Japanese Quail #1

Quail are tiny when hatched.

Quail are tiny when hatched.

Quail are the quintessential micro-farmer’s livestock…..and they earn the title on the basis of their unrivalled ability to produce meat and eggs faster, and in greater quantity, than anything on two legs.
The ability of a female to reproduce its body weight in any given year is another measure where the quail is without parallel. A cow is able to produce 40% of its own bodyweight per year and a sheep or goat can produce over 100%. A sow can generate in excess of 400% while a rabbit doe is capable of well in excess of 1000%. A productive chicken (and an incubator) might produce over 200 chicks in a year and their progeny could be bred just 24 weeks later.
Quail grow very quickly.

Quail grow very quickly.

Japanese quail leave them all behind. The quail chicks that hatch today will be capable of breeding in just six weeks. You’ll need a spreadsheet to calculate the annual leverage applicable to these amazing birds.

Quail have been domesticated for a very long time. They appear in ancient Egyptian hieroglyph and the first written record of domesticated quail appears in Japan in the twelfth century AD.

These tiny game birds work like a miniature poultry farm producing gourmet meat and eggs in a breeding cycle of just weeks while occupying just a few square metres of floor space.

Quail eggs are delectable snacks, too.

Quail eggs are delectable snacks, too.

They are well suited to anyone who wishes to learn more about how to work with livestock and who would like to experience an entire ‘cradle to the grave’ livestock operation.

Their size ensures that a breeding and growing operation designed to yield 10 quail per week (enough for a meal for a family of four) could be accommodated in a floor space of about 2 – 3 square metres.

Quail are processed quickly and easily.

Quail are processed quickly and easily.

-o0o-

Comments

  1. Alfred Bartolo says

    Hi Dear Sir/Madam.
    I would like to start breeding Japanese Quail.I have read a bit about them.What I would like to know is how to build a beeding pen, Would you have any plans that I can use? This is hobby project.
    Thank you .
    Regards Fred

  2. gpat says

    I would like to ask the same question as Alfred Bartolo. How do you build the pen? Also, what’s the difference between American quail and Japanese quail?

  3. says

    Fred and gpat……the dimensions of a breeder pen depend on what number of quail you propose to keep and its design will be impacted by a number of things including how ‘hands on’ you propose to be. I’ll be making further posts on Japanese quail so stay tuned. The species of quail that I breed and rear are Coturnix coturnix japonica. Coturnix quail are native to every continent except the Americas……although Coturnix quail are to be found there.

  4. Tony says

    Hi I would like to breed Japanese quails can you refer anyone in victoria i could buy them from. would prefer north east, east or south east.

    Kind regards
    Tony

  5. karen says

    Hey Tony, If you have a look at farmstock.com.au you may find a quail breeder in your area, or you could post a wanted ad of your own – it’s free!

    I have a question for Gary, what do you feed your quail and meat chicks? Do you use a commercial feed and supplement with duckweed, BSL, vegie trimmings, table scraps etc or do you only use the later? Cheers, Karen

    • says

      Karen…..we feed commercial rations supplemented by all of the things that you mentioned……plus things like the grass and insects that our chickens get on free range……and chicken and fish guts when we process. As we get more of our production systems up and going, the balance will gradually shift toward greater self-sufficiency.

  6. raymond says

    hi, i started with eight hen and two males last year and there was no problems with them laying but we had an intruder (goanna) that dug under the pen and killed all! i have since purchased 8hens and 5 males in May this year and till now (end of september) i have not had one egg. they appear healthy , have great cage(now with concrete around edge) with light and good food…what am i doing wrong??
    thanks
    ray

    • says

      Raymond…….it might be the daylength to which your breeders are exposed. They should begin to lay as the days continue to get longer…….or you could put lights on them to artificially extend their day……to encourage egg production and increase sexual activity.

      Other possible explanations for no egg production……inadequate diet or anxiety induced by prowling predators.

  7. Liam says

    Hi,

    I am a twelve Y.O. Kid who is interested in breeding Quails.

    From the Sources that i have been to they say that you need an incubator.

    In any species do the Hens incubate the Eggs themselves and if so which type would you recommend???

    • says

      Liam…..I used to tell people (based on my experience of thousands of quail) that they definitely did not set their eggs but then I encountered someone who did it…..and a couple of months later, one of my own quail began to gather up eggs in a nest.

