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Beginners guide to hatching quail eggs - By a beginner ;)

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Breezy Optimist, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. Breezy Optimist

    Breezy Optimist In the Brooder

    Mar 31, 2016
    United Kingdom
    So, i don't know if this has been done before on here, but i thought i would put up a beginners guide to hatching quail eggs, from my own experience. After first starting to hatch eggs at the beginning of this year, i found it really frustrating not being able to find everything i wanted to know in one place. Constantly running from one thread to another, or one forum to another, finding bits and pieces here and there.

    I've hatched Japanese (Coturnix) Quail and Button Quail, and this is all from my own personal experience. So if anyone else has different opinions to my own, that's fine, but this is from MY own experience.

    So here goes...

    1. Terminology..

    The first thing i think new 'hatchers' need to know is the terms (names) for different things related to incubating and hatching eggs.

    Internal Pip (Pipping) - This is when the chick inside the egg, breaks through into the air sac.

    External Pip (Pipping) - This is when the chick inside the egg is in the air sac and now starting to break out of the shell. Making a small hole that you can see outside the egg.

    Zip (Zipping) - This comes after the chick has pipped externally, and starts to chip away at the egg in a circular line, like unzipping the top of the egg to get out.

    Lockdown - This is when you stop turning the eggs in the incubator and let them sit until they hatch. This is done around 3-4 days (everyone chooses differently) before the hatch day. At this time you would normally raise humidity too.

    Candling - This is a method of looking inside the egg you are incubating to see if there is anything developing. There are a few methods, but using a light to shine through the egg is more commonly used.

    2. When can you start incubating your quail eggs?

    The fresher the better!

    You cannot have a quail egg and leave it sitting for weeks on end before you decide to incubate it. The longer the egg is left after being laid, the less viable (chance for life to develop) it becomes.

    You can hatch quail eggs as old as 2 weeks, but it's not ideal.
    I've hatched quails eggs from a supermarket shelf! I have no idea how long they had been sat there, i may have just got lucky.
    I've hatched quail eggs from 9 days old.
    And i'm currently hatching Button Quail eggs that are 24hrs old, and 5 days old.

    If you do have older eggs, and you just want to try anyway, give it a go, you might get lucky! Obviously old stale eggs, such as a month old will turn bad in the incubator and can explode, or just get yucky.

    3. So, you have your eggs, how long do they need to be incubated for?

    My experience is with Japanese (Coturnix) Quail and Button Quail only, so here are the incubation and hatch times for those two.

    Japanese (Coturnix) Quail eggs hatch around 17-18 days once you start incubation. They can take up to 21-22 days to hatch, so don't worry if they don't hatch on day 17. Some may even hatch as early as day 15.

    Button Quail eggs hatch around 16-17 days once you start incubation. It can take up to 22 days, so don't worry if they don't hatch on day 16.

    Don't make the mistake of counting from the day they were laid. You are counting from the day you started to incubate them. Life doesn't begin to develop in the egg until you start to incubate it.

    4. What type of incubator to use?

    There are lots of incubators on the market. And you can also make your own if you have the materials (check YouTube for 'how to' videos). There are two main types of incubators, forced air incubators and still air incubators. Most ideal would be a natural incubator...your female quail ;)

    Forced Air Incubators are the type of incubators where the air is pushed through the incubator by a fan, or something similar. This circulates the air around the eggs, and the heat too.

    Still Air Incubators are the type of incubators where there is no fan attached, and it's basically just holes in the lid of your incubator to let air in, and using a heat source such as a heat lamp/bulb.

    I personally have never used a forced air incubator. All my hatches have been in a still air incubator. There are differences to temperature that you need to make depending on what type of incubator you use. I'll list this in the next section :)

    You can also buy (or make) incubators that turn the eggs for you. Or if you want, you can turn the eggs yourself. I have always turned the eggs manually.

    5. Setting temperatures and humidity in your incubator.

    When incubating your quail eggs, you need to keep them at a fairly constant temperature and humidity. Everyone you speak to about their temps and humidity will give you different readings that they use. You have to take into account your location in the world, how hot it is where you are, and the humidity levels on average where you live.

    I live in the UK, so my temp and humidity that works best for me may be different to someone who lives in the USA for example.

