Quails are small sized poultry birds usually weighing less than 500g. They are resistant to diseases, with a high level of productivity and few constraints in terms of breeding. Quails are famed for their healthy meat as well as being decent layers. Quail farming is considered to be quite simple; it demands low investments in financial and physical resources hence is highly recommended to new and established farmers alike. An in-depth understanding of quails and the appropriate quail farming practises is a requirement to achieve long term productivity.
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Housing is an essential aspect in quail farming. Quails are often reared in cages or litter systems. Cages are however recommended. This is because management is made easy and there are low chances of disease infestations. When using the litter system, rooms should be well ventilated, insulated and free from dust. The birds must be kept safe, away from predators. Dry litter of about 10cm should be provided. Quails that are less than 4 weeks are comfortable in approximately 145 x 150sq cm; as they grow, about at least 250sq cm has to be provided. If the farmer opts for cage housing, the size should roughly 120cm length, 60cm wide and 25cm height for about 20 to 40 birds. Space reserved for feed and water is just about 2cm and 1cm for quails less than 3weeks old. For mature quails, 3cm and 1.5cm is acceptable. The optimal housing temperature should be around 15oC to 20oC, with 40% to 70% relative humidity. Quail farming demands the availability of lighting for approximately 14 to 18 hours. Note that hygiene and sanitation is a must for productive quail farming.
Quail diet mainly consists of food with high protein including insects such as termites and mealworm. Grains make up a significant amount of the diet, for example maize, sorghum and millet. Quails are fed in small quantities so grains have to be grinded to reduce the particle size. An adult quail consumes about 14 to 18g per day; some eat approximately 20 to 15g per day, depending on the laying rate and nutritional value of the food. Quail feed ought to be fresh at all times. Feed stored for more than 3 months tends to lose vitamins and becomes rancid, especially in warm climates. Therefore, it must be stored in a well-sealed container which is kept in a cool dry place and protected from rodents and dust termites. A space of at least 1.5 to 2.5cm at the feeder is recommended. Clean, fresh water should always be availed. Mature quails must be provided with nipple drinkers or cups; 5 birds can share a nipple, depending on the variety. For quail farming to become highly productive, a well-balanced feed with enough water should be provided regularly.
The upside of quail farming is that quails are generally more resistant to diseases. None the less, they can contract most chicken diseases including avian cholera, variola, Newcastle disease and avian flu. Ani-parasite medication is therefore suggested every 2 to 3 months. The most critical period is during the first 3 weeks as quails are highly susceptible to aspergillosis during that period. Aspergillosis is caused by fungi found in grains. Symptoms generally include breathing difficulties due to thick yellow deposits or a greenish felt-like coating in the trachea or air sacs. Quails are most vulnerable to diseases when they experience sudden change in weather conditions. It advisable to contact a vet in case of any disease outbreaks. Also, make sure that quail housing is kept clean and disinfected regularly to avoid disease infestations.
The selection of eggs for incubation is of the essence in quail farming. Eggs selected for incubation must have a smooth, matt shell; they must not be spherical and shells must neither be broken nor shiny. Eggs should be placed in a cool place with a temperature range of 15oC. Take are that eggs are placed in the incubator within the first 10days. Incubation period in quails is about 16 to 18 days. It is recommended to keep the incubation temperature close to 38oC. Humidity ought to be 50% to 60% within the first 14 days and can be increased to 70% or more on the 15th day. The incubator should be closed during the first 3 days to avoid temperature changes as eggs are most fragile at this age. When incubating the eggs, make sure to mark one side. This will be of great assistance after 3 days when eggs have to be turned a least 2 to 3 times daily so as to prevent the embryo from sticking to the shell. Any errors when turning eggs may lead to loss, hence the need to mark the eggs. On the last 2 days of incubation, eggs should not be turned because this might harm the chicks. On the 14th day of quail farming, incubated eggs have to be transferred to a hatcher. The hatcher should be kept closed to prevent any deformities that may be caused by rapid temperature changes. Chicks must remain in the hatching incubator for 24 hours so as to dry them.
Egg production depends on variety, temperature, feeding, water, care and management. Quail farming is either practised for layers or meat. In both cases, presence of adequate light is advisable. Artificial light and heat through the use of electric bulbs or heaters should be availed. 18 hours of light per day are necessary to ensure regular and optimum laying. Quails start laying eggs at around 7 to 8 weeks old. For successful quail farming, quails should be kept at a male to female ratio of 1:5 respectively. Depending on various breeds, quails can lay up to 300 eggs annually. Note that in order to increase egg production, highly productive breeds should be selected.
Harvesting quail meat
Quails grow at a faster rate, feathers appear during the first days and by 3 weeks are kept in their housing system. Quails are ready for slaughter between 45 to 50 days when they weigh approximately 160 to180g, depending on the breed. Some larger breeds are kept longer and can weigh up to 500g. Quails are harvested through strangulation or by decapitation. Feathers can then be removed through plucking. Care must be taken not to damage the skin. Strict hygiene has to be observed during the entire process. Quail meat should kept refrigerated so as to prevent contamination.
Quail farming can be adapted to varied climates and environments. Quails are hardy birds which are resistant to many diseases and adjust easily to new surroundings. Although they are small, quails are highly productive birds. They are quite good layers and their meat is considered a delicacy word over. It is important to note that irrespective of the variety, quail farming requires investment in decent housing and lower density to avoid overstressing the animals. In addition, an investment in the knowhow and skill of quail farming cannot be exaggerated. In turn, the farmer is compensated by prolonged periods of productivity, thus income generation.