Brooding Quail – Backyard Poultry

Reading Time: 5 minutes

10 intrepid students set up a quail brooder.

Story and photos by Ann Accetta-Scott

IT MAY SEEM A BIT old-fashioned, but small, one-room schools are on-trend. I’m lucky to be teaching a homesteading curriculum to 10 delightful students at the Hardison Mill Homestead School. We focus on hands-on learning without textbooks or an accredited curriculum. The kids learn to work together to complete tasks and solve the problems of some difficult, but real tasks.

The last project we worked on was assembling a Hatching Time CT60 incubator and set Coturnix quail eggs. (See “Homestead Curriculim: Incubating Quail Eggs“, originally published in the the December 2023/January 2024 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.) The students were responsible for assembling the incubator, ensuring the temperature and humidity held, setting the quail eggs, and locking down the incubator in preparation for hatch day.

Now that the quail have hatched, it’s time for the kids to put together the new 2-tier Hatching Time brooder. The feed trays and self-waterer made
caring for the quail extremely easy, especially in a school setting.

Students learned the following lessons about brooding quail from first-hand experience.

Key Points to Raising Quail

Quail are really quite easy to raise. If you search “quail brooders” online, you’ll see photos of the birds being raised in large fish tanks, aviaries, or tractor brooders on pasture. We decided a simple, indoor method would allow us to keep the quail safe during brooding and give the students different daily lessons about animal husbandry. The following are topics
(among others) that we covered.

Quail Waste

The waste from quail is so acidic that it can burn the pads of the bird’s feet. For this reason, it’s extremely important to keep the brooder and grow-out pens clean. Our brooder had a plastic-covered mesh floor with a dropping tray, so we opted not to use anything like wood chips, which need to be changed daily. The student just pulled out the tray and emptied it every day, and the mesh protected the birds from contact with their poop.

It is a blessing to be able to teach

children how to incubate, brood,

process, and create a meal out of

the quail they raised.

Feed and Water

When my husband and I were raising quail on our acreage, we ran into several problems connected to feeding and watering the birds. For instance, the quail chicks became extremely wet because the waterer was too large for them, even when small rocks were added to the tray. We also discovered that the typical feed trays needed to be bigger. Little quail chicks could climb into the poultry feed trays and would become stuck. The Hatching Time brooder that the school kids were using has automatic waterer and feeder trays.

Students sort though all the pieces before assembly.

The external feed trough reduces feed loss and creates less of a mess inside and outside of the chick brooder. As excited as I was with the feed trough, I was even more pleased with the automatic water system. The drinking system holds 2 gallons of water and minimizes not only a mess from occurring in the brooder but also keeps the water clean and free of waste and feed.

The students assemble each compartment where the quail will be housed. The chick
brooder is 9.5 inches tall, an ideal height to prevent chicks from injuring themselves if they
should take flight when spooked.
A successfully assembled compartment.

Lighting and Heat

Our quail brooders were kept in a small barn, which was a great location. However, the light in the barn did not reach the inside of the brooders, causing the quail to live in minimal lighting. Sadly, this did slightly hinder growth.

We shared our experiences with the kids, so they could learn from our mistakes, and see how different brooders solved several of the problems we

For most of a quail’s life, it will require a heat source. When quail are spooked (which happens easily and often) they fly straight up. Having a low-ceiling brooder is essential, and also one with light and heat sources that won’t burn them.

We explored different options with the kids so that they could learn how to do this kind of research and see what’s currently on the market. The Brinsea Eco-glow is a great option for quail chicks. A heat lamp can easily injure the birds if they should somehow manage to fly into it. The Hatching Time brooder includes tiers, each of which has a 20-inch space heater with the option to add a bulb for extra lighting. Semi-transparent walls allow natural lighting in while providing a draft-free brooder. The insulated design also traps heat and helps maintain the desired temperature within the brooder.

Floor mats are available for quail which
have recently hatched. The mats are
removable, making for easy cleaning. The
mats are anti-bacterial, easy to wash, and
allow newly hatched quail chicks to stand
and walk around easier. In addition to this,
the mats absorb heat, keeping the chick
comfortable during their first few weeks
of life.
All components of this brooder are easily
assembled. The drill is used for only this
step, securing the legs that attach each
brooder level. The brooder comes with
hygienic manure trays, preventing the quail
from stepping on their manure and keeping
any possible bacteria from reaching the
birds. The trays are removable and can be
washed and sanitized regularly.
The final project! A quail brooder that is so easy to assemble that these students managed
the task with minimal teacher help.

Additional Lessons

Students learned about the life cycle of quail. Because most of the quail were destined to be a meat source, they learned that (much like the Cornish
Cross chicken), quail reach maturity between 6 and 8 weeks. We did also want to raise some of the birds so that we could have eggs to eat and set for the next round of incubation.

Compared to chicken eggs, quail eggs are a much healthier option. The eggs contain more fat and protein by weight and are high in iron and riboflavin, B12, amino acids, and antioxidants. We also talked about selecting eggs for incubation, and that they should be medium-sized eggs to fit comfortably in the quail trays.

ANN ACCETTA-SCOTT homesteads on two acres in Washington State, raising poultry, goats, and rabbits. She’s an educator and encourager of all who seek to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Ann is also the face behind the website “A Farm Girl in the Making” and author of The Farm Girl’s Guide to Preserving the Harvest.

Originally published in the Feb/Mar 2024 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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