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 Raising birds for meat, eggs and profit

Although this brochure will refer primarily to quail, the same methods work for most other

birds. However, temperatures, humidity and total days incubating can vary, and should be

checked before beginning your hatch. Samples of equipment mentioned can be found  at

our website.

Best results are obtained when chicks have feed, water and heat as soon as possible after hatching! It is assumed that chicks can survive 2 days after hatching without food, water or heat. Transporting of chicks during this period is extremely stressful, resulting in loss of birds. Even if they arrive alive, chicks may die a few days later due to stress. Any delay in delivery is a disaster which only a few birds may survive. When you incubate eggs you eliminate all the above problems. You end up with more and healthier birds at a much cheaper price, as you eliminate the sellers overhead, profit and delivery cost. PURCHASING CHICKS COMPARED TO INCUBATING EGGS? BREEDING COLONY BREEDING is the method first used to raise bobwhite quail. The advantage of this way of breeding is its low cost. A Large pen is either in a house or on the ground. If outdoors, a shelter from wind, rain and other elements must be constructed in the pen. Usually some type of litter such as straw, wood shavings or clean sand is spread on the floor. Quail are placed in the pen with a high hen to cock ratio (such as 3 to 1). Colony breeding is a simple method but loses it desirability because of its disadvantages. Outdoors, if the floor has no litter, it can become a muddy mess when it rains. Floors with litter have to be shoveled out from time to time. Floors with no wire expose the bird droppings which are eaten by the quail. Eggs that are laid on the floor usually are dirty and may be cracked from the birds walking on them, thus egg hatchability is lowered. It is also difficult to tell which hens are producing eggs and which are not so they can be removed. The high hen to cock ratio can result in lower fertility rates. Another big disadvantage is that disease can spread quickly in a large colony environment. INDIVIDUAL CAGE method is the most successful and profitable in the Long run. Its main disadvantage is the initial cost, but that must be considered against its advantages. Examples of this type of cage & cage battery are shown ion our website. One or two pair of quail are kept in a 10” x 24” pen with feed and water troughs. The wire floor keeps birds away from their droppings which keeps down potential disease problems. Drop pans make for easy, quick clean up. Eggs are clean and breakage is low because the cage floor is sloped to move the egg away from the birds as soon as it is laid. Solid side partitions isolate pairs of birds which increases mating and lowers bird stress thus increasing fertility. Troughs are plastic which do not rust and may be quickly cleaned. The trough shape is such that it cuts down on wasted feed. Perhaps the biggest advantage to a cage system is that they can be stacked to put more birds in a room. Should you choose to build your cages our website has all the parts listed in it. It is suggested that you buy a sample cage of the type desired, and use it as a pattern. Eggs should be gathered daily and in hot weather, at least twice daily. Hands should be clean and dry. Eggs should not be handled any more than is absolutely necessary. Do not wash or wipe dirty eggs as you may remove the natural protective coating sealing the pores. A diluted solution of Tek-Trol can be sprayed on the eggs to kill bacteria. Extremely dirty eggs should be discarded. Eggs should be stored in a cool, damp place if possible. A basement is an ideal place, but if you don’t have one, keep the eggs in as cool a place as possible but not in any drafts. Eggs store best at 55°F. in moist humidity; however, most room temperatures are adequate. Quail eggs can be gathered and stored in egg trays shown in the catalogue. Eggs are placed in the tray with the small end straight down. It is not necessary to turn the eggs before incubation. Try to avoid storing eggs with the large end down. Eggs lose a little of their fertility each day they are stored. Holding eggs for one week is acceptable, but eggs over two weeks are probably not worth setting. EGG PRODUCTION AND CARE Normal mating season for bobwhite quail is mid May to mid August, during which time they may lay from 50 to 60 eggs. This can vary according to climate and weather conditions. Bobwhite quail can be made to lay eggs the year round by providing at least 17 hours of light a day and a temperature above 60°F., and may produce 200 or more eggs per year. Breeder flocks should be at least 6 months of age. Laying quail on a year round production will drop their eggs fertility after about 6 months of laying. To restore fertility the birds must be molted. This is done by depriving them of food, light or both for a couple of days. This stops all egg production for at least 30 days. Birds should then be further rested from egg production for 30 to 90 days by using reduced lighting. When the flock begins to lay again, they usually show less fertility than the time before. Some breeders use birds for only one laying cycle while other may use them for 3 to 4 cycles. INCUBATION Usually bobwhite quail will not set on their eggs in captivity, so they must be set in an incubator. There are two types: thermal air flow incubators and circulated air incubators which usually operate at 99½°F. During incubation eggs should be