Japanese Quail - Lancaster County 4-H (japanesequail)

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About Japanese Quail

update from Marty Cruickshank, Extension Associate - March 29, 2015

The Latin name is coturnix coturnix, however, this quail is known by many names: Bible quail, Japanese quail, Pharaoh quail, Stubble quail and Nile quail. Although their coloring is very similar, the coturnix quail should not be confused with bobwhite quail. Coturnix are native to Europe and Asia and records of this small bird date back to the ancient civilizations of these continents. Coturnix were either domesticated in Japan about the 11th century or domesticated coturnix were brought to Japan from China at about this time. They were first raised as pets and singing birds but by 1900 coturnix in Japan had become widely used for meat and egg production. Game departments in the United States attempted to establish coturnix quail as a game bird as early as 1870. During a period of 4-5 years in the mid-1950's at least a million birds were released over a third of the U.S. Attempts to establish wild breeding populations on the continental U.S. have failed, apparently because the birds migrate almost immediately after release or fall victim to predators, however wild coturnix do live in the Hawaiian Islands

Coturnix are a fast growing hardy bird. They mature at six weeks of age and are laying eggs by seven weeks of age. Males are characterized by a rusty brown throat and breast feathers while the hens have a lighter cream colored feathering on the neck with black stripes and dotting on the breast. This coloring is known as the "wild coloring". The adult male weighs 3 1/2-5 ounces while females are a bit heavier weighing from 4-51/5 ounces. Chicks weigh ¼-½ oz. when hatched and have yellowish down with brown stripes. In more recent years, new plumage color patterns have been developed. These include white (English white), black (British Range), a black with white vest (Tuxedo), wheat color (Manchrian Golden), as well as a strain that lays almost white eggs. The Jumbo or Brown Jumbo has been selectively bred to reach one pound. (where to put these two sentences?) The adult male has a loud, castanet-like crow which has been described as "ko-turro-neex.

Average eggs weigh about 1/3 oz. They are a mottled brown color and are sometimes covered with a light-blue chalky material. Each hen's eggs appear to have a specific pattern or color. (Some strains lay only white eggs) If properly cared for, quail hens may lay 200 to 300 eggs in a lifetime of 1-2 years.

Although quail are omnivorous animals, they tend to have a primarily vegetarian diet eating seeds, wheat, barley, flowers and fruits but they will also eat insects such as worms and grasshoppers. Around 95% of the quail's diet is thought to consist of plant matter.

The quail has many natural predators, mainly due to its small size. Snakes, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, dogs, cats, hawks, owls, rats and weasels are all known to hunt either the quail itself or its vulnerable eggs. Humans too, are predators of the quail but tend to eat those that have been reared in a commercial manner. Gormets enjoy coturnix quail eggs and meat. Hard-boiled, pickled quail eggs are popular as hors d'oeuvres, and barbequed or charcoal-broiled quail are a delicious treat.

The interest in the coturnix quail as a research animal was greatly increased after 1957 due to groups at the University of California and Auburn University who proposed its value in biomedical research. It is now widely used for research purposes in state, federal, university, and private laboratories.

the following information and resources were compiled by Anne Barnette, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Japanese quail, also known as Coturnix quail, pharaoh's quail, stubble quail, and eastern quail, are foraging birds. Egyptians trapped large quantities of Japanese quail for meat. Japanese quail are widely distributed in Europe and Asia and in Japan these quail were kept as pets until 1910 when they became popular to the Japanese in egg and meat production. Japanese quail were introduced to the United States by 1870.

Japanese quail have a strong family life. They mate for life, care for their young, are territorial and dust bathe. Dust bathing is a normal and important behavior for the quail to keep clean. It is also good for the flocks health and overall well-being.

Japanese quail are a ground-dwelling and nesting bird. The Japanese quail builds sturdy nests on the ground and usually hidden under vegetation. Japanese quail are mature at six weeks of age and are usually in full egg production by 50 days of age.

Japanese quail eggs are a variety of colors. The basic shell color is white or buff with patches of brown, black, or blue and are often covered with a light blue, chalky material. Some hens that lay white eggs usually lack a functional pigment gland. (Note: In the photo above, you can see one of these white eggs. Click here for a larger photo of the eggs)

Incubating Japanese Quail Eggs

When setting Japanese quail eggs in an incubator they should be handled very carefully as they are susceptible to shell damage. Japanese quail can be incubated in any chicken-type of incubator. The incubation period for quail is 17-18 days. The quail eggs need turned three times a day.

Caring for Chicks

Once the chicks are done hatching they can be removed from the incubator and placed in a brooder. Wood shavings, sawdust or sand are good litter materials to place in the bottom of the brooder. For the first week, the litter should be covered with paper. The paper should be soft and rough to prevent sprawling. Paper towels are ideal for this. Food should be placed on the paper to encourage the chicks to eat. Newly hatched chicks are very small and require three to four weeks of an additional heat source. The temperature in the brooder should be 95 degrees and can be decreased five degrees every week until the fourth week. A regular light bulb or other heating unit can be used as a heat source. If you do not have a thermometer you can monitor the behavior of the chicks to determine whether they are too cold, too hot, or just right. If it is too cold the chicks will huddle together under the heat source and if it is too hot the chicks will walk away from the heat source. They should also be protected from draughts of cold air. When providing water for the chicks pebbles or marbles should fill the drinking trough to prevent drowning. When the chicks reach one week of age the marbles can be removed. It is important to provide clean water to the chicks at all times. The watering containers should be washed daily.

A balanced ration that is high in protein should be available to the quail chick at all times. A turkey or game bird starter of 25-28 percent protein will provide excellent growth. If a turkey or game bird starter is unavailable a chicken starter ration can be used but the chicks will grow more slowly because of the reduction in protein. A chicken starter has 20-22% protein. Adult Japanese quail eat 14-18 grams of food per day.

When Chicks Are Grown

Japanese quail are domesticated birds that do not adapt to the cold temperatures here in Nebraska. These quail will not survive in the wild where temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Japanese quail also have a powerful drive to migrate away from the cold temperatures and therefore have failed to remain in North America year round. The only state to successfully introduce the Japanese quail as a wild bird is Hawaii. Seventeen other states have tried to introduce the Japanese quail but have not succeeded due to cold temperatures.

The Japanese quail hatched on EGG Cam and in Lancaster County classrooms will be returned to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln flocks where researchers will continue to study their unique behaviors.

To learn more:


Lancaster County, Nebraska
4-H Embryology Resources

Contact Information

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A,
Lincoln, NE 68528
| 402-441-7180