Brooding quail can be considered the most important aspect of raising a healthy and sizeable bird. As chicks, quail are not able to regulate their body temperature, which in nature is done by mamma, so when hatching we must intervein with brooders. A draft free enclosure with regulated temperatures that can be adjusted as the chicks grow. There are many types of brooders available and even more DIY options. Just a quick google search and you'll have endless ideas. * we offer brooder kits as well* Below we will outline our brooding style using our brooder kits.
-Brooding can be done anytime of year. Summer brooding or brooding inside your house, requires less energy than brooding in the winter outside in a shelter. We do not recommend brooding straight outside in cold climates as it will be difficult to manage the brooder temps.
-You'll want to keep chicks under heat until they are fully feathered. This will allow them to spend their energy on growing and not regulating body temp as they mature.
-Have your brooder setup and ready before you are going to need it. This will ensure any heat adjustments can be made so the environment is ready for the chicks.
-Heat: You'll need to decide what type of heat source to use, There are many options to choose from. We use both heat lamps and heat plates. Lightbulbs can also work. If using heat plates you'll need to have it very low to the ground. 1.5" about and in an area that has ambient temps over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to have the brooder at 95 degrees for the first week. Starting week 2, you can lower the temp by 5 degrees every couple days. You can do this by raising the heat plate, raising the heat lamp or, you can expand the brooder area. Chicks will bunch up or "pile" under the heat if they are too cold as well as piling in a corner away from the heat if they are hot. As they grow and you continue to lower the heat, keep an eye on any piling. The chicks should be moving around freely if they are comfortable. Continue to lower the heat every couple days by 5 degrees or so until it matches the ambient temp of where their grow out/cage is. If you are in a cold climate and its below freezing, leave some heat on the chicks until they are 4 weeks old and fully feathered. At week 3 we tend to only turn heat on at night for the last week to get them acclimated. Once acclimated and fully feathered quail can handle very cold temps as long as they are out of any wind or rain/snow.
-Water: When chicks are brand new, they like to swim...even though they cant swim... which can lead to drowning. This is why we put little rocks or gems in the water area. This allows the chicks to drink and not drown. After a week the rocks can be pulled. There are chick specific waterers but we still recommend adding the rocks. When adding/refilling water, make sure it is at room temp. DO NOT use straight cold water as it will drastically chill chicks. Continue giving them room temperature water until 2 weeks old. We like to keep the water close to their heat source for the first week then move it away a little every time we lower the heat. This gives them a chance to experience a little cooler temps and helps them find a sweet spot temp wise.
-Feed: Quail need high protein feeds especially as chicks. We use Purina gamebird starter 30% protein crumble. Anything 25% and higher will work, just make sure it is a crumble feed or they will have a hard time eating and digesting it. We have not hand to crush the crumble at all but you can if you don't feel like they are eating easily. For feeders, there are a plethora of options available and most of them will work. Unfortunately, quail like to make a mess with their feed and there really isn't a whole lot of options for no waste as chicks. A regular chick feeder will work with minimal waste, albeit there will be some.
-Flooring: Our small brooder kit comes with 1/2 x 1/2 hardware cloth flooring as well as wood. We do recommend using pine shavings or some type of suitable substrate (NOT CEDAR) on top the wood for the first week so the chicks have grip. Freshly hatched chicks do not have the muscles to hold their legs together which means a slick surface will splay their legs, causing them to not walk. It is an easily avoidable problem. You can also use shop towels (blue ones) for the first week. After a week it is safe to put them directly on the 1/2 hardware cloth. They are light and only on the wire for a short period of time so there will be no feet issues.
So your chicks hatched and have been in the incubator long enough to be dry little fluff puffs, generally 24-48 hrs. Going longer than 48 hrs is not recommended as quail don't have a very large yolk reserve like other poultry. We average 36 hrs from first hatched to emptying hatcher. This allows ample time for all the strong ones to hatch and only open the incubator once, to empty. The brooder should be all setup and ready to go well before chicks hatch to allow any adjustments needed. When putting the chicks in the brooder, be gentle. They don't have certain legs muscles and can have a hard time if they get trampled and flipped over at times. You'll want to dip a few beaks into the water and feed. Once one or two know where water and food is, the rest will follow. This step isn't absolutely necessary but it does help ensure a smooth transition. We recommend checking on them every couple hrs when first out in to ensure they are comfortable and not piling up on each other and that some are eating and drinking. Throughout the brooding process you'll want to make sure the waterer and feeder stay clean and free of poop. This is the easiest way for them to spread illnesses. Also, pull any that pass asap. Keeping the brooder clean, relative term with chicks, will help ensure a good attrition rate and happy healthy quail. Be sure to keep an eye on their behavior through the process, they will let you know very quickly if they are cold or hot.