Quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds in the pheasant family Phasianidae. New World quails (family Odontophoridae) and buttonquails (family Turnicidae) are not closely related but named for their similar appearance and behaviour.
Quails are small, plump terrestrial birds and generally weighing less than two pounds. They are seed eaters but will also take insects and similar small prey. They nest on the ground and are capable of short, rapid bursts of flight. Some species such as the Japanese and Common Quail are migratory and fly for long distances. Some quail are farmed in large numbers. The Japanese Quail (or coturnix quail) is kept mostly to produce eggs.
The quail is a ground bird who seldom flies. It prefers to run in ground cover and nests in that same ground cover. The quail, popularly known as “pugo” in the Philippines.
Many people are unfamiliar with the breeds of quail being raised in the Philippines Today. Some are surprised to learn that there is a white quail. All the popular breeds used for eggs and meat commercial production are sub-varieties of the Corturnix species, which is able to produce eggs throughout the year.
The different breeds found in the Philippines are:
- Native – Found in the fields and forests; the common “pugo”. This quail is not suitable for commercial production.
- Japanese Taiwan – Popularly known as “Chinese Quail”. It has dark brown feathers mixed with white and gray. The female has a gray underside flecked with darker feathers, while the male has many reddish feathers on the underside.
- Japanese Seattle – This is as an American breed similar to the Japanese Taiwan; it has jersey (rust-maroon) feathers at the base of the heads.
- Negro – Black or grayish black.
- Tuxedo – Black with a white spot on the breast.
- ilver – White with black eyes; from the Canaan Valley, Egypt.
- Brown Cross No. 1
- Brown Cross No. 2
The Japanese Taiwan breed is commonly raised in the Philippines. However, its eggs are small compared to those of improved breeds, and egg production is lower. It has also been found to be susceptible to respiratory diseases. The six other breeds listed are all good. They are heavy egg producers and are resistant to diseases.
For beginners, the Japanese Seattle is recommended as it is a heavy egg producer and the male can be easily recognized by the color of its feathers as early as 30 days of age. This means a saving on feeds, as the male can be culled and sold as broilers.
To insure success, select a good breed and buy stock from a reliable breeder. Good chicks will cost about P 8.50 day old. Some selected breeders may cost as much as P 35.00 each.
Quail are easy to raise and the housing required is not as complicated as for chickens. A 4 feet x 8 feet x 1foot high cage can house 250-300 layers. The flooring and all sides are made of 1/2-inch mesh welded wire while the top or cover should be of lawanit to prevent the birds from flying. The quail has a tendency to fly upwards if the top of the cage is made of mesh wire, and this may cause head injuries.
Cages can also be made smaller (2 feet x 4 feet x 1 foot) and stacked in four decks, with 3 to 4 inches between the decks. A large number of birds can thus be raised in a very small space. The cage can be placed under any roof, under an elevated house, or in a garage.
The cages should be rat-proof; rats are the greatest enemy of the birds.
FEEDS AND FEEDING
Quail can be fed with any available chicken feed at the rate of one kilo for every 50 quail layers per day. Add finely ground shell (limestone) to produce stronger and thicker egg shells. Best results were found when chicken broiler starter mash (22% protein) was fed to both layers and broilers.
A 1/2-inch mash welded wire should be cut to fit the feed trough and laid directly on the feed to prevent the birds from scratching out the feeds. Another one inch mesh welded wire should be used to cover the trough to prevent the birds from dusting themselves with the feeds.
Keep feed in the troughs all the time, as feeding should be continuous 24 hours every day to get higher egg production. Light should be provided so the birds will continue to eat at night. If this is done, some birds may lay two eggs in 24 hours.
CARE AND MANAGEMENT
Quail, unlike some other fowl, are not delicate birds. They can be raised in any suitable and comfortable place in the house. The birds do not easily contract fowl diseases common to poultry, especially chickens.
Vaccination is not needed and the drugs usually given to chickens do not have to be added to quail feed or drinking water. However, should any disease outbreak occur, the drugs used for chicken can be used. Deworming of the breeders is done at least every four months or three times a year. Use the same dewormers as for chickens, but follow the direction on the package for smaller birds.
Normally, “pugo” will hatch their own eggs, but the imported breeds mentioned will not brood to incubate their eggs; an incubator must therefore be used. For a table-type electric-operated incubator, a temperature of 1010 – 1030 F should be maintained during the incubation period. For the forced-draft incubators, the temperature should be kept at 98-1000 F. Further instructions on operating an electric incubator will be found at the end of this pamphlet.
Candling is done on the 11th day of incubation. From setting, quail eggs will hatch on the 18th day.
The brooder should be a closed compartment, 2 ft. x 4 ft. x 6 inches. The flooring, top and three of the sides should be made of lawanit or boards while the front side should be made of 1/4-inch mesh welded wire for ventilation. This is adequate for 500 chicks. A bigger brooder may be made to fit the raiser’s requirements.
A 50-watt bulb should be placed a little away from the middle of the brooder to allow room for the chicks to stay away from the heat source in case there is over-heating in the brooder.
Brooding procedures are similar to those for day-old chicks:
- Prepare the brooder; lay old newspapers on the floor of the brooder, covering it entirely.
