Help with Quail please

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Help with Quail please

Postby chookfan » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:46 am

Hi all

The Quails and I need some help..................

I've had chickens for 2 half years now, we've been through rats, red mites, Rosie the big Barred Rock chook raising hell when broody (finally putting some fertile eggs under her and managing 4 live chicks out of the 12 eggs - 3 Light Sussex 1 Barred Rock, all pullets so no complaints! ) I thought we were getting pretty good at this bird caper......but........

I recently got Japanese Quail, they are lovely, we've had a few issues with housing and fighting and now they are not laying at all.................help!

I bought the Quail off trade me and wanted them for their eggs, they are sooo cute and the eggs are tasty little morsels as well! I had to buy them in pairs and so have 4 girls and 4 boys - I was told they pair for life, so blindly went ahead and put them all in the same large cage................in hindsight, they have been fighting over both girls and food ever since!!!

However, I had been getting 2 eggs a day regularly............I am hoping that I actually do have 4 girls - and not 2 girls and 6 boys!!!!!
How do I tell? (the guy I bought them off flipped them over and squeezed their nether regions!! and went girl, boy as he put them in my cage - but some look exactly the same so now I have no idea who's who!!) should I remove some of the boys and how will I know? Can I then top up my numbers with more girls, or will this just add to my fighting problems - a couple of them (I am guessing the girls...) have had most of their neck feathers pulled out - I don't need to explain how that has happened!!!

As we didn't want to put the Quail cage in the paddock and I have two "eager to eat" fox terriers we have recently changed their cage to mostly mesh, lifted it off the ground as athough lovely, they are quite messy, smelly little blighters if left in mostly one area (like when we were away at Christmas and on return mother in law said "hate the quails"!! I have been giving them Quail Crumble which I have been getting off trade me, a few scraps, greens and wild bird seed.
They just used to lay on the floor of the coop, along with pooping etc in the same spot, I had a small amount of hay in the corner, but they just flicked that around........so now they are on mostly mesh floor, they had a week were they just layed anywhere and the eggs sat on the mesh until I picked them up, this was okay with me as much cleaner eggs.
But...................I have had no eggs for 4 days now!!, how am I going to try my first batch of pickled eggs??? no seriously, I am not sure what to do next, is it just abit of a glitch, or are they so unhappy they are off the lay????
From recent reading I now know I have far too many boys for my poor traumatised girls!!!

What do I do with the extra males - I love cooking, but I'm not sure if I could actually bring myself to dispatch with these wee fellows!!........
I think if I ask hubby to make me yet another "bird" house he will "spit the dummy".......... !!!!!

Suggestions please...............:)
Thanks, Lizz
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Re: Help with Quail please

Postby MrQuail » Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:14 pm

ok, well yes that person you bought the quail off was either unethical or ignorant - we only have one pair of quail that are kept as a twosome because its a really big female and a gentle male. Generally they go best with about 4 females per male and we advise our customers of that. So to sort out the ratio you either need more girls or less boys. I could fix you up with some more females but I think there is a waiting list atm and also you'd need to pay for a pet courier. You'd be waiting a good couple of months most likely.
We keep our quail in cages where there is only one male and his harem. We experimented with some in colonies but found that certain females seemed to be overly attractive to the males and would get really worn out. So if you were to keep all the males ideally you might divide up the cages with some barriers.
Lifting the cage off the ground is a good move and should reduce the smell. It also reduces the risk of bronchitis, although they are extremely tough little birds they don't go too well in the damp so elevation can really help.
We find untreated pine shavings make the best litter as they absorb the moisture from the poo and keep the eggs clean. They also like rolling in them. Most of our cages have a tray like a kitty litter box in the bottom which is filled with pine shavings and changed about once a week. The litter removed makes terrific compost. Some breeders use wire mesh floors as you do, the thing to watch out for in that case is the condition of the soles of their feet. I'd say that you'd also want to put something underneath like a tray of sand to catch the poo that falls through and this will make it less smelly and easier to remove.
The amount of cleaning you have to do is directly proportional to the amount of space your quails have. In laboratories where they are often used, the amount of space given to a cock and 4 hens would be about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. This crowding probably causes less distress in quail than it would to chooks because they are very social birds. However this would mean cleaning at least once a day. Most breeders go for about 30cm x 30xm per bird. We've found this to work well. It sounds like a small area and indeed the bobwhites and calis we breed need far more room per bird despite being a similar size. But for some reason japs like to be all close together, perhaps they feel more secure that way. They are certainly not that active so that may account for them not needing much space. In fact when we have experimented with bigger quarters they all bunch up at one end anyway! If you need to get cheap housing quickly, chook battery cages that have been decommissioned work well for quail. You just use the same number of quail as there were chooks in the cages, they seem more like they were designed for quail than chooks to me...
You say you are giving your birds some greens - I would limit this as it does give them loose stinky poo. Stick to green grass seed heads as a treat rather than leafy stuff and give it only once or twice a week. They love insects like slaters and worms too. Be selective with scraps - cooked meats and eggs are good as are things like pasta and rice, but nothing you wouldn't eat yourself and NO DAIRY that will definitely cause a pong as they are lactose intolerant.
To sex your quail there are two methods. Two of the colour mutations have auto-sexing plumage. The gold and pharoah (mid brown) birds differ between male and females in their chest markings. Males have a russet chest, females cream with dark speckles. Once you have had a *lot* of practice like me you can sex them at 2 weeks this way. The speckles are the diagnostic bit. Some males have speckles, but if the speckles are not continuous across the chest (there is a non speckled bit in the middle) then that's a male.
Image this is a male pharoah
Imagethis is a female pharoah
The breeder would have been vent sexing which is the most reliable method for birds of over 8 weeks of age.
This nice little youtube video shows how to do it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfTv831gilc
you flip your indignant quail over and get it arranged so you have a good view of the vent. Often in males there is a red swelling behind the vent which is a special gland, and this is a giveaway. However it doesn't look all that obvious in all birds. So you press gently behind the vent and if you have a mature male a substance that looks like shaving foam comes out (its not quail sperm btw). You may have seen some of this stuff on the floor of the cage especially sticking to the poos.
Females do not produce this stuff, sometimes some fluid will come out and it might even be a bit bubbly but its more watery and clear like eggwhites. Often the females will poo on you too! Other signs to look out for are that the vent in a laying female is large and moist just like that of a laying chooken. There is often some dark bluish discolouration of the skin around a females vent. A non-laying female will be puckered up like a cats bottom. A female that has just laid may have part of the oviduct protruding, it looks like a prolapse but retracts within about an hour at most. I've never had one that didn't pop back in on its own, but it does look scary.
Now that you have identified your males, you probably want to get rid of 3 of them, in which case you have 3 options. One is to keep them as pets yourself and to do that take those 3, put them in a new cage where they can't see and preferably can't hear the females and they will probably calm down a lot. In fact if you don't intend to breed them you can dispense with all the males if you want. You'll find they rarely go broody so you need an incubator to hatch bubbies. A lot of our customers just keep girls. If you can't keep the males you could give them to someone with an aviary, they make a very good cleanup crew especially for people with canaries which are very messy. Or they make really good school pets, and could live in a rabbit hutch, as they love children. Or dinner.
In terms of laying, your females are most likely off the lay due to stress, so getting rid of the males will help. Their diet sounds good but provide a dish of fine oystershell grit also. They are day length dependent needing about 16 hours of light a day to lay but at this time of year we can rule that out.
So in summary
-watch the video and learn to sex the birds- if you have more than 4 complain to the breeder
- all but one (or him too) males removed or top up the females - could make new cages later when females become available and then give each male a harem
-one male 4 or so females per cage
-adequate space per bird and something to soak up the poo, dry conditions where the poo lands
-reduce greens, remove dairy and add grit to the diet
-watch the eggs roll in!
You are most welcome to ask more or PM, if you give me your email address by PM I can send you our standard care sheet which may be helpful.
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Re: Help with Quail please

