Quails and Plastic Bottles

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During the Dunedin Science Festival my eye caught a title while briefing through the program “Quails and Plastic Bottles”. I obviously was immediately interested and booked my ticket for the 1 hour lecture. The talk was a big disappointment as it discussed quails for about 10 seconds, in which some very inaccurate and irrelevant information was conveyed. The talk about plastic bottles, which was not quail related at all, lasted for another 10 seconds. With this in mind, I am giving you another look at Quails and Plastic Bottles. Needless to say that recycling old plastic bottles is the correct thing to do and it makes me tremendously happy to do my bit in limiting the carbon footprint and plastic pollution of our dysfunctional world. The alternative is to purchase some poultry feeders. at exorbitant prices, from companies here in New Zealand that import vast quantities of more Chinese plastics and the irony is that these purchased feeders are by no means so effective as the home made ones.

I use 2 liter used plastic milk bottles to make my quail water drinkers and feeders. Once the quail chicks reach another stage of maturity and size I introduce a new drinker and feeder to suite their needs until fully grown.

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I start off by giving them open feed and water covered by a wire mesh to teach them to eat and drink.

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At 7 days of age I introduce the next drinkers and feeders. The water drinker with the 25 mm openings, 50 mm of the ground, on two sides of the bottle (it stands in a corner) allows them to investigate and mostly by accident have their first drink. For the first few hours I drip water in the drinkers from above so the little quails come and investigate the noise and water sound and find themselves drinking by surprise. It only takes them a few hours to be master the water drinkers. It is however important to not have these drinkers before 7 days of age as the little quails are too small and fit through the hole and drown. If the hole is exactly 25 mm and round , not oval, the chicks will not fit through at 7 days of age and you will have 100% success. The feeders have 50 mm holes and the quails can eat from the outside, or get themselves into the bottle and eat inside. This teaches them where the food is and soon enough they will be too big to fit through the hole and only eat from the outside, like the mature quails do.

I cut the tops of the bottles in the beginning stages so they can fit into the brooders which is only 200 mm high. It is important to cut the height such that their is very little space between the top of the drinker and the roof of the brooder so the little quails cannot jump into them, which is a trick they learn early in life.

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At 14 days of age, I change the water drinkers to a 35 mm hole and 60 mm of the ground as their heads are getting too large for the 25 mm hole. I now also switch to only one water hole which makes it easier to fill to the rim without water flowing out of one of the other holes. Use the 35 mm 70 mm off the ground if the bedding becomes too high. The feeder remains the same.

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At 28 days of age I change to adult feeders and drinkers with 40 mm holes and 70 mm off the ground.

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At 49 days of age when I take them from the brooders to the breeding pens outside, they stay on 40 mm holes and 70 mm off the ground, but have a section at the top cut out to make feeding and washing of the feeders easier. I do not top up the feeders, but dump and refill. The water feeders are without the opening to prevent birds landing in the water as my cages are 600 mm high and they can fly and land in the water if open. These feeders hold about two days of feed and water for a breeding group of 5 females and a male which make it easy to go away for a weekend without having to feed.

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All the water drinkers you will require

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All the feeders you would require

 

 

 

How Heavy should my Quails be?

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I post this question, of which I receive similar questions very often, as well as my answer.
“Do you weigh your quail, and if you do, what weights do you expect them to reach on a weekly basis?
The reason I ask, is that my last lot have a really large range.
The smallest is almost 30g below the weight of the biggest. Granted these were eggs hatched from two different places, which could well explain it (bred for size vs improvement of the breed), but I’m curious what those who’ve been doing this a while expect.
They’re 2 weeks old now, and they range from 32-59g.
Funnily enough, the only two white ones are both the heaviest and lightest!”
Thank you very much for the question. Yes, being the Mad Scientist, I am a strong believer in MMM (Man Must Measure) to know where you are and where you are going to. if anywhere. I weigh all my quails at 3, 5 and 8 weeks of age and then also weigh all my mature quails at least every two months. These weights give you a lot of information to work with on individual animals, as well as your project as a whole.
The average figures I achieve at present are about the following:
5 Weeks old (all sexes – all birds) – 200 g
8 Week old Males (all birds) – 210 g
8 Weeks old Females (all birds) – 240 g
All mature Males in my Breeding Groups – 240g
All mature Females in my Breeding Groups – 280 g
There are obviously wide variations between animals as result of the limited genetic pool and small numbers of animals we have, as well as the quality and level of inbreeding in the New Zealand Coturnix coturniox we have to work with. Males are always much lighter than females at all ages.
I have some groups where all the females are all over 300 g – work in progress!!
Obviously the optimum results can only be achieved with good husbandry, feeding and housing.

