Hatching quail can be quite exciting and a great project for everyone to enjoy. By following the industry standards you will be on your way to quail math in no time! We will go over how we hatch with the no turning method as well as the turning method in this section. The only real difference is .. well.. turning or not turning.
A few terms you will need to be familiar with:
Temperature (F) - This is the degrees in fahrenheit
Relative Humidity (RH) - the amount of water vapor in the air (inside incubator) shown as a percentage
Lockdown - final step of hatching when the incubator is optimized for the hatch and ALL turning STOPS
Pip - tiny hole poking through both the internal membrane and outer shell
Zip - a tiny line created around the eggshell to allow the chick to escape
For both turning and not turning, all the elements remain the same. If hatching shipped eggs, let them sit pointy side down for 24hrs before incubating to allow the air cells to stabilize. Make sure your incubator is up and running at least 12 hours before putting the eggs in. This will ensure the inside temperature is at 99.5F and you will want the humidity inside in the range of 40% - 55%. Always use a secondary thermometer and hydrometer that you trust as incubators can be not accurate. Having the incubator up and running before hand will allow you to make adjustments to hit the specs needed. Some incubators will have turning trays or rails that the eggs will sit in, pointy side down, and automatically turn the eggs every couple hours. If yours does not and you want to turn them, you will need to do so by hand every 6 hrs. making sure every 24 hours the eggs are doing a full turn. marking one side with an "X" will help distinguish what position the eggs is on and where it needs to be. If you are not using turners, eggs will get laid on their side, for both turning and not turning.
Once your eggs are set you have 14 days until lockdown. (We do not candle eggs during incubation so we won't be posting a candling guide.) Once you hit day 14 you will need to get the incubator into lockdown mode. Lockdown specs are 99.5F and 65% - 75% humidity. This is when you take the eggs out of the trays/rails if you were using them and lay the eggs flat, removing trays/rails. If you are turning by hand, this is when you STOP turning them. No turn method, you just need to bump up humidity to specs. During lockdown the chicks move into position to hatch so its crucial to stop turning them. The elevated humidity will help aid the chick in hatching and keep it from drying out or shrink-wrapping itself. It is also equally important to NOT OPEN the incubator as the drastic change in temperature and humidity can also cause shrink-wrapping. Chicks should start hatching around day 16/17. If your temp is a little low, they will be more towards day 17/18 and if a little high, day 16. First the chicks will pip, allowing air to flow into the egg. This is why maintaining high humidity is so important. The pip stage can last up to 24hrs as they zip. Once they start to zip, sit back and watch the show. They pop like popcorn and it is really quite entertaining.
Quail chicks can stay inside the incubator up to 48hrs. It is best to wait until all active hatchings are done and the chicks are dry and fluffy before moving them into their brooder. We start counting 48hrs from the first chick to hatch and once the time is hit, we take all hatched chicks out. There sometimes can be late hatchers so we recommend leaving the unhatched eggs in the incubator with lockdown spec until day 21 if you so chose.
-When not turning, it is extremely important to not disturb the eggs at all during the whole process, which means no candling.
-Maintaining consistency is crucial to a healthy hatch. High fluctuations in temperature and humidity can weaken the growth of the embryos, lowering hatch rates.
-When setting up a new incubator, using non-shipped eggs is important. They have the best chance at developing and will provide more accurate information to dial in your incubator with.
-Do not give up! Sometimes things happen that out of your control. Once you get a few hatches under your belt and your incubator dialed in, you will be learning quail math like a pro!