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Quail Tales: A Peck-by-Peck Guide to Quail Care

Care Basics

Welcome to the world of Jumbo Coturnix Quail! These small birds are a fantastic addition to any urban or suburban farmstead. They are well-suited to meat and egg production. This guide will offer an in-depth understanding of how to raise these versatile birds successfully, even if you're a beginner.

Jumbo Coturnix Quails are larger than your typical Coturnix Quail. They're known for their quick growth and high productivity in meat and eggs. Originating from Japan, these birds mature quickly, with hens starting to lay eggs as early as 6 weeks old.

Housing and Environment:

Creating the right environment for your quail is crucial to their health, safety, and productivity. While quail aren't as demanding as some other poultry, they still have specific requirements that must be met.

Jumbo Coturnix Quails are ground-dwelling birds whose enclosure should account for this behavior. They won't need perches or high roosting spots like chickens or parrots. Instead, they require ample ground space to walk, run, dust bathe, and exhibit natural foraging behaviors. 

The rule of thumb for quail space requirements is a minimum of 1 square foot per bird. However, more is always better if you have the space available. More room will allow for better hygiene, lower stress levels, and more natural behavior opportunities, ultimately leading to healthier, happier birds.

When it comes to designing their enclosure, you have several options. You could opt for a fully caged setup, an aviary, or a hybrid model with an enclosed coop for nighttime and inclement weather and an outdoor run for safe daytime foraging.

If you choose a cage setup, a wire bottom can make cleaning easier and more hygienic as droppings fall through the mesh. But make sure to use a mesh with smooth wires and appropriately sized openings. Too large, and a quail can get their head or limbs stuck; too small, and their droppings won't fall through effectively.

Regardless of the type of enclosure you choose, predator protection is crucial. Ensure that all sides, including the top and bottom, are securely covered to prevent access by raccoons, weasels, birds of prey, and other potential threats. Use sturdy materials and ensure all doors or access points close securely.

Your quail will also need protection from the elements. A portion of the enclosure should be roofed and walled to provide shade and a refuge from wind, rain, and snow. If you live in an area with hot summers, ensure plenty of ventilation to prevent overheating. 

Inside the enclosure, your quail will appreciate some natural elements. Consider adding a shallow dust bath box filled with sand or fine dust for them to enjoy. This activity is a natural behavior for quail and helps them maintain their plumage. 

You can also offer some safe, non-toxic plants or branches for them to explore and peck at. This will provide them with entertainment and mental stimulation, further contributing to their well-being.

With a carefully designed and well-maintained enclosure, your Jumbo Coturnix Quails will have a safe and comfortable environment where they can thrive.

Feeding and Watering:

As omnivorous birds, Jumbo Coturnix Quails have a varied diet in the wild, including seeds, grains, insects, and green vegetation. When raising these birds in a domestic setting, it's essential to replicate this diverse diet as closely as possible to keep them healthy and productive.

One of the simplest ways to provide balanced nutrition for your quail is to feed them high-quality game bird or quail-specific feed. These feeds are carefully formulated to include the right balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that quail need to thrive. Look for a 24-30% protein feed to support optimal growth and egg production. 

In addition to commercial feed, quails can benefit from access to green vegetation. If your quail can access an outdoor run, they'll naturally peck at grass and other plants. You can also offer them fresh leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, or kale. But remember, these are treats and should not make up more than 10% of their total diet.

Offering a small amount of live or dried insects such as mealworms, crickets, or earthworms is another excellent way to supplement their diet and mimic their natural feeding habits. Insects provide an excellent source of animal protein and can also serve as a form of enrichment for birds.

While quails are known for their hardiness, they are susceptible to certain deficiencies if their diet isn't balanced. A free-choice supplement of grit will aid digestion, and a calcium supplement, like crushed oyster shells, is critical for hens' eggshell production.

Water is equally important to your quail's health. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Poultry waterers, designed to limit the amount of water accessible at once, can help keep the water clean by preventing quail from standing or defecating in it. Check the water supply multiple times daily to ensure it hasn't run out or become too warm in hot weather.

During winter months, be vigilant to prevent the water from freezing. Heated poultry waterers or water heaters can keep the water liquid. 

Remember, the best diet for your quails is varied, balanced, and clean. Regularly check the food and water for spoilage or contamination and replace as needed. Your quails will grow healthy and produce plentifully with a proper diet and clean water.
 

Maladies

Quails, like all living creatures, are not immune to diseases or health problems. While prevention is always better than cure, learning about common ailments and their treatments can help keep your quails in tip-top condition.

Here are some common health issues you might encounter and general advice on addressing them. However, always consult a vet if you need clarification or the condition doesn't improve.

