However, modifying floor pen housing can eliminate
many of these problems. For example, housing birds
in large pens on slatted floors similar to the
traditional floor pen setup is successful.
The house design is the same, but the problems
associated with birds raised directly on the litter
are eliminated. There is an added expense to cover
the majority of the floor with a removable slatted
or wire-type floor, but both bird’s health and
eggshell quality often improve.
Birds do have a tendency to lay eggs on the slatted
floor instead of in the nest boxes, but the eggs do
not come in direct contact with fecal material.
Suggested Minimum Space Requirements for floor
4 birds/sq ft
3 birds/sq ft
2 birds/sq ft
*Facilities, equipment, and management
will affect space requirements.
There are several advantages of placing birds in
wire cages over the traditional floor pen design.
The quality of the eggshell improves and the eggs
are much cleaner because they don’t come in direct
contact with fecal material as they roll away from
the bird shortly after they are laid.
Wire cages can be modified into automatic egg
collection system, which further improves egg
quality since the egg gathering process is faster
and occurs more regularly.
In addition, when new breeding stock is to be
produced from the current flock of breeders, the
ability to select replacement birds based upon
genetics and performance is possible. This system
also facilitates the identification and removal of
low or non-producing birds from the breeding stock.
A colony cage is the most practical system to house
breeders. The birds showing Pecking and cannibalism
can easily be controlled if approximately one-third
of the upper beak of hens is removed at housing.
On the other hand, sore feet, reduced fertility and
mating frequency due to wounds of wire are the
limiting factors in this system. In addition, open
wounds increase the chances of infection, disease
Moreover, greater expense is incurred and additional
attention to detail is often required, as each cage
must be equipped with a feeder and waterer.
Young chicks and immature birds are maintained in a
dimly lit environment to reduce cannibalism
(intensity should not exceed 1 foot candle) and to
allow uniform sexual development. Immature birds do
best on as little as 10 to 11 hours of light per
day. At 19 weeks of age, the amount of daily light
is increased by an hour per week until birds receive
17 hours of light per day (at about 25 to 27 weeks
The additional hour(s) of light is/are equally
distributed at the beginning and end of the natural
daylight. For example, when birds require 16 hours
of light daily, but the natural daylight and time of
year produce 12.5 hours of daylight, breeders will
require an additional 3.5 hours of light per day.
Use an automatic timer device to turn lights off and
on each day. The lights are turned on two hours
before the day break and turned off about 1.5 hours
after the sun set.
Interior walls of the house should be white or
light-colored to reflect the light provided and
reduce dark spots in the house. After the light has
reached 17 hours per day, it is extremely important
to maintain this day length. Any sudden decrease in
hours of light per day will cause a decline in egg
requirements for Bobwhite quail at
Chicks face difficulty in self-regulating their body
temperature during the first 10 to 12 days of their
life. They may lose significant quantities of heat
through their feet, which explains the emphasis on
maintaining the litter at 95oF. Chilling causes the
chicks to huddle, causes premature closure of the
yolk sac stalk, and makes the chicks more
susceptible to disease. Brooder temperatures must be
monitored at chick height – about 2 inches high –
because temperatures can vary as much as 5 to 8oF
from the ground to 4 or 5 feet above the floor. The
brooder temperature is reduced by 5 degrees per week
until reaching 70oF.
Temperature is kept between 65 and 85oF to achieve
acceptable feed conversion and production levels.
Research indicates that temperatures lower than 65oF
increases the bird’s energy requirement, which will
lower feed efficiency and, more importantly, reduce
egg production. At temperatures greater than 85oF,
feed intake is often reduced, which may also lead to
reduced egg production. In contrast to most other
domesticated birds, Bobwhite quail often peak in egg
production during the warmer portions of their
production cycle, this suggests the possibility that
they are more heat tolerant. However, excessively
high ambient temperature often results in reduced
fertility in other avian species.
Chicks have sufficient material in their yolk sac to
survive the first two to three days without feed
(assuming the temperature is correct), but they do
need water. It is important that the chicks find the
water source shortly after arrival to prevent
dehydration and death. It is suggested that 10
percent of the chicks should be introduced to the
water by placing water onto their beaks.
These birds will teach the others the location of
the water. In order to help the chicks get a good
start, place a vitamin mix into the water.Nipple
waterers are usually preferred as they significantly
reduce the occurrence of wet litter and are simpler
to clean than trough waterers. As a general rule,
each nipple supplies water to approximately 15
Feeding and Nutrition
Quails eat crumbles or mash, but a change from one
type to the other may cause problems with
acceptance. There should be a gradual change by
mixing the two types of feed together for a few days
may help. Usually, feed wastage is decreased when
crumbles are used. The birds consume 0.59 to 0.68 kg
per bird of feed during the first 8 weeks. Between 8
and 16 weeks, they consume 0.91 to 1.36 kg per bird.
Feed loses some of its nutritional value if it is
stored improperly or too long.
