Hovabator incubator

Incubating Shipped Button Quail Eggs

Hatching Button Quail Eggs

PLEASE READ before starting incubation.

When your Eggs Arrive

Very carefully, and patiently slide the contents of the box out onto a table (the floor works too as long as you are sitting on it so that there is less chance of the eggs falling from a great height).

  • Carefully open the egg packets. If you are impatient, you may break or crack the eggs
  • Eggs should sit undisturbed at room temperature for 4 hours minimum and ideally 24 hours. Putting the eggs directly in the incubator can result in shock and death of the embryos.
  • Make sure the temperature in your incubator is stable at 99.5 degrees before you put the eggs in. You can readjust up a little if necessary if using a still air incubator but give the incubator a couple of hours to re-regulate after adding your eggs before making any changes.

Starting Incubation

These are GUIDELINES. First and foremost, follow the instructions that came with your incubator.

NOTE: Depending on the number of eggs you are incubating, the temperature may rise up to a degree or two mid-way through the incubation period due to the embryos producing heat as they grow. It is important to check your incubator at least twice a day to make sure the correct temperature is being maintained. If the temperature is not correct, make small adjustments and then wait a few hours. It is easy to over adjust, especially with the foam incubators.

  • Temperature: 99.5 to 99.9 degrees F (forced air) OR 100 degrees still air at the top of the eggs.
  • If using an auto turner, place the eggs in the quail trays SMALL POINTY END DOWN.
  • If not using an auto turner it is important to gently roll the eggs half a turn at least 2 times a day (3-4 times a day is better). You can put an X and O on each side of the egg gently with a non-toxic marker so that you can see where to stop turning (turn from X to 0 and then O to X next time)
  • Humidity should be between 30-50% for the first 13 days. I opt for 30% since I am in Florida but if you are in a drier state, you may want to try for a higher level. You need a hygrometer if your thermometer is not dual purpose to tell you what the humidity level is.
  • After the eggs have been in the incubator 13 days, stop the auto turner and place the eggs in the bottom of the incubator. If you were manually turning the eggs, stop turning them at this time as well.
  • If using a still air incubator and were using an auto turner, you might have to readjust the temperature slightly since the eggs would be lower than they were in the turner.
  • Increase humidity to 60%. Fill all water trays if using a styrofoam incubator and if that does not raise the humidity enough, fully saturate 1-2 sponges and place them near the eggs but not touching them (I usually place them against the incubator wall). Make sure the sponges you choose are chemical and soap free!
  • Open the incubator as little as possible during this last 3 day period. When the incubator is opened the humidity level drops. Without sufficient humidity the babies get “shrink wrapped” inside their shells and will not be able to hatch. If the humidity level drops below 60% open and close as quickly as possible, re-wetting the sponges. If it is a percentage point off or so and the day the babies should hatch out, don’t open it…it isn’t worth the risk of the eggs drying out. Usually the day before I expect the eggs to hatch I will re-wet the sponges since the incubator should absolutely NOT BE OPENED while the chicks are trying to hatch out.
  • Chicks should be fully dry and removed every 12 hours during hatching. This limits the number of times the incubator is opened and will not harm the chicks. They will be fine up to 24 hours while using up the remainder of their yolk sack

The brooder

button quail babies in brooder
button quail babies in brooder

You will need:

  • A clear plastic tub or aquarium
  • Rubber shelf liner cut to the size of the bottom of the brooder
  • A 40-60 watt light bulb (I like red since it seems to allow the babies to sleep better and be less aggressive).
  • A thermometer (ideally)
    The temperature in the brooder at the floor level should be 95 degrees the first week, 90 degrees the second (reduce by 5 degrees each week). While it is best to have a thermometer, you can learn to tell when the chicks are comfortable.
    -spread out evenly under the lamp, perfect temperature
    -huddled or piling under lamp, too cold
    -huddline or piling at the far back edge or front edge of the lamp means the lamp is too close/hot for the chicks. They are trying to get away from the heat but then end up being stressed and chilled. Chicks that pile up often become ill and die. Even heat of the correct temperature avoids stress and keeps the chicks comfortable so that they don’t sit on top of each other.
  • Clean bricks to prop the lamp up on. I use 4-8 bricks—2-4 stacked on top of each other depending on the age of the chicks and how hot the light bulb is. 4 bricks stacked if if I am using a heat emitter as those run much hotter than a light bulb and need some extra height to get the correct temperature.
  • Make sure the lamp is on and the bricks are warm before adding chicks to the brooder or they can become chilled and get sick and die.

    fountain waterer for baby button quail
    fountain waterer for baby button quail
  • Jar lids or bottle caps containing marbles with water OR a fountain type water. I usually use the later as it is more sanitary and the opening is small enough the chicks cannot drown. I set one red floral marble in the parakeet waterer for a day or two until I see them drinking and then remove the marble.
  • Change the water several times a day because they will get the water dirty frequently.
  • Adding a couple of drops of poly vi-sol infant vitamins (without iron) can help the chicks get off to a good start. I do this for the first 2-3 days after hatching and then offer plain water. Vitamin water is changed frequently since it can become contaminated more quickly than plain water.
  • Un-medicated turkey or game bird starter should be spread liberally over the rubber liner so that the chicks find food wherever they walk. The food must be crushed or ground to make it small enough for the newly-hatched chicks to eat.  A dedicated coffee grinder works well for this purpose. The consistency should be that of coarse corn meal and can be increased in size as the chicks age.
  • Handle the chicks as little as possible, ESPECIALLY for the first 48 hours as this is when their hips harden. If their legs slip at all in the first couple of days they can have a hip side out of socket and/or show splayed legs. It is almost impossible to fix a chick that develops this condition. Even if the legs are taped they will always have arthritis and not move as well as other button quail.
  • It helps to put textured paper towels over the shelf liner after the first two days, so that you can clean the cage when it needs it without moving the chicks.
  • At a week of age it is safe to gently pick them up and move them while you clean out the bin well… then you can put pine or aspen shavings in the bottom.
  • They will start to fly between 1.5 and 2 weeks of age so the brooder must be covered at this time.
  • I put wire mesh over ¼ of the brooder at this time and set the lamp on it. The remainder of the brooder has fabric netting clothes pinned over it so that they do not escape or harm themselves when they fly straight up.
  • Button Quail can be sexed starting at 3 weeks of age. Any bird hat has red or rust vent feathers is male. It may take a few more weeks to sex some of the less obvious mutations.
  • Keep the birds in same gender groups until you pair them up.
  • Keeping them in mixed sex groups tends to result in more aggression.

By 5 weeks old they should be paired up or be in a very large enclosure as they can become very aggressive when their hormones kick in.

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