      Generally speaking, however, Japanese quail will not usually set their own eggs. If you want to hatch quail eggs out (but don’t have access to an incubator), you might consider a small chicken breed like a Silkie or some of the bantam breeds. They often make excellent brood hens for quail eggs.

  8. Liam says

    Hi its me Again,

    Just wondering how do u tell which SEX a Baby is…Some Websites say tickle it and if it blinks its a female.

    But im not exactly sure

    • says

      Liam……I assume we’re still talking about Japanese quail here. If so, let me say that it sounds like nonsense to me. Sexing quail by feather markings is easy enough from two to three weeks onwards of weeks onwards. Some of the other colours (eg…white) will require that you wait till they reach sexual maturity. At that point, males are distinguished by the presence of a cloacal gland at the base of their tail.

      Gary

    • says

      Tracey…….I don’t know any quail breeders in that part of the world. I suggest that you take a look at classifieds in “The Land” or poke around some of the poultry web sites.

  9. Bakare Taofeek says

    Good day, I’m a Nigerian and I have done my Master Degree on chicken & quail hatching with locally fabricated incubator. Considering our own locality with dearth of sophisticated equipment, what can you suggest on quail as topics suitable for Phd programme based on your experience so far?. These animals are new in our environment and I’m intrested in establishing a Quail Reseach Centre because of their associated research potential via their short generation interval etc.

    • says

      Bakare Taofeek…….Japanese quail have been the subject of many laboratory studies because, as you’ve acknowledged, their short breeding cycle is well-suited to inter-generational research. Given their potential as a protein source in a place like Nigeria, you might consider selection for enhanced meat or egg production. There are quail research centres in places like India already so you will probably find useful models upon which to base your proposed organisation.

    • says

      warren farrow……I guess it comes down to what you mean by ‘best’……I keep Japanese (Conturnix) Quail because they hatch out in 16 days……and grow to optimum table size in about 7 – 8 weeks…..and they taste great. They are also hardy, easy to manage and can be kept in a very small space.

  10. Evelyn says

    Hi

    I am pondering on having some Japanese quail in my aivery. Its about 2m x 3m in size with a small pond and stream with plants all around. There is a fair bit of ground to scratch around in. So far in it we have various finches, small silver quail and the small Australian brown quail. I was wondering if the Japanese quails are compatible with the smaler varieties. As I have seen in my travels through the net that artifical incubation is the most suitable for the Jap quail I am in a quandry if my aviary will be suitable as the quails will need to sit o the eggs themselves. I don’t know if I could fit a silky in there as well.

    Thanks

  11. says

    Evelyn…..Japanese quail are game birds and, as such, may attack other smaller birds.

    The small Australian brown quail to which you refer is probably a Stubble quail……which is not a lot smaller than a Japanese quail.

    Most Japanese quail will not sit on their own eggs, however, if you keep a trio in a space of that size…..with plenty of nice quiet nesting spots……you might be lucky.

  12. julia jessop says

    Hi there

    I went to petshop today to buy quail, I want to keep them for eggs to eat. the man told me I couldn’t do that as quail have to be wormed regularly, and that leaves residue in the eggs which makes them inedible. Is that correct?
    If not, any ideas where I can buy quail (sunshine coast, qld)

    thank you

    • says

      julia jessop………I’ve handled thousands of quail over the past 30 years and never wormed one. If you’re planning to eat their eggs, don’t give your quail anything in the way of medication……including turkey starter which includes a medication for coccidiosis or blackhead.

      Feed your layer quail a ration comprising premium layer mash fortified with some soybean meal and/or meat meal……to get the protein levels up a bit.

      You can buy your quail from a pet shop……or watch the Pets and Birds section in the Saturday Courier Mail. Don’t eat their eggs for a month (in case they have been wormed) by which time they’ll be OK.

  13. Gill says

    I have bred Japenese Quail successfully until now, I’m not doing anything different but the chicks only survive about 3 days and then die. They are in a brooder with heat, chick crumb, water, the floor is covered with newspaper. I’m really at a loss to know what’s going wrong.
    Ideas + suggestions would be much appreciated.

