There are about 20 different species of quail, distributed all around the world, from the North American Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus) to the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Related to the pheasant, the eggs of the mid-sized bird are often tan coloured and dotted with dark brown spots. Fertilised eggs can be bought from a hatchery, and after a 17 to 21 day incubation process, quail chicks will be born.
Before the fertilised eggs are acquired, an incubator should be purchased or built, to recreate the environment of a quail hen's nest. Some people prefer a store bought incubator, which is an all-in-one kit that allows breeders to easily regulate the humidity and temperatures. Others prefer to build an incubator from scratch, which is often a large styrofoam box or cooler (about 21 3/4 -by-13 1/4-by-14 inches), outfitted with a bowl of water, fan, heat plate with built a thermostat, thermometer, and a tray for the fertilised eggs.
When incubating, the temperature is crucial and is often set at least three days before the eggs are introduced into the incubator. If constructing a homemade incubator, the heating source needs to be calibrated to generate a temperature of 37.8 degrees C, which is the optimal brooding temperature. Keep a thermometer in the incubator, to ensure that the level of heat stays constant, while the embryos are growing. Additionally, a small fan will help to circulate the warm air.
Humidity is important to the incubation process, as it helps to keep the eggs and their shells hydrated. Water accounts for approximately 68.25 per cent of the eggs total mass before the incubation period, according to the study "Effect of Relative Humidity on Incubation of Japanese Quail Eggs," which protects the embryo from drying out during the stages of development. Additionally, humidity is helpful during hatching, as a hydrated shell can be easier for the chicks to break through. Therefore, 236 to 354ml of water is often added to store-bought and homemade incubators, to ensure the eggs remain hydrated.
During the incubation period, turn the eggs three times a day, to make sure that the yoke or embryo does not settle in one position. Some incubators are equipped with an oscillating mechanism, but for homemade incubators, the eggs might need to be turned by hand.
The embryos development can be monitored using a candling device, which is a lamp that produces a concentrated ray of light, allowing the egg's contents to be visible. The fertilised embryo should be visible after six days.
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- "Egg Incubation: Its Effects on Embryonic Development in Birds and Reptiles"; D. Charles Deeming, Mark W. J. Ferguson; 2004
- "Avian Embryology"; Marianne Bronner-Fraser; 2008
- New South Wales Department of Primary Industries: Raising Japanese Quail; Maurice Randall, Gerry Bolla; 2008
- Livestock Research for Rural Development: Effect of Relative Humidity on Incubation of Japanese Quail Eggs; J M Romao, T. G. V. Moraes, R. S. C. Teixeira, C. Buxade, W. M. Cardoso; March 21, 2009