How to Incubate and Brood Coturnix Quail

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Incubating & Brooding Coturnix Quail

The internet would have you believe that incubating and brooding Coturnix quail is difficult. I’m here to let you in on a secret… it’s not. Forget fumigation and floating techniques. It’s really no different than incubating a chicken egg. The only difference is that it takes less time and you might as well forget about candling. You simply pop your eggs in the incubator and start the clock (well, if you have an egg turner, otherwise you do have to turn them).

The internet would have you believe that incubating and brooding Coturnix quail is difficult. I'm here to let you in on a secret... it's not.

Incubating Coturnix Quail Eggs

Coturnix quail go from being an egg to laying eggs in 8-9 weeks. Crazy, right? The first 17 days are spent incubating and days 18 and sometimes 19 are spent hatching. Much like chickens, there is no calendar in that egg, so quail chicks may begin to arrive as early as day 16 and as late as day 20. If you have chicks hatching before or after that window, you will want to confirm that your humidity and temperatures in the incubator are accurate.

Temperature and Humidity

Humidity levels are one of the first issues with incubating your Coturnix quail eggs. Less is more. In fact, many people have great success doing a dry incubation with their quail eggs. If you choose a humid incubation, aim for 45% humidity for the first 15 days and increase to 65% for the final three days.

For temperatures, quail eggs incubate at a similar temperature to chicken eggs. If you are running a still air model incubator, aim for a temperature of 102ºF and rotate the eggs around the incubator when you turn them. In a forced air model incubator, aim for a temperature of 100ºF.

Turning Your Quail Eggs

If you do not have an egg turner (which is a highly recommended investment if you plan to hatch quail eggs with any regularity), eggs need to be manually turned at least three times a day, though five times is better. Marking one side of the egg with an X and the other side with O makes it easier to confirm you’ve turned them all.

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The internet would have you believe that incubating and brooding Coturnix quail is difficult. I'm here to let you in on a secret... it's not.

Candling Quail Eggs

Although you can try to candle as early as day 6, I personally never could see anything and stopped looking. My method is to let them sit in their turner until day 15 and just let them do their thing. On day 15, when I remove them from their turner for hatching, I hold them in my hand for a moment or up to my ear. The shells are very thin and often you can hear or feel them moving inside. I also noticed that infertile eggs weigh noticeably less than fertile eggs. Of course, if you are unsure, just let them stay in for the duration. Quail eggs have less risk of exploding than chicken eggs.

Hatching Day for Quail

I had read that hatch day was like watching popcorn popping in the microwave. Not much happens and then all of a sudden they all get popping out at once. There is some validity to that, but it’s not 100% accurate. There are always a few that are early to the party as well as several that are late to arrive. The ones in the middle do seem to go from unpipped to out at a startling rate. I’ve looked in and seen no action whatsoever and then an hour later looked in to find a dozen running around. Quick little buggers they are.

Once everyone is hatched and fluffy, it’s time to move on to brooding. Remember to have your brooder set up several hours in advance so it has time to warm before the chicks need to be moved.

Brooding Coturnix Quail Chicks

Much like the incubation process, brooding Coturnix quail is not any more difficult than brooding chicken chicks. I think people get nervous because the chicks are so tiny. I’ll admit that it seems a lot could go wrong with a chick the size of a half dollar coin. The biggest fear I had was making sure none had died and I hadn’t noticed. Quail are usually hatched in large batches and it’s a challenge to count 50 chicks that look exactly the same. Mine are grown now and I still have trouble doing head counts.

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Brooder Size

You may think that a brooder for such a tiny bird could be small, and you’d be correct for about a day. Coturnix quail do everything quickly and growing is no exception. Although they will look dwarfed in a large brooder for the first day, by the end of the first week, they’ll be wing to wing. Your Coturnix quail will look considerably different at the end of the day than they did when you woke up that morning. 6″ square per bird is adequate, but the larger the better.

The internet would have you believe that incubating and brooding Coturnix quail is difficult. I'm here to let you in on a secret... it's not.

Food and Water

As with any chick, feed and water need to be made available at all times. Water containers need to have marbles or rocks in them for the first week to prevent drowning. After the first week, any shallow water container will work. Quail need to be fed a high protein feed to keep up with their rapidly growing bodies. I like to use turkey/gamebird starter for the first 4 weeks, which is 28% protein content. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find this starter in mash consistency. It often comes in crumbles, which is too large for quail chicks. I purchased a coffee grinder at a thrift store and use that to grind the crumbles for the first two weeks. After two weeks, the quail seem to be able to handle the size of crumbles.

