Are you ready to raise quails? Start by incubating quail eggs to get started!
This year, we added quail to our homestead on a whim – when you’re offered fertilized quail eggs in a trade for seeds, take it! – and I started my journey by incubating quail eggs. It’s considerably easier than I expected.
I heard about quail for years in the homestead realm and thought they might be an interesting addition to our suburban homestead. When my friend offered some eggs in a trade, I knew it was meant, so I got my incubator ready and drove to meet her.
I came home with two dozen quail eggs and a dream of those adorable eggs I see on Instagram all the time. I wanted those cute egg baskets, and I knew I would get it.
Incubating quail eggs is quite similar to incubating chicken eggs, so if you have hatched any eggs at home, I promise you can do this! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about incubating and hatching quail eggs at home!
- Why Should You Hatch Quail Eggs?
- Where Should I Get Quail Eggs?
- How Long Can Quail Eggs Sit Before Being Incubated?
- What Temperature & Humidity Do You Incubate Quail Eggs?
- What Incubator Works for Quail Eggs?
- All About Incubating Quail Eggs
- How Long Do You Leave Quail in Incubator After Hatching?
- Brooding Baby Quail
- 5 Tips for Successfully Incubating Quail Eggs
Why Should You Hatch Quail Eggs?
It’s possible to purchase live quail chicks, but hatching quail eggs is easy and saves money. One to two dozen quail eggs won’t cost nearly as much as shipping live chicks, and as long as you follow the steps, you should have a decent hatch rate.
Plus, once you have a quail colony set up, you will have fertile eggs and be able to hatch them for future quail. These little birds make an excellent source of self-sustaining meat and eggs.
However, it’s still a great idea, once you start hatching regularly, to bring in some new bloodlines. Inbreeding too often leads to unhealthy birds and low hatch rates.
You don’t need to worry about that with your first batch of eggs!
Where Should I Get Quail Eggs?
Raising quail isn’t nearly as common as raising chickens, so after you decide you want some of these adorable birds, you have to find a breeder.
The first option is to find a local egg source. You may find a backyard homesteader or chicken keeper who has some quail to sell you eggs. I prefer this option since you avoid shipping costs.
The next option is to buy the from online hatcheries. These eggs are shipped carefully, but the reality is accidents still happening. Plus, you have to pay shipping costs.
How Long Can Quail Eggs Sit Before Being Incubated?
Ideally, you want quail eggs that are no more than seven days old. After a week old, their hatch rates start to decline, and some weaker chicks may not hatch.
As long as you store the eggs in a cool, dry place out of sunlight, you can let quail eggs sit for up to two weeks. Their viability will be decreased at two weeks, but a majority should still hatch.
What Temperature & Humidity Do You Incubate Quail Eggs?
In my experience, too much humidity, especially in the first 14 days, leads to lower hatch rates. A dry hatch is an option, but if you live somewhere that is dry, the highest you want your humidity for the first 14 days is 45%.
There are a few ways to add humidity to an incubator.
Most have holders for water, but you also can buy stand-alone humidity units or add a wet sponge inside the incubator.
On day 15, gradually increase the humidity levels to 65% for the final three days. Be sure to watch this; it’s better for it not to get higher the 65%. Chicks quite literally drown in their own eggs if it is too high, but at the same time, if it’s too low, it makes it harder for chicks to break through the membrane and shell.
When adding water to incubators, it’s best to use distilled water to reduce the risk of bacteria or pathogens growing. Also, adding warm water makes it easier for the humidity levels to increase.
What Incubator Works for Quail Eggs?
An incubator is a slightly expensive piece of equipment that I suggest you invest in wisely as a homestead. Consider your needs and budget.
Incubators run anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars if you want a cabinet incubator for large amounts of eggs at one time. So, picking an incubator depends on the scale you want to incubate eggs.
Our family picked something small; we only want to hatch a few clutches of chickens, ducks, and quail each year. But, if you plan to hatch large amounts to sell your birds, then consider something larger.
We are lucky because we regularly have broody chicken mamas to take over for us. We returned in August from the beach to find a hatched clutch of 12 eggs!
Ask your friends to see if they use any incubator in particular for their quail eggs. I use the Kebonnixs Egg Incubator!
Here are some factors to consider aside from the scale of your egg hatching operation.
The first thing you should consider is your budget. We all have a budget, and if it’s too expensive, that’s ok! Pick a range that works for you, and stick to it.
Remember, the more “bells and whistles” your incubator includes, the higher the price will be. That’s normal for nearly anything! If you have a low budget, expect the incubator to lack the below features, but that’s ok! It still will work for incubating quail eggs.
Temperature & Humidity Monitor
Many incubators list the temperature and humidity on a monitor attached to the incubator. These are relatively accurate, and I find them easier than trying to place another thermometer & hygrometer inside of my incubator.
Some don’t have space for anything extra.
