I would really like to get a little flock of these quail. From what I understand they cannot be trusted to hatch out their own eggs so an incubator is necessary. Does anyone know if I can use the tiny, cheap Chick-bator or if I need something with an egg turner?
How soon can the chicks go with the adults?
Do I need to worry about aggression? If so should I limit it to one roo per how many hens?
If I have just hens will they create a pecking order?
If I have just one roo can I rotate the females through his pen or should I just replace the roo from time to time.
I understand you need to get artificial light if you want your quail to keep laying throughout winter. Is anyone here raising quail the SF Bay Area? Do you use the artificial light for 6 months? Less? Do you keep your birds outside over winter?
Yes, Coturnix in captivity almost never go "broody". You will need an incubator of some kind. I would STRONGLY advise that you stay away from the cheap styrofoam models -- they are poorly designed and far more people have problems with them than have successes. The Brinsea Octagon 20 Eco is a good low end incubator for around $100, but it requires manual turning 3 times a day -- its easy, though, the unit has 3 bottom surfaces, you just rotate the entire unit, rather than turning each egg. The smaller Brinsea "mini" units are good, too, and come with various bells and whistles depending upon price, but the egg quantity is very restricted. The Octagon 20 can hold over 100 Coturnix eggs at a time if you stack them as I have done before.
You can put the chicks in with the adults at about 3 weeks of age -- they will be close to full size by then, but not fully muscled and filled out. Overall the chicks are easy to raise, but you do have to grind the gamebird starter at first for them, and you also have to use a water tray filled with marbles or pebbles for a few weeks, or they'll fall in and drown. The newly hatched chicks are slightly larger than large bumble bees.
I've seen very little agression in these birds -- the roosters are "big talkers" but limit it to "crow offs" -- which, since they are about as loud as a cricket, isn't a big deal, personally I find it very soothing and the sounds coming from the quail run remind me a lot of the green frogs in my pond.
I really don't know about a pecking order, either, I don't think their social structure is as sophisticated as the chicken's -- they just kind of hang out and do their own thing.
Most people say one rooster to about 6 hens for optimal fertility, but one to 10 works for many people. Their natural lifespan is only a couple of years, about 3 tops, so you will be rotating them out pretty rapidly anyway when you think about it, a couple of years goes fast.
Mine didn't lay from early November until around the vernal Equinox in March, which is the time of the year here in Michigan with the shortest days (between Halloween and Groundhog Day) and coldest temps. I have plenty of other, larger birds for eggs, and don't often use the quail eggs unless I want a fancy little appetizer, so I was fine with them taking the winter off. Mine are in an outdoor run here in Michigan, and had no problems whatsoever with the weather, even in a colder than normal winter this past year. I just took them hot water morning and evening so they would have access to liquid water a few hours a day, and also gave them bowls of snow, which they loved both to eat and to roll around in like a dust bath.
Really, they're neat little birds, docile, easy to take care of, colorful with various patterns and colors. The most amazing thing is the fact that mine start to lay eggs at about 5 1/2 weeks, and those first eggs have even been fertile --kind of like the rodents of the bird world, with an incredible potential for reproduction with a bit of human assistance.