During the hot summer months, feed should not be
stored for more than 2 or 3 weeks nor allowed to
become damp. Molds and mold toxins can be a serious
problem with quail because they are very sensitive
to these toxins. During the cooler months, feed may
be stored up to 4-6 weeks with a minimum loss of
nutrients. Feed consumption varies from farm to
farm, season to season and formulation to
Recommended total protein levels for Quail
21-30 + weeks
Bob White Quail
Mature at 6 weeks
Mature at 6 weeks
1. Start feeding the breeder diet three weeks before
first egg is anticipated.
2. Japanese quail usually are not put on holding
ration; a holding diet is sometimes used if they are
held on short days to delay production.
Beak trimming involves removal the tip of the bird's
beak to reduce cannibalism and increase feed intake.
Quail beak trimming is sometimes performed with nail
clippers, scissors, or electric debeakers. It is
frequently done at 1 day of age and at 6 weeks of
age, when the birds are moved to the grow-out pen.
The recommended method is to use an electric beak
trimmer. With this instrument, the beak can be
trimmed in one of two ways. The first method
involves cutting off the beak with the blade. The
second method, or touch-burn method, involves
touching the beak (upper and lower) to the red-hot
metal surface of the blade. The touch-burn method of
beak trimming at 1 day of age is preferred because
it allows for sufficient regrowth before the birds
are released. With either method, the beak should be
trimmed back 1/4 of the distance between the beak
tip and the nares.
Quail eggs are characterized by a variety of colour
patterns. They range from snow white to completely
brown. More commonly they are tan and dark brown
speckled or mottled brown with a chalky blue
covering. The average egg from mature female weighs
about 10 gram. Japanese quail are prolific layers.
The average egg weight is about 10 percent of the
hen’s body weight (more than twice the egg weight
ratio that is typical for most birds).
The young breeders may begin to lay a few eggs as
early as 18 weeks of age, do not expect consistent
egg production until about 22 weeks of age.
The brooding period is the first six weeks of the
chick’s life. This critical period is important for
getting the chick off to a good start. It is a basic
fact of game bird management that chick quality
cannot be improved after hatching, but it certainly
can be impaired. Proper management during this
period can eliminate some of the health problems
that occur later on. It is important to be prepared
for chick arrival. Cleaning, disinfecting and quail
brooder house setup should be complete several days
prior to the chicks’ arrival. Regardless of the
season, the brooders should run for at least 24
hours before chick arrival, and the litter
temperature should be approximately 95oF.
Brooding is generally accomplished in circular units
about 7 to 8 feet in diameter and 18-inch-high
called “brooder rings” they are commonly made of
cardboard or inexpensive sheet metal. The brooder
ring keeps the chicks in the vicinity of the heat,
water and feed. Chicks will be able to fly over the
ring by about nine days of age, so remove the ring
at about eight days of age. Stocking density can be
as high as 10 birds per square foot during brooding.
In floor pens, clean, dry and absorbent litter is
used to a depth of at least 2 inches in each pen.
Litter materials such as wood shavings, pine straw,
peanut hulls, sugar cane bagasse or crushed corn
cobs are satisfactory. Wood shavings are the best,
although hardwood shavings contain materials toxic
to young chicks. Check to ensure the litter is free
of pests such as fire ants.
Place minimum of 3 of the feeders and waterers, fill
them and space them evenly around the brooder. Place
marbles or gravel in the bottom to prevent the
chicks from getting into the water and drowning. The
water should be allowed to reach room temperature.
To encourage the chicks to eat, additional starter
feed should be placed on rough paper. When chicks
arrive, count and move them to the brooding area.
Any weak or deformed chicks should be culled. Check
the brooder temperature regularly.
At six weeks of age, chicks are typically moved from
the brooding facility to outside fight pens until 17
weeks of age, when they are marketed to hunting
plantations. Flight pens consist of wire or netting
supported by 4 x 4 wood posts. They are relatively
inexpensive to create, although the actual cost
depends on the resources available on the farm. The
density of birds placed in a fight pen is estimated
at 0.70 birds per square foot. Approximately 20
percent of the total fight pen space should be
enclosed for shelter and dry space for feeders and
The disadvantage of fight pens is a high mortality
rate, which probably occurs due to exposing quail to
a cold, wet environment. Flight pens also create an
excellent environment for disease outbreaks such as
Bronchitis, Capillaria, Histomonas and Ulcerative
Additional advantages of quail barns include a lower
incidence of cannibalism and reduced feed cost. From
five to 14 weeks of age, birds are grown in the dark
to prevent cannibalism. Light stimulates bird
activity; thus, less cannibalism occurs with birds
grown in dark-out housing.
However, dim light should be provided to the birds
at 14 weeks to stimulate feed consumption so that
they will have adequate energy reserves for flying
when marketed at 17 weeks of age. Another advantage
of raising quail in barns is that feed consumption
may be decreased about 25 percent compared with
fight pens, likely as a result of reduced
temperature variations (which can fluctuate up to 40
⁰F in outdoor fight pens). During cold temperatures,
birds consume additional feed to compensate for
lower ambient temperatures.