Incubation, Care, and other Useful Information

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I get asked lots of questions about incubation, nutrition, brooder care and a number of other things on a regular basis. In order to make things easier, I  decided to create a page here to post tips and information that I think might be helpful. Please use this only as a guide. What may work for us may not work for you and so forth. The information provided here is all gathered from our own experiences as well as from relevant research articles from universities or published studies. I will try to provide links to articles when I feel it's necessary.


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Incubation Guide

Chickens

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Total Incubation Period: 21 days

  • Days 1-18:
    • Temperature: 99.5-100 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 40-50%
    • Eggs should be turned an odd number of times per day.
  • Days 19-21 (Lockdown):
  • Place eggs into a designated hatcher, whether it's within your incubator or in a separate unit. At this point you will no longer need to turn the eggs.
    • Temperature: 98.5-99.5 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 55-60%
    • **Do NOT open the incubator during this time to avoid shrink wrapping chicks.

Coturnix Quail

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Total Incubation Period: 17-18 days

  • Days 1-14:
    • Temperature: 99.5-100 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 40-50%
    • Eggs should be turned an odd number of times each day during incubation.
  • Days 15-17 (Lockdown):
  • Place eggs into a designated hatcher, whether it's within your incubator or in a separate unit. At this point you will no longer need to turn the eggs.
  • Temperature: 99.5 - 100. degrees F (Forced Air)
  • Humidity: 50-60%
  • **Do NOT open the incubator during this time to avoid shrink wrapping chicks.
  • It's best to begin placing chicks into the brooder 24-48 hours after hatching, or once they appear fluffed up. 

Bobwhite Quail

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Total Incubation Period: 23-24 days

  • Days 1-20:
    • Temperature: 99.5-100 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 40-50%
    • Eggs should be turned an odd number of times each day during incubation.
  • Days 21-23 (Lockdown):
  • Place eggs into a designated hatcher, whether it's within your incubator or in a separate unit. At this point you will no longer need to turn the eggs.
    • Temperature: 98.5 - 99.5. degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 50-60%
  • **Do NOT open the incubator during this time to avoid shrink wrapping chicks.
  • It's best to begin placing chicks into the brooder 24-48 hours after hatching, or once they appear dry. 

Gambel's Quail

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Total Incubation Period: 21-24 days

  • Days 1-18:
    • Temperature: 100 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 40-45%
  • Eggs should be turned an odd number of times each day during incubation.
  • Days 19-24 (Lockdown):
  • Place eggs into a designated hatcher, whether it's within your incubator or in a separate unit. At this point you will no longer need to turn the eggs.
    • Temperature: 98.5-99.5 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 50%
  • **Do NOT open the incubator during this time to avoid shrink wrapping chicks.
  • It's best to begin placing chicks into the brooder 24-48 hours after hatching, or once they appear fluffed up. 

Blue Scaled Quail

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Total Incubation Period: 21-23 days

  • Days 1-18:
    • Temperature: 100 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 40-45%
  • Eggs should be turned an odd number of times each day during incubation.
  • Days 19-23 (Lockdown):
  • Place eggs into a designated hatcher, whether it's within your incubator or in a separate unit. At this point you will no longer need to turn the eggs.
    • Temperature: 99.5 - 100. degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 50-60%
  • **Do NOT open the incubator during this time to avoid shrink wrapping chicks.
  • It's best to begin placing chicks into the brooder 24-48 hours after hatching, or once they appear fluffed up. 

Turkeys

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Total Incubation Period: 28 days

  • Days 1-25:
    • Temperature: 100 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 45-50%
  • Eggs should be turned an odd number of times each day during incubation.
  • Days 15-17 (Lockdown):
  • Place eggs into a designated hatcher, whether it's within your incubator or in a separate unit. At this point you will no longer need to turn the eggs.
    • Temperature: 99.5 degrees F (Forced Air)
    • Humidity: 55-60%
  • **Do NOT open the incubator during this time to avoid shrink wrapping chicks.
  • It's best to begin placing chicks into the brooder 24-48 hours after hatching, or once they appear fluffed up. 

Feed and Nutrition

Chickens

Chick (0-8 weeks):

Chicks require a higher percentage of protein during the first few weeks of life to promote healthy growth and feather development. We recommend an chick starter with 20% or more protein. We also recommend supplementing chick sized grit to aid in digestion and to prevent crop impaction. We use a 22% unmedicated chick starter.


Medicated feed options may be convenient or necessary for some flocks. I will include a section about coccidiosis, prevention, and treatment, further down.