One feature I prefer is to have an automatic turner. Even setting a schedule will cause me to forget to turn regularly. Hatching eggs – ducks, quails, and chickens – all require rotating the eggs regularly. Automatic turners do this for you, so you never have to think about it.
Fitting Quail Eggs
Read the reviews and description to be sure that the incubator fits the quail eggs. Some have slots that are too large for quail eggs; I fit two quail eggs into one chicken egg slot.
All About Incubating Quail Eggs
Let’s get started with how to incubate quail eggs at home.
Let Shipped Eggs Rest
After you receive your quail eggs, avoid the temptation to put them directly into the incubator. The best hatch rates happen when you put the eggs large end upwards and allow them to sit at room temperature for several hours.
This relaxation period gives eggs time to recover after the stress that happens during transportation.
Set Up Your Incubator
As your eggs rest, it’s time to set up your incubator. Pick a non-drafty area that is out of the way but easy to access.
I suggest starting the incubator at least two hours beforehand to make sure the temperature is warm enough for your eggs. Put water into the tray for humidity and make sure the automatic turner tray is in its place if your incubator has one.
Also, make sure it is clean. If you used it previously, it should have been sanitized, but if you forget, now is the time to do it!
Incubate Eggs from Days 1 to 14
Quail eggs have to be rotated two to three times per day until lockdown, which starts on day 15. Incubators with automatic turners do this for you, so you don’t have to think about it. If your incubator doesn’t have an automatic turner, set an alarm for three times per day to rotate the days.
An easy way to do this is to put an X and a O on either side of the egg. So, you know which what it needs to be rotated next.
Lockdown on Days 15 to 18
Day 15 is a big day for your little quail eggs; it’s time for lockdown! You will need to change your settings, but it’s best to do this gradually.
In my incubator, I have to remove the turning tray, which puts the incubator into “lockdown” mode. Eggs shouldn’t be rotated during lockdown.
Then, it’s time to adjust and increase the humidity up to 65%. The best way to do this is to gradually add small amounts of warm water until you reach the desired humidity level.
Make sure the temperature is 99.5 degrees F; stability is essential for lockdown. This is a great time to line the incubator with gravel paper in preparation for hatching.
Enjoy Hatch Day!
Quail hatch on day 18, but this is never a guarantee. Some eggs may hatch on day 17, while others may wait until day 19 or even 20.
Hatch day is exciting, even if you hatched quail eggs before. You may hear tiny chirps inside the incubator, which means they pierced the inner membrane.
Keep a close eye on your incubator, checking for a pip, or a hole, in the shell. This means the chick is getting ready to break free.
After the pip, the egg begins to zip, which is when the baby creates a crack around the shell as it prepares to enter the world. Pip to hatch takes no more than 24 hours; I would say it takes quite a bit shorter. Most of mine go from pip to hatch in a few hours.
Usually, once one hatches, it’s like quail popcorn. They pop up regularly, hearing their little friends on the outside.
However, at times, you get ones that are stuck inside the egg. Be aware that opening the incubator for anything during this period increases the risk of shrink-wrapping the chicks. It increases the likelihood that you need to save the babies.
Put Quail in Brooder and Clean Up!
Once your new babies are hatched, dry, and all fluffy, it’s time to bring them to their new home – their brooder. I like to turn the heat lamp out at least two hours beforehand to give it time to get to the proper temperature.
Take each chick, dip their beak into the water, show them their food and put them under the brooder. Repeat for all your little guys.
Then, it’s time to clean up your incubator. You don’t want any bacteria growing in this so you can use it again in the future. Scrub it with a 1:10 bleach/water solution and follow all of your manufacturers recommendations.
How Long Do You Leave Quail in Incubator After Hatching?
After your baby quail hatch, the safest choice is to leave them in the incubator. It’s warm, which they need, and their feathers dry off. They get fluffier and cuter.
Once your quail hatch, leave them in the incubator for 24 to 30 hours. I typically wait for all of my eggs to hatch and give the final baby time in the warmth before moving them to their brooder space.
Brooding Baby Quail
In my experience, brooding baby quail is much like brooding chicks. They have the same needs, but they’re incredibly smaller.
I used a plastic tote, and it was the perfect size for these little guys. I do suggest putting an old window screen or a baby gate over the top to prevent unwanted guests, like your cat, from visiting the babies.
My cat decided to be friends with the quail and take them out. He never harmed them, but he surely felt like he needed to love them. Potentially to death, but it never came to that thankfully.
Chicks need bedding, just like chicks. Some use paper towels for the few days to give them more traction, and it lets you easily spot ailing chicks.
The truth is, most hatches will lose a few chicks. Remove them promptly and don’t get discouraged.
I typically prefer to use pine or wood shaving right off the bat. It’s easy to clean out and makes it easy for the little chicks to walk.
Heat for Quail
Just like chickens, quail chicks need to stay warm after hatching. You have several options; heat lamps work, but you have to be cautious with these. They start fires; we almost had a fire from one that fell into our brooder.
