Quail is a member of the Phasianidae family. It is a small, stocky bird that is hardy in nature and well adaptable to varied conditions. Quail is grown for its eggs and meat; it is considered as highly nutritional. With the current world craze for nutritional and healthy meat options, quails are on demand on all four corners of the earth. For this reason, quail farming has become a lucrative venture. Most farmers including small scale subsistence farmers are embarking in quail farming to either increase profits, for general consumption or both. In fact, there are now over 300 types of quails bred by farmers. Quail farming requires a substantial amount of investment in form of money and quail farming techniques. As such, it is of the outmost importance for farmers to have an understanding of the different breeds and their characteristics. The different types of quail breeds are below.
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Commonly referred to as Coturnix Quail, Pharaoh Quail, Jumbo Coturnix among many other names, these types of quails are generally very easy to rear and are highly recommended to new breeders. This is because they are less aggressive, docile and require little space. Japanese quail are generally one of the biggest types of quails. Fully mature adult females, like in most quails, are slightly larger than males and have lighter throat with black speckles. They weigh in about 120g to 160g. On the other hand, males have a darker, caramel-brown throat and weigh approximately 100g too 140g. Some of the females can weigh up to 300g. The colour of the breed varies, albino, white, isabelline, silvery, brown, mixed, and black tuxedo are among the most common. Japanese quails mature around 9 weeks of age. They lay about 200 to 300 eggs annually. They are also a good source of meat due to their larger stature. The average life expectancy of these types of quails is 2 to 5 years depending on health and the breeding conditions.
These types of quails are also known as the Button Quail, Chinese Blue Breasted and Painted Quail. King quails are very small breeds measuring 12cm to 14cm and weighing roughly 40g. They are often raised purely as decorative birds. King quails come in an array of colours including tawny, white, silvery, brown and black. They mature at 8 to 12 weeks of age. They can live to 3 to 5 years. Females have a striped plumage in brown and wheat colours. Males have a clearly delineated black and white pattern on their throats. King quails are neither good layers nor good meat producers.
These types of quails come in various kinds including the Northern Bobwhite, Butler Bobwhite, and Snowflake Bobwhite among numerous others. The average size for a Northern Bobwhite is 170g, Butlers weigh in at 450g provided they are bred for size and Georgia Giants can weigh double or thrice the Northern quails. Bobwhite are known to be quite aggressive from time to time hence are not recommendable to new breeders. Male Bobwhites have a black mask, on their heads and faces as well. Females have a buff brownish colour on their faces. These types of quails mature at 6 months but usually start laying eggs in approximately a year. They are not the best layers, they are seasonal layers producing anywhere between a 100 eggs to 200 eggs annually. However, their meat is commendable partly owing to their big stature. Bobwhites have an average lifespan of 2 to 5 years although a 7 year old is not unheard of.
Gambels are popular for their feather plumes on top of their heads and plumage on their undersides. They look very similar to California quails but are somewhat different. Male Gambels have a black mask on their faces with white stripes above their black and rusty coloured heads, whereas females have a dull brown coloured face. Their length is around 28cm with a wingspan of 36 to 41cm weighing about 160g to 200g. They can stay for a prolonged period of time upon reaching maturity before they are able to lay eggs. These types of quails lay approximately 100 to 200 eggs annually and have a life expectancy of 2 to 5 years as well.
Mountain quails are often found up to 3000m above sea level although they tend to change altitude according to the severity of the season. They are easily recognisable by their long slender plumb on top of their heads. Male mountain quails are brightly coloured beneath with the grey of their hind necks more defined than that of females. They weigh about 190g to 265g. Mountain quails lay about 200 eggs per year. Their life expectancy is between 2 to 5 years though they live beyond these years.
Valley Quails are often called California quails. Their appearance closely resembles that of Gambel quails except they are slightly bigger. Valley quails weight more or less 300g. These types of quails mature faster than most quails. They are usually bred for their superior meet quality, although they are quite decent layers. They lay anywhere between 100 to 200 eggs. Similar to most quails, they live up to 5 years though it is possible for some to live beyond this range. Valley quails do not flourish in overcrowded conditions. For this reason, their enclosure should slightly bigger with a high top to allow them to fly freely.
Blue scale Quail
These types of quails have a quite unique appearance. They are usually referred to as Cotton Tops owing to their plumage on top of their heads. Blue scale quails have a greyish brown head with a white cotton top crest and blue feathers with long black lacing that resemble scales, from the neck down to the breast and back. The main difference in the appearance of male and female quails is that males have an ash grey coloured throat whereas females have a light yellow throat. The blue scale type of quails are 25cm to 30cm long. They thrive around an elevation of 3500 to 4600 feet above sea level. They have a life expectancy of 5 to 7 years. Blue scale hens lay approximately 200 eggs. The Blue scale quail is highly susceptible to enteritis which can be fatal, therefore bacitracin is recommended for prevention measures.
Though they have different characteristics, most quails are quite easy to handle, they are hardy and highly profitable. Prior to quail farming, farmers have to identify the ideal breed when compared to environmental conditions and the challenges often faced by the Phasianidae family. Hence, the need to acquire adequate knowledge of different types of quails. Also, farmers need to know that variety correlate which production/outcome as some birds produce more layers than other types.