When I told people I’d bought 12 quail eggs off ebay to hatch they laughed. As I signed for the little (heavily wrapped) package the postman actually told me it would never work. To an extent I could understand them being a little sceptical. I too was not holding out much hope for a 100% hatch rate but I was at least expecting something. I used a basic model hoverbator incubator which meant that the eggs needed to be turned by hand at least 3 times a day.
The temperature was kept at a steady 37.5 degrees and when pipping began the humidity was increased to 75%. It was at this point that disaster struck. We had been keeping the incubator in the spare room. The book suggested as much as it was as close to a constant external temperature that we could offer without a real quail mummy bird. This was all well and good until we had guests to stay. Unfortunately the incubator was turned off accidentally overnight the day before hatching was due. Naturally I assumed all was lost. But my boyfriend insisted we turn the incubator back on ‘just in case’.
Two days passed. And then… And then… The slightest of rockings, a barely audible cheep. Then I sat and watched as 6 quail chicks laboured their way out of their eggs. My excitement was only surpassed by my surprise.
The tiny baby quail were not exactly what you would call cute. They were small wet and slimy staggering around in the incubator. It took them a day or two to dry out and fluff up but when they did it was all worth it. Despite being the most delicate little things I’d ever seen they were determined to live even in my novice hands.
They went into a box under a heat lamp. Their water had to be in a dish of stones to prevent them from drowning (so the book said – see pictured) and the chick crumbs I had bought seemed too big for them to swallow so they were given a diet of soaked cous-cous, mealworms and mashed up boiled eggs.
Needless to say they thrived. Seeming to double in size almost daily. Each morning the heat lamp is raised by another ring, so that they become accustomed to outside temperatures (although they are still living in the cupboard). By six weeks old quail are supposed to be fully grown, so hopefully it won’t take long before these guys are laying their own eggs! (providing, of course that there are some female birds among them, any hints on telling them apart would be much appreciated)…
They are tuxedo coturnix so hopefully will soon start to grow thier own little waistcoats! How eggciting…