Now, I prefer to use brooder heat lamps. These keep your quail chicks at the right temperatures without the fire risk.
Quail need to be kept around 100 degrees for the first week, and then you drop the temperature two to three degrees each week until fully feathered. If you use a brooder plate, the easiest way to do this is to move the plate up a notch.
You’ll know your quail are happy when they move around, going in and out of the heated area to eat and drink. Cold baby quail will cry and huddle together, while quail that are too hot act lethargic, pant, and lay flat.
How Long Do Quail Need to be Under a Heat Lamp?
One of the benefits of raising quail rather than chicks is that they need the heat lamp for less time than chickens. Keep quail under a heat lamp for the first four weeks and start to give them some time outside in a cooler environment. This needs to be gradual.
You may consider nighttime heat once transitioning to their outside space depending on the temps outside and your current season. If it’s summer, they may not need any heat, but putting new quail outside in the fall or early spring could require some additional heat at night.
Give Food & Water to Your Quail
Baby quail are considerably tiny; they’re smaller than you imagine! So, tradition feeders may be to difficult for them to reach to eat.
For the first few days, sprinkle quail food on a paper towel, making it easier for them to find. I also used the lid of a take out container.
As far as water, I found the small waterers work well. These quail waterers look like the ones you use for chickens but are smaller and not as deep. You don’t want anything too deep because they are at risk for drowning at this age.
When you place your quail chicks into their brooder, lightly dip their beaks into water and show them their food. Then, place them under the heater so they can get warm. They’ll settle down and find their food and water.
Baby quail eat gamebird starter feed, requiring protein levels between 24-26%. Manna Gamebird Starter Feed offers 24% protein, and it’s readily available in most areas.
Be Attentive to Your Quail
If you’ve raised baby chicks before, incubating and raising baby quail will be a surprise for you. These little guys grow rapidly, doubling in size within the first few days.
Take a look at them each day, examining for any problems and ensuring they have clean water and food to eat each day. They do poop a lot and make a lot of mess with their food and water, so be prepared to clean out their brooder space every few days to keep it clean.
5 Tips for Successfully Incubating Quail Eggs
1. Candling Quail Eggs is Tricky
It’s possible to candle quail eggs like you candle chicken eggs, but their shells are thicker. Candling is fun, but it won’t give you as much reliable information.
You can still try it! I love my Magicfly Bright Cool LED Candle Light; it worked for quail eggs but not very well. However, it works great for chicken and duck eggs!
When candling, hold the egg on the light and look for veins running through the center of egg. Veins mean fertile. You also can check every few days for changes.
Plus, each time you remove eggs from the incubator, it disrupts the temperature and humidity. Some say that this can essentially “shrink wrap” the eggs, making it harder for them to hatch on their own. So, avoid opening the incubator too much.
2. Put Down Gravel Paper when Hatching
After hatching, it’s possible you may need to cull your quail chicks, and the most common cause is splayed legs. It’s possible to fix splayed legs in chickens, but quail are considerably smaller. Most opt to cull those with splayed legs.
You can remedy this by lining your incubator with gravel paper (I’ve also used paper towels but I don’t think these work as well). If you can’t find any gravel paper, try coarse sandpaper instead or a grippy shelf-liner.
These materials make a rough surface that decreases your birds slipping around. Slipping leads to splayed legs.
3. Set Reminders on Your Phone
We are all busy people, and it’s easy to forget about your automatic incubator. If you don’t have an automatic incubator, you have to rotate and check the eggs regularly.
I forgot about our eggs many times, and you don’t want to hear peeping and realize your brooder isn’t ready yet.
Set a reminder on your phone for 15 days; you want the eggs to go on lockdown when you’re ready. This also gives you time to get all the brooder supplies you want.
4. You May Have to Assist During Hatching
I have to tell you something I’ve learned when incubating quail eggs; assisting during hatching is to be expected.
Most quail hatch rather fast. They make a little hole, and within a few minutes, they flop out of the egg. However, if you notice that the egg is partially cut and a chick hasn’t come out in a few hours, it’s time to go into rescue mode.
Assisting chicks is much easier than you may think.
I take a pair of sterile tweezers and gentle peel away the shell. You don’t want to do this fast; there are blood vessels.
Some quail owners say to never assist, but I say assist if it means a better survival rate! I’ll take a higher survival rate over needing to assist on any day.
5. Use a Grinder for Food
My local Tractor Supply Company sells game bird starter feed, which is 28-30% protein. Baby quail need high-protein feed.
If you can only find the adult feed, you may need to grind up the crumbles for your baby quail. This only needs to be done for the first two to three weeks until they’re large enough for the adult crumbles.
Incubating quail eggs is a great way to get started with your colony for eggs, meat, or both. These little animals are great for urban and suburban homesteaders, so give them a try and hatch the eggs at home!