The Japanese Quail, also known as Coturnix quail, pharaoh's quail, stubble
quail and eastern quail differs considerably from the North American
Bobwhite quail. The Bobwhite is larger than the Japanese quail, however the
Coturnix produces larger eggs. The incubation time needed for fertile eggs
is shorter (14-17 days) compared to Bobwhite quail eggs (23 days). Coturnix
may start laying eggs as early as 6 weeks of age compared to 16 weeks for
HISTORY: Japanese quail have been widely distributed in Europe and
Asia. Egyptians used to trap large quantities from their farm lands for
meat. In Japan, these birds were kept as pets beginning in the eleventh
century. By 1910 however, Japanese quail became popular in Japan for egg
and meat production. They were introduced in the United States by bird
fanciers around 1870.
It has been reported that wild Coturnix lay eggs in small clutches of 5-12
eggs and incubate them naturally. Certain mutants of Japanese Quail have
been developed for their color of plumage, color of egg shell and body
DESCRIPTION: Japanese quail can be sexed as early as three weeks of age,
based on the feather color which is distinct for the male and female of the
species. When matured, the Japanese males weigh in the range of 100-140
grams (4-5 oz.), and they reach sexual maturity at 5 to 6 weeks of age. The
plumage color on the throat and breast will be cinnamon or rusty brown.
When males are sexually matured, a large glandular or bulbous structure
appears above the cloacal opening. If this gland is pressed, it will
produce a foamy secretion. Males generally live longer than females. Males
crow and their sound has been described as "Ko-turn-neex". Adult Japanese
quail females are generally larger than the males and weigh in the range of
120-160 grams (4.5-6 oz.). Through proper selection, heavier birds can be
produced for meat. The females can be easily identified by their slightly
whiter plumage under the throat and upper breast, different from the
characteristically black stippled feathers of the male. In this area, the
feathers of the female quail are longer and more pointed than those of
the male birds.
The female Japanese may start laying eggs as early as 35 days of age
under proper conditions, laying approximately 200-300 eggs a year.
Fertility in breeder flocks is high between 2-8 months of age although
after that, it is considerably less. To obtain better fertility, a ratio of
one male to one or two females should be considered when mating.
EGGS: A Coturnix egg weighs approximately 10 grams (.4 ounce), an
estimated 8 percent of the female body weight. The basic shell color is
white or buff with patches of brown, black or blue.
Individual hens characteristically lay eggs with a particular color
pattern, shape and size. Certain recessive strains of Japanese quail lay
almost white-shelled eggs.
Care of Fertile Eggs Prior to Incubation:
1. Collect eggs 2 to 3 times a day if birds are raised in colony cages or
on the floor. This will prevent cracking of the shell by the birds.
2. Handle eggs very carefully; the Coturnix egg shells are thinner than
chicken egg shells.
3. Eggs stored prior to incubation should be kept in a cool place at
approximately 55¡F (13¡C) and at about 70 percent humidity.
4. Do not hold eggs more than 7 days prior to incubation, as hatchability
will be reduced considerably after that.
5. If eggs have to be stored for a considerable time, cover them with a
polyethylene plastic bag which helps to prevent drying of the egg content.
INCUBATION: Domesticated quail do not have the tendency for broodiness
and hence eggs must be incubated under a broody hen or by artificial
incubation. If you plan to set eggs under a hen, do not place eggs of other
species with them. The difference in the size of the eggs can influence
temperatures from the body of the hen and result in poor hatchability.
Japanese quail eggs can be successfully incubated by using almost any type
of commercial incubator. The egg trays of large commercial type incubators
will have to be modified to accommodate the quail eggs.
Temperature, humidity, turning and ventilation are the four important
factors in incubation. Failure in any of these will result in a poor hatch.
Always follow the manufacturer's recommendation very closely.The eggs
should be turned a minimum of three times each day. A turning schedule
might be 8:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. A good idea is to mark an X on
the side of an egg (with a felt tip pen). This mark will be up on day one,
down on day two, etc., rotating eggs with a 180-degree turn. Do not turn
quail eggs after the 14th day of incubation.
Japanese quail eggs will generally hatch on the 17th day of incubation,
but hatch can take place as early as the 14th day and as late as the 19th
day. This difference in quail incubation period is not yet scientifically
understood. After every hatch, the incubator should be cleaned, disinfected
Reasons for Poor Hatch:
1. Eggs are infertile.
2. Eggs are cracked and contents dried out.
3. Eggs are too old when set.
4. Eggs are held in extreme temperatures prior to incubation.
5. Shells are contaminated.
6. Eggs are not turned often enough.
7. Temperature is too high, too low or too variable.
8. Too little humidity or too much humidity in the incubator.
9. Improper ventilation.
Once the quail chick pips the egg, it may take up to 10 hours before it
comes out of the shell. It will take a few hours before the wet chick is
After the first chick is hatched, at least 24 hours of incubation should
be allowed for the others to hatch. Chicks can stay in the incubator safely
for a day, and then they should be carefully transferred to a warm
(approximately 95 degrees F) brooder unit.