Proper Brooding Temperatures

Temperature needs for brooding Coturnix quail seem to vary depending on the time of year and where you live. The general consensus is that they should be kept at 95ºF for the first week and lowered by 5º each week. I’ve successfully gotten away with less. Most texts say that you need to keep lowering the temperature weekly until the brooder temperature is the same temperature as where you will be housing them, but I haven’t found that to be true.

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Moving Your Quail Outdoors

I removed the heat at three weeks old (so they were at 65-70ºF) and moved our quail outdoors at four weeks old. I had a heat lamp on in their outdoor housing and none of them used it, even on colder days. In fact, on their 5th day outside it was raining cats and dogs and they were out in the rain scratching for goodies. I think they are hardier than people give them credit for.

Regardless of where you live or what time of year it is, your Coturnix quail will be ready for their new home by 5 weeks. They’ll also be preparing to start laying at that same time. Check back for our post on housing and laying.

The internet would have you believe that incubating and brooding Coturnix quail is difficult. I'm here to let you in on a secret... it's not.

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I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

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About Jessica Lane

I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

Comments

How to Incubate and Brood Coturnix Quail — 34 Comments

  1. I had 22 eggs in the incubator 1 hatched on day 17 on day 18..this is day 19 and still no more chicks..I know there were chicks in all of them..these eggs were left at cool room temperature for about 3 weeks befor going to incubator..do you think He rest will hatch?feeling anxious

    • While it’s no uncommon for eggs to hatch as late as day 19 (usually because the temperature is set too low and it delayed hatching), my concern is the age of the eggs. We try to collect eggs for no more than 5 days before getting them in the incubator. Three weeks will seriously reduce hatchability.

      • Ok! I have a Little Giant still air incubator but I can buy the fan, egg turner, and quail rail attachments no problem 🙂

        Also, I can’t seem to find this info anywhere. Maybe I’m searching wrong. Is there a way to store eggs so I can incubate them all at the same time? Say, 1 week of eggs going in at the same time, so I’m not trying to separate 2-3 eggs for lockdown each day?

        • With duck and chicken eggs you rotate them daily and store them at room temperature. I don’t worry so much with my quail eggs. I just keep them in an egg carton and give them a little tilt from time to time until I’m ready to put them in the incubator. No matter how far apart they were laid, day 1 of incubating will still be 24 hours after putting them in the incubator. Just keep in mind that hatch-ability declines after 5 days.

  2. I have d 2 quail hatch this am.still 12 left to hatch .is it OK to put od in the incubator and leave the 2 chicks in there and for how long. will the humidity hurt the 2 chicks?

    • The humidity won’t hurt the chicks, it will just prevent them from fully drying which isn’t a big deal if they are put right into a warm brooder when removed. I leave chicks up to 24 hours, especially if only a couple have hatched. It’s best to move a minimum of 4-5 so they can huddle in the brooder if they need to.

  3. I have just started with i first hard 10 3 weeks birds . I know have 400 day old chicks they have started purging just after the 2nd night , what is the cause?

  4. Just starting out with Coturnix, have only 5, not even sure of the male/female ratio. They lay 3 eggs everyday and I would like to incubate and brood. What would you recommend for equipment? Thanks.

  5. Hey Jessica! Attempting my first hatch in a still air incubator with hand turning. I am on day 19 with a couple wiggly eggs but no chicks yet. I was going to chuck the lot as I thought maybe they were bad but when I picked up the one I swore was wiggling yesterday there was a small hole through which I could see the chick’s side moving as it breathed. I put it back and thought the one beside it was wiggling too. I had trouble with the incubator the first couple days, so maybe that delayed the hatch? And is it normal for that one egg to have a hole in the shell with the chick still inside? At what point/day do I just consider the whole thing a failure? Thanks!

      • I now have 2 chicks so far. Still a little worried that in about 6 hours we will begin day 21 and I haven’t turned the eggs since day 14 but since a couple have hatched so maybe not a big deal? The first one to “zipper” the shell got stuck like that for more than 12 hours and when I finally investigated it was on it’s back in the shell – which had dried around it. I cracked it open just a little and put it belly side down and the next time I checked it had finally busted out. Poor little thing seems really exhausted though. Since they don’t all hatch at the same time how long/many days should I wait to see if the others hatch? Oh, and browsed your site for hours yesterday – thanks for all the information!

        • I’d give them until day 21. Do you know how to float test eggs to see if they’re alive? Fill a glass with warm water (not hot) and gently place an egg in the water (making sure the egg hasn’t pipped). If it sinks it’s not viable. If it floats watch it for a moment to see if it wiggles. If it floats but doesn’t move it’s probably not viable.

  6. We just hatched our first 5 on day 18. Still have 45 left to hatch. So you leave them in the incubator for 24 to 48 hours. Do you put food and water in the incubator for them? I have searched the internet and I can’t find anything.

      • the yolk last them 24 hours not 3 days :/ , you can put water in the incubator from when the 1st one hatches ( i know breeders that have been doing it for years) please before giving any adice out, you do your research….

        • Gallinaceous birds, such as chickens, quail, and pheasants survive up to 3 days without feed or water. The yolk of the egg is drawn through the navel into the stomach of the baby bird before it hatches. This, then provided nourishment for the transitional period from the time the bird hatches, fluffs out, gains strength and becomes active enough to go out and seek food. Chicks continue to grow and develop in the incubator, before they receive food. Of course, they do not gain weight, but they do gain in stature, activity and use of their faculties.

          – Texas A&M University, Department of Poultry Science

  7. Hi there, hoping you might have some advice on hatching quail – we have hatched a little batch of 14, and 9 have hatched so far – they are running around inside the incubator but looking very damp still, though two hatched last night (at least 18 hours ago) – there is condensation on the inside plastic window of the mini incubator, should we maybe wipe it dry, clean out the damp paper, and put them back in to fluff up? It is a still air incubator and I don’t understand how they are supposed to get fluffy in high humidity?! Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks for your no fuss advice above 🙂

    • Congratulations on your hatch! It sounds like your humidity may have climbed a bit, which is normal when there are a bunch of wet chicks running around. Happens to me almost every time. Do you have a humidity gauge in there with them? What I suggest is removing a few plugs from the incubator (if it has them) or tilting the just a bit to release a bit of the humidity. Just make sure you are checking the thermometer and changing it as necessary. Often when you vent to release humidity, the temperature will lower. Let me know how it goes and don’t hesitate to ask more questions.

  8. Thank you for getting back to me so quickly! I had 14 hatch and after 24 hours I moved them to the brooder and two more habe hatched since then. Unfortunately one is upside down in the rail with this wings and head through the hole at the bottom. Do you have any advice on getting him out?

    • I was out of town and got to day 16 with my egg turner still in the incubator, walked in the door ran in to check. One was hatched and fluffy. The second one was like Cynthia’s stuck in the vents of the bottom of the egg turner. I carefully removed the bird by pushing him through. All he needed to do was tuck his wing in to make it. Luckily they are both healthy and I’m waiting for the other 46 to hatch. I think the first two hatched late on the 15th day.

      • I’m so glad it turned out well. Even with seemingly nothing that could cause issues, I always have one that gets stuck somewhere (usually it gets stuffed under the thermometer and needs rescuing). Good luck with the remainder of your hatch.

  9. Thanks for the article! I have a question today is day 16 and I have 48 eggs in my incubator and two hatched today. Do I remove those birds after 18 to 24 hours and wait for more to hatch? (hopefully more will hatch)

  10. I’ve been thinking about adding quail for a couple of years now. I think reading your stuff may be the turning point.
    Thanks

  11. Raising the Corturnix was a fun experience. I’m currently raising Bobwhites and that has been so different., loving it and finding out with each breed they are so different. Great tips, I don’t incubate going to let the girls do it for me. Love it when nature takes control.
    Hope you have a great July 4th
    Carole

  12. I have raised many Quail… big secret they can’t eat starter feed. Put it into a coffee mill and grind it down to the consistency of powder and put on a plastic lid in the box they will figure it out… water put marbles in to the water so they can’t walk or fall in… they grow so fast after a week they are ready for the started and regular waters

  13. Is that why people keep quail – because they lay eggs so fast? Is it for eating? I’ve never researched quail so I’m completely ignorant – help!

    • They are often kept for meat and eggs. The reason why quail are gaining popularity is because of the quick turn around for both of these. Also, with a more majestic and less obnoxious crow, people are able to keep breeding stock without annoying the neighbors.

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