Natural incubation It is also possible to set japanese quail eggs under a broody hen. Bantams are ideal. A group of eggs should be saved and then placed under her so they will hatch together. Any chicken eggs should be removed from the nest. Japanese quail hens rarely go broody.
Brooding and care of young birds Newly hatched quail chicks are small, and proper brooding temperatures for young quail are very important. They need supplementary heat for about 3–4 weeks after hatching. A commercial brooder or any other heat source that provides sufficient heat can be used successfully, and should be placed 30–46 cm above the floor of the pen. The photo at right shows a gas brooder providing supplementary heat for quail chicks housed on deep litter. Measure the temperature at the level of the chicks. Maintain it at about 35°C during the first week of brooding. This temperature may be decreased by about 3.5°C a week until the chicks are fully feathered at about 3–4 weeks.
Feather picking or other forms of cannibalism may occur when japanese quail are kept on wire. Beak trimming may be necessary as early as 2 weeks of age and is usually done with a hot-blade-type commercial beak trimmer. The tip of the upper beak can be temporarily removed with nail clippers. After birds are beak trimmed, the level of feed and water in the troughs may need to be increased. Other generally effective preventive measures are to reduce the number of birds per pen to avoid crowding, reduce the light intensity and increase the dietary fibre and grit.
The best guide for adjusting the temperature is chick behaviour. Chicks that crowd near the heat source and seem cold indicate the temperature is too low. When the chicks tend to settle a just outside the hottest area, the temperature is about right. Failure to provide adequate heat during the early days of the brooding period invariably results in increased mortality. Chicks should be protected from draughts of cold air, especially at night.
Care must be taken with small quail to prevent drowning in water troughs. A canning jar with a glass or plastic base, or automatic chick mini-drinkers, work well provided the drinking trough is filled with pebbles or marbles to stop the baby quail getting into the water.
When the chicks reach 1 week, the pebbles can be removed with safety. It is important to provide clean water at all times; water containers or troughs should be cleaned daily.
Litter is used to dilute the droppings and absorb moisture. Wood shavings, sawdust and sand are good litter materials. Litter should be 5–10 cm deep on the floor and covered with paper for the first week for chicks. Use soft, rough types of paper, as chicks tend to spraddle on hard, smooth paper. Old newspapers are satisfactory but not ideal. Paper towelling is better. Food should be sprinkled on the paper to encourage young chicks to eat. If chicks are raised in wire cages or on a wire floor, the floor surface must be covered with coarse paper for the first week or so to prevent leg injuries.
Japanese quail are territorial and will defend their home against intruders. If two groups of quail are to be combined, put them together in an unfamiliar cage or pen.
Housing and equipment Quail are frequently housed in rooms similar to garages. However, such rooms need to be well insulated, well ventilated and free from draughts, and must provide protection from cats, rodents and predatory birds.
Housing should be designed to ensure comfort for the birds, to make food and water readily accessible and to permit easy and effective sanitation. The adult facilities should reflect the purpose of the project. For example, if the birds are to be raised for commercial egg or meat production, then small pair-cages are suitable. Hobbyists may prefer aviaries or small deep-litter pens that do not require regular removal of droppings.