Keeping quails indoors is a growing practise in the agricultural community. Quails are small sized poultry birds weighing approximately 500g or less hence can easily be bred indoors. They are known for their docile nature and resistance to diseases. Quails have a few constraints in terms of breeding. There are currently over a hundred different breeds kept throughout the world. The most popular quail breeds for farmers are the Northern Bobwhite Quail, the Japanese quail, the Cortunix and the California quail. Indoor quail farming is regarded as fairly easy. To add on, it requires less financial and physical resources. Since quails are highly productive birds that require limited financial investment, they are highly profitable and so are recommended to farmers. This article serves to equip farmers with relevant knowhow on quail farming indoors in order to reach maximum productivity.

Housing Quails

The housing system is an important part of quail farming indoors.  Quail housing can vary from floor pens to colony cages and individual cages depending on the available breeding space. It is best to practise quail farming indoors in cages elevated from the floor. This is done to protect the birds from predators and to limit exposure to infections as well as diseases. Cages have the advantage of allowing waste to drop to the floor and away from the birds. Quails are highly adaptive birds and so can be kept in chicken runs, rodent cages or smaller hutches for pigeons. The upside of keeping quails indoors is that they are well protected from weather conditions such as too much sun and rain.

Colony cages are often used for housing larger communities of males and female. Individual cages are for single breeder pairs. Agricultural research point outs that when keeping quails indoors, each space should be about 1 square foot which is roughly 900 square centimetres. This allows free movement of birds. Space that is less than the recommended size causes overcrowding which strains birds therefore limiting their productivity. An important point to keep in mind is that larger quails generally require more space in cages and the opposite applies to smaller sized birds.

Cages for Layer Quails

The Japanese layer quail birds are among popular layers in quail farming indoors. They mature in 6 weeks and take about 7 weeks to start laying eggs that can be harvested everyday upon maturity.  Stacking cages are mostly for this type of breed. The stacking cages utilise much space and are therefore great for keeping quails indoors. Layer birds are often isolated so as to prevent them from destroying the eggs. It is therefore recommended to have a separate space that is approximately 15cm wide. Keeping quails indoors using cages made with wood shavings and paper mash can cause challenges during harvest. Layer birds usually hide their eggs under the mash making it difficult for collection.  Egg collection would then require the cage to have egg collection trays.

Temperature and Lighting Conditions

Keeping quails indoors requires appropriate temperature and lighting conditions. Most breeds of quail do well in warm weather conditions and are good at conserving heat during cold seasons. The ideal temperature is about 21o C to 32o C, depending on the age and breed of the quails. Chicks often require temperatures of 35o C during the first week. The temperature must be adjusted each week, decreasing it by 5o Celsius until the bird reaches maturity. Too much heat causes heat stress and very low temperatures are just as detrimental. The birds can freeze eventually leading to death. Newly born chicks require 13 hours of lighting during the first week. Lighting can be gradually increased by one hour every week. More mature egg laying quails aged 9 weeks require 16 hours of daily lighting so that they can produce maximum number of eggs. Males and broiler quails should receive only 8 hours of lighting per day, enough to conserve their energy.

Breeding Quails

Breeding is of the essence in keeping quails in doors as it determines the productivity and profitability of the agricultural venture. Breeding quails are slightly bigger than layer birds. Their cages should therefore be bigger so as to facilitate easy movement within the housing system. The birds can be kept on a ratio of 1 male to 3 females during the mating period. Note that overcrowding birds results in limited productivity and increases the spread of diseases.

Feed and Nutrition

When keeping quails indoors, make sure they are provided with a well-balanced feed.  Quails require adequate water as the most essential nutrient for their health and daily growth. They require at last twice the amount of water as they would require feed. The amount of water required is also dependent on the temperature and their dietary plans. Proteins provide the amino acids for tissue growth and egg production. Starter quails need about 24% of protein. The protein content may be reduced to 20% by 3rd week of age. Chick starter feed should be used as soon as the chicks hatch until they are 6 weeks of age. Broiler starters need 23% of protein, 1% calcium and 0.5% phosphorous. The layer starter needs 24% of protein, 1% calcium and 0.5% phosphorous.  After 6 weeks of age, the quails should start feeding on grower mash. Adult quails consume 20 to 30 of food.  In each meal, broiler quails would need protein amount of 19%, 0.9 % calcium, 0.5% phosphorus and 0.4% methionine in their regular diets. The normal dietary plan of layer quails should contain 18% protein, 2.75% calcium, 0.65% percent phosphorus and 0.45% methionine.

Quails can eat maize, sorghum, groundnut cake, soya meal, sunflower cake and fresh fish meal for both the starter mash and the grower mash. Foods such as dried fish, mussels and wheat should not be added in the quail’s diet. Commercial chicken feed can also be used for quail dietary plans. However, more proteins should be added in the meal as the quail consume much protein than any other poultry birds. Female quails can be also given crushed oyster shells or egg shells so that they lay healthy eggs. A layer pellets diet instead of the ordinary diet can be added to ensure great harvesting of eggs.

Quail Production

Quail production depends on a number of factors including variety, temperature, feeding, water, care and management. Quail farming indoors is either practised for layers or meat. Keeping quails indoors is often characterised by a single male and 3 hens. Quails start laying eggs at around 7 to 8 weeks old. Quails kept for meat often take about 6 to 7 weeks to mature, weigh approximately 160 to180g, depending on the breed. Some larger breeds are kept longer and can weigh up to 500g. Broiler quails tended for meat production are larger and take less time to gain weight in comparison to layer breeds. Strict hygiene has to be observed during harvesting. Quail meat should kept refrigerated so as to prevent contamination.