Incubation and Brooder

Chinese Painted Quail will lay one egg per day if they have 12 or more hours of sunlight; usually from mid-February to the beginning of November. They very rarely sit on the eggs unless they have plenty of hiding places and they are left alone. She will lay them all over the floor and when she is ready to sit, she will roll them all together in a nest, usually 6-8 eggs in a clutch.

The most efficient way to hatch Chinese Painted Quail is by artificial incubation, using an incubator.

quail_incubator Eggs need to be collected daily and stored in a cool room at a temperature of 15-18°C with the ‘pointy’ end downwards. They should be washed in mild disinfectant (I use Brinsea Incubation Disinfectant) before putting in the incubator.

I use a Brinsea Octagon 20 Digital with wet bulb thermometer and autoturn cradle. Incubation takes 16-17 days at 37.5°C or 99.5°F. I fill one of the water reservoirs when I put the eggs in. And then refill the same reservoir on day 14 when I switch the autoturn cradle off. On about day 15 you will notice the eggs starting to ‘pip’ – the beak will begin to break through the shell and if it’s quiet enough you’ll be able to hear them chirping.

Once they have hatched they can be kept in the incubator for up to 24 hours, where they can survive on the remains of the yolk, which stays in the abdomen. But they will also eat and drink straightaway if put in the brooder. You have to be very careful that you do not lose too much humidity in the incubator when you take the chicks out. Another option is to move the eggs to a separate hatcher on day 14.

chinese_painted_quail_brooder For a brooder you could just use a cardboard box with a light bulb dangling in it for heat. Personally I use fish tanks for brooders for the newborn chicks and a 60w light bulb about 4-5 inches off the bottom. This will keep the temperature at 99°F for the first week. This can be moved higher after about a week and after a couple of weeks, when they are getting their body feathers, it can be changed to a 40w (85°F) and then, subsequently, a 25w (75°F down to 55°F) bulb until they are fully grown.

On the bottom of the fish tank I use a non-slip cloth (tea towel) or kitchen roll so that the newborn chicks have got something to grip to prevent splayed legs. Don’t forget to put a lid on your brooder. My newborn fish tank has plywood covering both halves of the top; the half without the light bulb has holes in it to let the air in. As they need less heat I change to one half plywood and the other half covered in netting. Don’t be tempted to leave the lid off, even for a second. From day 10 they will fly out and can easily get across a room.

For food I use finely ground chick crumbs sprinkled on the floor. When the chicks are a few days old this can be put into small dishes. I use a shallow dish for the water that I put marbles in to stop the chicks getting wet and drowning.

The first feathers to grow are the wing feathers. They are noticeable within three days and will grow very quickly. You will be able to sex the chicks at about three weeks of age and they will be fully grown by 6 weeks. The last feathers to grow are their head feathers – they can be nearly fully grown but still have a fluffy head!