HOW DO I LOOK AFTER MY QUAILS

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This is an abstract of an answer I provide regularly to some of my Coturnix coturnix friends requesting general advise on quail keeping
“You seem to have a lovely palace for your quail and by the looks of it about 4 X 2 meters or more. That size would be more than adequate for 20 females and about three males. You need about one male per 6 or 7 females to ensure a high rate of fertility in the eggs. If you do not mind to have lower fertility rates in the eggs, you can cut the number of males. If, as in your case, the quails have enough space to stay out of each other’s way, more than one male per cage should not be a problem. See if the males and females have resolved the pecking order (no fighting) and if so, they should all be happy. If you do see fighting or restless birds, try to identify the culprit, which may be dominant or subordinate, whichever will cause interruptions in the pecking order and stability of the group, and remove the bird. If the fighting stops and the group becomes calm, you have done well, if not, try and replace the bird with another bad apple. Sometimes it is possible to stabalise the group by removing individual birds, sometimes not, but it is worth the try. The other alternative, as you mentioned, is to have individual breeding groups of 6 – 7 girls and a boy – this however would not guarantee stability of the group as they may still have issues with each other and destabilise the group and you would be back to square one to try and resolve the domestic violence!  If everything fails to calm the groups, you need to look at OTHER STRESS FACTORS, such as housing, disease and parasites, feed quality, etc. Also remember that temperament is highly hereditary and I select very heavily against this.
Housing needs for Coturnix coturnix is simple – remember they are ground dwellers and would not roost. Hence they need a lot of space to hide from the weather, other birds, have some private time or whatever. They love low growing vegetation and / or hiding spaces in the form of upturned boxes or plants, etc. The cage must be DRY AT ALL TIMES and the quails should be well ventilated, but OUT OF DIRECT DRAFTS. If the cage is dry and sandy, they will find their own dust bathing areas which you could encourage by turning the dry soil over and maybe ad some wood ash or lime to encourage them to bath. It is also a very easy and convenient spot to ad a bit of diatomaceous earth or flea powder to keep them free from external parasites. Furthermore clean and well balanced food and water needs to be available at all times (Ad lib).
Deworming once every three months is advisable
Live meal worms, table scraps (especially protein in the form of meat off cuts (cut into quail bite sizes), etc are always welcome and enjoyable for the birds. Not only does it provide additional nutrients, but it also keeps them occupied and less time to fight with somebody they do not like. Lettuce is a great delicacy for them and the additional vitamins do them well. The question is however at what level do you like your quails to produce at – if you want maximum production and feed a well balanced diet to achieve this, table scraps and other foods should not make up more than about 20 % of their daily requirements. Remember that young Coturnix need about 28 % protein in their diet and the older birds need 22 % protein. If you can provide them with these levels of protein and balance all the other nutrients to compliment the protein, they will be some of the most effective PRODUCTION MACHINES you have ever encountered. That is why I only feed my birds a WELL BALANCED COMPLETE QUAIL FEED and supplement daily with some greens for their enjoyment.”

NEW FEEDING REGIMES FOR QUAILS AND DOMESTICATED WILD BIRDS

NEW FEEDING REGIMES

For Coturnix coturnix and all other Wild Birds

Combining my experience in animal nutrition and husbandry with extensive reading regarding the latest nutritional developments I am now manufacturing feeds that are very advanced in approach. These feeds benefit high performing quails as well as all other wild birds. My birds are performing so well on these feeds that I have included these formulas in all the feeds I offer for sale.

My strategy is to maximise digestibility using the simplest and best combination of materials and feed additives. I also utilise proven probiotics / prebiotics to stimulate and enhance the naïve gut, creating a favourable environment for good gut flora to proliferate and keep cell junctions tight. The rations also assist gut enterocytes with function and repair, while there are some elements in the feeds that help the modulation of immune responses.

I have formulated to specifications for Quail Starter, Grower and Layer feeds as top of the range diets by introducing new additives in addition to the present Vitamin and Mineral Pre Mix. These additives contain extra Lysine, Methionine, Threonine , Isoleucine and Valine which is intended to fully balance all the digestible amino acid ratios. These additions also lift the protein and energy digestibility beyond their stated levels on paper by using 4 separate and specific feed enzyme activities. The extra additives contain bioactive Vitamin D (Hy-D), Vitamin C, and Calcium Carbonate for bone modelling and antioxidant properties. Kelp meal, minerals, electrolytes and some sources of protected Butyrate, Carvacrol and Thymol steer good flora and discourage overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and organisms. These new additions also contain a Mannosidase enzyme to aid the digestibility of various materials with proven Phytase, beta Glucanase, Xylanase and Protease enzymes.

My new feed formulations are the ultimate diets for quail and wild birds. All the above inclusions are essential and unique and take care of all amino acid balances using standard materials, supercharging the opportunity across all fronts for the birds to start well, grow well and produce well. There is plenty here to give bumble bee sized chicks, as well as mature birds, every chance to thrive without antibiotics, which is a big plus. These feeds are not only essential for wild birds, but give all poultry that extra boost when under stressful conditions.

