Coturnix Fever or Coturnix Breeder ?

James Marie

7 Years
Jun 26, 2012

So, you want to breed Domestic Coturnix aka "Japanese Quail".
Many people get started with a couple birds and in a very short period of time will catch what is known as ""Coturnix Fever". (a jargon term) Raising Coturnix can be a very enjoyable venture, or in a very short period of time if not controlled a person can get into a out of hand situation. Over time a person will proceed to different levels of understanding and knowledge. At first, this person is what is known as a, ""Enthusiast"".
Enthusiast is defined as :
a person who is highly interested in a particular activity or subject.
Also known as a fan, aficionado, lover, admirer, fanatic, addict.
The Enthusiast will quickly proceed to the next level known as a, ""Hobbyist""
Hobbyist is defined as :
A person engaged in activities, in their spare time, that bring them pleasure.
The Hobbyist will soon begin to develop the desire to start breeding Coturnix for either greater pleasure or will begin to see the potential to create a real value and possible profits for which they perform this activity." In this case, the Hobbyist will look to become a "Breeder".
A breeder is a person who selectively breeds carefully selected mates, normally of the same breed to sexually reproduce offspring with specific, consistently replicable qualities and characteristics. This might be as a farmer, agriculturalist, or hobbyist, and can be practiced on a large or small scale, for food, fun, or profit. The Breeder will after years of researching and starting to develop a breeding program will gain knowledge of the Industry. The breeder who has a deep passion and always desires to learn more will after many years or decades of professional breeding culling and following standards & breeding goals will become what is referred to as a Expert or Master Breeder. A Expert or Master Breeder is "having demonstrated the understanding and ability as a skilled breeder, being acknowledged in the Industry as a expert by other breeders, professionals and industry leaders. Having a passionate desire to help beginners and breeders at any level for the betterment of the Avian industry and it's future success. A Master Breeder will see his name and bloodlines associated with sales by others and used as a benchmark for breeding goals and standards by other professional breeders. Master Breeders enjoy sharing their vast knowledge with others who show true interest in breeding quality birds resulting from decades of commitment and dedicated passion."
In the Coturnix Industry a person who is willing to learn what is involved in developing a solid breeding program and understanding what is the proper way to develop and maintain a line of Coturnix developed by a Professional Breeder or Master Breeder is the person who will develop a true passion for the betterment of the industry.
Being a commercial breeder, breeding Coturnix involves a combination of breeding methods. Starting with high quality Coturnix stock and using inbreeding, line breeding and occasional outcrosses with the help of the breeders goals for improvement in the line.
Bettering the breed should encompass several factors: health, temperament, and conformation. The three methods used to selectively breed towards this goal are inbreeding, line breeding, and outcrossing.
Tracking the offspring and future generations of any line (or outcross) provides essential data. This data should be studied and reviewed often to ensure goals are being achieved.
Each generation developed by proper breeding and culling methods. If a breeding project is not meeting the goals and objectives of the outlined project a professional breeder or master breeder will cull the complete project without second thought.
Definition of a Line
A line is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:
1: Family, lineage
2: a strain produced and maintained especially by selective breeding.
A line does not happen over night, it can take up to 10 generations (5-6 years) and involves multiple inbred and line bred generations to develop a line - It takes 20 generations (10-12 years) to develop a proven line.
The persistent breeding of unrelated birds by outcrossing new blood does not designate a line. People who purchase eggs or birds from a couple or several different sources and throw them together at maturity, grouping them in breeder cages and calling the offspring a line in a single or multiple generations is noting short of Insanity.
It seems a common practice in some breeders is to outcross repeatedly (generation after generation) without testing for health issues, and without stopping to evaluate the results, without attempting to set desirable traits, etc. they consider every bird that makes it to maturity is a breeder stock bird. This practice does not meet the definition of having a line(s) and should not be referred to as such.
Outcrossing can be used to strengthen or add a trait to a line, but it is the proper inbreeding of those offspring back to the foundation line that helps it to remain true to the original definition of a line.
Coturnix correctly produced from a line whose offspring are bred to outcrossed birds would become a related or sub line, but would denote a new line or “branch.” Often referred to as a "A-BC or D" line of the original line.
Having a cage of Coturnix of multiple varieties, and plumage patterns that are cross breeding will not result in anything but pet quality birds, meat consumption, or feeder birds. A responsible breeder will breed birds of know lineage using a single cock bird and hen. Document results and use a proven breeding program that is goal oriented. Record all data and breed for a specific desired trait. Just because a bird hatches with a unknown plumage color does not mean the person has developed a new variety. True professional breeders know that by most breeding standards the hatchlings from a mix variety of hens and cocks ( Coturnix of unknown bloodline lineage) is nothing more than a standardized Collection (cross breed pet quality bird).