Coccidiosis:

This parasitic disease can be particularly problematic for quails kept in unclean conditions. Symptoms can include bloody droppings, lethargy, loss of appetite, and ruffled feathers. Maintaining a clean and dry environment is the best way to prevent coccidiosis. If you suspect an infection, there are over-the-counter treatments available at farm supply stores, but severe cases will need vet intervention.

Respiratory infections:

Symptoms can include sneezing, wheezing, and discharge from the nostrils or eyes. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, while viral infections typically have to run their course. To prevent respiratory infections, ensure your quails have a well-ventilated but draft-free environment.

Parasites:

Quails can get external parasites like mites or lice. Infested birds may exhibit signs of discomfort like excessive preening or scratching, and you may be able to see the tiny pests on their skin or feathers. Parasites can be treated with a poultry dust or spray designed to eliminate these pests. Regular cleaning and inspection can help prevent infestations.

Egg binding: This condition happens when a hen cannot pass an egg. She may seem lethargic, have a puffed-up appearance, or make repeated unsuccessful attempts to lay. Providing a diet with adequate calcium can prevent egg binding. In case of an occurrence, a warm bath may help the hen pass the egg, but severe cases will need a vet's help.

Avian Influenza:

While not common in backyard flocks, quails can contract avian influenza. Symptoms are varied but often severe, including sudden death. There is no treatment; suspected cases must be reported to the local agricultural authorities to prevent spread.

Good hygiene is the cornerstone of disease prevention. Regularly clean out your quail's housing, replace bedding, and disinfect feeders and waterers. A balanced diet, fresh water, and a safe, comfortable environment will also go a long way toward keeping your quails healthy.

Bumblefoot:

This is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction on the feet of birds, often resulting from a cut or abrasion becoming infected. The bird's foot will have a swollen, often hard, pus-filled abscess that can be very painful. Birds with bumblefoot may limp, favor one foot, or even refuse to walk.

Preventing bumblefoot starts with providing a clean living environment. In particular, if you're using wire-bottomed cages, make sure the wire is smooth and the holes are not too large, as these can cause cuts on the birds' feet.

You can try an at-home treatment if you notice a bird with early-stage bumblefoot (redness, minor swelling). This usually involves soaking the foot in a warm Epsom salt solution, applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment, and wrapping the foot to keep it clean.

Consult a veterinarian for more severe cases or if the condition doesn't improve. They may need minor surgery to remove the pus-filled core and prescribe antibiotics.

Remember, while home treatments can help with minor ailments, always consult a vet if a condition is severe, persists, or if you're unsure about what to do. Proper care and attention can prevent many health issues and ensure your quails live a happy, productive life.

Moreover, be observant. Changes in behavior, eating habits, or egg-laying are often the first signs of a problem. Always consult a veterinarian if you need clarification on your quail's health.
 

Breeding and Egg Production

Coturnix Quails are prolific layers and breeders. This is part of what makes them such a popular choice for small-scale poultry keepers. They start laying eggs at an early age, are capable of producing a high volume of eggs, and have a relatively straightforward breeding process.

Coturnix Quail hens begin laying eggs when they are around 6 weeks old, which is much earlier than most other poultry species. Once they start, a healthy, well-cared-for hen can lay an egg almost every day.

To encourage egg-laying, providing 14-16 hours of light per day is important. This simulates the long daylight hours of spring and summer when birds naturally want to lay eggs. During the shorter days of fall and winter, you may need to supplement with artificial light.

Quails don't require a rooster to lay eggs - hens will lay unfertilized eggs. However, if you want your eggs to be fertilizable for hatching, you'll need a rooster in the flock. The generally recommended ratio is 1 rooster for every 5-7 hens.

Collect eggs daily to keep them clean and prevent breakage. Quails aren't known for their maternal instincts and usually ignore the eggs once laid. Unlike chickens, they rarely go broody and won't sit on their eggs to hatch them.

The eggs should be stored pointed end down in a cool, humid place until you're ready to use them or put them in the incubator. Turn the eggs once a day to keep the yolk centered and the embryo healthy.

Incubation and Hatching

You'll need an incubator if you plan on breeding your quails and hatching your own chicks. Incubation is necessary as quails rarely brood their eggs, and the eggs require consistent temperature and humidity to develop and hatch successfully.

The incubation period for Coturnix Quail eggs is typically around 17-18 days. The eggs should be kept at a temperature of around 99.5°F (37.5°C) and a humidity level of about 45% for the first 15 days and then 65% for the last two to three days. 

During incubation, the eggs must be turned several times a day to prevent the developing chick from sticking to one side of the shell. Many modern incubators have automatic turning features, making this task easier.

After hatching, chicks should be moved to a brooder - a warm, safe environment where they can grow. They will need a heat source to keep them warm and access to chick feed and water.

Remember, breeding and hatching your quails can be a rewarding experience, but it also requires extra effort and attention. Whether you're raising your quails for eggs, meat, or just as pets, providing them with good care will ensure they live healthy and productive lives. 

