How We Produce & Market
Quail & Eggs In Large Numbers
with Matthew Johnson, Johnson Quail Farm
(Editor's note: Producing and selling coturnix quail and eggs can be quite easy and very profitable. They mature faster, produce more eggs, need less food and space, and have more uses than virtually any other type of game bird or even domestic poultry. In addition to this article and our other website resources, check out the Game Bird Gazette magazine for information on raising coturnix and other kinds of quail. There are articles and tips in each issue from expert breeders on keeping, breeding and marketing the different varieties. In addition to the numerous coturnix quail species and breeds, other popular quail types you'll see covered in the magazine are bobwhite quail, California Valleys, Scaled, Mearns, Mountain quail, button quail etc. You'll also find thousands of quail and eggs for sale there as well).
My father purchased the land and a coturnix quail business to provide him with retirement income. The land is located 2500 feet above the Columbia River Gorge in Washington State. After being misled and overcharged by the prior owner, he realized that the time and work involved was more than he was led to believe. So my wife and I got a coturnix quail “business” as our wedding gift!
After getting the proper state business and agricultural license, we packed up our Jeep and drove to Portland, Oregon, and began introducing ourselves to Asian quail markets and sushi Bars.
We gave out free samples of 10–12 #10 count packages of our coturnix quail eggs, and a dozen or so free range chicken and ducks along with our business card. The calls we received over the next few days turned our business around and we instantly had a quail egg shortage!
We got into the fertile coturnix quail egg business when an American in Haiti contacted us and asked if we could sell him some fertile quail eggs, since he had heard that we had very good quail stock and heavy birds, 12–14 ounces at 8 weeks. His first shipment of 500 quail eggs hatched at over 90%. We had won him over and got a standing order of at least 1000 coturnix quail eggs or more per week. He was very happy with our coturnix quail since they were large and not flighty. Unfortunately, the political instability in his country cost him his entire quail operation. He said, “Our quail flock was eaten and everything looted. What they did not steal they destroyed.” Our prayers are with him and we will be there to supply him with new stock when he rebuilds. In the meantime, we have a surplus of high quality fertile coturnix quail eggs and very happy swine...
Our quail cage system has been revamped since taking over the operation. The previous system was a hodgepodge of chinchilla and rabbit cages. I tore out everything and started over from scratch. We actually use a three cage system and move our quail through them as they mature. The key is to move the coturnix quail as little as possible.
First quail cage: Quail pips are placed in my own design of brooder for the first two weeks (or until first feathers appear). To construct a brooder box for coturnix quail is simple. I used 1/2 plywood to build a 30" W x 28" H x 60" L box, with 1/4" wire mesh floor. I used baking sheets from a restaurant supplier which make excellent litter pans below the wire. The outside wall has 1/2" holes drilled at 8-16" to provide air circulation. Two 250 watt heating lamps at 18" above the wire provide needed heat. I use GQF tray paper for the first few days until the quail chicks learn to eat (any high quality pheasant or game bird starter). I use Purina 28% protein with medication added.
Coturnix quail chick feeders (highly recommend, food waste is minimal). I use Quick Chick Supplement in chick mason jar feeders for these first two to three weeks. This cage handles approximately half of one GQF Sportsman’s incubator or 500 quail chicks. Special care must be taken to protect the quail from cold drafts, food and water shortage, and dampness. What I call piling occurs when quail pips and fledges get upset by these conditions. You will find your little quail in large dying piles. It is a natural reaction and can cost a quail breeder large numbers of birds.
The next biggest factor is caring for their feet. Never allow droppings or wasted food to collect on wire or the birds’ feet as it promotes weakness and susceptibility to common sickness. Change the paper and clean the wire daily for best success with coturnix quail. It is time consuming and costs a little more, but over the life a your quail healthy feet will result in better layers and weight gain.
The second coturnix quail cage is of same design with a 1/2" vinyl coated wire floor and a 1/4" mesh cover/top. At this point we use an automatic chick waterer from GQF and still offer a Mason waterer of Quick chick at all times. At this point we divide the quail fledges by color types and place approximately 250 in each brooder and reduce the heating to one 250 watt lamp after 3 to 4 weeks. Continue to protect quail chicks from draft and food/water shortages, and feed starter until week six. After the quail are fully feathered they are sexed and moved to their final cage.
Layer cages for the coturnix quail are built using 1/2" x 1" vinyl coated wire floors sloped at 5-10% so eggs will roll out. Sides and top are 1" x 2" Rabbit wire and fastened with J clips. My quail cages are designed to be four cages high and four wide, using the baking sheets as drop pans. The dimensions of each cage are 26" L x 36" W x 9" H. Reducing height will eliminate broken necks in the quail. My feed trays are vinyl gutter material and run the length of the cages above the opening where the quail eggs roll out. Each compartment has a GQF Auto Water. Drop trays are spaced below wire with space for ventilation and a few days of droppings. I change these trays every three days adding light layers of pine shavings to ease in cleaning and reducing odor. After each cage is emptied or cycled through their laying period, they are washed and cleaned with Tek-Trol disinfectant.
Coturnix quail continued, Page 2
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