Hatching Time. A quail standing in a Hatching Time quail cage.

Coturnix Quail Genetics and Breeding

This new blog is all about how to breed quail for color and genetics. In this article I will answer common quail breeding questions such as: How to breed sex-linked quail? Why to cross-breed quail? What quail varieties are popular for cross-breeding? And more! We have included some helpful graphics of a quail breeding scheme, Punnett square, and a graphic showing how to make sex-linked quail! 


Intro to Quail Color Genetics 

While chicken color genetics have been studied since the early 1900's, coturnix quail color genetics are relatively new. This means that the genes responsible for certain colors and patterns aren't fully understood at this time. But from the current knowledge that we have we know that quail color is controlled by dominant and recessive genes and dilution modifier genes. Phenotype is the physical characterization of genes. Genotype is the genetic constitution of a creature. Dominant genes are represented by capital letters, while recessive genes are represented by lower case letters. Genes are expressed in multiple ways, but for the purposes of this article we will discuss only the relevant ones. Check out our beginners guide to Breeding Coturnix Quail for more information on how fun and easy it is. When an organism carries one dominant and one recessive gene they are heterozygous. When an organism carries two dominant or recessive genes they are homozygous. Dominant genes are expressed in the heterozygous or homozygous state. Recessive genes are only expressed in the homozygous state. If you have multiple different colored quail, it's a good idea to keep them separated in quail coops. 

Quail breeding infographic showing pairings.

Benefits of Cross-Breeding Quail 

Cross-breeding quail provides many benefits for the quail owner. Hybrid vigor, sex-link crosses, increased egg production, increased body weight, increased livability, and egg size are just some of the many benefits of cross-breeding quail. Since quail mature rapidly, you can see results from your breeding program in a few generations. Cross-breeding your quail can allow you to focus on specific traits. Cross-breeding two unrelated productive lines produces offspring who will have laying ability and production as good if not better than either of the parents. This is called hybrid vigor. Hybrid vigor in quail presents as earlier age of first egg, better feed to egg conversion, increased carcass weight, and higher livability. You can select birds for cleaner, clearer feather markings to produce more easily sexed chicks and better color patterns. Make sure to keep your quail lines clearly marked and separated in quail hutches. There is no need to provide quail nesting boxes as quail just lay their eggs wherever they feel like it. Collect eggs multiple times a day to ensure they are clean and unblemished. 


Hatching Time. Quail inforgraphic showing lineage when cross-breeding quail.

How to Cross-Breed Quail Effectively 

To effectively cross-breed quail you will need to start with two separate genetic lines. This can be accomplished by purchasing the same variety of quail from two separate breeders. This will ensure that the birds you use for breeding are unrelated. For example, if you bought Jumbo Pharaoh quail from Farm X and Farm Y, you would be able to have two separate breeding lines. The males from Line A will be paired with the females from Line B, and the males from Line B will be paired with the females from Line A. The resulting offspring will be Line AB and Line BA. Now you can continue to cross the males from one line with the females from the other line to reach your intended goals. I recommend choosing one line to focus on the breeding of males and one line to focus on the breeding of females. The females from the male line can be used for egg production or meat. The males from the female line can be used for meat. You can raise surplus birds in quail breeding cages or quail cages. 


Hatching Time. Infographic showing breeding egyptian and wildtype quails.

Popular Quail Varieties for Breeding 

Most people who cross-breed quail varieties do so to understand the genetics, make new color combinations, make sex-linked crosses, or for fun. Breeding sex-linked Coturnix quail involves the Egyptian or Roux gene. Egyptian coturnix quail carry a dilution gene that lightens all brown color on the bird. This results in them being lighter than Pharaoh Coturnix quail. In reality Pharaoh/Wildtype coturnix quail and Egyptian coturnix quail are the same. To create wild type sex-links, Egyptian males are bred to Pharaoh/Wildtype females. The resulting offspring are visibly distinguishable at hatch. You can watch them develop in HatchingTime's small bird brooder and then in the grow out pens before transiting them to quail cages. The male chicks hatch out darker with Pharaoh down and the females hatch out lighter with Egyptian down. At this time it appears that Egyptian/Roux is the only color used for sex-linked crosses. Please note that sex-linked quail do not breed true past the first generation. Other popular quail varieties for breeding are Rosetta, Tibetan, Fee, and Celadon. These quail are primarily bred for their feather color and egg production. Make sure to keep records of your breeding and annotate the quail pens so you can trace unique colors back to the parents.  


Written by: 

Aryeh Wiesel Headshot

Aryeh Wiesel

Poultry Enthusiast & Expert
Aryeh is a 2023 Rutgers University graduate and majored in Agriculture & Food Systems Science. He hopes to get a job as a production manager in agriculture evaluating animals and plants. Aryeh has almost a decade of experience working with chickens and other poultry. At Aryeh's family's house in Central New Jersey, Aryeh has a small flock of chickens and pigeons. Besides his passion for poultry, Aryeh is also an avid phalaenopsis orchid grower. Aryeh met Hatching Time at the end of 2020 when doing poultry research with a Rutgers professor.