We are starting with new stock raising Coturnix (aka Japanese) quail here at Kaninchen. Our previous varieties included Pharaoh, Tibetan, and Golden. Right now we are focusing on Jumbo Meat Maker quail. We currently have 48 eggs in the incubator.
It takes about 4 quail eggs to equal one chicken egg.
Quail are avid dust bathers. Ours love to spend time in their sandbox. At any given time, there's usually 2-6 birds hanging out in there. This is also where most of our females lay their eggs.
We chose quail because unlike chickens, quail are sometimes considered differently than livestock or small animals. Ours would count the same as any parakeet in that they are caged, decorative birds. We are using our quail to increase our egg production and to grow some of our own meat. One of the other reasons we like quail, is that they are easily sexed. Hens have spots on their chest, while roosters do not. Unlike chicken roosters, the quail are much quieter.
Check out the neat quail info below (gathered from the internet, only photos are ours).
Begin laying at 5 weeks
About 300 eggs per year
Average egg weight: 10 grams
The average egg from mature female weighs about 10 grams (1/3 ounce), about 8 percent of the body weight of the quail hen as compared to 3 percent for chicken eggs. The egg of Japanese quail contains 158 Cal. of energy, 74.6% water, 13.1% protein, 11.2% fat, and 1.1% total ash. The mineral content includes 0.59 mg calcium, 220 mg phosphorus and 3.8 mg iron. The vitamin content is 300 i.u. of vitamin A, 0.12 mg of vitamin B1, 0.85 mg of vitamin B2 and 0.10 mg nicotinic acid.
Pharaoh Variety (male)
Hit weight at 6-8 weeks
Average adult weight: 6-8 ounces
Average dress out: 70-75%
Average meat per bird: 4.5-6 ounces
1 serving = 2 birds
Quail meat is a sweet and delicate dark game meat with extremely low skin fat and low cholesterol value. Quail meat is rich in micronutrients and a wide range of vitamins including the B complex, folate and vitamin E and K. It is therefore recommended for people with high cholesterol levels and those who want to maintain a low level of cholesterol.
A 3-ounce serving of cooked quail without skin contains 110 calories, 19 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, including 1 gram of saturated fat. If you consume a 2,000-calorie diet, this amounts to 35 percent of your protein for the day and 6 percent of the recommended fat and saturated fat.
Consuming a serving of quail provides you with 35 percent of the daily value for niacin, 25 percent of the DV for vitamin B-6, 15 percent of the DV for riboflavin and thiamine and 10 percent of the DV for vitamin C. The B vitamins niacin, vitamin B-6, riboflavin and thiamine are all essential for turning the food you eat into energy, and vitamin C is an antioxidant that is needed to make collagen, which is necessary for forming bone, ligaments, blood vessels and tendons.
Quail is a good source of minerals, with a serving providing 25 percent of the DV for phosphorus, 20 percent of the DV for iron, 15 percent of the DV for zinc and 6 percent of the DV for magnesium. Phosphorus helps with kidney function, cell growth and strengthening your bones. Iron is necessary to form hemoglobin and transport oxygen around your body, and zinc is important for forming DNA and protein, wound healing and immune function.
Quail meat -- nearly a chicken, but better
When it comes to composition, quail meat has some interesting properties. In terms of its basic composition, it is quite similar to broiler (chicken) meat. Accordingly, it has a high protein content and a relatively low fat content (when skin is taken out, the figures for fat drop around 60% for quails and 80% for broilers). In terms of lipids, it has slightly more undesired saturated fats. However, it also has a higher content of the good polyunsaturated fatty acids. Looking at the minerals, we can see it is a significant source of phosphorus, iron and copper, while providing reasonable amounts of zinc and selenium. Vitamin-wise, it has high niacin (vitamin B3) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6) content. So, it has either the same or substantially higher amounts of minerals and vitamins when compared to broilers.
Other advantages of Quail birds
• Needs low investment
• Quails are comparatively sturdy birds
• Can be marketed at an early age ie. five weeks
• Quail meat is tastier than chicken and has less fat content. It promotes body and brain development in children.
