Today, I watched 10 quail chicks as they left for their new home with a fellow quail breeder. That started me thinking about what a wonderful experience it has been meeting new people and proliferating the quail hobby. It also got me going through my email to organize these contacts. In the process, I also had a chance to revisit the communication. Here are some brief cut-and-paste notes from past discussions.
Building a Coop
As far as building the cage, search up “hardware cloth” for the wire. Here’s the link for City Mill: https://www.citymill.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=mesh+hardware+cloth
A 1/2 x 1/2 mesh is fine, but they also sell 1/4 x 1/4.
For the tray, I use this rubber boot tray that you can get at Target: https://www.target.com/p/1-39-7-34-x3-39-3-34-black-boot-tray-black-mohawk/-/A-50974674#lnk=sametab
If you build the coop around this size tray, it’s a tight fit for eight birds but feasible. As far as how to build a coop, I’m not a great resource only because my first real construction project has been these coops. What I can say is that a two foot roof is something of a danger zone because it’s enough for them to hit their head on hard if they jump up. Either short, around 15-18 inches, or 30 inches and taller.
The easiest design I’ve seen for a quail coop uses a folding table template and a bunch of PVC pipe. The link below has pictures, along with other people’s design ideas.
Hawaii doesn’t have nearly the same predator problem that mainland locations do. We have cats, rats and mongoose mainly, so our design can be a tad more relaxed than the ones on the mainland. Regardless, be sure to bury the wire well into the ground if you have them on dirt, or create a wire “apron” or wide edging around the base.
If you don’t have a big tool chest you can also check out HNL Tool library https://hnltoollibrary.org/ where you can borrow tools for an annual fee rather than filling up your garage with expensive gadgets.
Hatching Coturnix Quail
To hatch, you’ll need an incubator that keeps the eggs at 100 degrees F consistently. Use an internal thermometer in addition to any that are included on the incubator. I do not recommend still air incubators because the heat is uneven. Forced air or fan incubators are better. Egg turners are a huge help. If you don’t have an egg turner, you will need to manually rotate the eggs at least 3x daily. It takes 17-18 days to hatch Japanese (Coturnix) quail. On day 14, remove the eggs, then the egg turner. Candle your eggs to see which ones have birds in them and put them back into the incubator on their side. If you have non-skid shelf liner (the kind with the pukas), put that in so that the eggs don’t roll around once the eggs start hatching. Add water to the bottom of the incubator as well as a clean moist (lightly wrung out) sponge under the vent hole on the top. When it seems like the sponge is a little dry, you can add water through the top hole. Adding room temperature tap water will reduce the temperature temporarily but the thermostat should bring the temperature back up. Humidity around 70 percent is good. This stage from day 14 is known as lockdown.
DO NOT OPEN during lockdown. The humidity helps the chicks with a softer shell and if the chicks have started hatching, the membrane inside could shrink when you open it. Here in Hawaii, it’s less of a problem than other places though. Once the birds start hatching, the temptation to open up the lid goes up. Resist that temptation. Wait 12 hours from the first bird hatching. Most of the time, the rest of the eggs will have also hatched by then. When getting birds, I’ve found that if I mist the air with water using a spray bottle before cracking the lid to get the babies, there’s not much of a humidity change from outside to inside. I don’t fully open the lid. I just sneak my hand inside and grab them quickly.
Put the new babies in your brooder with the heat lamp. A brooder is usually a large storage bin with the top replaced with mesh. The temperature at the warmest spot should be between 100-105 degrees. Make sure there are cooler spots for the birds to retreat to if they want to. Food and water should be available to them. They’re pretty good about figuring those things out. For the first few days, I usually sprinkle food all over the cage so they can find it easily. Over time, you can reduce the temperature as the birds tolerate it. If they’re all huddled together, they’re too cold. If they’re at the far reaches of the cage trying to escape the heat, they’re too hot. Just pay attention to their cues.
For bird feed, I go to Waimanalo Feed Store. Kaneohe Farm Supply is another popular choice. In the town area, there’s also Farm Feeds and Supplies (Halawa). Feed is usually sold in 50# bags. When the birds are chicks, they’ll need gamebird starter for the first eight weeks. When they are small, grind up the feed in a blender until they are big enough to eat the crumbles. If you have about eight birds, by the time they graduate to chicken layer feed in eight weeks you’ll have about used up the bag.
Many quail breeders also raise either black soldier fly larvae or mealworms. I raise mealworms. They’re relatively easy, but Hawaii’s frequent insect infestations are an issue for production. Raising mealworms is a whole new category for separate discussion. There’s a guy on Craigslist that sells 1,200 mealworms for $20 and he’s a great source.