Story and photos by Kelly Boehling
Hatching coturnix Japanese quail can be a fun experience. Although small and small on the day of hatching, quail chicks are resilient and grow very quickly. Quail incubation requirements are slightly different than those for chickens and other birds, but they are easy to understand.
Finding the right incubator
Buying the right incubator is the most important part of hatching. In my experience, an incubator needs to have a built-in thermometer, hygrometer, automatic circulation, and a fan (forced air system). While hatching is possible without one or any of these traits, incubation becomes more time intensive and risks a lower hatching rate. Almost all incubators available for purchase have a built-in thermometer and sometimes a hygrometer (to monitor humidity). Many also have a forced air system, which circulates the air in the incubator to maintain an even temperature
throughout. It is important to read the reviews for the model in question as follows
Good. Revisions may reveal a tendency for the sitter to get too hot or cold, or it may become less accurate over several slots.
I consider the auto-turner a necessity, especially for quail eggs. Stirring is possible by hand, but it requires opening the incubator frequently and disrupting the temperature and humidity levels. In addition, the shell of quail eggs is very thin and any further processing may damage the eggs. Furthermore, many people put an “x” in pencil on the shells when hand-rolling them, but it is very difficult to see with the natural camouflage of quail eggs.
Some automatic turners use rails, so if this is the type of model you’re considering, make sure you have quail egg rails available. It is usually purchased separately. Some incubators do not use bars but rather
Place the eggs between the slats in a box that slides across the floor, turning them as they go.
This design adjusts to a variety of egg sizes, so no additional purchase is necessary. Depending on the number of eggs you want to hatch and the expected frequency of hatching, you may want to spend a little less for a smaller incubator, or a little more for a larger capacity and positive feedback on its long-term durability. Keep in mind that a larger capacity incubator can only hold a small number of eggs; It doesn’t have to be full to work.
Some incubators have small observation windows on top, while others have a clear plastic cover, or are made entirely of clear plastic. I have found that smaller observation windows are prone to fogging up with the high humidity required in the last days of hatching. It may be important for you to be able to watch the chicks hatch, in which case a clear lid or larger observation window is ideal.
This design makes it easy to observe which eggs have split or whether they are
It appears that a chick is struggling during the hatching process.
Where to find quail eggs
If the incubator is working as expected, it’s time to set the eggs! There are many places to buy Coturnix quail eggs online. Many breeders only ship on specific days of the week and may have some lead time built in before
Shipping so be aware of this with the split schedule. Be sure to order eggs intended for hatching, as quail eggs can also be sold for eating or crafting and cannot hatch. There are several
Various kinds of feather colors to choose from, and celadon eggs (teal blue eggs)
Also available from select sellers. In the product description, note if a hatch rate guarantee or additional eggs will be included. These are not necessarily standard practices, but they are good perks if they are offered. There may also be pictures of the packaging they use. Foam boxes with cut-outs in which the eggs are nested are ideal because they increase the integrity and safety of the eggs during transport.
If you can find a local vendor, you may be able to pick up the eggs yourself. This is the best option, because eggs spend the least amount of time shipping and are not exposed to temperature changes. Agricultural supply stores sometimes carry Coturnix eggs or special order, but there is usually a minimum required of 50 eggs or more (more than my current capacity for quail!). If you have a few friends who will be in on a larger batch with you, this could be a useful option.
eggs from your flock
If you already have quails, you can also hatch eggs from your own stock. Collect the eggs daily, and if you need to collect them over a few days to collect enough eggs, store them in the mid-50°F range, with the points facing down. The fridge is too dry and too cold for that. Eggs should be less than a week old when incubated for better hatching yields. Avoid washing the eggs, as this removes the protective bloom on the shell. If there is visible dirt on the egg, remove it gently with a soft-bristled brush or consider not applying it if the dirt is stubborn. Some breeders like to weigh the eggs and choose the largest to make it easier to develop a batch of large birds (especially for meat producers).
I’d rather actually turn the incubator on and set it to the right position
temperature and humidity level prior to spawning. Examine the eggs carefully and discard any damaged eggs. We put the eggs in the incubator according to the incubator’s instructions. If your incubator has a rail, place the eggs in the egg “cups,” face down.