- Prepare a drinking trough; you can improvise with plastic glasses and plastic covers, or lids large enough to overlap 1/4 of an inch around the glass rims. Bore a hole in the top rim of the plastic glass to allow water to flow out when inverted over the plastic cover. This makes a good drinking trough for the chicks. Commercial waterers for chickens with their deep, wide edges are not advisable for pugo because they might drown in them.
- Spread feeds for the chicks over the newspapers and place the waterers away from the light bulb. Leave the space under the bulb free for the chicks to lay down or crowd together. Do not place feeds in that area as the chicks will lay down and blind themselves while under the heat of the bulb.
- See to it that there is always plenty of water. Replace feeds and water as they are consumed.
- Observe the chicks – if they crowed under the bulb, there is insufficient heat; if they move away from the bulb, there is too much heat. Remedy the situation by changing the bulb, as required, using a lower watt bulb for less heat.
- On the sixth or seventh day, move the chicks to another compartment but with the short sides open (screened with wire mesh). The chicks now need more space; only 250 to 300 will fit in a 2 feet x 4 feet x 6 inches cage.
- When the birds are 15 days old, transfer them to growing cages. By this time they are fully feathered.
On the 30th day, males of the Japanese seattle breed can already be recognized by their feathers, so they can be segregated and sold as broilers. Males of the other breeds can be recognized by their throaty hoarse cry and the protruding upper vent with a cream-like substance coming out of the vent when it is pressed upwards.
Females have a blackish or grayish vent and a sharp, high pitched, long shrilling, melodious chirp.
After 41 days from hatching, the birds should start laying eggs. Remove the males not intended for breeding and the undeveloped females and sell them as broilers.
The early laying birds may be segregated for use as breeders, while late layers are raised for table egg production.
Experience has shown that if female quail do not answer the throaty cry of the male they are not happy. The right proportion of males in the flock is necessary for a high percentage of hatchability. The usual ratio is 70 females to 30 males. Too many males in the flock is indicated when females have bare backs with the feathers worn off, while an inadequate number of males causes fighting among the females.
However, females will not fight if there is no male at all among them, as proved when table egg layers are kept separately with no males.
The demand for quail eggs and meat is so great that marketing is no problem. This is a project where buyers come to you, especially for the eggs. In streets, stores, restaurants, hotels and bars, quail eggs and meat are in great demand.
Quail eggs can be sold fresh, boiled, salted, pickled or as balut. Quail meat can be served barbecued, fried, as adobo, guinataan, or in any way chicken is cooked.
Some reputable bakeries use quail eggs for baking and for making leche flan.
Hard-boiled eggs are sold by hawking vendors in plastic bags. The popular nido soup in restaurants comes to your table garnished with quail eggs.
With the advent of the “instants” like instant coffee and tea, soft drinks, instant soup, etc., quail eggs and meat can also follow.
From egg to egg production is barely two months, or 57 days to be exact. For meat production, the time is even shorter. A quail egg is hatched in just 16 days and the hen is ready to lay eggs after 41 days. Isn’t that instant?
Nutrition-wise, this is an answer to the quest for a source of economical protein for malnourished children.
Economically, it is a very promising project. If you raise 100 layers with 70% egg production there will be 70 eggs a day. The birds will consume two kilos of feeds a day, say worth P 3.00. If the eggs are sold at P 0.10 each, there will be P 7.00 from daily sales. Less the P 3.00 feed cost, this means P 4.00 profit daily. Multiply this by twice or thrice the number of layers. Won’t it be very nice additional income? Why don’t you try it?
HOW TO OPERATE AN ELECTRIC TABLE-TOP INCUBATOR/HATCHER FOR QUAIL
In order to get a higher hatching efficiency, the electric incubator/hatcher should be properly operated. The following guidelines should be strictly observed in the incubation of quail eggs.
- Check and recheck wire and wire connections of the incubator. Check also the electric voltage (220V) before plugging in the incubator. Fill all water pans for humidity control and place egg trays without eggs inside the incubator.
- Run the incubator for two days or until the desired temperature (1010 to 1030F) is maintained. Slowly adjust the thermostat by turning the control knob clockwise to lower the temperature and counter clockwise to raise the temperature. Usually, the incubator is pre-tested and the thermostat adjusted before shipment, but slight adjustments will still be needed, depending on the place and weather conditions.
- Arrange the eggs in the egg tray, allowing room for turning. Do not load the tray tightly as the eggs may be broken when turning.
- Before placing the trays of eggs in the incubator, check the water pans under the trays for humidity control. These should be properly covered with wire screen to prevent drowning if a chick drops from the egg tray.
- On top of the incubator, place a reminder chart of the activities to carry out during incubation:
- Turn the eggs three times a day by passing the hands lightly over the eggs to the right in the morning, to the left at noon, and downward in the afternoon.
- Candle on the 11th day.
- Expect hatching on the 16th to the 18th day.
Other features may be added to the chart, like percentage of infertile eggs and hatched chicks.
- Three days before hatching, stop turning the eggs. On hatching day, when the chicks are out of the shells, the air vents on top of the incubator should be fully opened to increase ventilation and to hasten drying of the feathers.
- Transfer the chicks to the brooder after their feathers are dry on the 17th or 18th day.
- Clean the trays. Remove all egg shells and late-hatch or unhatched eggs in preparation for the next batch of eggs for incubation.
Sources: Department of Agriculture and wikipedia.org; Photos: www.backyardchickens.com and food.rlove.com