Long time reader, first time poster/bragger. I have kept all sorts of quails for around 3 years now and while I thoroughly enjoy keeping these animals, I detest artificially incubating eggs and placing little ones in broody boxes, for the reason that I am lazy and I like to let nature do its thing.
I have read almost everyone that Japanese quails do not go broody (or very rarely do), as this trait as been bred out of the lines we have today. I was not entirely convinced of this argument for the simple fact that Japanese quails are hunted in the thousands in parts of New South Wales and Victoria. Being a scientist by profession, I decided to investigate this myself.
A literature search did not show the same extent of any sophisticated breeding program that commercial poultry breeds have been subjected to, like Isabrowns etc. Although I accept that Japanese quails have been with humans and domesticated for probably thousands of years.
I looked very closely into their natural environment, specifically that of their related species the king/button quail, which have not gone through such a lengthy period of domestication (they are not very useful having little meat). We have many species that are native to Australia, though bushwalkers rarely spot them and their numbers in the wild are hard to determine. Having said that, bush goers often report hearing bursts of flatter coming from the ground up, which is characteristic of a king/button/stubble quail fright response. These birds are highly seclusive in their natural environment, which is in stark contrast to a typical aviary environment that is open. It is well known that natural behaviours of animals requires a conducive environment.
I sought to create environmental enrichment in my aviary (9 square meters). The end results was a highly obscure aviary with many hiding spots and as many natural ground features that I could find. Then, I removed all but 1 pair of Japanese quails that was cohabited with some king quails and a pheasant trio. The ground had wood shaving, grass clippings, branches, hollowed logs and places to dust bath. I did not collect eggs and only entered when I needed to change the water or add feed (once a week). After three weeks, the results were in....a broody Japanese hen quail. I have had this hen for almost a year and she has never gone broody before.
I cannot be sure as to whether it was the environment or the accumulation of eggs that triggered the broody instinct, that may be experiment number 2.
Interesting note: Although she was broody, she mistook two fake poultry eggs as her own and tried to sit on them haha. I removed these and she then sat on her own. Later a king quail decided it would be a good idea to go broody and sit net to her. Japanese hen mum hatched her babies but there was no happy ending here. My pheasant trio thought they were tasty treats and ate them whole.
Unfortunately I don't know how to upload pictures but my display pic is showing the very broody quail in question