221 / 221 Egg Production

 

My Coturnix coturnix breeding program provides me with lots of joy, satisfaction and brain food in my immediate and small environment where myself and Mrs BYF have an almost self sustainable lifestyle.

The scientist in me dictates to measure, interpret and use the facts to improve my own efforts.

I take many measurements from the quails as they proceed through their life cycle and use these to breed a better bird. Some of the measurements I take are :

  • 3 Week body mass
  • 5 Week body mass
  • 7 week body mass (When I select Breeding Stock)
  • 100 day body mass (Used as mature body weight in my index calculations)
  • Daily egg production
  • Daily egg mass
  • Body conformation
  • Temperament
  • Feather quality
  • Feet quality
  • Beak quality
  • Age
  • Longevity
  • Weight all birds at least once a month, irrespective of age
  • Any possible hereditary defect is an immediate disqualification

I use all these to calculate a weighted index at seven weeks and again revise the index at 100 days

In the past I did these for 4 different breeds i.e. Golden Italian, Pharaoh, Tibetan and Texan White. This was becoming overly complex and limited numbers caused progress to plateau. With limited or no genetic stock of similar quality available in New Zealand, I decided to amalgamate all breeds into a new breed – The Back Yard Farmer Quail (If Coturnix japonica is accepted as a breed, maybe I can apply for Coturnix backyardia  ). I now have four times as many animals to select from with one less selection parameter – colour. The interesting thing is that all Whites have disappeared and very few Tibetans are left as the Italians and Pharaohs take over on merit only. There is a new colour developing, being a dark cross between all the breeds.

I have several spreadsheets that automatically update as I collect data including dates and ages of all birds. The result is that I can provide all parameters and indices for any bird, updated, at any time. I also calculate averages over all parameters.

Some of the results of 5 years of selective breeding are :

  • Increased body mass of about 80 g per bird
  • Increased egg production of about 30 %
  • Calm and contented birds compared to nervous non adaptable birds
  • Drop of hereditary defects from about 20 % of the population to less than 1 % of all birds
  • Increased fecundity
  • Improved feather quality and body confirmation
  • A very contented Back Yard Farmer!

Egg production is monitored on a daily basis and fluctuates from day to day as well as being influenced by the average age of the population. Normally egg productions hovered around 90 – 95 % over the past few months. I have increased breeding numbers to compensate for increased demand and when Corona hit, demand dropped off, resulting in me having MORE replacement females and a younger average female stock.  The average age for all females dropped from the standard 160 – 190 days to about 140 – 150 days, but the most important is that egg production has increased as well, because of the younger stock and fewer low productive females. For the first time ever I have recorded 100 % PRODUCTION for 3 days in a row!!!!!

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I AM HAPPY !!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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!!

 

Rare Coturnix coturnix

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Every so often one finds a unique bird in your flock. At present I am breeding four different breeds of Coturnix coturnix, one which is a White breed that was originally developed by the A & M Texas University as a dual purpose bird. The Americans claim their Jumbo Browns to be 450 – 500 g in body mass, but trying to locate such birds or breeders of these large birds appears to be very difficult – I do not know why the Americans want to hide these. Anyway, unlike our friends from abroad, I am not trying to breed the Coturnix coturnix bigger and bigger (if I wanted to breed big birds, I would have started with ostriches), but have put my mind on breeding two of my breeds to be about 280 – 300 g for the females and 220 – 250 for the males – a milestone I have already reached in New Zealand after two and a half years of intensive selection. Hence, I am presently selecting against too big birds in these breeds and made my primary selection criteria egg production, feed conversion, fecundity and body conformation. This is a good size eating bird, which is still an effective producer of both meat and eggs. But back to my unique bird – the A & M Texans are white, but almost always have a black or brown spot somewhere on the body. It is a breed I have had little experience with, but breeding more than 1200 Whites over the past two years, I have bred only three ALL WHITES with no other coloring at all. The first two did not make it on my selection criteria and color not being important to me, they only made it as far as the stock pot. This third all white I have will definitely make it to the breeding pens as he is a magnificent specimen and weighed in at 230 g on 33 days of age. This is my UNIQUE BIRD! (I presume there are other breeders in New Zealand with strains of the pure whites)