turned 3 times daily to prevent the yolk from rising to one side and crushing the embryo. Eggs must be turned during the first 70% of the incubation. Bobwhite quail take 23 days to hatch and turning of them should stop about the 20th day. Eggs are placed on their side at that time and are no longer moved. The humidity is increased during the last few days before hatch. Unless the hatching eggs can be placed in a separate section, it is not advisable to hatch clutches of eggs with different hatch dates in the same incubator. The ones that hatch earlier could disturb the progress of the second setting. Eggs must be at one level in the thermal air flow incubator where the air at that level is always the proper temperature. For this reason different size eggs such as duck should not be mixed with quail in a thermal air flow incubator. gqf has developed and patented an automatic turner that will fit into its thermal air flow models. The models 1610 and 1611 automatic turners will require only one setting temperature of 100°F. if the thermometer is placed on top of the eggs. All thermal air flow incubators have an inherent problem when operating in colder months of the year. When room temperatures are fluctuating below 68°F. the temperature may begin to vary in the incubator. This is noticed most when an especially cold room changes temperature about 10°F. and requires that the incubators thermostat be adjusted. Always follow the incubators instructions for proper setting of eggs and operating temperature. Moisture is provided by adding water to trough in the bottom. At time of hatch, a second trough is filled for additional humidity. Incubators without automatic turning require that eggs be marked on one side with an X and an 0 on the other side so that you can tell if the eggs have been turned. CIRCULATED AIR INCUBATORS do not necessarily give better hatches but they have certain advantages over thermal air flow incubators. They can usually hold more eggs because eggs can be stacked. They can incubate different sized eggs and types at the same time. They do not usually vary in cold temperature changes. They offer better control of temperature and humidity. The reason for this is that air is moved around so that all parts of the incubator are at 100°F. Larger circulated air incubators such as GQF’s model 1502 Sportsman incubator can incubate and hatch on a continuous cycle. Laying quail produce eggs daily but they are stored so that enough can be set at one time, often at the end of the week. Smaller incubators like the 1602N or the 2362N once filled (or partially filled) cannot be set again until all eggs have hatched. Eggs laid after incubation begins in a 1602N often are too old to set because they can not last the 23 days incubation time the first set of eggs require unless a second 1602N is used for hatching. The 1502, however, can set one tray (250 quail eggs per tray) each week for three weeks (3 trays). It also has a hatching drawer, so while eggs are being set each week, the oldest eggs are hatching each week without disturbing younger eggs. Bobwhite quail require an incubating temperature of 99½° to 100½°F. in circulated air incubators and a setting humidity of 45 to 55%. At time of hatch the humidity should be increased to between 55 and 65%. Hatchability of eggs has many factors but an overall hatch of 65% for purchased eggs or 70% for home-grown is about average. BROODING. When chicks are removed from the incubator they must have a place that is warm and dry. A brooder should have one section that is heated with a temperature of 100°F. and an unheated section that is cooler. The chicks can move about and thus regulate their own comfort. The temperature is reduced 5°F. each week down to room temperature. Bobwhite will require at least 70°F. until they are about 12 weeks of age. By 16 weeks bobwhite have their adult feathers and can endure freezing temperatures. Brooders vary in type and method, but there are two basic types — box type and floor type. BOX TYPE BROODERS such as model number 0534 shown in the gqf catalogue are ideal for small numbers of birds. These sturdy metal brooders hold up to 100 bobwhite quail. They cost a bit more than floor brooders, but can be stacked up to five high, conserving both heat and space. Use a stand for stacking. Brooders assemble easily, and come complete, except for bulbs. Allows light and cross venting without drafts. FLOOR BROODING is cheaper than using a box type brooder but requires more room. Floor brooders can be placed over litter such as pine straw. These units use heat elements for heat rather than lights. Radiant brooders like the No. 0470 heat areas of the floor without harsh lights and have thermostatically controlled heat. Heat lamps are convenient for small groups of birds, but they heat small areas and are not controlled by a thermostat, thus using much energy. Heat lamps also may cause pecking problems because of the bright light. The No. 0457 heat lamp produces the same concentrated heat as other lamps, but pecking is not a problem since an infra- red bulb is used. Brooders should be placed in dimly lit areas and use red, white, or blue brooder bulbs to keep the birds calm. Blue bulbs seem best. BEAK TRIMMING is the clipping off of some of the upper beak to prevent feather picking and injury to other quail. This is often done when birds are crowded in brooders and pens. The time for debeaking is during the first week in the brooding stage, again when they go into the breeding pen at about 6 months of age. Nail clippers are convenient and do a good