From The Magazine On Quail & Gamebirds!
By Melissa Yell
Editor's note: We receive a lot of questions from teachers about hatching quail eggs in a school classroom setting and where to obtain quail eggs. You will find reputable sources for quail eggs, incubators, as well as detailed information on how to hatch and care for quail and other chicks in each issue of the Game Bird Gazette magazine. Free educational materials are available to public schools which can be obtained by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. We receive many requests from schools for particular articles that have appeared in the magazine relating to quail and incubating and hatching quail eggs and we will try to assist you wherever possible. Education and the benefits and opportunites available in the quail and game bird field are covered in every issue of the Gazette. Hatching quail eggs in the classroom and raising and studying quail and other gamebirds is a wonderful and beneficial activity for kids. Internships and career opportunities are available in the game bird breeding and conservation fields. See more in our Game Bird Breeding News & Views section.
An early morning phone call is not unusual in our house since I operate a home day care, but this caller was so excited that she was almost incoherent. "We have quail babies! We have quail babies!," she yelled with effervescence into the phone. She hadn't identified herself, but after a minute I figured out that it was one of the teachers that I had donated quail and other hatching eggs to. She had been particularly interested in the incubating process as my husband calibrated the new incubator for hatching quail eggs in her preschool classroom.
Several teachers this year contacted me for fertile quail eggs for their spring hatching projects with the students. For one kindergarten teacher, incubating was an annual tradition that her mother started when she taught that same class. Another teacher had written and received a grant to be able to teach the incubating process to her preschool students.
I was able to donate chicken eggs from our Rhode Island Reds, White Silkies, and Araucanas. Button quail hatching eggs came from Jodi McDonald of Bracken Ridge Ranch. The button quail eggs require only sixteen days to hatch so they were set in the incubator five days after the chicken eggs to achieve a simultaneous hatch date on a scheduled school day.
Kids are curious, and the preschoolers and kindergartners listened with wonderment to the story of what was happening inside the quail eggs. Picture books and a color embryo development chart with photos helped the children understand their science lesson on chick development. Students used the internet to research their new bird-related vocabulary word, "oviparous." After the big day when the chicks emerged from their shells, there was much excitement and two newspapers in our area even printed articles on the event!
Many of us as aviculturists witness the hatching of quail and other chicks routinely. It is important to recognize the privilege that we have to do this. For many of these students, this was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
In one classroom a small still-air 12 egg capacity incubator was used. The quail eggs had to be manually turned twice each day, which required one going into the school to do this on weekends and holidays. Next year that teacher intends to upgrade to the type of Styrofoam incubator that was used down the hall by the preschool class. The Styrofoam incubator had a better hatch rate as well as an optional automatic turner (for an extra $32.00) and holds 48 eggs. It also features a large window across the top for easy viewing of the incubating and hatching process by the students. It is a Model 1583 Hova-Bator with fan made by GQF Manufacturing and costs approximately $75.00. An optional thermometer ($17.00) and hygrometer ($17.00) were purchased to be able to monitor temperature and humidity. These also added to the educational value for the students to be able to take these readings daily and adjust the settings to achieve a temperature of 99.5° F and 85° wet bulb humidity.
Candling of the quail and other eggs was done on the tenth, fifteenth, and twentieth days of incubation. In a darkened room, the teacher used a mini mag-light flashlight (with the lens removed to avoid scratches) to shine on each side of the eggs. The shape of the developing embryo could be seen within the eggs.
After the chicks hatched they were fed turkey starter food. Button quail are game birds and need a higher protein than what is available in chick starter. One fifty-pound bag of turkey starter was purchased for all the chicks. The turkey starter crumbles were made smaller for the button quail by crushing the feed with the back of a spoon in a bowl before feeding. Brightly colored marbles were placed in the base of the chick waterers for two purposes. One reason was to attract the chicks' attention to the water to encourage them to begin drinking and the other reason was to prevent accidental drowning of the tiny button quail.
One classroom used a cage and the other used an empty fish aquarium to house the quail chicks. Both allowed easy viewing to watch the chicks grow and feather out. A light on top of each of these houses brought the temperature to the appropriate 95° F needed to start chicks.
Each of us can do our part to further aviculture by extending it to our next generation. When an opportunity arises, become a mentor or introduce a child to birds in some way. We all are concerned with the bloodlines of our birds and their offspring, and we need to consider who will be raising those progeny--our own progeny. Teach them about birds by volunteering in schools and organizations such as 4-H. Recently I became a 4-H leader to form a bird club in our area, and find that it is more rewarding to me than to the children.
To teach young students about aviculture and the care and nurturing of a species is a responsibility that we owe to future generations of our children and our birds. It is a responsibility that we have to assume if aviculture is to continue to improve in its caring for these creatures that we hold captive.An upcoming community service project of our 4-H bird club is to place an incubator in a nursing home. The hatching of quail and other birds will bring together various age groups from two years old up to one hundred years old to watch tiny chicks enter our world.
Editor's note: Melissa Yell of Oak Acres Bird Farm & Fly Tying is an award winning writer who has been a frequent contributor to the Game Bird Gazette magazine. Photos in the classroom appearing on this page are by Kristin Balkema.