Adventures in quail keeping

Discussion in 'Poultry, Domestic Livestock, Pets, & Bees' started by eggcentric, Jan 27, 2018.

  1. eggcentric

    eggcentric Active Member Premium Member

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    So, I’ve finally made some time to post a promised post about our quail keeping adventures, now that we’ve had them for a few months, and through some fairly extreme weather in the first part of our Canadian winter ...

    Stuff we’ve learned about them
    They are hardier than they look. Which is a good thing, because one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is with heating.

    Their manure is smellier than that of a chicken. Possibly because of the higher ammonia content? I don’t know. I noticed this when we still had them in the house, prior to their pen being completed. Now that they spend their lives outside in their coop and run on deep litter, so far there is no smell.
    Chickens will run up to greet you when you come into their housing or run. They are kind of like an opportunistic welcoming committee. When you approach, they seem to say, “Hey, hi, what did you bring us?” Quail don’t really greet, per se: They will run up when you approach their enclosure, but it’s more like swarming than greeting. They seem to say, “Hey, you, hand it over, NOW.” Good thing they’re small and cute.

    Their little beaks are quite sharp. They will peck at anything that catches their interest, and for no apparent reason. Like lips and eyebrows, if you are distracted and get too close to their level. Apparently, eyebrows and lips bear a striking resemblance to worms. Not sure why one of them nailed me just under my nose once. Anyway, the lesson here is to try to avoid being in a position where your face is within pecking distance of their beaks.

    Male quails take their role in the covey very seriously. So, unless Benny, our male, is shooting blanks, I have no doubt that Avro and Arrow (AKA the Jets) are laying fertile eggs. This will come in handy next spring, when we plan to increase the number of hens in our flock. One of the reasons that we need to increase the number of hens we keep is so that Benny will hopefully have more than one preferred mate and that will be easier all around.

    They are really fun to watch. Everything is at full speed, except when they are dustbathing and preening or afternoon siesta time.

    They hang together as a group, but they don’t really cozy up to each other at night. This may change as the temperatures get colder.

    They like making little nest-like depressions in their pen litter somewhere under something and preferably also protected by brush or pine boughs, and laying their eggs there. The patterning on their eggs makes for excellent camouflage in the deep litter that is comprised of wood chip and leaves. The upside of this is that our two hens usually lay in the same spot for a little while at least before “pulling up stakes”. This is handy because once you’ve found their laying spot, you’re pretty much guaranteed that all the eggs laid that day will be there. Their laying spot will change on a regular basis … little gypsy nomads. [​IMG]

    We’ve found that they are much easier to handle/catch than chickens, even if you don't handle them regularly. That was a pleasant surprise for me the first time one of them decided to flush up and out through the open pen door while I was putting in some fresh water. Once she landed on the ground outside, she just sat there, and I had no problem picking her up and putting her back. They don’t tend to struggle much, if at all, when you pick them up.

    Stuff we thought would work, but didn't. Stuff we thought might work, and did. Plus some details on something that we thought wasn’t working, but after a time, did (Ref: heated water bottle).

    The Cozy Coop heater. It was a good idea in theory, but in our setup, not so much. Our quail house is insulated and small. Because of this, 1) 200 watts was waaay too much, and 2) the only location where it could be installed and fit was on the clean-out door, which was also the only wall with a window, so once installed it blocked out most of the light coming into the house. Quails like hideaway places, but apparently not places that are that dark. We had installed it prior to the weather getting cold enough to warrant turning it on, so we didn't even realize it was overpowered until the first cold snap. Thankfully I checked the temperature inside the house before I went to bed. It had gone up to +15 in the space of a couple of hours, while the ambient temperature outside was -18, so we had to shut it off rather than risk waking up the next day to toasted quail. They survived the night, and thankfully the temperature lows for the next few days were a bit "warmer" (between -10 and -15) so we went through a bit of frantic head scratching to come up with a replacement heat source for them before the winter arrived in earnest. I was thinking about plans for expansion of the group in the spring if by some miracle they survived the winter in spite of my ignorance. I knew I would need some sort of heat source for quail chicks when they hatched, so I did some online window shopping on Amazon and I found what I thought looked to be a decent "electric hen" (https://www.titanincubators.com/buy-online/brooders/brooder-hen-20w-30x30cm.html ).

    Same concept as the Brinsea EcoGLow 20, but for a more reasonable price. Then it occurred to me that it might just work in the quail house as a place for them to huddle if it got too cold for them. Once I had confirmed that it would fit nicely with a bit of room to spare, I ordered one. It arrived in under 2 days. I cranked up the unit's legs to their maximum height, positioned it in the quail house, and waited for their reaction. They were under it in no time. But they only go under at night, and during the day when they are chilled, and still spend most of their time in the pen during the day. I think they took to it so quickly because it's a natural quail behaviour to seek out sheltered spots underneath things. Since it's only a 20-watt unit, it's pretty cost-efficient to run, so we have it on, any time the mercury drops below -15. The Cozy Coop heater is now being put to good use as a leg warmer when we're sitting at the computer, and the quails got their window back. Win-Win.

    The heated water bottle (https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/produ ... _vc=-10005) is an example of stuff that we thought would work but didn't. Not because of the product or the quail, but because of my own stupidity. Initially, we had installed it on the fence opposite the access door to the quail pen because the power cord on the unit is very short and because we didn't have a long enough extension cord. This was awkward for training, refilling, as well as plugging and unplugging. After a time Ron moved it inside the quail house, where access to the unit and the power plug was much easier. Unfortunately, I thought that my efforts to train them to use it were fruitless because I didn't notice the water going down. So I stopped checking and continued on with switching out their plastic waterer several times a day. I left the unit plugged in at the time because of the cold snap, thinking that I left it on, they might still try it out eventually. Apparently, they did. They drank it dry. Then the heater failed because the bottle was empty. It worked great until it didn't. I can still use it as a waterer in the summer months at least. I do want to buy another next time I'm at Tractor Supply in Odgensburg, NY, US, because it worked very well to keep the water open during that first extended cold snap we had. I won't forget to keep it filled next time. :-\

    Next post: More stuff we’ve learned about them. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
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  2. DarrenP

    DarrenP Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    One thing I've learned about quails is they don't like extreme heat. I lost a pair the other week when we had 44 and 46 degrees two days in a row.
     
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  3. Owlonthewing

    Owlonthewing Active Member Premium Member

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    Thanks so much for your great information. I have really enjoyed reading this post. Our 8 quail and 3 chickens are now 1 month old and doing fine. The chickens hatched a week later and are good mates with the quail for now but I will have to seperate them pretty soon. We also acquired 8 frizzles chickens and our clucky chook has hatched out 4 chickens too. Babies everywhere.
    My trouble is going to be housing them all separately. I think some creative dividing is going to be happening here.
     
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  4. eggcentric

    eggcentric Active Member Premium Member

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    Sounds like you having lots of fun with all your poultry. Babies are great, but yes, they do require some creativity and extra work to raise and house. Unless of course they are raised by a broody hen. ;-)
     
  5. Philip Adamson

    Philip Adamson Member

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    Such great information. Thank you for sharing as it has helped give me some more things to think about as we get ready to start our quail experiment!
     
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