It is of the utmost importance for any living organism to have a good start in life. Because of the many questions relating to Quail rearing and feeding, I have decided to post a series on the subject, mostly reflecting my own point of view and experience over a long period of time, backed by scientific facts. The series will consist of three chapters, i.e. 1 – Hatch to Two weeks ; 2 – Two weeks to Five weeks and 3 – Five weeks to Eight weeks.
1 – HATCH TO TWO WEEKS
Remove the incubated quails as soon as possible after hatching and transfer them to a pre-heated brooder at 38 C. This is to eliminate possible unfavorable conditions that may exist inside the incubator, such as high humidity, lack of proper walking surfaces, competition with other hatchlings in and amongst other hatching eggs, lack of assistance and attention for needy individuals, etc.
The bad thing about this practice is that it may create unfavorable conditions for the incubation of the rest of the eggs, as the incubator is being opened and closed often. This can be negated by doing it quickly and having the incubator in a favorable environment like a warm room. Fast removal of hatchlings means that the incubator is not open long enough to change the egg temperature and moisture content significantly and does not have an effect on hatchability. When hatching is at its peak, remove the chicks from the incubator about once every 60 minutes.
The brooder should be lined with a soft material like an old towel which will provide enough traction for the young birds to get onto their feet, without slipping, sliding and stumbling. Make sure the surface is not slippery, or too rough as to entangle their small feet and toes. The weak hatchlings need to get onto their feet as soon as possible to exercise their muscles and respiratory system, without being exhausted.
The heat source must be of such an intensity that the chicks do not hover on the perimeter of the glow of the lamp, or form a nervous pile at the point of highest temperature right under the lamp. If the temperature is correct, the chicks will spread themselves out evenly under the heat and be calm, if this does not happen adjust the temperature until they are happy. This steady temperature must be retained 24 hours per day for at least the first five weeks. It is a good practice to have more than one heat source per brooder, should one fail, the temperature would not drop too low nor too fast to cause hypothermia and death. Young quails at this stage are very vulnerable and die very quickly should the temperature fluctuate too much. Adjust temperatures, by changing to different strengths of globes and changing the distance between the birds and the heat source. It can also be done by having one heat source supplying about 70% of the required heat and a second connected to a thermocouple set at 38C.
Population density for the first two weeks should be about 80 – 100 birds per meter square. It is beneficial to have them in smaller groups of about 20 per 0.25 meters square,which enables easy access for the chicks to feed and water. during their learning period. It also makes bird observation and management much easier.
Once the chicks are stable and dry, clean fresh food and water should be introduced and be available at all times. The food and water must both be easily accessible to the young chicks which will tend to congregate under the heat source. The food and water must be presented in such a way that the young birds can enter both the feed and water areas. Put the feed on the floor just outside the center of the heat source and the water a few inches away, but in the main traffic area of the quails. Make sure there are no blind corners where the youngsters can get stuck.
After two days, exchange the cloth for wood shavings. Keep the wood shavings until the quails are removed from the brooder at about seven weeks of age. Keep the brooder dry and fresh at all times by adding fresh shavings when needed.
Now also introduce feeders and larger water drinkers, as the chick should have learned to eat and drink by now, which still allow the chicks direct access to the feed and water
Feed should be a well formulated 28 % protein Quail Starter diet containing the correct ratio of amino acids and other macro elements, supplemented with the correct trace minerals and vitamins. Mix one chicken or four quail eggs (without shell) per Kg of feed for the first two weeks. Raw egg is beneficial if correctly and well mixed, alternatively mix in boiled eggs. Feed consistency must be fine and uniform bite sizes, but not dusty. If using a commercial diet, it is more often than not beneficial to supplement the diet with a trace mineral and vitamin pre-mix over and above what is supposedly already in the diet. It is virtually impossible to over dose with these nutrients, but deficiencies often occur effecting vitality, fecundity, mortality, disease resistance and production negatively. Trace mineral and vitamin deficiencies are very difficult to detect or measure under normal conditions, unless their is a severe shortage, but will always effect the animal negatively.