There are five factors that contribute the most to a successful hatch. We will address each of these in the content below.
1. Egg Fertility/Viability
It goes without saying that you have to start with a fertilized egg but what is often not considered is the viability of the embryo itself. There are many factors that go into viability that start with fertilization, but that is only the "tip of the iceberg". Health of breeding stock, genetics, storage and age of eggs, and handling prior to incubation all play a role in viability. Every thing we can control here at Ales & Quails, we will. We will provide you with freshly laid eggs from breeding stock that has been tested for high fertility. We cull for genetic abnormalities, health and genetic defects, doing our best to provide you with a fertile, healthy embryo contained in a clean proper hatching egg (yes even the shape, cleanliness and age of the layer play a role in viability). Your order will include fresh, fertility tested, clean and properly shaped eggs. We want to give you the best chance at a successful hatch. However, we cannot control what happens after our eggs become yours and leave our hands. Thus, we have tried to give you the best "cliff note" instructions possible below. If you are struggling with a hatch or have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out and we will try to help. We love our quail and we want you to love them as well.
If you are picking up eggs directly from us, you should plan on storing them for 6-12 hours, pointy side down and at room temperature. This will allow for the yolk to settle from any disruption that may have occurred. If you have received your eggs via USPS, plan on extending that time to 24-48 hours depending on what has transpired during transport.
Even the incubator you choose will factor into your hatch rate. Some are better than others and between Melissa and Sherry, we have used quite a few. We recommend no matter what incubator you choose that you purchase a high quality digital hygrometer/indoor thermometer. We have also used quite a few of these and generally find the Govee to be okay with the caveat that measuring with multiple devices can give you a better understanding of the accuracy of your incubator. You should plan on measuring that accuracy in advance by placing the hydrometer/thermometer in the incubator after it has been running and stabilized per the incubator instructions. You should measure different areas of the incubator as some are notorious for having variations in temp and humidity depending on where you are measuring in the incubator. Try to get a good sense of whether your incubator is running low or high in both humidity and temperature. Once you have done that, set the incubator to account for those variations and confirm you got it right by comparing to your hydrometer/thermometer.
You should have your incubator on, stabilized and ready to load prior to setting your eggs. You can do this during the time you are settling the eggs (although some incubators take longer so please do what is required per the recommendations of your incubator instructions). Some other considerations that can make a big difference in how your incubator functions are: room temperature, drafts, ventilation, and standing humidity as well as the temperature and purity of the water added to the incubator. We suggest room temperature water (77 degrees Fahrenheit ) only be added before and during incubation. Adding too warm or too cold water will dramatically increase and/or decrease your humidity and temperature. Follow the instructions of your incubator for ventilation. It is important if you have vents that they be COMPLETELY open at and during lock down to allow for carbon dioxide to escape and oxygen to enter.
Quail generally take 18 days to hatch. But we have had later and earlier hatches. I caution assisting any hatching for multiple reasons which include but are in no means limited to: opening the incubator risks "shrink wrapping"(the humidity drops and the internal membrane shrink around the chick suffocating it) all the remaining viable hatching eggs causing high mortality; assisted hatching when a chick is not ready can cause bleeding in the membrane and WILL cause the chick to bleed out and die; a chick generally SHOULD go through the hatching process to develop the strength to be viable after hatch; and if a chick dies in its shell and does not hatch there is generally a genetic reason for this (ABSENT any mistake made by the incubator). Although Sherry and Melissa have assisted many chicks hatching, we do so only in extreme circumstances and only if we have a VERY good idea that they will be viable. We have made mistakes in this area and do not want you to suffer the same results. So, WHEN IN DOUBT - BUTT OUT! There is a time after lock down when you will be anxiously awaiting your new babies, and wondering if you did everything right and if you did something wrong. If you started with viable eggs (see above), your humidity and temperature has been correct - you WILL see pips, and have chicks - we promise.
In general we follow the below guidelines for quail
Day 1-14 - 40-50%
Day 15-18 (or hatch) - 60-70%
Day 1-14 - 99.5 - 100
Day 15-18 (hatch) 99.5
PIP TO ZIP
This is the most interesting process for us. It can take up to 24 hours OR longer for a chick to pip externally and zip completely out of the shell. First the chick will pip the internal membrane (you will not see this), then after resting and absorbing more of the yolk and blood from the veins in the membrane, they will make a tiny pip or two. Then the chick will rest again. Some still have yolk and blood to absorb and take a long time, others will immediately zip. Just like we are all different, so are chicks. So there really is no hard and fast rule for "how long it takes from pip to zip". But if your humidity and temperatures are right, that little pip WILL turn into a zip. PATIENCE is key here. AGAIN - WHEN IN DOUBT BUTT OUT. Nature is a beautiful thing and the miracle of hatching will happen. You will be in awe of these little creatures who fought so hard to enter the world. They are definitely tougher than they look.