BROODING AND CARE OF YOUNG: A few important things to remember are:
1. Never allow the young to become chilled.
2. The brooder temperature should be maintained at about 95¡F.
3. The temperature of 95¡F should be maintained continuously in the brooder
for the first week; after that the temperature can be decreased 5¡F every
week until the 4th week.
4. A regular light bulb (60 watt), infrared bulb or any other heating unit
can be used as a heat source. However for small-scale operations, a light
bulb will provide both heat and light. If you do not have a thermometer,
watch the behavior of the chicks for a while to determine whether they are
too cold, too hot or just right. If too cold, the chicks will huddle
together under the heat source; if too hot, they will walk away from the
source of heat.
5. Quail raised for early maturity and better egg production should be
given a 24-hour period of daylight for the first 4 weeks, using an
incandescent light bulb.
6. Placing a sheet of paper in the brooder makes cleaning easier. However,
never use a smooth paper since the chicks will develop spraddle legs and
later die. Use regular newspaper, paper towelling or similar material.
7. Proper ventilation is a must for the young.
8. A balanced ration high in protein should be available to the quail chick
at all times. A turkey starter of 28 percent protein will provide excellent
growth. Gamebird starter or chick starter may be substituted if a 28
percent protein turkey starter feed is not available in your area. To
prevent feed spillage, float a wire-mesh on top of the feed for the first
9. Always keep plenty of fresh water in a waterer inside the brooder. Take
precautions to avert drowning since this is one of the main causes of early
mortality among chicks. Placing a wire mesh cut in a donut shape on top of
the waterer prevents chicks from falling into the waterers and drowning.
The cup of the waterer could also be filled with marbles or pebbles to
10. Clean the waterer, check the feeder and change the litter. Discard the
litter daily to avoid odor problems.
11. At the end of the 4th week, transfer chicks to the floor or cages.
12. Debeak the chick to prevent pecking and cannibalism. Use a nail clipper
to remove the tip of the beak of the quail chick when about 2 weeks of age.
CARE OF THE ADULT QUAIL: Young birds can be transferred from the brooder
to the cages or to the floor around the fourth week, depending on the
breeder's purpose in raising quail. If the birds are raised for dog
training or as a hobby, they can be raised on the floor. If the birds are
being raised for breeding or for egg or meat production, they will perform
better in cages. Pedigree cages of 5" x 8" x 10" will hold a pair of
quail. Colony cages of 2' x 2' x 10" will accommodate up to 25 adult quail
while a 2' x 4' x 10" will accommodate up to 50 adult quail. However, it is
recommended that more space be provided for the birds; this will reduce or
eliminate odor problems if they are being raised indoors. For cage
construction, 1/2" x 1" welded wire is recommended.
Adult quail will perform better if given 16-25 square inches of floor
space per bird. They need 1/2 inch to 1 inch of feeder space per bird for
feed, and 3/4 inch of trough space for water. Adult quail hens require
14-18 hours of light per day to maintain maximum egg production and
fertility. Egg fertility lowers considerably after the birds are a year
old. Litter materials such as chopped straw, chopped corn cobs, sawdust or
wood shavings should be about 2 inches in thickness for birds raised on
the floor. Daily cleaning of the cages and removal of droppings is
necessary for sanitation, if the birds are kept in indoor cages.
NUTRITION: The exact dietary requirements of the Japanese quail are
still controversial. Turkey starter, chicken starter or a gamebird starter
which can be purchased at local feed mills, should be adequate for proper
quail egg and meat production. A free choice supply of calcium (lime stone
or oyster shell) should be available to laying hens. Adult quail will eat
14-18 grams (.5 ounces) of a balanced ration. Fill the feeder only half
full to prevent feed spillage. Fresh water should always be provided. Water
is one of the most essential nutrients for the bird.
DISEASE PREVENTION: Although Coturnix is a hardy bird compared to
poultry, it can be affected with most of the common poultry diseases.
Sanitary management is the best guarantee to prevent diseases. Use
commercial disinfectants to thoroughly clean and disinfect the cages,
feeders and waterers. Take measures to control rats, mice, and flies which
may bring disease organisms to the quail.
USES OF QUAIL: Japanese quail comes under the category of gamebirds, and
in different parts of North America, the breast and leg muscles are
considered a delicacy. Fried quail, European quail delight, roasted quail
and marinated quail are common forms of culinary preparation. The eggs are
similar in taste to chicken eggs and can be used for banquets and other
such occasions. Plain hard-cooked eggs or colored eggs can be used for
decorating salads. They are good appetizers and snacks. Quail eggs can be
pickled using standard canning procedures, by adding hot, white vinegar
(diluted) salt and pepper and bacon, sausage or hot pepper etc. for
flavoring. Pickle the eggs at least 24 hours before serving. Roasted quail
eggs in a spicy sauce are great if one desires a little zest.
(by Sam K. Varghese, Cooperative Extension Service, Mich. State Univ., as
published in the Feather Fancier Newspaper, Canada's monthly publication
dedicated to the promotion of pure-bred poultry, pigeons, waterfowl,
pheasants & other avian species.)
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