Postby chookfan » Sun Jan 15, 2012 11:31 am

Hi Mr Quail

Thank you!
Thank you so much for your very informative reply..................some of my birds have chests that sort of have patches of plain along with with flecked feathers, so I am still abit uncertain of sexing.
However I seem to have two birds that spend alot of time by themselves in the house rather than out in the sunshine with the others, looking at your pictures (and their necks!) I think they may be two males.
Do both the male and female call, I have two birds that are the noisiest and both stretch up as high as they can get and deliver a shrill call, lovely call, even the chooks answer it sometimes!!!!
Being the school holidays the kids have used up all of my broadband........(well and maybe mum on trade-me!) so we are down to the slowest dial up speed I've ever had, so will watch the video on Tuesday when I should get my computer speed back up to normal!

Ok, I forgot to mention that the birds have some fine grit in a bowl they can access and I also set them up a sand bath, because someone told me that was a good idea!!
I'd also tried putting a bundle of hay in the corner, but that just gets flicked around as well, I'll get hubby to put more cleanable board back into the cage so that they have more room inside and outside the house, so less mesh.
Should they have a little nesting box made up like the chooks so they have a quiet spot to lay? or are they happy to lay anywere - they were laying anywhere before............
The cage is about 1.8 by 1. metre, so should be plenty big enough going on your ratio - each adaptation adds a bit of weight so with shifting the cage hubby and I should be shaped like body builders before too long!!!!!

Okay I have had one egg since my first post - it is blue, almost like my araucanas!! but lighter.
It is hard shelled, but looks like it is lacking the outside layer of the shell - ????????????


As for food I have changed what they have been getting - I have to admit they will have been getting dairy - some of the little scraps they would have got where probably bits of left over cheese sandwhiches from the kids etc. Thank you I had no idea about the dairy intolerance.......................................................

I'll watch the video next week and then try seperating the birds I think are males, I'll keep them at this stage just in case I am wrong!
Otherwise I might find someone who has an aviary and see if they would like some little vacum cleaners!
Does it mean I wouldn't actually need a male if I didn't want to breed from the birds? Do they lay just as well?
If they lay just as well, I probably don't need any males at all...............
Once I get this lot sorted I would be interested in getting some females off you, but I shall get this lot sorted and make sure I know what I am doing first!!!!

Again, thanks very much for you very informative reply - it is greatly appreciated, I'd done a little reading on these beauties before I got them, but have learned so much more in the last week!!!!!!!!
Thanks, Lizz, Wellsford
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Re: Help with Quail please

Postby MrQuail » Sun Jan 15, 2012 5:12 pm

They actually lay better without the males, the farmer that we breed layers for only keeps females as the males drain their energy a bit.
You are correct, the ones that stretch up and call are males.
The egg sounds like one that was laid in a bit of a hurry, they do lay the odd egg that they don't put the brown markings onto. Some of them are a dark green and thin-shelled, some are the normal background colour. The thin shelled ones are best used soon as they don't keep well, the normal unmarked ones are fine and usually fertile also.
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Re: Help with Quail please

Postby Samantha » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:29 am

I better check out that youtube. . . I have some white quail which I would not have a clue if are male or female. . .
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