These valley quail chicks hatched out today from some eggs I got from Travis Proctor in Nephi, UT. It was fun to visit his gamebird farm and see his small quail and chukar operation. I also got some french red leg partridge eggs from him but the hatch was not as good as the valley quail. The next day I had a dozen bobwhite quail chicks hatch from some of my breeder that I got from Travis last summer. If you are in Utah and need some birds or chicks for dog training give Travis a call. Email me for his phone number or you can check out his page on the game bird breeders directory.
Got around a thousand day old pheasant chicks this month to raise for the fall hunting season.
Also had a hundred or so chickens hatch out in my incubator today.
On the morning of the 23rd day in the incubator the first chicks began to hatch out. After another 24 hours there were 460 chicks that hatched out of 800 eggs set. I was a little disappointed in the hatch rate and I am pretty sure it was low because of the shipping problem from Cumberland Gamebirds. The eggs were supposed to arrive on Thursday or Friday and were delayed in arriving until the following Monday. The additional 3 days in the box combined with the cold weather and sitting in a cold truck over the weekend didn’t help matters.
The chicks seem to be adjusting well under the heat lamps and are eating a custom feed that we ground up for them in the wheat grinder. The feed is medicated to help fight off disease and illness. For the first week they are drinking sugar water from my nipple drinkers.
I got my shipment of 800 quail eggs yesterday from cumberland gamebirds. I was a little disappointed because they were supposed to arrive on Friday which means they sat in a cold truck somewhere over the weekend. I am hoping the hatch will turn out okay. I am using the old GQF Sportsman 1202 incubator with the updated float and humidity pan. My friend came over to help set the eggs since he knows a lot about raising birds. After a little tweaking into the evening I got the temperature and humidity stabilized at 99.5 degrees and 51% relative humidity. I am anxious to try this strain of bobwhite quail called Georgia Giants. They are supposed to be nearly twice the size of normal bobwhite and stronger flyers.
Now I need to get my plans together for building a better flight pen. I have read that it is important to keep the birds isolated as much as possible to keep them wild. One online quail farmer even suggested feeding the birds at night with the use of a headlamp. I have been looking at some very cool quail pen designs like this one at quail ranch ok or this one from Mississippi State University extension service. One of the nicest quail pens I have found is at Fozzies Game Birds in Indiana. I like their sight barriers and their innovative waterer.
We ended up with 52 chicks hatched out of 80 eggs set in the incubator. On day 29 we cracked the remaining eggs and here is what we found. 3 eggs began to hatch but were too weak to finish, they died in the shell from general weakness. 14 eggs had somewhat developed embryos that did not grow to full term for one reason or another. 11 of the pheasant eggs had yolks and were infertile. I felt pretty good about the results of our first try hatching pheasant eggs with an incubator.
The birds are one week old now and are settling into a routine. We lost 4 chicks on day 2 but haven’t lost any since. They are eating well and staying nice and toasty in my insulated shop. I like to use paper plates for feeders for the first week or two so they have plenty of eating opportunities. After that we switch to the small trough-style feeders. For water I am just using the simple quart jar waterers. With such a small batch I didn’t want to set up the big brooder rooms with nipple waterers and the whole nine yards. There are 63 more eggs in the incubator but I doubt we will have great numbers since we are so late in the season. The roosters seemed to lose interest towards the middle of July.
Today when I was checking the birds in the flight pens I noticed this old Mutant Hen sitting pretty tight in the weeds. I thought it was odd that she was holding so tight while the other younger birds scattered as I approached. This hen is a hold-over from last years hunting stock. I gathered most of them up and put them in a breeder pen, but opted to leave the mutants out of the mix.
Upon further inspection I found the reason why she was holding so tight. She was sitting on a nest full of her own eggs. I got in for a closer look and felt that the eggs were quite warm to the touch. The nest site was in some heavy weeds that were over 3 feet tall. You can see the stalks are bare where the pheasants have been grazing as high as they could reach.
I was thrilled to hear a little peep while I was down on my hands and knees inspecting the nesting site. I had heard that sometimes hens will actually set on their nest with enough commitment to get a hatch. Most of the time though, these captive birds just lay their eggs and never come back to them. This mutant hen obviously was doing a great job. I found this little chick a few feet from the nest, and then the mutant chick about 20 feet further in the weeds.
My daughter Hannah helped me gather them up and take them back home to the brooder where we are caring for some pheasant chicks that are about the same age. Before throwing them in with the rest of the chicks I marked their legs so I could keep track of their progress. I always wondered if mother nature did it better. We’ll see if they turn out to be stronger or healthier than the chicks that I hatched out.
Today marks day 23 on my incubator calendar. I went out this morning to check on the eggs and noticed a few with small crack forming on the tops of the shells. Out of about 80 eggs I only noticed about 25 that were starting to crack. I went about my chores and did some weeding around the garden.
I came back two hours later and couldn’t see any change. I was getting ready to go to work when I heard a bird cheaping. I opened my GQF 1202 incubator and way in the very back row there was this guys busting out early. He is the guy in the video, my early bird pheasant chick.
I came home a few hours later during lunch and there was a second bird out of his shell. I moved them both into the hatcher where they could dry off and get some fresh food and mostly rest. When I went to bed there was some progress but no more hatches.
When we moved the pheasant chicks out to the big flight pens last week I decided to gather the remaining hens from last years batch and a couple of big healthy roosters and bring them back to the barn. After a few hours of settling in they were laying eggs all over the place. I tried to create some better nesting spots in the barn to encourage laying in the same spot. The first day I gathered eggs I got 23 from thirty something hens. I’m gathering them twice daily and getting them ready to incubate. I ordered some trays today from Cutlers Supply that will double the capacity of my GQF 1202 Sportsman incubator.
I got this old wheat grinder for making my own quail feed. I have a custom feed producer close by that mixes great feed but he can’t chop it fine enough for the baby quail chicks. So I take the feed and run it throug the grinder to make a finer feed for the first few weeks. After 3-4 weeks the quail can transition to the heavier feed that I am feeding to the pheasant chicks. It’s hard to grasp how much smaller the quail chicks are compared to the pheasant chicks. I am looking for recipes on grinding my own feed from scratch.
After looking at several designs on the web and talking to Dave Walker about quail recall pens, we decided on this design. This is my friend Chris Colt of Cove Mountain Kennels helping me build the recall pen. The frame is out of 2×2 lumber and we screwed the joints together with 3″ exterior grade screws. The overall dimensions are about 36″ X 18″ X 72″. I had some 36″ tall 1/2″ X 1/2″ wire on hand or we would have built it 96 inches long.
We glued the joints and used 1″ screws and finish nails to apply the 1/2″ plywood back, top and sides. With the frame finished and the plywood on we wrapped the wire around the front half of the pen and stapled it with 1″ staples. We have a trap door on top for inserting food and water and the whole front end is a giant door for releasing the quail. We hope to attach a string-pull mechanism for lifting the release door.
We were pleased that the finished product was fairly light and easily lifted by two guys. It should be easy to move around with my Polaris Ranger or by tossing it in the back of the truck. We hope to build another pen just like and set them both in the training fields nearby. We added a perch inside the pen but the quail don’t seem to have any interest in using it. The cost for all the materials was less than $75 and it took us about 6 hours to build it. We will apply some paint or wood sealer before moving it outside to the training grounds.