A Breeder who claims to have a line, and has only been a hobby breeder for a couple years most of the time has no idea what they are doing and usually use breeding terms and names to promote sales. In many cases backyard breeders will just claim the name of a established proven breeder or farm in their sales pitch to draw sales even when they don't have a single bird of that bloodline. The new breeder trying to make a name for their stock will purchase proven lines from different sources. Then cross breed them and claim a new developed line of birds in a single outcrossing. Any new breeder who claims they have a line and have owned Coturnix for less than 4-5 yrs usually has no breeding program, breeding goals, or any idea what they are doing. This method of backyard hobby breeding does more to hurt the industry than help it. These breeders are quick to discredit a master breeders years and decades of work in order to make their quick sales. Coturnix Master breeders work closely with other Master breeders because they have a passion for always wanting to learn more and help others.
Line Breeding
Line breeding is a term that breeders use to denote a group of inbred birds that begins with a single or pair of foundation stock. Coturnix within a line will have the same (or closely) lineage.
Lineage is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1 a: descent in a line from a common progenitor
2: a group of individuals tracing descent from a common ancestor ; especially : such a group of persons whose common ancestor is regarded as its founder
Line breeding is accomplished by tightly inbreeding as well as by breeding Coturnix that are less closely related (aunt/nephew, uncle/niece, cousin/cousin, grandparents/grandchildren).
Linebreeding is used to set certain traits as well as to eliminate negative ones, therefore it is important not to breed two birds together that have the same fault.
One must also not breed related birds together just because of the lineage, not all the birds from each hatch are the same genetically.
Considering health traits, temperament, and physical features will enable a breeder to choose the correct birds for each other, not just because they are related or because of sentimental attachment.
Inbreeding is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1: the interbreeding of closely related individuals especially to preserve and fix desirable characters of and to eliminate unfavorable characters from a stock
Inbreeding is used extensively in the breeding of many species and can be used either to set a positive trait or identify a potentially negative trait depending upon the choices made.
When two unknown birds, or even birds from different known lines, are brought together for a breeding the offspring may all appear to be robust and free of any unwanted genetic issues.
Test breeding the offspring and/or breeding an offspring back to the parent can help to identify undesirable traits by doubling up on the recessives of the two different parents.
It is said, by some, that test breeding can create offspring with genetic issues. This is true at times, and yet it is important that this be done so that the health and viability of the new line can be evaluated and possibly discontinued if there are problems.
Without multiple close test breedings negative recessive traits are swept under the rug and may be perpetuated indefinitely only to resurface later in a much larger gene pool.
Inbreeding Tolerance
Different species have different degrees of inbreeding tolerance. And there are situations, such as when dealing with endangered species, where close inbreeding can be disastrous.
In some avaian populations a high inbreeding coefficient can lead to inbreeding depression. And, it is not always about the accumulation of "bad" traits. It is possible for the natural percentage of certain "lethal" genes that each carries with no adverse effects to accumulate and cause problems such as immune deficiencies and fertility issues.
With Coturnix, the safe inbreeding quotient is quite high. In laboratories a line is not even considered inbreed until the 20th generation. Inbred lab strains are often achieved by breeding brother to sister in each generation. It is important, in research, to use healthy birds that are as genetically similar as possible so that test results show consistent data.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines outcross as:
1: a cross between relatively unrelated individuals 2: the progeny of an outcross
2: to cross with a relatively unrelated individual or strain
Outcrossing is done to introduce new traits that are missing from a line. Dominate genes, such as plumage pattern and color tone, will exhibit in the first generation.
Recessive genes such as certain plumage varieties or a color dilution will typically show in the second generation if the offspring from the outcross (who now carry but do not exhibit the trait) are breed back to the parent used as an outcross (who exhibits the trait and is therefore homozygous for the trait) or if the siblings are bred together.
Type & Outcrossing
Altering plumage color
The plumage color of some Coturnix can be altered by breeding it to a Coturnix of a different color and then back breeding to the outcrossed parent.
Breeding to a Coturnix with a plumage dilution gene can also change the color in a line sometimes. On the other hand, strengthening a color can be achieved by breeding to Coturnix carrying less dilutions.
Modifying Plumage Pattern
Outcrossing can be a used as a tool to improve plumage patterns and tones ( pattern shape, placement, or size). It can also be used in hopes of improving the size, shape, and/or length of the body, or the head. Extreme culling practices can also be used to remove patterns in some cases.
Adding or Modifying Patterns or Markings
Breeding to marked or patterned birds can enable you to add or improve the trait in your line on some birds. This method should be used with great oversight since it can destroy a goal in a single generation.