• Nutritionally, the quail eggs are on par with that of chicken eggs. Moreover, they contain less cholesterol.
• Quail meat and eggs are a nutritious diet for pregnant and nursing mothers.
This is a useful by-product from the quails and it is easily collected from the cages designed to facilitate this. It is good organic manure that has a high nitrogen content and that is easy to apply to the crops.
Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices
What are GAAMPS?
GAAMPS stands for Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices. They are a voluntary list of practices intended to give animals adequate care and to provide for their well being. These GAAMPS provide scientifically backed guidelines for the care of each species of animal. From the Michigan 2018 Livestock Management GAAMPS:
“These voluntary Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices are intended to be used by the livestock industry and other groups concerned with animal welfare as an educational tool in the promotion of animal husbandry and care practices. The recommendations do not claim to be comprehensive for all circumstances; but attempt to define general standards for livestock production and well-being on farm operations...Proper animal management is essential to the well being of animals and the financial success of livestock operations. A sound animal husbandry program provides a system of care that permits the animals to grow, mature, reproduce and maintain health.”
Why are they important to us at Kaninchen Farm? Why follow them if they’re voluntary and not required?
GAAMPS are designed to do 3 things:
- Look out for the animals health, safety, and well-being.
- Promote good animal husbandry and care
- Help educate both farmers and the public about good care practices.
The health, safety, and well-being of our animals is a top priority for us. All of our animals are given regular health checks. If a problem is found, the animal is quarantined and treated. We also have the added measure of if there is any disease found, we will not sell any stock until the problem is cleared up and all animals are deemed safe. It’s not just their physical health that we care about. The psychological health of our animals is important too. All of our animals are provided enrichment. The rabbits are given chew toys and rings for instance. The ducks and chickens are allowed to range in a protected natural environment where they do what they are intended to do - scratch in the dirt, hunt for seeds, dust bathe, eat bugs, and run around. We believe that this is all part of good animal husbandry and care. Sometimes people have the wrong perception of a care practice or situation and may believe it to be inhumane or dangerous when really it isn’t (for instance keeping rabbits in wire bottom cages instead of solid bottom cages.). We are always happy to educate people about the methods we use and most importantly why we use them.
We would like to invite you to learn more about the GAAMPS and the practices used on our farm. In the sections below, I have copied sections of the 2018 Livestock Management GAAMPS for Gamebirds. Anywhere you see words in quotation marks, they are also quoting these 2018 GAAMPS.
Generally Accepted Agriculture and Management Practices for Broilers, Turkeys, and Gamebirds
“Nearly all commercial turkeys and commercial broiler facilities are kept in confinement housing with light control, power ventilation and mechanical feeding. Commercial gamebirds facilities, along with small farm hobby and backyard flocks, utilize a wide variety of free range and/or confinement shelters and housing. These Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) are intended to assist the broiler, turkey, and gamebird producer in attaining and maintaining a high quality of bird comfort and well-being in broiler, turkey, and gamebird production facilities and will focus on the birds' basic requirements.”
We do not keep our turkeys and broilers in confinement housing. There may be times where the turkeys and broilers are been confined to a covered run that is attached to the coop. These generally include: when we seed new grass and plants in their large run, when it is extremely rainy or snowy (this includes extreme weather events such as a winter storm warning or area flood potentials, not the average thunderstorm), and when we take a trip and will not be their regular caretakers. These short term confinements do not harm the birds, but instead give them a better quality of life and help to keep them healthy and safe. Our gamebirds, Coturnix quail, are kept in cages. Each cage is specifically made to keep the quail safe while still giving them stimulation and natural elements.
MANAGEMENT PRACTICES (INCLUDING TRANSPORTATION)
“Nutrition: Feed and clean water should be available to the birds at all times and when new birds are placed in the system, care must be taken to ensure that the birds find the feed and water sources. Birds should be fed a feed that is appropriate for the stage of life of the particular species and formulated for that species. Commercial turkeys typically are raised on 6 to 7 different diets starting with a 28% protein content in the feed and ending with a 16% protein in the feed. Commercial broilers typically are fed two, sometimes three different diets in their production period. In situations where high environmental temperatures can be encountered, additional water space per bird is recommended.”
