One of the great things about quail is that they can lay an egg practically every day. At least in season. They need over 12 and even 14 hours of daylight to lay, with male quail around or not. And they are ready to lay as early as 6 to 8 weeks of age! (Which is also when they can be processed for meat, but I’m not doing that right now.)
The disadvantage is that they are very sensitive to their surroundings. Moving them to a new pen can lose you a week or two in laying, due to the trauma of change. Same thing goes for changing to a new waterer or feeder, storms (that may hold them back a day or so), or loud noises that frighten them too much. Quail like a nice, peaceful, and reasonably quiet existence.
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I ended up buying quail that were just about ready to lay. Ten of them instead of my planned five. Two male cotournix quail (roosters) and eight female (hens). It ended up being way too many for the cute hutch I bought, so I ordered a larger on-the-ground pen. For the first two weeks in the hutch, they were too crowded and stressed. I knew they wouldn’t start laying in that situation.
I finally received the pen, added some 1/2” hardware cloth around the bottom half of the pen, and put them in. They seemed much happier in the new pen, but it was still a big change for them. It only took one day after the move for a male to feel frisky for the first time. At least some signs of mating behavior was encouraging, but it seemed like it was taking forever for the darn hens to do their job!
I check on them literally 10 times a day. I’m sure it’s because they are new to me and I want to be sure everything is ok. Day after day I went in and out of the house feeding them, giving them fresh water, a treat of dried mealworms, fresh greens, and whatever else I could think of. Every time I went out, I’d say something like, “Any eggs for me yet, girls?” And nothing.
Exactly one week after moving the quail into the roomier pen, I stepped outside with my usual, “Any eggs for me today, girls?” And there it was! Hiding in the ground near the little nest-like box in the corner! My first quail egg! I spotted it and my mouth literally fell open.
I was so excited! I took pictures, picked it up, took some more pictures, repositioned the egg in my hand to take one more photo, and the egg slipped out of my hand and broke open on the patio floor. I was sooo disappointed! And what if it was fertilized? (Actually, it was for consumption, but still upsetting.)
The next day my adult daughter found an egg in the dust bath. I asked her to go ahead and carry it in so I wouldn’t break it. The day after, we had torrential rains and no eggs. No doubt it was too stressful for them.
As of this writing we are only getting 3 or 4 on a regular basis. I have more than filled a recycled egg carton. This means that half our hens still aren’t laying. I have some ideas on what I can try, but I’ll leave that for another day.
I am definitely getting one of these!
I have this quail egg cutter. It works perfect! You really need one from somewhere if you want to eat quail eggs. They are softer shells, so will break the yolk every time if you don’t just cut open the top of it, like this egg cutter does.