We have quail! Eight out of the twelve quail eggs hatched. They only incubate for about 18 days, so I don’t bother messing about. The eggs go in and are left without disturbance, on my incubator you can add water for humidity every couple of days to an outside reserve. On the 15th day, the temperature gets reduced slightly from 37.5 to 37.2, the humidity gets increased slightly (although I have seen a few people saying that because Ireland is so humid, dry hatches sometimes work even better), turning the eggs is stopped and a hatching mat which stops the chicks slipping when they’re hatched gets added. You then leave the incubator closed until they hatch, you wait until the majority are hatched and dry and then put them into your brooder, which is essentially a box/cage with a heat source to keep them warm, a non slip surface and food and drink. If you open when a chick is hatching, apparently the membranes of the egg can dry out and then make it impossible for the chick to hatch, so I try and avoid that! Although there is conflicting information everywhere when you look. The quail are so small, you have to be careful they can’t drown in any water and that they won’t get cold.
Unfortunately, we had a casualty during the night, we came downstairs this morning and J (the nearly 6 year old) yelled ‘one of them is on it’s back’. It had come out from the heat for some reason and was hardly moving, looked very ill and was very cold. So straight down my top it went, it warmed up and started moving more, I gave it some water with a little honey in it, just a very small amount, a bit of chopped egg yolk (which sounds strange, but it is high in protein) and kept it on me for a bit longer, then put it back once it was moving properly. It’s now back under the heat and seems ok at the moment. I guess we’ll see, tonight and tomorrow, whether it is ok. It looks it at the moment.
Last time we hatched some, I bought a spare heat plate just in case we had any that needed separating, so that’s currently in a box heating up just in case we do need to move the quail out and keep it warm. It’s always a good idea to have a spare. I’m keeping them in the living room in their brooder cage because it’s so much warmer than upstairs. It can drop quite low upstairs during the night. The living room is generally warmer and we have the fire on all day, every day at the moment.
I made a few mistakes last time we hatched them, which I’ve learnt from, they need a surface which is non slip at least for the first week or so. I’m putting towels in for the first week this time, changing them daily (they eat their poo if you don’t keep them clean), then I’ll change to shavings. Last time I just used paper towels and shavings and I got one with spraddle legs, which apparently can be cause by dislocating their hip whilst they’re very young from slipping. Also, I think they tend to eat the shavings if you use them in the first few days, which I did. An article I read recently, recommended the grit paper you can get for caged birds (a bit like sand paper), so maybe I’ll try that next time. They were also upstairs, which, as I’ve already mentioned, can get cold during the night.
The feed was also an issue last time, I didn’t have a high enough protein feed. Quail chicks need a high protein starter crumb. You can also use game feed or turkey starter. I’m waiting to see if our local agri store has managed to get any in for us, it’s supposed to be there today and Chris is calling in on its way home. I’m just feeding normal chick crumb at the moment and hard boiled egg yolk (on the advice of someone from a facebook smallholder group). But it will be a lot better if I can get the right feed. It seems really hard to get hold of in Ireland, but also, it’s almost impossible to get certain things from the UK at the moment, so we’re more restricted than we were.
They’re lovely little things, absolutely tiny, but they will grow very quickly. Apparently the females can start laying eggs from about 6-7 weeks, so that could be interesting. Here’s hoping it goes well! I love watching them, there’s also something so special about watching them hatch too.
I need to get a grip though, I’ve been looking at bigger incubators online, it’s soooo tempting!
Over and out!