Quail as Pets

While they're often raised for meat and eggs, Coturnix Quail also make surprisingly charming and endearing pets. Their calm disposition and compact size make them a delightful addition to any home or backyard. 

Friendly and Low-Maintenance

Coturnix Quail are generally docile and friendly creatures with an easy-going temperament that makes them suitable for various living situations. They're not as demanding as some other pets, making them relatively low-maintenance, and their care requirements can be easily met if you're already providing them with the necessities for egg and meat production.
Keep in mind that as ground-dwelling birds, they might be shyer than other pets. When handling, always do so gently to avoid causing stress or injury. Despite their calm nature, they may not be fond of being held. Still, they can become accustomed to your presence and voice with regular, gentle interaction.

Quail can add a lively ambiance to your backyard or home. They enjoy dust baths, an amusing spectacle where they roll, shake, and fluff their feathers in loose dirt to clean themselves and keep their plumage in good condition. Furthermore, they're known for their distinctive "singing" or call, a soft, musical coo that is generally quieter and less intrusive than a rooster's crow.

Observation and Interaction:

While they may not cuddle with you on the couch, watching quail can be a source of entertainment and relaxation. Observing their social interactions, foraging and dust-bathing antics, and listening to their calls can be a fascinating and enjoyable pastime.
Raising quail can offer a fantastic opportunity for those with young children to teach about nature, responsibility, and the cycle of life. The whole process can be an educational experience, from incubating eggs to rearing chicks.
 

Quails for meat

Content Warning: The following section contains detailed descriptions and steps for processing animals for meat. We understand that this topic may not be comfortable for all readers. If you'd rather not read about these procedures, we recommend you skip this section. Your understanding of animal care and well-being can still be complete without this information. Please proceed according to your comfort level.

The Jumbo Coturnix Quail, being larger than its regular counterpart, is often chosen for meat production. These quail grow quickly, reaching butcher weight around 9 weeks of age. If you're raising these quail for meat, it's essential to understand the butchering and processing steps.

 

Please be aware that the process of slaughtering and butchering birds can be a difficult task. It is a responsibility to ensure the process is done humanely and hygienically. If you're uncomfortable performing this task yourself, consider finding a local processor or learning from an experienced mentor.

 

Slaughtering:

 

The first step in processing quail is slaughtering, which should be done quickly and humanely to minimize stress on the bird. The most common methods for quail and other poultry are cervical dislocation and decapitation.

 

Cervical dislocation involves quickly breaking the neck to cause instant death. This can be done manually, but for inexperienced handlers, tools like a poultry killing cone or a broom-hinge method may help make the process more certain.

 

Decapitation is another effective method. This can be done using a sharp pair of shears or a knife. The bird is placed head-first into a killing cone (which controls its movement and allows the blood to drain out), and its head is quickly and firmly removed with the shears.

 

Bleeding:

 

After the bird has been slaughtered, it should be bled out. This is naturally done through the decapitation process, but if cervical dislocation is used, you can cut the throat just below the jaw while the bird is upside down (such as in a killing cone). This allows the blood to drain out.

 

Plucking:

 

Quail skin is thin and tears easily, so many people choose to skin their quails rather than pluck them. However, you must pluck the feathers if you prefer to keep the skin on. This is easier to do while the bird is still warm. Some people find that dipping the bird in hot water (around 150°F) for 20-30 seconds can help loosen the feathers.

 

Evisceration:

 

Once the bird is slaughtered, plucked, or skinned, the next step is evisceration or removing the internal organs. This process is delicate due to the small size of the quail. Care should be taken not to rupture the intestines, as this can contaminate the meat.

 

Make a small incision near the vent (anus), then carefully enlarge the opening and remove the internal organs. The organs should come out in one piece if you pull gently. It's a good idea to keep the heart, liver, and gizzard for cooking, but remember to remove the gallbladder from the liver without breaking it, as it contains bitter bile.

 

Cleaning:

 

After evisceration:

  1. Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out under cold running water.

  2. Ensure that all remnants of feathers, blood, and organs are removed.

  3. Pat the bird dry, then it's ready to be cooked, or you can refrigerate or freeze it later.

 

Always thoroughly clean all tools and surfaces after processing to prevent cross-contamination.

 

Local Regulations:

 

Remember to check local regulations before beginning the process, as some areas may have specific laws and guidelines regarding the home processing of poultry. 

 

Finally, many resources are available online, including step-by-step guides and video tutorials to walk you through the process in more detail. Learning how to butcher and process your quail properly can help ensure you get the most out of your birds while respecting their lives by minimizing waste and suffering.

 

In conclusion, raising Jumbo Coturnix Quail can be a rewarding venture, whether for food production or as pets. They're robust, adaptable, and have endearing qualities that can bring joy and life to your home or backyard. We hope this guide is a great starting point on your journey into quail care. Happy quail raising!

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