NEW QUAIL FEEDING AND BREEDING Coturnix coturnix

Every so often in the farming industry you realise that progress is slower than expected, which is where I am at present with my Quail Breeding Project. I have made substantial progress over the past three years breeding Coturnix coturnix Quails in New Zealand, but find it more difficult to keep the coefficient of inbreeding low whilst applying the same selection pressure. One of the problems is small numbers of animals and the second being the lack of similar, or better, breeding animal availability in New Zealand.

To maintain progress, I have decided on a two pronged approach for the immediate future:

1) I am going to amalgamate the four breeds I presently have into only two breeds. I am going to join the Pharoas and Tibetans (Back Yard Specials as I have been calling them) and call this my Back Yard Dual Purpose Bird and apply the same selection pressure on both egg production and body mass. Then amalgamate the Italians and Whites and call them my Back Yard Egg Laying Bird. This will give me larger numbers to use in each breed and as I am not going to select for colour any more, progress will hopefully be faster. I suspect the two breeds will eventually be a darker coloured bird for the dual purpose breed and a lighter coloured bird for the egg laying breed.

2) I have had a very close look at the latest developments in animal nutrition and have incorporated some very exciting new elements into the feed. For details about the feed developments I have adopted, see my next post on this matter.

Hopefully these two changes that I have adopted will enhance progress in my project.

Raising Californian Quails (Callipepla californica)

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Raising Californian Quail in captivity has never been, and never will be easy. Their nervous character and wild instincts make them very unsuitable to captivity. Unfortunately, because of their disappearance from the wild in New Zealand, they will have to be multiplied in caged conditions, should we want to preserve this pretty little bird. The cavalier attitude of New Zealanders regarding nature will probably prevail and our efforts for conservation would have limited success – I know I am going to get a lot of criticism because of this statement, but with New Zealand and Australia being the number one countries in the world causing species loss, my argument is more or less proven.

Survival rates of Californian Quail during their first few weeks seem to be abnormally low, and I have adopted a number of strategies and designs to try and overcome this problem – all with varying levels of success, but none solving the problem entirely.

My latest survival strategy however seems to have addressed many of the problems. Instead of sending my old Coturnix coturnix quail hens to the stock pot, I selected a number the  calm and motherly ones  as foster mothers for the Californians. I put the mothers into the brooders a few  days before the Californian chicks hatch so they can get acquainted with the environment and the warm conditions. When the chicks hatch I place them straight into the brooder with their new mother. Her presence seems to have multiple positive effects on the chicks – i.e. she teaches them to eat and drink immediately, calms them down and also broods them. The end result is that the little chicks have shelved their desire to become Kamikaze Pilots every time I want to change food or water. Everybody seems calm and happy and mortality for the last four groups, at five weeks of age, each with their own foster mother, has been almost zero (lost one).

There are a number of younger groups at present, each with their foster mothers and they are  very calm and doing well. I do notice that some foster mothers are better at the job than others and will continue selecting the better ones, even though their has been no difference in mortality rate between the groups.

Going back to nature can teach us a lot!!

 

Micro Nutrient Supplementation

I thought it appropriate to post some conversation about this topic I have had with a client

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Hi there,

I’m new to your page and website but am excited to read all about your Vitamin, Mineral, Amino Acid and Enzyme Pre-Mixes for chickens.
I have six chickens I’ve had since one day old with their Mum, (there was 11 but now minus the rosters) they have not started laying yet, they must be six months now and I’m wondering if I’m just not giving them the right balance of feed. The Mum started laying again awhile back but then stopped.
I like to try to keep it organic and gm free, could you please advise if your mixes are natural and where you source everything from??
And also I’m unsure if i buy from you what and how much i should get, my chickens have not been eating much feed but rather enjoying free ranging.
How much for six chickens and to be sent to whakatane please and thank you for your time.
Dear Client
Thanks for the Email. As you can see from the analyses of the product we supply a wide range of micro nutrients in the product. These are formulated and mixed according to specifications for the specific animal and production stage, by using a combination of up to thirty different ingredients (raw materials). These ingredients are sourced from all over the world and some, like the methionine and lysine are synthetic. I also cannot specify that these are organic or non GMO. Most chickens would at present not be in production as result of the short day light lengths and will come into production after 21 June when the days are getting longer (day length being the stimulus for the birds to either produce eggs or molt and stop laying). Should you want to use the product, it has to be mixed with other food the chickens eat on a regular basis, such as a laying mash or pellet, as it is not water soluble and the birds would not consume it on its own. Mixing instructions could be provided at the appropriate time. Inclusion rates should be such that each mature bird takes about 2 g per day to provide for all the mikro nutrients required.  Whatever they then consume of these while free ranging is a bonus and will keep them more healthy – over consumption of these mikro nutrients is very rare, if not impossible. It is off coarse difficult to balance the diets of free ranging animals — the only solution is to endeavor to provide what you suspect they might be rquiring – in free range chickens probably first and foreost is Ca, P and Mg and thereafter some quality mikro nutrients. This will again depend on how “free range” your animals rally are and what is their available for them to eat.