At Kaninchen Farm we feed our birds an appropriate poultry diet depending on their unique protein needs at the time. We have feed available to our birds two ways. Their main source of feed is put in one of two metal feeders. We have an indoor J feeder, and an outdoor 30# hanging feeder with 44.8” of space that is rated to feed 30-50 birds. These feeders are usually kept full giving the birds continuous access to feed. In inclimate weather we bring the outdoor feeder inside before it is rained or snowed on. Sometimes these feeders are removed or allowed to be low-empty overnight to help cut down on mice and other potential pest problems. If we notice pest activity, we will remove the outdoor feeder when we close up the coop at 10pm and give it back when we open the coop up at 6am. The coturnix quail have their own feeder with several inches of space per bird. Each quail cage is equipped with a feeder and waterer of adequate size.
We also believe that birds are meant to scratch and display other natural pecking behaviors. To support this, we will throw out a few handfuls of scratch grains, wheat, oats, or other feed to our birds. This feed goes on the ground where the chickens, ducks, and turkeys will hunt, peck, scratch, and dig for it. This gives them a chance to exercise their natural instincts and provides additional nutrients. Quail are also given treats and encouraged to scratch and display their natural behaviors as well.
When it comes to water, we have 2 options we regularly use. We have an outdoor trough waterer. It holds 3 gallons of water. We also have multiple nipple systems we utilize when the time is right. We have between 5 and 9 nipples available. At 20 birds per nipple, that would be well over 100 birds we could have. Instead, we keep our flock numbers much smaller and the the nipple to bird ratio between 1:3 and 1:5. We prefer the nipple system because it keeps the water cleaner and fresher. Our system is equipped with a float valve that is hooked up to the water supply so that it automatically fills itself when it is low. We really like this system, but it has it’s disadvantages - namely if the valve malfunctions the hose will run until it is noticed, and in the winter the hose will freeze. The ducks also require deep water to clean their nares in. They cannot properly do everything they need to do with just a nipple system; this is why we have both a trough/pan waterer and a nipple system.
“Beak trimming and specs: Due to the temperament of chickens, turkeys, and gamebirds toward feather picking, fighting and cannibalism, the beaks of birds can be trimmed to remove their sharp tips as an aid in prevention of these actions. Trimming should be done by properly trained workers and should be done at the prescribed times, generally at the hatchery. In addition, specs or blinders may be attached to the beak of the bird so that the birds can see to the right or left, but not straight ahead. This should be done by properly trained workers and should be done when the birds are of sufficient age to readily find the feed, water and other visual environmental necessities.
Toe trimming: Due to the tendency of turkeys to inflict bodily damage upon each other with their toenails in confinement situations, one or more toenails (generally the inside and middle toes on both feet) may be removed. Toe trimming (or declawing) should be done by properly trained workers and is generally done at the hatchery.”
Kaninchen Farm does not trim beaks or toes.
“Transportation: Safety and comfort of the animals are of prime importance when transporting live poultry and gamebirds. When poultry and gamebirds are transported, they should be provided with proper ventilation for the conditions, and clean sanitized vehicles and equipment. A delay or cancellation of transport should occur for birds that appear unhealthy, dehydrated or exhausted and unfit to withstand travel.
Chick and poultry delivery: The day-old chick and poultry delivery vehicle should have the capability of maintaining a uniform temperature of 75°F (24°C) to 80°F (27°C) regardless of ambient temperature. Air circulation must be maintained around all chick poultry boxes at all times regardless of their location in the vehicle. The vehicle should not stop from the time it is loaded until it reaches its destination. Provisions for maintenance of proper ventilation and temperature control should be provided in case of vehicle's mechanical failure or any other unforeseen vehicle stop(s). The transportation vehicle should be properly cleaned and sanitized between deliveries.
