This article is a beginner's guide on how to raise quail for eggs. Housing, feeding, lighting, and egg quality control issues are all discussed in this article.
Coturnix Quail are a great bird to raise for eggs. They mature quickly, start to lay eggs at eight weeks of age, have a good feed to egg conversion, and are prolific layers. Their eggs come in a wide array of patterns. Most eggs will be white or brown with dark brown splotches or speckles. Since coturnix quail are such prolific egg layers, they tend to be highly productive for the first twelve to eighteen months. Afterwards productivity tends to decline rapidly. For this reason, if you are raising quail for eggs to sell, it is good practice to replace your older hens when they reach fourteen to twenty months of age with new laying quail hens. Additionally, removing poor producing layers will allow you to cover your feed costs better. Providing Coturnix quail with 14 to 16 hours of light a day will stimulate the birds to lay eggs daily. The light provided can be artificial light, natural light, or a combination of the two. It is best to use a timer attached to your lights so that you don’t need to worry about turning on and off the lights every day. To provide 14 hours of light you can program your timer to turn the lights on at 6 or 7 am and turn them off at 8 or 9 pm. To provide 16 hours of light you would program the timer to turn on at 6 am and turn off at 10 pm.
Housing Laying Quail
There are many different ways to house laying quail. You can house them in a coop, aviary, layer cage, guinea pig cage, or something similar. I have found that the best system for me is to house my quail in layer cages year-round or in a quail hutch during the spring and summer. In the fall after the quail have molted I bring them inside and put them into a HatchingTime layer cage with the dividers removed. Unlike chickens, coturnix quail will not lay in a designated nesting box. Coturnix quail hens tend to lay their eggs wherever they happen to be standing. For this reason, it can be a bit of an egg hunt every day if you house your coturnix quail on solid ground. When I housed my quail in the quail hutch, I had to feel around in the wood shavings to find their eggs. In the layer cage the quail eggs roll to the front of the cage. The floor is sloped slightly to allow the eggs to roll to the front of the cage to allow for easy collection. Having an egg roll out also keeps the eggs relatively cleaner. I have found that the quail are happier when the dividers between the cages are removed to allow them access to the entire layer level. This should only be done if you house only hens or if you will have only one male quail per level. Multiple male quail living together in a single level can lead to fighting. Quail tend to lay their eggs in the evenings.
Feeding Laying Quail
Laying coturnix quail require a diet high in protein and calcium. The ideal amount of protein in your coturnix quails’ diet is 22-27% protein, if the protein in a quail’s diet is insufficient it will look elsewhere for the protein. Feathers are high in protein, if you notice feather picking amongst your quail increase the protein in their feed. Some quail keepers find that feeding their quail a layer chicken crumble which is 18% protein, an all flock feed with 20% protein, or game bird starter which is 30% percent protein gives them the best results. Since formulated quail feeds are not readily available at farm stores, to reach the 22-27% protein content many quail keepers mix their own feed by combining game starter 30% protein with an all flock feed 20% protein or a layer crumble feed 18% protein to achieve a proper protein percentage.
Egg Quality Control IssuesWhen coturnix quail begin to lay eggs the first couple may be odd. It’s not uncommon for new layers to lay double yolk eggs, very small eggs that may or may not contain a yolk-these are referred to as fairy eggs, soft shell eggs, or misshapen eggs. The majority of these egg anomalies will cease as the quail hen starts to lay steadily. However, if soft shelled eggs persist, this is a sign that your quail are not receiving enough calcium in their diet and can be remedied by adding crushed oyster shell or crushed eggshells to their feeder. The eggs in the picture above were all laid by quail hens who started laying in the past week. The eggs are mostly very large and small eggs with one or two regular sized eggs in the mix. As these hens continue to lay, their eggs will become more uniform in size and color.