Where to put the incubator
Once you have a brooder, there are several factors to determine where to place it during incubation. Choose a place without cold drafts or direct sunlight as this will make the heating system tough to regulate and maintain temperature. The site should be a low traffic area and be protected from nosy pets or children. Have a contingency plan in mind in case the power goes out during the incubation.
Clean and disinfect
Be sure to clean and sterilize the incubator and the rods or accessories, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to avoid immersion of delicate sensory equipment, heating elements, motors, and computer components. I prefer washing the brooder with warm soapy water and, after rinsing, disinfecting it with a solution of 1/2 cup bleach diluted in 1 gallon of water. Allow to air dry. It is important not to mix bleach with a soap solution, as it can create harmful fumes. Do not use chemical cleaners, as these compounds may absorb into the styrofoam or plastic, which could harm the developing eggs. In the future, get in the habit of cleaning the incubator immediately after the chicks are transferred to the incubator.
Test before download
Once your brooder is clean, dry, and assembled, it’s time to run a test run. Place the brooder in your chosen location and connect the power cord and auto switch. The proper humidity level for quails is 45% for the first 14 days (you may need to add a little water to the incubator to achieve this), and the temperature should be 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Incubator reading accuracy.
Ensure that the incubator keeps the temperature stable (minimum fluctuations of half a degree are not unusual). You can use this time to experiment with how much water to add and how often to achieve the desired moisture level. There are some incubators that include automatic humidity control, or models that fit a kit for this.
hatch your eggs
Days 1 to 14
Quail generally take 18 days to incubate but can hatch as early as day 16 or as late as day 20.
On day 14, you will need to stop turning eggs. This means not only separating the automatic inverter (if your model has a separate cord for it) but also removing the eggs from the bars and carefully placing them on the hatching floor.
For some incubators, the floor is already under the rails or the nursery floor. For others, you will have to remove the floor of the nursery
and replace it with the hatching floor. Most incubators are not specifically made
Designed for quail, so the floor net is probably too wide for the quail chick’s feet. Lay a layer or two of paper towels on the hatching floor, then gently place the eggs on the paper towels.
This process should be done as quickly as possible and as carefully as possible to avoid it
Making the incubator too cold or dry. As far as candle eggs go, I personally don’t bother with it, because the shell coloring makes it so
They are hard to see and further processing may damage the egg.
Day 15 and beyond
On the 15th day, after the eggs are laid on the hatching floor, the humidity should be increased to 55 to 70%. Add more water to the incubator, being careful not to spill the eggs or the paper towels. You may notice some movement in the eggs at this point, and the eggs should start to appear on the 15th day or so.
When the chicks begin to hatch, the incubator is only opened absolutely
Necessary, as this releases heat and moisture, and can cause them to not shed
The chicks are shrink-wrapped in the eggs. The hatched chicks can stay in the brooder for up to 24 hours, at which point, you can quickly transfer them to the brooder, which should already be ready and running at temperature. Work quickly to open the incubator for as little time as possible. Under ideal conditions, all chicks hatch within 24 hours, however
This is not always the case.
Clicking and pressing
Monitor chicks that have been hatched or partially hatched but have not made progress for several hours. A small hole has been closed
Again it is an emergency situation that requires immediate intervention.
Helping a chick hatch is a last resort and should only be done when it dries up and gets stuck. I start conservatively, quickly removing the partially hatched eggs from the incubator, and gently removing them
A piece of casing around the point hole. I might start with the chick
“Unzip” the rounded end of the shell. If the chick appears to be moving freely
Encouraging him, may be enough, and he can be returned to the brooder. If the feather is dry and matted, it is a shrunken coil
And it gets stuck in the shell, and it won’t be able to hatch on its own. This situation is best avoided by high humidity levels, and by not opening the incubator unnecessarily. I ran into this with a brooder that I had used for many successful vents before and discovered that the hygrometer was giving inaccurately high readings. I now keep a secondary hygrometer in the incubator to avoid this.
Rest assured that with proper preparation and accurate temperature and humidity, quail egg hatching rarely has complications. The quail is a joy to hatch, and it is amazing to see how fast it grows.
Kelly Bowling Born in Lawrence, Kansas. She works as a classical violinist, and in between gigs and lessons, she can be found in the garden
or spending time with its animals, including quail and French Angora rabbits. She enjoys finding ways her animals and her garden can benefit each other for a more sustainable urban home.
You can also follow her on her website: https://kellybohlingstudios.com/