Adult poultry and gamebird delivery: When adult poultry and gamebirds are transported, adequate ventilation, space and flooring should be provided. Hot weather is a time for particular caution. The birds should be protected from heat stress by being shaded and/or moved during the dark hours. Prompt unloading and/or auxiliary ventilation is essential when the birds reach their destination. During transportation in
cold weather, birds should be protected by use of windbreaks, partial covering, etc. Ventilation must always be adequate.”
At Kaninchen Farm we generally do not transport our birds except for sale. When birds are transported, we strive to do so in a manner that is safe and low-stress for the animals. We transport large birds in a large cage with a textured plastic bottomed floor with a bedding of straw, hay, or wood shavings. Quail and small animals are transported either in a wire transport cage or a small carrier with a bedding of straw, hay, or wood shavings. Animals are not transported on a slippery surface. The vehicle used is one with working climate control and the animals are placed in the passenger cab, not in a trunk, trailer, bed, or on the roof. They receive the same climate, ventilation, and comfort as the humans do. After loading we do not stop before our destination and animals are never left unattended inside or outside of the vehicle. Water is always in the vehicle and can be given at any time, though most of our trips are short (under 30 minutes) and it is not necessary to provide food and water. We try to keep things calm, quiet, low-stress, and comfortable for any rides the animals take.
“Range rearing: The growing of chickens, turkeys, and gamebirds in range pens, after the brooding period, is an accepted practice and may be the system of choice, especially for several species of gamebirds. Range reared birds should have adequate space (see references) as well as protection from extremes in climatic conditions, predators and disease inherent with this growing system.”
Our chickens, ducks, and turkeys have a sort of range rearing. They are allowed out in a 300’ perimeter run at will. They do not spend their days inside, preferring instead to be out exploring except for when they go indoors to lay. They have access to a variety of forage and insects and make ready use of the feed nature provides as well as their normal feed. They have their coop to get into at night and are protected from inclimate weather and predators. This helps them to develop robust immune systems and reduce disease.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
“Ventilation and lighting: Ventilation in the grower house shall be such that a healthy, acceptable level of moisture, gases, dust and temperature is maintained without drafts or dead air pockets (UEP, 2016). The ventilation system should be adjusted daily, or more often, as the environmental conditions dictate. Lighting should be provided to allow effective inspection of all the birds and sufficient light for the birds to eat and drink. Light intensity within the house should be a minimum of 0.4foot candles. The housing should provide shelter from disturbing noises, strong vibrations, or unusual
stimuli, regardless of origin.”
Our coop provides a 2-3” vent along the entire front and back roofline. We also have 3 doors and a screened window that is left open all seasons except for winter (temperature dependant). Natural lighting is provided through the large glass window, and the smaller screened window. We also have a solar light system that comes on at night and lasts for 20 minutes to 3 hours.
The quail are in wire cages with the best ventilation possible. The lighting is natural light except for the quail housed indoors, which have both natural and artificial light after dark. Light is sufficient for all birds to eat, drink, and be inspected.
FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT
“Housing: The design, construction and management of a poultry housing system should meet the birds' need for shelter against undesirable environmental conditions such as extreme cold, excessive heat, rain and wind and modify these climatic conditions to conform to an adequate environment for broilers, turkeys, and gamebirds. They shall be constructed to minimize transmission of disease, parasites and other vermin infestation and optimize the principles of disease prevention. The housing should also protect the birds from all forms of predators and allow for daily visual inspection and care.
Broilers: Brooding and growing space requirements and water and feeder space should conform to the general needs as outlined in the particular broiler company's management guide, if applicable, e.g., Cobb's Broiler Manual (2012) or Ross Broiler Management Guide, 2012.
Turkeys: Brooding and growing space allowances and feeder and water space for turkeys should conform to the general needs as outlined by Berg and Halvorson (1985).
Gamebirds: Brooding and growing space allowances and feeder and water space for gamebirds should conform to the general needs as outlined by Flegal and Sheppard (1981) and Eleazer, et al., (1990).