Grower (8-16 weeks):

At this age, chicks can be switched to a grower ration. Typically it is the same as the chick starter, just with a lower level of protein. 


Some feed stores don't always offer a grower feed or it may be more difficult to find. In that instance, you can continue to feed chick starter until around 16 weeks or so.

Layer (16 weeks and older):

At this stage of development, pullets are preparing to lay. Most breeds  begin to lay around the 6 month mark, but this estimate may vary  depending on the breed, number of daylight hours, stress, and nutrition.

 

Most layer rations have a lower protein content and an increased  calcium content. This option is convenient for many. We choose to feed a 19% grower ration and supplement oyster shell on the side for calcium intake. Not only does this give all of our birds a little more protein, it also prevents our cockerels  from ingesting more calcium  than they need.

Quail, Turkeys, and Pheasants

Coturnix Quail

Coturnix quail go through different stages of growth, albeit much quicker when compared to chickens or other game birds. These birds reach maturity in a short 6-8 weeks and should begin laying at around this time.  


  • Chicks/Juveniles (0-6 weeks): Coturnix quail chicks grow incredibly fast, and as such, need a feed with a protein 25% or higher. Gamebird starter may be difficult to find locally and a turkey starter can be used as a substitute. We use a gamebird starter milled locally that has 28% + protein. We also offer grit during this time.
  • (6+ weeks): Starting at 6-8 weeks, Coturnix can be given a feed with less protein. 22-25% is a good range. Be sure to provide calcium* (i.e. crushed oyster shells) as well as grit at this time.

* Coturnix lay large eggs (compared to body size) every 18 hours or so, and because of this, they are especially prone to egg impaction and peritonitis. To prevent these issues, we recommend that you offer plenty of oyster shell or additional calcium supplementation at all times.*

Bobwhite Quail, Gambel's Quail, Blued Scaled Quail, and Pheasants

Bobwhite quail, Gambel's quail, Blue Scaled quail and pheasants have similar nutritional requirements. 


  • Chicks (0-16 weeks): As chicks, each of these species require a feed with a protein of 25% or higher. Around 30% is ideal. A gamebird or turkey starter may be used. In some instances the feed may need to be ground finely so that the chicks are able to ingest it. We also recommend supplementing with chick grit at this time
    • Quail chicks may have a hard time figuring out how to eat or drink properly. It may be necessary to help them if you notice any issues. I've had great success hatching Coturnix chicks with these species of quail.


  • Juveniles (16-22 weeks): At this time, the protein in the feed may be reduced if necessary. We continue to feed our juveniles a starter feed until they begin laying. 


  • (22+ weeks): By 22 weeks, quail and pheasants should begin laying regularly if the season allows. During this period, we feed a 23%-25% turkey starter or grower. We supplement oyster shell, cuttle bones, and spray millet on the side. 

Turkeys

  • Poults (0-8 weeks): Turkeys require a gamebird or turkey starter with 25% protein or more. Around 30% is ideal. The feed may need to be finely ground or wetted for easier ingestion. We also recommend supplementing with grit at this time.
    • Poults may have a hard time figuring out how to eat or drink properly. It may be necessary to help them learn if you notice any issues. Some people recommend raising poults with chicks so that they will learn quickly. (Learn more here).


  • Juveniles (8-16 weeks): You can continue feeding a gamebird or turkey starter with 25% protein, or may choose a grower ration instead with 22-24% protein.


  • (16+ weeks): At this time, you can switch to a finisher or maintenace ration. We continue to feed 20-25% protein with no issues. Be sure to offer free choice oyster shell.

Feed Additives and Supplements

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Birds that are provided with fresh water and a balanced feed ration usually do not require any additional supplementation. However, in some instances certain supplements can prove to be beneficial or even necessary for optimal health. I've made a list of some common items additions may be useful.

  • Calcium: Required for strong egg shell development for layers.
  • Grit: Required to digest food properly.
  • Kelp: Additive to feed that offers a number of trace minerals and vitamins. 
  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds: provides methionine (amino acid) and vitamin E that helps with feather growth, especially during times of molt.. 
  • Probiotics: useful for maintaining proper gut health, helps to improve digestion, and may out-compete pathogenic bacteria such as E. Coli.
  • Vitamins/Electrolytes: useful during times of stress, temperature fluctuations, or when vitamin deficiencies may be present. 
  • Unsulfured Blackstrap Molasses: Mixed with food or water. Provides an instant source of carbohydrates and is a natural source b-vitamins, iron, magnesium, and other trace minerals.
  • Brewer's Yeast: Excellent source of B-vitamins when a deficiency might be present. Helps to provide ducks with Niacin.