job. Electric debeakers will cut and burn through the beak which kills germs, helps stop bleeding, and does not crush the beak. Care must be used on birds that are to be sold for hunting as severe clipping may prevent the beak from growing back in a natural manner. FEED: Use a prepared game-bird feed; if not available then a turkey feed will do. Ask your feed dealer for the recommended feed. A starter feed is 28-30% protein and is fed for the first few weeks. Next use a grower feed for maintenance and finally a breeder (20% protein) feed for laying flocks. Feed consumption from time of hatch to 14 weeks is about 3½ lbs. per bird. 100 adult birds will eat about 8 lbs. of feed per day. Birds should have feed available at all times. No. 5003 - Fits in brooders and on brooder floors. Semi translucent plastic allows feed level to be seen without opening. WATER: Birds must have plenty of water at all times. To provide water for baby birds use a plastic jar waterer which is designed exclusively to prevent drowning of quail and game birds. This type drinker should be used fo the first week in the brooder. After the first week automatic drinkers may be used if desired. Drinkers should be close to heated areas. If chicken drinkers are used, then rocks or marbles should be put in the drinkers to keep the chicks from drowning. WATER TREATMENT: Birds should not be given medicine unless they are sick or on the advice of a veterinarian. You may help prevent sickness and have healthier birds by adding vitamins containing electrolytes, and Lactobacillus acidophilus to the water. Once added to water, vitamins lose their potency after 24 hours, so keep in mind the vitamins not consumed in solution after a day, while not harmful, are no longer effective. VACCINE Because mosquitoes carry deadly quail pox from wild birds to domestic flocks, quail pox vaccine is an excellent preventive means to keep a flock of quail healthy. The bird is stabbed in the web of the wing with a needle containing the vaccine. The treatment cost about 2 cents per bird and lasts about 1 year. To obtain quail pox vaccine contact: Kee Vet Laboratory, 521 Jasmine Hill Rd., Anniston, Al. 36207. Phone: 256-236-4433 RELEASE & RESTOCKING. Quail that are released into the wild do best when put out from July through November when natural cover and feed is plentiful. Birds need to be adapted to the released area. One way to do this is to erect a portable “A” frame pen in the release area large enough to hold 20 quail. Place a large watering can and range feeder with assorted grains in the pen along with ground cover and the birds. Maintain the birds for 3 weeks in the pen. After that time, remove the pen but maintain the feeder and waterer for 6 weeks. A call bird can also be placed in a cage on top of a 6 foot post near by to help hold the released birds near the feeder. The quail will use the feeder and waterer until they can learn where other feed and water is and possibly join a wild covey. PRODUCE AND SELL If you are buying birds be careful not to mix them with your flock as one group could have a disease that may affect the other. Buying eggs is usually a safe method of starting or increasing a flock. However you start, check with your county agent or state officials as most states require a license to raise poultry and gamebirds. Quail can be profitable in many ways. Bobwhite quail are commonly used for hunting because they are restockable, native to North America and are good flyers. Because of the introduction of the Cotumix or Pharaoh quail, the Bobwhite has generally been passed over as a production meat bird, but it is often preferred over the Pharaoh. The Bobwhite can be sold live to hunting preserves and other breeders. It can be dressed and sold to restaurants and food stores. Bobwhite eggs can be sold for hatching, food and jewellery. Birds and eggs can be sold to schools and children for pets and science projects. Quail can be sold to pet stores and falcon breeders for food. Individuals and kennels often use quail to train bird dogs. Conservation groups buy quail to restock depleted quail populations. The key to selling quail is producing a quality product and getting the word out that you have them. Tell your friends, and feed dealer, county agent and hunting clubs. Print up cards and pass them around. Advertise in local papers and farm market bulletins. If you want to expand your horizons, advertise in national papers and magazines aimed at hunters or those you feel will buy your product. Give it some time as each year you will pick up repeat business as your product becomes known. A little imagination in spreading the word will go far in creating a marker for your quail. Be mindful to explore every opportunity to sell and constantly advertise. CORTUNIX (OR PHARAOH) QUAIL PRODUCTION The Coturnix is a fast growing bird that is mature in 6 weeks of age and will start laying eggs at 7 weeks. It is therefore ideal for production as a meat bird, however, because of its tendency to migrate it is not used for hunting in North America. It can be raised with a minimum of expense and care. A one car garage is ample space to produce several thousand birds a year. Most equipment used for raising bobwhite quail is ideal for the production of coturnix as well as other game birds and poultry. Read and follow instructions for raising bobwhite quail. The following article gives more specific information relating to the coturnix. GETTING STARTED First thing is to select the place you intend to raise and produce the Coturnix such as a garage, basement, or