    • says

      Gill…..check the navel for any evidence of infection or abscess which would suggest a bacterial infection. Are you cleaning your incubator between hatches and what are you using in the way of a disinfectant?

      Vitamin deficiency may be another explanation. Have you changed their feed lately? What ration do you have the breeders on?

  14. Mel says

    Hello
    I was wanting to know if layer pellets, budgie seed and lettuce is a good enough diet for quail. If so can I eat the quail after feeding this to them.
    Mel

    • says

      Mel…….you could boost the protein level of a premium layer’s mash with a bit of soybean or meat meal and swap some silver beet for the lettuce and they would not only grow quickly but would be perfectly safe to eat.

  15. Mel says

    gary thanks for your reply
    soybean or meat meal and layers mash if i was to go to the grain stoe what would I ask for. Or is this someting I make up myself. Is layers mash pollard.

    • says

      Mel…….soybean meal and meat meal should be available from your local fodder store. Premium layer’s mash is their best food (in mash form) for laying chickens.

      It will have no chemicals in it……and will have everything a laying bird needs. The protein level will be a little low for game birds like quail.

      Adding some high protein plant or animal protein will have the effect of boosting the protein level of the mash.

  16. Philip says

    Hello Garry
    I am interested in keeping Japanese Quail. Could you recommend a good reference book that I could purchase that would cover all information on keeping Japanese Quail and where I could purchase it from. Regards

  17. Mel says

    hello again Gary
    what is the best way to boil a quail egg. and how long can I store the eggs for and do I store them in the fridge.
    and thanks my quail are laying and seem to be very happy. they wont hatch their own eggs will they?

    • says

      Mel……you boil quail eggs the same way you do chicken eggs. They need to be hardboiled because they will fall apart when you attempt to peel them otherwise.

      If you’re planning to eat them, they should be refrigerated. Only keep unsoiled eggs.

      You will only have fertile eggs if you have males with your hens (trust me, this is a revelation for some folk) and normally they won’t sit on their own eggs. Having said that, I have heard from some people who have experienced this…….and, last year, I had the same experience…..for the first time in my experience of thousands of quail.

  18. Mel says

    Hi Gary
    Im going to put some eggs under my bantom tomorrow. I think I want to buy an incubator as well can you recomend a good incubator. (auto turn). Are ones with foma unclean or not? how much should I pay?
    Mel

  19. says

    Hi Greg,

    I’ve recently bought a quail, they are so adorable and sweet! im suprised how little noise they make and the one i have is really quite calm which is nice :) anyhow, was hoping for some tips on how to…prepare it. I understand you have spent a fair bit of time with quails and thus have an extensive knowledge.

    I was thinking perhaps with ginger and shallots, you know kind of like chicken?? what do you think? Please write back as soon as you can, dinner party on saturday!

    Regards,
    Quaillover

    • says

      quailover……sorry ’bout missing the dinner party. You’ve probably discovered, by now, that if you Google quail recipes, you’ll get hundreds of responses and be spoiled for choice.

  20. Jerry McLean says

    20 years ago I started a Farrow quail operation but didn’t keep it very long. I want to start again with the goal of meat production for my family such as the 10 bird per week operation described here..
    Would you tell me the top 2 or 3 producers? And why cant I find anything on Farrow Quail. Thank you very much. Jerry

    • says

      Jerry McLean……I’m wondering if you’re not confusing the term “Farrow” with “Pharaoh”……which is the name for a specific subset of Coturnix Coturnix……or Japanese Quail. If I recall correctly, Pharoah quail was the bird produced by Marsh Farms about thirty years ago. It was really no different to other Coturnix (Japanese) quail except that it had been selected for size.

      If you google “Japanese quail” or “Coturnix quail” (or even “Pharaoh quail”) you should find what you’re looking for.

  21. matthew says

    hi, i’m interested in growing japanese quail for the table, i’ve grown duck, chicken, squab & rabbit all very successfully. i can’t seem to find anywhere that tells me the optimum age at which to kill for table. as with other animals i’ve grown there is always a certain age at witch to kill as after a certain age you are not getting anymore growth you are just feeding an adult bird

    • says

      Matthew…….Japanese quail can be processed at any age but they’re like chickens…..the older they get, the tougher they become.

      Commercially produced broiler quail will be processed at 6 – 7 weeks of age. Adult quail (ex-breeders) will make excellent eating but they are better suited to slow cooking methods like braising.

