As with any project we did a lot of research and talked with as many people as we could find about Quail. It was interesting to find that there aren't very many in the valley who have embraced this alternative to chickens. I grew up raising chickens and very much enjoy their eggs but have come to the understanding that quail are cleaner, take up less space and are much quieter. Living in a cookie cutter suburb they are perfect. Nothing in most HOA guidelines specifically prohibit quail. They are not viewed as livestock but game birds that can be kept as pets.
With our initial research complete we began preparations. We went very low budget on almost everything except the incubator. It is critical that you maintain good airflow, steady temp and humidity for a good hatch. After a week of research on incubators we settled on the Hovabator 1602N, added a forced air kit and the egg turner racks specifically for quail. It also has a removable tray for easy cleaning. The 1602n had great reviews. This totaled $120 on Ebay. Only one other Hovabator had better reviews but it was $60 more. We felt the model we chose was the best bang for our buck.
We wanted to hatch our eggs and handle the chicks from birth. This decision was made mostly based on the fact that quail have a short lifespan and we wanted to know exactly what we were getting. It is also a fascinating experience to hatch you own eggs. It truly brought out the inner scientist in Cameron who checked temp and humidity twice a day to make sure we were on track for a good hatch(99.5degrees and 60% humidity). Quail eggs need to be in the turner (or hand turned 3x a day) for the first 15days (from what we read) then taken out of the turner (humidity jumped to 80%) and should hatch within the next 3 days. We were able to keep our humidity at 75% by flooding the bottom of the incubator as the AZ dryness zaps it out even in our living room. We expected and got some early poppers which were taken out as soon as they fluffed and then the eggs were on lock down until the rest hatched. It is important that I mention we did two rounds of hatching. The first batch of eggs we ordered from 'FromTheFarm.com' and only had three eggs out of 24 hatch. Two died within the next two days. I am not sure about the quality of their eggs but they have still never responded to our email. We will not use them again. We ended up purchasing a few chicks to keep our single survivor company.
Our second round came directly from a wonderful lady in Camp Verde who met up with us and provided 24 very fresh eggs. This round we yielded 12 healthy chicks 5 days after hatch. Only 2 eggs were infertile. Several babies didn't survive hatch or died shortly after. "Don't count your eggs before they hatch" good advice. Also, don't count your chicks until they are at least 5 days old :D
Some people use a cardboard box or an old tub with a light hanging over it for a brooder. You can also spend a bunch of money on commercial one. We decided to go midway and build a home made brooder using 30 gallon rubber maid tubs. We wanted something that could be easily cleaned and be re-purposed after. We later moved up to a 60 gallon to provide more space for our new chicks. The lamp and brooder bulb we found at Lowes. The Stock Shop on 67th and Thunderbird provided our feed and water dishes. They are the only place we've found that had them in stock. We are using a mix of commercial turkey chick mash and fine ground (coffee grinder) chunks off an AZ made Quail Block we found at the Stock Shop (30lb for $17). Quail chicks need 28%+ protein and 1 1/2%+ calcium. Adult quail need 24%+ protein and 2 1/2%+ calcium for egg laying. The quail block provides 32% protein and 2 1/2%+ calcium. We felt the 70/30 quail block and turkey chick mash blend was best. Some people feed commercial turkey crumble and mash exclusively. We wanted to give our quail the most we could for the money.
For our pens We found the best price on 1/2 inch hardware cloth at ACE and lumber on clearance at Lowes and Home Depot (yes we are those annoying people who spend hours in hardware store buying nothing). Cameron designed and built our first pen using the guideline that quail are happiest in 1.2 sq feet per bird. The pen is 18x48inches. With 18x12inches sectioned off as a draft free box for them to shelter in and a slide out tray for easy cleaning. Only one pen has been built with two more in process. I am excited for our chicks to be old enough to move in (3 - 5 weeks depending on what you read). We want a ratio of 4 females to one male per pen. This is supposed to make them the happiest. We are also contemplating eventually building an aviary for our birds.
As with any new project we are having a lot of trial and error. We love to meet and talk with other 'Quail People' to exchange stories and ideas. We learned a lot at Rachael's Quail Class. It was nice to learn form someone who is successfully raising quail. It brought all the research we did into perspective. We still do a ton of reading. Below are what we have found to be the most helpful and accurate sites.
Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or myself if you have questions or want more detail on our experience thus far.