head with its beak when mating. And females might have a loss of feathers due to mating.
Separate the chicks after 6 weeks. By this time you will know which ones are males and which ones are females. Here are some tips on separating quails:
- Keep all males separate to prevent fighting.
- Keep quails in pairs so that they do not get lonely.
- Try keeping all the quails together (unless they are males) to reduce the noise volume. Some quails will call for each over if separated.
- Try not to add new quails to an old flock. They will get chased because some quails consider this as invading the flock. If you are going to do this, supervise them.
Purchase a good incubator. Buying one with an egg-turner is recommended, but you can turn the eggs yourself. You can purchase an incubator from a ranch, feed or pet store.
Choose the eggs you wish to incubate. Wash your hands before touching them and be very careful, the eggs are very fragile. Never wash the eggs; you will remove the coating which protects them from bacteria. Bad eggs will have:
- Dirt on them.
- Weak or thin shells.
Set up your incubator. The temperature should be set at 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity should be set at 60%.
Place the eggs in the incubator three days after they have been laid.
Turn the eggs. The eggs should be turned five times a day and you should stop turning the eggs 3 days before hatching.
Start checking on the eggs three days before they are due to hatch. Some eggs hatch early whilst others hatch late but they should all hatch on the same day.
- Do not interfere with hatching. Usually if a chick doesn't hatch it's for a reason. Also, if the eggs don't hatch 1-2 days after they were supposed to, discard of them.
Move the chicks to a brooder. A brooder is a place where are raised in, a simple box makes a great brooder. The brooder should include a constant supply of fresh water and chick starter feed, bedding and a heat lamp.
- Keep the brooder at 100℉ (38C) and lower the temperature by 5℉ (3C) each week until it reaches room temperature.
Check on your chicks at least three times a day. Make sure that they are healthy and are being cared for properly. The signs of unwell chicks are:
- Chicks huddling up or piling on top of each over, this indicates that they are cold.
- Panting chicks, this means that the chicks are either thirsty or hot.
- Chicks that will not eat or drink. Your chick may be sick, it’s best to contact a veterinarian.
Move your quail chicks to a proper cage at 4-6 weeks of age. You can put them in a spacious pen or in a simple rodent cage. As long as your quails have 1 square foot of floor space each they will be happy.
- You should also sex them and find out their gender. Males will fight if housed together and they should be kept in pairs or in groups of 2-5. To breed your new chicks, follow this article through again and see the breeding ratio above.
- Moving both the mother quail and father quail is optional. Normally the male quail will be happy to take care of the chicks but at times he can be aggressive, so it is best to observe what he does for the first week or so.
- Consider giving your female hen layer-pellets. Layer-pellets usually have more protein than normal quail feed and helps your quail lay strong, healthy eggs.
- Clean the cage out thoroughly before breeding. You won't usually get the chance to clean the cage when the quails are sitting on eggs as it will disturb them and ruin the whole breeding process. When cleaning the cage it will prevent diseases getting to the quail eggs, so it's a good idea to get scrubbing.
- Quail can have different coloured feathers but be the same breed, they can still be bred though.
- There is a chance that the mother quail will abandon or harm the chicks leading to you hand-raising them. Many people say that quail don't make good mothers but this depends on the quail themselves and your experience. However, you must always be prepared for the worst.
- Dip the chicks beaks in the water to make sure they know where they can drink from.
- Consider purchasing a red bulb as a heat lamp instead of the usual one. Chicks are attracted to red colours which is why they peck at each over and cause bleeding. If they have a red bulb they won't be able to tell if one of the chicks are bleeding or not, leading to no pecking.
- If you're looking in breeding Coturnix/Japanese quail you might have heard that they rarely go broody, which is true. Though it is possible for them to go broody as long as you have two females and a male, a natural habitat that is on ground, plenty of straw, shelters and hiding spots.
Things You'll Need
- Around five quails
- Spare cages
- High quality quail feed
- Water dish
- Chick starter
- Heat source (light)