    If you are using a Forced Air Incubator, you will need to keep your temperature on average around 99.5F, and humidity around 50%-60%.
    Again, this will vary depending on who you speak to. Some people keep their temp around 97F, and humidity 45%-50% others may go a little higher.

    But if this is your first time incubating eggs, aim to keep your temp between 97F and 99.5F and humidity around 50%. Don't panic if your temp goes a little higher or lower by 1 or 2 degrees. You will eventually find out what works best for you.

    If you are using a Still Air Incubator your temperature will need to be a little higher. On average you need to aim to keep your temperature at around 101F - 103F, and humidity around 35%-40%. Again, everyone has slightly different readings, so don't freak out if you can't match it exactly, just figure out whats best for you.

    The reason for higher temperatures required in Still Air Incubators is because they do not have a fan to circulate the hot air, and maintain a constant temperature overall. Heat rises, so as the Still Air Incubator heats up, it can create hot spots, and of course will lose heat more quickly as the hot air begins to rise.

    If you have the money to spend, and it's your first time incubating then i would recommend buying a Forced Air Incubator. Just purely for having to worry less, and not having to keep an eye on the temperature so much, and of course possibly saving yourself the heartache of losing chicks that may hatch with deformities due to too much temperature fluctuation.

    But, as i said, i've always used Still Air Incubators, one i made myself from and Exo Terra Vivarium and a red heat lamp (40Watts). And i now own a small Still Air Incubator that i purchased online. My own personal temp and humidity that works well for me, is 102-103F and humidity at 50% until Lockdown when i raise humidity to 65%.

    If you really want to splash out, get an incubator that turns your eggs for you! More about egg turning in the following sections ;)

    You want to keep a fairly constant temperature and humidity in your incubator. Too much heat can cause problems for your chick when it hatches, and can also cause early hatching. I know that sounds like a good thing to have your chick hatch early, but it's not if it's due to messing around with temperatures.
    Fluctuations, and i don't mean the odd 1 or 2 degrees, i mean large spikes in temperature, either up or down will be bad for your chicks too. So keep an average temp as best as you can :)

    6. Candle your eggs and get them ready for incubating.

    Ok, so, you have your eggs ready. The first thing i like to do is candle all the eggs before i put them in the incubator. Just to check for any cracks, or holes that my own eyes may have missed, and generally check that all is ok in there. Not that there's much to see in there at this point ;)

    To candle your eggs, you need to take great care. One slip and you could drop your egg or crack the shell. So take care, don't rush.

    Get a torch, a very bright torch, or you can use your iphone Torchlight app! I candle my eggs with my iphone torchlight app all the time, and i can see right in there. It's perfect, and free ;)

    Here are my eggs as i've candled them on my iphone.. you won't see much, just a blob of yolk and empty space. That's fine, as there's nothing developing yet, you haven't started incubating ;) There may be some small bright spots under the shell, that's usually a sign of a bit of damage under the shell, but as long as there's no crack in the outside of the shell, it will be ok.


    You may notice i had marked my eggs with an X on one side with a pencil. That was to help me when turning my eggs manually.
    Do not use any ink pens, or sharpies etc for this, use a plain old pencil.

    So, if your eggs are all intact, and not cracked, then give them a quick clean by lightly brushing off any feathers or whatever else may still be attached to the shell. Do this very carefully too, as the eggs have a coating on them that protects against bacteria or any other nasties from getting inside the shell to the developing embryo.

    Don't wash them!! If you have an egg that is just covered in muck and you really are struggling, there are ways to clean your egg listed on Professional Breeders pages around the internet.

    Always, always make sure your hands are clean and washed when handling your eggs. The eggs are porus, and any grease or nasty germs you have on your hands could get inside the shell and infect your little chick. So, just give your hands a nice scrub with antibacterial soap, or similar before you play around with them.

    Now you have your temps, humidity and healthy eggs ready...place them in the incubator :) Keep the eggs in a natural position, i.e Fat end higher than the pointy side. Your chick will develop knowing where he needs to break out, and that's the fat end of the egg.

    Don't go crazy and stand the egg up, just make sure when you lay the egg in the incubator the fat end is tilted higher slightly ;)

    7. What you need to do for the next 16 + days.

    Your eggs are in the incubator, your temp is as you want it, your humidity is set also. Close the lid, and leave the eggs alone.