This brings me to after they hatch - Yes it is totally normal for the chick to be sleeping, unable to stand, hold itself up, and/or walk. Give it some time to rest and you will see it get more and more energetic. Do NOT worry about other chicks running around and knocking into unhatched or hatching eggs. This process actually will help tell your unhatched chicks that it is TIME TO HATCH. (Sherry and Melissa like to play music for their hatching chicks on day 17). If you have leg issues with your quail, it is most likely from the incubation/hatching process. There are some great YouTube videos on how to deal with straddle leg and/or curled toes. These are not death sentences at all for your quail. Please google a solution, look at our FAQ OR reach out.
I highly recommend an incubator with an automatic turner. If you don't have one, that is okay. The general rule is 3 - 5 times a day equal intervals. BUT STOP TURNING at lockdown day 15. This brings me to an mistake we see a lot with new hatchers (don't worry we have all made the mistake) YOU NEED TO REMOVE THE TURNER on the automatic turner incubators AND make sure your turner is unplugged. We highly recommend you put down the rubber shelf liners at lock down. But do your preparation and measure and cut prior to setting so you will have it ready when you remove the turner and lock down. This is a huge help in preventing slipping and therefore splay leg and curled toes.
See above regarding what we can control and cannot after our eggs become yours. Their responsibility and the success of your hatch also becomes yours. We are here to help because we want to see you succeed, but what you do or do not do does matter.
Candling is the process of using light to check the quality/viability/growth of the embryo. We at Ales & Quails recommend candling ONLY TWICE. First time is prior to setting. Check for cracks in each of your eggs. The last thing you want to do is set a broken egg which can explode and contaminate all your eggs ruining a hatch. So candle right before you set with the caveat that you are also subjecting your eggs to cross contamination. With that being said, Sherry and Melissa always candle their eggs prior to setting. We just need you to know of the possible risk there. AND Second, we candle right before lock down so that we can set only developed eggs. Inevitably, you will have eggs that are "duds" (no one no matter what they claim, has a 100% fertility rate), and eggs that stop developing due to no fault of anyone's. This is common. Remove those eggs and only lock down those that are developed. This is especially hard for little quail eggs but the internet has great resources for what to look for and you can look at our FAQ for a link to what you should be seeing.
MY QUAIL HATCHED - WHAT DO I DO NOW?
So now you have hatchlings running around on crack in your incubator and everyone who is going to hatch has hatched, what do you do now. This is our warning to you, quail are crazy and after they rest they are in this world to PARTY. When you open you incubator they will run like crazed mice EVERY direction. We recommend you unplug your incubator and move the entire incubator with your hatchlings to your brooder prior to opening. Trust us, we have chased just a few hatchlings.
Both Sherry and Melissa use different heat methods for their brooder, but one thing is consistent - you should have a proper brooder set up at lock down. We like the brooder heat plates OR the ceramic coils. We also have some preferred waterer, feeders, bedding so check out our FAQ for links and suggestions. We use paper towels for the first few days. Its important that hatchlings have good footing so they do not slip which can cause splayed leg or other issues, and its easy clean up. Put out some feed around your feeder. We recommend the quail waterer or the Rent A Coop shallow metal cups, but if you use anything else, use marbles or rocks to ensure your hatchlings do not drown.
It is important for you to understand why eggs did not hatch. It is inevitable as an incubator is man's way of recreating God's means at hatching, and by no means perfect. So, we recommend you open each of your eggs that do not make it to lock down and which do not make it to hatching. You will learn a lot about what caused the failure some will be the incubation process, some will be genetics and survival of the fittest, and some will be failure hatcher and/or incubation process. Whatever it may be, it is important if you are planning on continuing to hatch in the future so that you can learn and improve your hatch rate.
There is nothing we love more than getting updates from our customers. Send us a picture of you hatchlings. Whether you are in this for meat and eggs or for pets or both, you will be amazed at your little hatchlings and we love to hear your story. Email us.