CHINESE BUTTON QUAIL
Below is the procedure we use to raise the Chinese Button Quail to adult.
We have been breeding Button Quail with this procedure for a few years now and have had no problems or fatalities or sicknesses. The steps below are only a guideline. It is important to remember that only NON-medicated food be given to them at any stage in their life although other breeders feel that this is is not a concern. This procedure is what works for us. You may find a different procedure from other sources or breeders that you feel is safer or easier for you and better for the birds.
We breed 2 pair of quail at a time in our flight which we gather the eggs from. An incubator is used for the quail eggs as the hens only lay on them occasionally. The temperature in the incubator is kept at 99.5 degrees F. We have had success with the parents hatching the eggs but it is very rare. If you use an incubator you must follow the directions that come with it for temperature and water requirements. The colors we breed range from whites, grey, silver, brown, marble and chestnut brown. The eggs hatch in about 16 days. All 3 stages are done in our basement so we can keep a close eye on them. We print the hatch date on the eggs with a felt tip pen so when it is a day or 2 before hatching we can place those eggs ready to hatch in a plastic container in the incubator so the birds will not hurt themselves on the egg racks when they hatch.
Example: If an egg is laid on June 5, we write 6/21 on the egg. This is the approximate hatching date so we know to place that egg in a separate container on or about June 20.
It takes about 12 hours after they hatch for the chicks to dry out at which time we place the babies in a small 5 gallon aquarium. They hatch with their eyes open and a layer of down on them, just like baby chickens or ducks. The bottom of the aquarium has wood chips and sand on the bottom so they will not slip and hurt their legs. You can use some fine sandpaper or paper towels also. The babies do not chew like Budgies so the sandpaper is not a problem and does not harm their feet. If you prefer you can use indoor/outdoor carpeting. You can use a small lizard lamp above them to provide heat since the babies do not have a parent to cuddle up to for the warmth they require. If you need the lizard lamp you will have to keep the top off to one end to let the heat in. This will also allow the birds to move to the warm end if they need it or to the other end or middle if they get too warm.
If it is still too cool, you can use a heating pad under the aquarium on medium for the first week. We keep a small block of wood in the aquarium where we place a shallow jar lid for water so it does not dry out too fast. This also gives the birds a cooler spot to sit if they feel too hot. We find no problem keeping the temperature inside the aquarium at 85-90 degrees F. with this setup. This seems to be a good temperature for the babies. We have used shallow dishes for their food but they just scatter it around anyway so now we just sprinkle it around the bottom for them along with the dish with seed in it. If you place sand in the aquarium or box, you should put seed in some kind of dish or container so it does not get buried by the sand.
We use the aquarium since it is easy to maintain and keep clean, but you can use a cardboard or wooden box making sure the heat lamp will not cause a fire hazard.
We have a fluorescent light fixture with (2) 40 watt tubes of cool white on a timer from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm. Make sure the lizard lamp is mot connected to the timer as it must be left on all the time and not go off with the regular lights at night. A glass top is placed on the aquarium leaving about 2 inches either end to let fresh air in but also keep the heat inside. You can open or close the gap to raise or lower the temperature. (ps. remember to keep it open where the lizard lamp is placed) At this stage they get non-medicated pheasant starter or game bird starter food and fresh water 2 or 3 times a day. You can also give them a high protein egg food mixture such as Cede (brand name) which is a multi-vitamin & mineral supplement from a seed supply store or pet shop for the 1st week or two. We keep a small cardboard box in the aquarium for them to hide in. As far as we know they would naturally hide under their mother so this gives them a feeling of safety. This is easy to replace when it gets dirty. We just cut up thin cardboard and staple it together to form a small box that they can run into and hide. You can also use a plastic plant pot with the side cut away. Some people prefer to use game bird starter but we have not had a problem with the Pheasant starter as long as it is non-medicated. You can use a small low wattage light bulb in a cardboard or wooden box for light if you have a different source of heat for them. You can be the judge as to which system is better for you.
After about 2 weeks old we transfer them to a 10 gallon aquarium with paper towels on the bottom and the heating pad underneath on medium. The temperature now is kept at 80-85 degrees F. Once their feathers start, you can add sand (standard play sand with no chemicals) into the aquarium for them to dig and play in but this is messy and hard to clean up. The sand also insulates the birds from the heat if you use the heating pad so only try sand on the bottom if you use a light such as a 40 watt bulb or lizard lamp for heat from above. If you use a light bulb such as a lizard lamp for heat you must raise or lower the bulb to get the desired temperature. You could place a dish of sand in just for them to dig in. We still feed them the non-medicated pheasant starter and plenty of water and place in 2 cardboard houses to hide in. The birds naturally like to explore so that is why we give them places to hide and play in. They can start to be fed Canary and/or Finch seed at this point also. They are still too young to have live food such as moths or mealworms at this age.
After 4 weeks we put them in a small cage with no heat, just room temperature (70-72 F.) They still get the non-medicated pheasant starter and crushed pelleted all purpose food and the fresh water. Small Finch or Canary seed can be added to their diet at this point. You can now offer them washed lettuce or Spinach or moths and mealworms and see if they like it. The birds like the safety of somewhere to hide so you should always have something in for them to hide under or in. Some people question why they would like to hide, but as far as we know all baby chicks like to hide under their mother for security and warmth. We have heard of people putting small branches of cedar or non-toxic evergreen branches in for them to hide in, but we have not tried this. With the 2 aquariums and the small cage we can cycle the babies through the 3 stages as they grow and this means less handling of the babies. We just take them from one stage and place them in the other as the other one is cleaned. Some people feel the less handling they get by people the better. This fast changeover keeps them from getting too upset while we move them. The aquariums are washed out with warm water about once a week, and the sand, sandpaper or paper towels replaced with new.
After 6 weeks we move them out to our garage where we have a large cage about 2 feet deep and 6 feet long where they have plenty of room to roam around. The adult Quail seem to really like bugs such as moths, potato beetles and mealworms, along with their normal seed which we give them Finch, Canary seed and crushed food pellets once they get out to our bird room. We like breeding these small birds because they require very little care from the day they are born and everyone who sees the babies says they are cute like baby ducks.
Possible problems with incubating eggs
If the birds hatch too soon, the temperature may be set too high.
If they hatch after their due date, the temperature may be too low.
If the birds die in the shell, the temperature may be too low or you do not have the proper moisture amount.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.