Brooding quail chicks isn't that different from brooding domestic poultry, but brooding quail the exact same way as the chicks of other fowl will likely lead to a high fatality rate. Proper quail brooding entails knowing how long to incubate the eggs and the right way to feed the chicks. According to the Mississippi State University Extension Service, "Improper brooding is one of the most common causes of stress in poultry flocks."
You can use the same incubator you would use for domestic fowl eggs to incubate quail eggs, but you can't leave them in the device for the same amount of time. If you're raising bobwhite quail, keep the eggs in the incubator for 23 days, as opposed to 21 days for chickens. Japanese quail eggs are generally ready to hatch in 17 or 18 days. Fortunately, quail eggs have about the same hatching success rate as chicken eggs.
As hatching day approaches, prepare your brooder. Adjust the lights in the brooder and make sure they are working before the quail hatch. Otherwise, you'll need to scrounge up a temporary, emergency heat source to keep the chicks alive. Check the temperature before adding the chicks. For every 100 chicks, provide a minimum of two 1-gallon waterers and two 12- or 18-inch chick feeders. Check the chicks several times daily. If they huddle together, it's too cold for them.
Once the quail chicks hatch, it's imperative that they're maintained at the correct temperature. If the temperature drops too low, they'll die. Mississippi State University Extension Service notes that it takes between two and four weeks for the chick's body to develop temperature control. At hatching, the quail chick's temperature is about 3 degrees less than an adult bird. Keep the brooder at 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months and 95 degrees in winter for the first week, decreasing it by 5 degrees a week until by week five, the summer temperature is 70 degrees and the winter temperature 75. After the sixth week, quail are ready for marketing.
Quail chicks require a feed higher in protein than chickens and duck babies. Feed them a game bird starter feed containing a minimum of 28 to 30 percent protein. If your local feed store doesn't carry gamebird starter feed, you can substitute a starter feed designed for turkey poults. For the first few days of life, grind the starter feed if it's not already ground so the quail chicks will consume it. Day-old chicks can't consume non-ground feed.
- Mississippi State University Extension Service: Temperatures Recommended for Brooding Quail
- University of Minnesota Extension: Hatching and Brooding Small Numbers of Chicks
- Mississippi State University Extension Service: Brooding Chickens and Quail
- Stromberg's Chicks and Game Birds Unlimited: The Care of Baby Chicks, Ducks and Geese
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.