trailer, but these conditions may be adapted to other places. Always remember that quail are living things and conditions that are comfortable for you will usually be ideal for them. Ideal temperature is between 70oF and 80oF. Production will decrease gradually the further you get from these temperatures. The garage should have adequate ventilation to remove stale air and any odors. There is very little odour from quail as their droppings are small. By cleaning the droppings regularly and using Nature’s Odour Eliminator, No. 5178 in drinking water, there should be no odor build up. The No. 1628 tray is treated to reduce odor and may also be used in dropping pans. A small window exhaust fan should provide adequate fresh air air for the birds and eliminate odor. In winter, use small electric heaters to keep the place comfortable. Eggs, incubator and brooder (with feeder and waterer) is all that is needed to get started.                                  You could start by buying breeders to produce your own eggs, but this requires a much larger outlay of money for equipment. You would need breeding pens and get ting live birds shipped is expensive, so in the beginning, purchase eggs and later go into production with your own birds as breeders. Review the bobwhite quail instructions for incubators and brooding. The main difference with Coturnix eggs is that they should hatch in 17 days instead of 23 for Bobwhite. Brooder temperatures are reduced in the same manner except at the rate of 10oF. at the end of the third week. This is because Coturnix are mature after 6 weeks and usually do not require heat after the 5th week. Provide normal lighting through the 4th week. After 4 weeks the light can be reduced if desired. MEAT BIRD PRODUCTION - Although Coturnix are mature after 6 weeks, they have not reached their full body weight until after 10 weeks. Temporary caponization of coturnix by light denial will create a much larger and fatter bird. Light denial decreases the sex urge and egg production. This most desirable light denial can be handled in one of two ways. The birds may be placed in a completely darkened room and have a timer turn lights on for 8 hours each day or they may be raised in very low or dim lighting. In either case, do not let daylight or light rays shine directly into pens. To reverse this temporary caponization, just return the birds to normal lighting for 10 days. Game bird brooders are ideal for brooding Coturnix. In a limited space operation, they can be stacked 5 high on a rolling stand to conserve space. When starting a new operation, they can be used for brooding birds and as a growing off pen, by just turning the heat off. As you increase the size of your operation, just purchase the growing off pens. These can also be stacked 5 high in a battery to conserve space. On the 5th week just move the birds to these growing off pens and your brooders will be ready for newly hatched chicks. Feeding and watering are the same as the bobwhite. BREEDERS AND EGG PRODUCTION - There are two methods of egg production. Colony breeding where up to 75 birds are put in one pen with ratio of 2 hens to each cock, and smaller pens where 3 or 4 hens are put with one cock. It has been shown that better results are obtained with pens. Breeders should be selected from birds that were moved from dim lighting after 6 weeks of age to normal lighting for 10 days. Select the healthiest and largest looking birds as your breeders. In selecting breeders you will need to tell the sex of the birds, so you can put the confects number of hens with cocks. This is difficult to the inexperienced as the birds are very similar and there is no 100% sure method. Sexing is normally done on the colour of the breast area. Males should have a reddish brown tint on the breast and hens will have grey-mottled breast. There will be 80% to 85% of a group of birds to fit this colour patter and the balance will look too much alike to tell. After 10 days of normal lighting, the birds are usually ready for breeding and inspection of the vent hold under the tail will assist in sexing. When the cock is ready for breeding, a knot or ball will have formed just above the vent. If this ball is squeezed gently, a foam will run out. Hens will not have this ball. Breeders should be provided 15 to 17 hours of light a day. Too much light may cause wetter droppings and greater odour. Temperatures should be above 60oF. Eggs may be green, grey or brown and usually have black patches or spots. Coturnix eggs are often slightly larger than the solid white bobwhite eggs. Dressed birds range from 3½ oz. to 6 oz. Egg production is 200 to 250 per year per hen. Most quail and quail eggs sold in stores and restaurants today are coturnix because they are cheaper to produce than the bobwhite. The coturnix are sold in many of the same market areas as bobwhite quail except for hunting and restocking markets. In addition to consumer sales, these birds are also used in medical research. ADDITIONAL POULTRY FACTS Chickens take 21 days to hatch. Stop turning the eggs on the 18th day of incubation. Incubator operation for circulated-air is the same as for quail eggs. Brooding temperatures are same as for the cortunix quail. Poultry require about three times the space that quail do, however, the same equipment (such as feeder, waterer, debeaker, medications, etc.) that quail use can be used for poultry (except cages). Chickens do not require the same feed mix as quail. Chicken feed is usually cheaper and more easily obtained.
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