    This is the hardest part, leaving the eggs alone!

    You need to try your hardest to not open the incubator unless you are turning the eggs, or adjusting humidity.

    I've been there, so excited, and just wanting them to hatch right now!! But trust me, you have to have some self control and let them do what they need to do to develop into little baby chicks :)

    And here is what you need to do to help them...

    Turn the eggs 3-4 times a day, you need to do this so they don't get stuck to the side of the egg by being left in the same position while developing. Do this every day until the 4th or 3rd day before they are due to hatch. You need to make sure you stop around that time as the chick will need to get itself into position to begin it's hatch.

    When you get to this 4th or 3rd day, this is known as Lockdown. You will need to raise your humidity at this time, and try to keep it at that level.

    Some people find this hard to do, so if you are having trouble increasing humidity, try adding a bowl of water, or a saturated sponge. Don't go overboard! You don't want your incubator to be covered in condensation, that's a sign of too much humidity, and it's not ideal for your chicks.

    On the flip side, don't panic too much either if you can't raise it to the max you want. As long as you get near enough, you will be fine. Quail eggs are quite easy eggs to hatch.

    Again, everyone has different readings that work for them, but average humidity raised in Lockdown for Japanese (Coturnix) Quails is around 65%-70%. And the same for Button Quails.

    Try your best to only open the incubator when turning the eggs manually, or adjusting the humidity. And when you do open the incubator, do it fast, and don't leave it open for long. Especially during Lockdown!

    8. Candling your eggs after you started incubating them.

    Now i'm sure when your eggs have been in the incubator for a week or 10 days, you are dying to know if you have any chicks developing in there?

    Of course you are! :)

    You can, if you choose to, candle your eggs around day 7-10. By this time you should see signs of life beginning.

    You need to be quick and careful so as not to let your eggs get too cold, and of course so you don't damage your eggs. And don't leave the incubator open while your doing this, the other eggs need to stay warm while your candling.

    Grab your iphone, and your torch app, and start candling...this is what you should see in your quails eggs around days 7-10...

    These are my button quails at day 7 and some at day 10...as you can see some are more developed than others.



    You should see a small dark blob, that's your chick/embryo..and lots of veins/blood vessels coming from it and spreading over the egg.

    If you don't see this by day 10, give it a few more days and check again. If there's nothing in there, than you don't have a chick developing, and you need to remove it from the incubator so as not to contaminate the other eggs that are developing.

    It's tempting to want to keep candling the eggs to see all that's going on, but it's best not to.

    I personally do a candle before i start incubation to check for cracks, then i candle again on day 7 or 10 (whichever day i have the time). And then i do not candle the eggs again until the day i go into Lockdown.

    I recommend doing a final candle on the day you go into lockdown because then you will be able to see if any of the embryos are still developing. If any have expired, remove them before going into lockdown.

    Usually by Lockdown, you will see the chicks moving around inside the egg. And the air sac will be getting smaller, and the egg will look more dark and filled up by the chick.

    If you are unsure whether a chick has expired along the way, put it back in the incubator and see if it hatches.

    Lockdown for me was the worst, it felt longer than the 2 weeks of incubating! But you must resist all temptations to open that incubator, this is the final step for your chick to get ready to hatch. Don't touch!!

    9. Hatch day, and beyond...

    So, it's hatch day!

    Don't worry if you don't have chicks yet, they can be late, and some may take a few more days. Be patient, it's a hell of a lot of work that chick needs to do to hatch.

    The chick has to Internally Pip first. This is breaking through to the air sac inside the egg. Once there it takes it's first breath of air. The lungs have to get used to absorbing oxygen, as does the chick.

    When he starts to run out of air in the sac, he will start to chip away at the egg shell from the inside.

    He gets himself into position, by tucking his neck under his wing, and then stretches enough to peck at the shell. Don't worry, they have special tendons in their neck to enable them to bend this way in order to hatch out.

    They will peck away at the shell for quite some time, as they have a small white egg tooth on the end of their beak that's tough enough to get them out. This breaks off or grows out after they hatch. Have a peek at your new chick and see if you can spot that egg tooth, it's white and very small on the tip of their beak :)

    Doing all this is tiring and take a lot of energy. You may be able to hear tapping from the egg, and in some cases a chirp. They will tap for a while, take a rest, tap away again, take a rest...until they finally break through. There will be a small hole or crack where they have pecked their way through the shell. This is an External Pip.

    I cheered when my first ever chick externally pipped, it was amazing! And then i panicked because there was no more movement.

    Don't panic, this is quite normal. The chick is resting after all that hard work, and taking in more oxygen. Some chicks will have taken 12 or more hours to get that small crack open in the shell. Let them rest. Take this time to get your brooder set up and ready, or if your like me, just sit and watch in awe!

    Once they have got their energy back, they will then start to Zip. This is creating more small holes/cracks next to the one they just made, and going around the fat end of the egg in a circle. Literally creating a lid for them to open the egg and push themselves out.

    If you are watching your chick hatch, keep the incubator closed! New chicks will be wet, exhausted, and can easily die from a chill.

    Don't worry when they just lie there for ages after eventually pushing themselves out of the shell. They will be, as we English say...bloody knackered!

    Leave them in the incubator until they are fluffed up and dry. Don't worry about food and water, they have absorbed the yolk that was inside the egg, and they can survive on this for about 2-3 days.

    When he is dry and fluffy and a little more active, you can move your little baby chick to the brooder. Keep the brooder warm, use a lamp for heat.

    Enjoy your little chick, well done you!!

    I hope this helped other new people like myself who have started hatching quails. Leave me some feedback if you want :)

    Here is a quick snapshot from chick to adult of my favorite button quail i hatched, we nicknamed him 'Mouth' lol. He thought i was his mum and would scream for me constantly, so i took on the role of 'mum'.


    And here is 'Mouth' before he left me to go and live in my parents aviary :)


    He's enjoying the outdoors, and lovin' life [​IMG]

  2. QuailNoobie

    QuailNoobie Hatching

    Aug 30, 2016
    thank you for posting this! ive been looking all over for a nice guide. your photographs really help too it's hard to find candling of quails online. i didnt know about the types of incubators either so thank you!
    CapricornFarm likes this.
  3. Breezy Optimist

    Breezy Optimist In the Brooder

    Mar 31, 2016
    United Kingdom
    Wow, thanks for responding and leaving some feedback, i was wondering if anyone had bothered to read this lol.

    Glad it's helped one person at least :)
    CapricornFarm likes this.
  4. selfsuffally

    selfsuffally Chirping

    Mar 29, 2013
    Thank you for posting this. I just received the incubator that I ordered (though there's a problem with it) and should be receiving Button eggs next week. I've order Gambel but have not received notice of shipping yet. This will be quite a journey filled with excitement, questions and undoubtedly heartache.
    CapricornFarm likes this.
  5. Jaaon

    Jaaon In the Brooder

    Mar 9, 2017
    pennock mn
    I have can female quail that are laying 7 and 9 eggs a day I would like to put 30 two 40 eggs in my incubator how do I store them and at what temperature do I store them until I'm ready to put them in the incubator
    CapricornFarm likes this.
  6. Yvette Osborne

    Yvette Osborne Hatching

    Sep 27, 2017
    Most informative post, Breezy Optimist, thank you for sharing your knowledge.
    I live in southern England, what is the hardiest breed of quail, that will survive outside?
    CapricornFarm likes this.
  7. Barbara Wasbin

    Barbara Wasbin In the Brooder

    Jan 11, 2018
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write and post this beginner's guide. It's so informative. So very helpful.

    I can't wait to get started!
    CapricornFarm likes this.

  8. pigeoner

    pigeoner Chirping

    Dec 2, 2017
    have you ever got your quail to sit on their own eggs?
    CapricornFarm likes this.
  9. Chelseyb123

    Chelseyb123 Songster

    Oct 4, 2017
    Well written! I only have chickens and have only done one hatch but i totally agree with why you made this! Especially with not having all the info in one spot. I got annoyed. I as well did a still air hatch or dry an it worked good for me. An adding that they wont hatch when they are suppose to is what i think people forget to add in different articles even with chicks they could hatch a few days late an people dont realize that. Good job an excellent read!
    CapricornFarm likes this.
  10. Casper1977

    Casper1977 In the Brooder

    Mar 5, 2018
    Thank you for posting this it has helped me to ubderstand the hatching of my button quail. I am new to quail.
    CapricornFarm likes this.

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