Temperament and Outcrossing
Little is known on how well temperament can be improved by outcrossing. And it can sometimes be difficult to determine if temperament issues are environmental or genetic. Generally the safest action is to avoid breeding any bird with a poor temperament, particularly if the bird shows aggression. Many people think they have a genetic issue and with further study find out they have environmental issues instead.
Health Issues & Outcrossing
Outcrossing can be used to improve vigor in a line that has been inbred or linebred for many generations if the hatches appear to become consistently smaller or the chicks no longer have the strong health (vigor) or size that is normally seen in that line.
It can also be done in an effort to “breed out” a particular medical trait, such as a tendency toward prolapse, or in a line exhibiting a genetic defect such as eye problems. Considering that a great many of these issues are rooted in genetics, breeding an outcross does not always eliminate a problem. It can mask it and perpetuate the issue.
Outcrossing may eliminate a health issue over time if the correct birds are chosen for breeding: the ones that somehow did not get the recessive(s) as well as outcrossed Coturnix that also aren’t carrying the problematic gene.
All too often, outcrossing to get rid of a problem just hides the recessives enabling the negative trait to show up later in the line (and in other lines as the birds are outcrossed more).
Hobby Breeder Considerations- Outcrossing
When doing an outcross, think very carefully about which bird to bring in, consider the reason why you are choosing to bring this particular Coturnix in and if the bird will complement the birds you are working with.
You want to improve those few traits with the outcross, but you do not want to ruin the work you have already done. ((((( With each positive trait the new bird also will be bringing in every problem and weakness from its own line and adding it to yours. )))))
Hints -
Know the history of the outcross (health, temperament, and genetic).
Do your research about the breeder and line you are considering.
Have a goal in mind when choosing an outcross.
Breed only to a few birds from your existing line(s).
Test breed after each outcross for negative issues by inbreeding siblings or back breeding to parents.
Track the offspring placed with other breeders or owners.
Let the offspring mature as long as possible before breeding ( 3-4 months ) to give yourself more time to evaluate health and temperament.
Wait to breed the outcrossed birds back into your original line particularly if the outcross has a little known or unknown history.
Considering the potential that each outcross could bring in many problems over the next several generations that it may not be worth it to take the chance ruining your years of work.
It is wise to maintain a portion of the line separate from outcrosses to ensure the perpetuation of the healthy line in the event an outcross has negative results.
Saving at least 3 previous generations of breeding lineage in case you have to cull for negative traits.
You do not want to bring in something that is going to give you a whole new problem to “breed out.”
A strain is a variation of a particular species that possesses minor differences in its characteristics though still remain distinguishable.
A strain requires homozygosity through close inbreeding methods such as brother/sister mating or by back crossing offspring with parents.
Homozygosity is the presence of the same alleles at one or more loci, it is “genetic sameness.”
The word strain comes from the Middle English word streen: meaning progeny, lineage, as well as from the Old English streon: meaning gain, acquisition.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines strain as:
1 b: a group of presumed common ancestry with clear-cut physiological but usually not morphological (structural) distinctions
2 a: inherited or inherent character, quality, or disposition
Strains in the laboratory can include: inbred, outcrossed, and sub strains. In the lab it takes 20 generations of inbreeding to produce a strain that will be 95% genetically similar. With 40 inbred generations the percentage reaches 99.5%
A perfect example of a strain is the Texas A&M variety. When released it was a proven strain with incredible genetics developed with a proven goal oriented breeding program. The problem was not with the bird, as so many have claimed in the last two decades, it was with backyard breeders with no idea of what a breeding & culling program involved. Outcrossing unknown stock into the line and not culling for quality breeding stock completely destroyed the strain. It is only through a handful of professional and master breeders who understood what a breeding program involved that the strain was able to survive the last decade.
A Breeding program with proven methods and goals is the single most important thing a person considering breeding Coturnix Quail needs to understand before they should even dream of saying they are a breeder. Usually the new breeder who discredits a Professional or Master Breeder of Coturnix is the person who destroys a good proven line by trying to make a quick sale by just breeding any bird to another unknown lineage because the hatching egg stock was cheap. Any breeder offended in any way by the above information is more than likely the person hurting the Coturnix industry more than helping it.
Breeding Coturnix can be a enjoyable hobby or a passionate career if understood.
Grouping your first multiple birds in a cage and calling oneself a breeder is incorrect, your a enthusiast. If you have basic knowledge of keeping them alive your a hobbyist. Reading this information and claiming you learned from it, your on your way to become a breeder. If your reading this information and saying "WOW, I'm glad somebody finally wrote this for those who think they know what they are doing, well, they would be what is know as a Professional or Master Breeder".
Robby Richard
Domestic Coturnix / Master Breeder
Copyright 2018

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