Litter: Many different types of litter can be used. All litter must be dry and of acceptable quality. It is acceptable to reuse litter for several successive flocks as long as ammonia and insects are controlled and there has been no disease outbreak. Manure management should conform to the recommendations presented in the current Right to Farm Practices (Michigan Manure GAAMPs).”
Our coop is made of a double wall of plywood with insulation in between and provides protection from the elements, predators, loud noises, and more. The floor is covered with pine shavings and maintained using the deep litter method. We also regularly use DE in our coop to prevent mites and other parasites. The entire coop is cleaned and sprayed with sanitizer every season. The manure and bedding removed is composted in a low-odor method at the edge of our property and then used in the garden after 1 year. Nest boxes are checked daily and any eggs are promptly removed. They are regularly topped up with fresh bedding to maintain a clean environment and clean eggs. All of the birds have ample space available indoors and out.
HEALTH CARE AND MEDICAL PROCEDURES
“Optimal management practices are essential to maintain good health status in the production facilities and may be in consultation with a licensed veterinarian. A program of disease prevention and control should be established, including producers participating in organic production programs. Only federally approved medications and vaccines shall be used, following label directions in accordance with state and federal regulations. “
We take health, disease, and prevention very seriously here. We have strict biosecurity measures designed to keep people from bringing in pathogens from their own areas. We have reduced/removed the number of available feed and water sources for wild birds on the property to help minimize transmission of disease. As part of preventing disease and catching it early, all of our animals are given regular check ups. This is done in 3 stages.
- The first stage are longer annual checks. These checks take place twice a year (spring and fall) and are when we weigh the animals, do a thorough full body exam, trim any claws and do any grooming or bathing that is needed. This helps us to keep track of each individual and how they are doing over a long period of time since things like weight and feather condition can vary by laying season.
- The second stage of checks are daily spot checks. Every day the animals are observed at least 4 times over the course of the day. We make sure that each animal is eating and drinking. We check their behavior and activity level (Are they acting right? Are they socializing properly? Are they playful or separating themselves?). We also check each bird’s general condition. We check their body shape and profile; combs, wattles, eyes, and legs are visually checked. We also examine the run for things like scat and footprints to be sure everything looks healthy and normal.
- The third stage happens whenever something different is noticed in the second or first stage. We will quietly catch the animal and take them for a closer inspection. Everything is checked from head to toe and if normal, the bird will be released back into the pen. If not, quarantine procedures are initiated and the bird is treated and isolated. If there is any disease found, we will not sell any stock until the problem is cleared up and all animals are deemed safe. It’s not just the sick individual who is quarantined, but we lock down the entire farm until it is cleared up and everyone is healthy.
“Pharmaceutical Use: It is imperative that those engaged in raising livestock and poultry for human consumption understand the prudent and legal use of pharmaceutical products. To help ensure that health and welfare of livestock and poultry and the safety of food they produce for the public, a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is highly recommended.”
We only use approved medications in their appropriate doses, following the label use, and when clearly needed for our birds. We do not vaccinate our birds at this time. All withdrawal times are strictly followed if medication is needed for an animal whose meat or eggs are intended for human consumption. To date no chicken or duck has had medication besides a topically applied triple antibiotic cream for some foot lacerations.
Euthanasia: Animals that are seriously injured or ill and show no promise for recovery should be euthanized immediately. Methods can be physical or chemical and one of the approved methods recommended by the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia (AVMA, 2013).
Dead Animal Disposal: Animal tissue, whole carcasses or portions thereof, must be disposed of according to the Michigan Bodies of Dead Animal Act, Act 239 of 1982, Amended Act No. 311, Public Acts of 2008, December 18, 2008.”In the best interest of our animals, all animals that are seriously injured, severely ill, or suffering without hope are humanely euthanized. We always have the illness or injury assessed and treated if possible or feasible. Unfortunately some things do not have a high recovery rate, are highly contagious, too expensive for a single animal, or lead to a prolonged painful existence. In these instances the animals are freed from their suffering and the bodies are disposed of appropriately.