      The complicating issue with quail is that they achieve sexual maturity around the same time that they reach processing weight, so the males (in particular) tend to keep themselves nice and lean by getting to ‘know’ (in the biblical sense) the ladies.

      You can control this, to some extent, by rearing them in very dim light (almost dark). This enables you to carry them through to up to 10 weeks when they will have achieved about 95% of their prospective bodyweight. It’s questionable that it’s worth the extra feed cost to carry them much past eight weeks. While they’ll still continue to grow marginally, the weight gain will probably not be cost effective.

  22. Julianne says

    Hey Gary,
    Just a question, My quails hatched out on the 19th April and have been doing fine until now! One by one since I put them on Turkey start they have been dying. I changed their diet to Turkey Start thinking I was doing the right thing.They were on Chick start since they hatched because thats all I could get for them, they had been putting on lots of weight and thriving. They now look all fluffed up and a bit dopey. Is there something in the turkey start that isn’t good for them?
    Cheers, Julianne :o)

    • says

      Julianne……..I can’t think of anything in turkey starter that would explain the deaths. Is the feed fresh and free of mould?

      Did you brood the chicks properly?

  23. kerry says

    Hi , I have 4 chickens (bantams) and have just recently bought some japanese quail , we were told that it would be fine to put the quail in with the chickens but after 2 days one of the female quail has experienced severe pecking on her back and now has no feathers , I have taken that quail out of the pen so that it can heel from the bleeding. I was just wondering if you would know whether it is more likely to be one of the other quails or one of the chickens that have caused this ?
    thanks kerry

    • says

      Kerry…….quail hens do tend to get de-feathered across their back due to mating but that happens over time – not overnight. Quail are too small to live with chickens and, in extreme cases, might be viewed as food by chickens……particularly once bleeding occurs.

  24. Jerry says

    Sorry Gary,here’s another pen question. ?#1 Do the birds do better in a pen where they can be on the ground? I’m ready to build my pens. I have a retaining wall 15 feet from the north side of the house . The retaining wall runs east and west. I am a little north of the DFW metroplex. I am going to let the ret.wall be the back and build out two walls and a front and a slanted roof. I dont know yet how big of an operation I want yet but I just want to get started.
    I want to collect eggs from two pens. Before I had about 2 or 3 roosters and about 8 hens per pen ?#2 What sounds good to on the # of hens and roosters and each pens square footage for that number of birds? Thank you

  25. says

    nice article. well done. I raise a line of decent sized quail, biggest yet was 290 grams at just 36 days, dressed out over 5 oz. I skin them and cut right up the backbone during processing. I keep a detailed blog of lines and weights with ages and have been crossing my fastest growing birds that lay at least a 14 gram egg for several generation now. You are right, they are great for microponic farming. +1

    • says

      mobyquail……That’s a nice weight for a Japanese quail. I’ve seen high-performing quail like that but, as you’ve demonstrated, there’s a lot of selection work to get them to that sort of stage…….and you need to be careful that you don’t lose some other breed characteristic (like fertility, fecundity or hatchability) along the way.

      Look what’s happened to broiler chickens. They grow so fast and so heavy that they can no longer bear their own weight to the point where leg deformities are very common.

      Keep up the good work.

  26. smoore says

    I just hatched my first Coturnix quail. How do I determine when it is time to move them out of the brooder in to the grow pens? I live in Central Texas and it is getting down into the mid 50′s at night and up to the mid to high 80′s during the day. My grow pens are enclosed on 3 sides and I can hang heat lamps. The quail hatched on Oct 9th and today is the 20th.

    • says

      smoore……I apologise for the belated response to this comment…..but I guess you discovered the answer anyway. Freshly-hatched chicks should be put under supplementary heat for the first weeks after hatching. Depending on the temperature inside you quail shed, they might have survived – but, if that happened, it had more to do with good luck than good management.

      For what it’s worth, any damage that had been sustained by the quail will have occurred in the days immediately after hatching. Quail…..and most other poultry and game birds….should be placed in a brooder with a temperature of around 35 degrees C. Theoretically, the temperature should be lowered by 5 degrees C each week until the ambient temperature is reached (unless you live in a freezing climate).

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply