Whether you hatch your own chicks out or buy some day-olds from Spade & Feather, this quick guide will help you through raising quail chicks.
Once hatched, quail chicks need to remain in the incubator until dry. They can happily survive without food or water in the incubator for up to 48hrs. It is best to leave your chicks for the maximum amount of time to allow for their siblings to hatch. Every time you open your incubator to remove dry chicks, you are risking all of the other unhatched chicks. The sudden drop in temperature and humidity from opening the incubator can kill unhatched chicks.
Quail chicks will live the first part of their lives in a brooder. A brooder is NOT the same as an incubator. A brooder is a container that offers protection from predators, drafts and rain. Using a large rubbermaid tote with a flat bottom is ideal for brooding. The tote walls prevent drafts and stop the chicks from straying. These plastic containers are also easy to clean. Broods need to be kept indoors in a barn or house in an area free of drafts.
The Brooder Floor
Quail chicks cannot be placed directly on the plastic bottom of the brooder. Quails need something to grip otherwise they will develop splayed legs which will eventually lead to death. Splayed legs is a condition where the legs of a chick harden and develop in a position similar to the splits. The chick's mobility will decrease and it will no longer be able to feeder and drink. To prevent splayed legs, we recommend placing shelf liner in the bottom of the brooder. It should be cut to size and lie flat on the floor. Paper towels can also be used on top of the shelf liner to help absorb moisture. After 5 days, pine shavings can be added to the brooder. Never use cedar shavings as the dust can cause respiratory problems in poultry. The brooder floor should be cleaned often. All soiled shavings or paper towel should be changed.
Quail chicks need 24 hour access to food specifically made for their nutritional needs. Do no feed them cat food, dog food, seeds or grasses. The best feed for a quail chick is a non-medicated starter crumb of 24% protein or higher. This is available at feed stores in 25kg bags or at Spade & Feather in smaller more manageable amounts here. For the first few days, chicks will struggle to eat from a feeder so it's best to sprinkle feed on a paper towel in the bottom of the brooder. The chicks will create quite a mess with the feed and tend to fling it everywhere. Remove any food that gets damp as it will develop mould and attract flies.
Quail chicks are a lot cuter than they are smart. They have a tendency to drown or soak themselves through when open water containers are used. Only Quail Waterer Bases should be used. These waterers prevent drowning and are simple to use. The base screws onto a Poultry Jar and water should be refreshed twice a day.
Chicks require 24 hour access to water. To prevent bacteria from forming in the water, we recommend 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to be mixed in to every litre of water.
Quail chicks must be kept warm 24 hours a day. In the first week, chicks need to be kept at 95°F. Every week the temperature can be reduced by 5°F (see chart below).
Week 1: 95°F (35ºC)
Week 2: 90°F (32ºC)
Week 3: 85°F (29ºC)
Week 4: 80°F (26ºC)
Week 5: 75°F (24ºC)
The easiest way to keep chicks warm is by using a heat lamp. The lamp should be positioned to focus the heat on one end of the brooder to allow the chicks to escape the warmth if they start to overheat. It is very important to use an accurate thermometer to monitor the exact temperature in the brooder. If you find your chicks are huddling together under the lamp, they are too cold and the lamp should be moved closer. If you find your chicks are avoiding the warm area of the brooder, the lamp should be moved further away.
If you follow the information above, put in the time and care, your quail will grow healthy and happy!