Each producer has ideas on managing breeders. The following suggestions may be helpful in your program:
- If on wire in raised pens and exposed to the cold, have drop curtains to keep wind from circulating under the birds to avoid drafts.
- Use wire flooring for breeders to prevent exposure to internal parasites. Ground or wood flooring with litter works well but requires much closer observation, cleanup, and general management.
- Blood test for pullorum before laying season.
- Pair breeders 4-6 weeks before their normal laying season. The normal, natural laying season begins around the middle of March and continues to the last of September. Bobwhite quail are monogamous (prefer one mate one cock to one hen). A ratio of one cock to two or three hens also performs well.
- Put breeders in individual 12- x 24-inch cages. If sectional cages are used, have a solid partition between cages to keep cocks from fighting. Fighting can cause egg breakage, lower fertility and mortality even though birds are in separate cages.
Indoor breeding allows the use of artificial light to induce preseason and year-round egg production. If you prefer this program, a 17-hour day is recommended. All-night lighting does little to increase egg production. However, some do find it helpful in preventing the birds from flying as much and injuring themselves. Generally lights are used beginning in December to induce preseason egg production in January. Caution never reduce the total amount of light during the laying period. Reducing light time will reduce egg production. If year-round production is desired, using a 17-hour day is the simplest procedure. Time clocks are inexpensive and can be used to turn the light on and off.
Continuous egg production or preseason production results in production during the winter. For best egg production results, the breeders need to be penned in an area where the temperature can be controlled. Keep the temperature during the winter 60ºF or above and during the summer below 85ºF.
Observe the birds closely and keep records. If breeders fail to mate, replace the cock. Egg fertility is also a method of checking mating performance. When quail are paired, this is simple, but in colony breeding it is more difficult to pick out infertile cocks. If an individual hen continually lays soft-shelled eggs, replace the hen. But if a number of hens lay soft-shelled eggs, contact your feed supplier and arrange to adjust nutrient profile in the breeder diet. You may consider topdressing the feed with pullet-sized oyster shell as a temporary solution.
If you have outdoor breeding pens, it is best to place the open ends facing south for sun and warmth. Also enclose the area with a wire fence for protection from dogs, skunks, weasels, cats, and other animals (including two-legged ones).
Protect breeders from general disturbances caused by laborers, children, and curious visitors. Any disturbance may cause them to injure themselves; injury leads to cannibalism, influences egg production and mating (fertility).
Visit the birds several times daily to be sure feed and water are present. Lack of either can, and usually does, lead to greater and costlier problems. Remember a penned bird cannot hunt for food and water as nature teaches it to do; you must provide this. The bird, not by choice, is 100 percent dependent on you.
Pest and Disease Control
- Check the birds regularly for lice or mites. A small dusting box containing sand mixed with an effective insecticide works well. Every time birds are handled, dust them with an insecticide. At present, permethrin dust is effective. Periodic spraying of the birds with the proper concentration of permethrin provides excellent control of external parasites. Insects develop resistance; therefore, check with your county agent as to what is best in your area at the time the insecticide is needed.
- Control rodents with anti-coagulant baits, and screen out sparrows or other birds where possible. They not only are a source of mites and lice but also transmit diseases to breeders, frighten the birds (causing injury and lowered production), contaminate them, and eat a lot of feed.
- Sanitation is a must throughout your entire program. Clean water troughs daily, water jars at each refill, feeders at least once weekly, and maintain a general cleanup.
- Do not store mixed feed for longer than one month ahead of needs. It may become moldy, lose quality, and become harmful to the birds, especially if improperly stored.
- Do not allow your labor to raise fowl of any type. They can transmit diseases from their hands to your birds. This source of disease is often overlooked by quail producers.
- Keep visitors out of the breeder pens and areas. For some, this may be hard to do, but it will save you problems in the future.
The number of eggs per hen will vary, depending on breeder characteristics, breeder selection, and your general management program.
Guide for Number of Eggs Per Hen
- Normal mating season (no artificial light) = 50-100 eggs
- Normal mating season (artificial light – 17-hourday) = 70-150 eggs
- Preseason or year-round production (17-hour day or all-night lights) = 150-200+ eggs
When using artificial lights, remember never to decrease the total hours of light per day during the laying season. If you decide on a 17-hour day, this means more hours of artificial light when the days are short and less when the days are long, if your breeders are exposed to daylight.
Some of you will constantly exceed the guide above because of improved birds and your attention to management. It is extremely hard to arrive at a figure to use as a guide in the bobwhite quail business. More attention to breeder selection results in increased eggs per hen each season. Improved feeds also boost production, and more attention to management adds to total production per bobwhite each year.