Happy Easter! My favorite holiday second to my birthday. We started the day with an easter egg hunt (my husband is kind enough to hide eggs for me every year) and I made a mulberry cobbler, which I will post about later.
Several weeks ago I had made the decision to go ahead with raising a few Coturnix quail, for egg and probably meat production. These quail will become fully mature at 6-7 weeks, and begin laying or be ready to process (Live weight will be between 11-15 ounces). The females will lay about 6 eggs a week and though the eggs are much smaller, their feed to egg weight ratio is better than chickens or ducks. I went ahead and ordered 100+ eggs from the internet. While I was MIA from my blog, a package of quail eggs arrived! I had a little postal delay that was frustrating... the eggs made it from Pennsylvania to Phoenix in one day, but it took 4 more days for them to get from the main Phoenix postal depot to my house. Five days in the postal system is not great for eggs and will probably decrease my hatch rate some, but hopefully the extra eggs she sent will make up for those losses.
Opening the box
The best egg packaging ever
Ordering eggs (and chicks) in Phoenix can be very tricky since usually by the time it's warm enough in the places the eggs and chicks come from, it's too hot here to receive them and then in October when it finally cools down below 100, it's already freezing in the places the eggs come from. There are a few hatcheries in warmer climates, but it seems like those places hardly ever carry the breeds I'm interested in. So it was nice that there was agreeable weather on both ends of the shipment. After I got them all unpacked, there was only one broken: 119 out of 120... not bad.
All 120 eggs
One really great thing about hatching this breed of quail is that the incubation period is only 17 days, that's only half the time of the Muscovy ducks! Here are the eggs going into the preheated incubator.
Quail eggs are notoriously difficult to candle (when you shine a bright light into the egg to see what's going on in there) because of their size and their really dark shells. I got a 135 lumen headlamp from Target on clearance for $10 and that seems to be the only light that I own that's bright enough to see anything through a quail egg. Because there are so many eggs to check and you don't want to lose the heat/humidity in your incubator you need to take the entire egg turner out and leave the incubator lid closed while you're candling, and even this way you don't want the eggs to cool down much so 10 minutes is the maximum amount of time I have them out. You won't be able to see much before about day 7 or 8, and you also want to leave the eggs alone during the most critical development stages: the first few and the last few says so I checked about 80 of them on day 8 most of them seemed to be progressing normally, some were clear (infertile) and I pulled 3 cracked eggs and a rotten one. (The rotten one stank, so I needed to be sure and get it out of there before it exploded all over my good eggs). I think the few eggs that cracked got cracked in the egg turner because they were too big and hit the turner trays next to them. I marked the clear eggs and put them back in because some of them are just too difficult to judge and I'd hate to throw out a developing egg because of my own candling incompetence. I'll re-check the marked eggs when I'm taking them out of the turner for the hatch, by that point it will be obvious if anything developed because the whole egg (except for the air cell) will be dark if there's a chick in it or clear if there's nothing.
Now we are at day 12 with 5 days to go. I will take the eggs all out of the automatic turner and lay them on the incubator floor 3 days before hatch. This gives them a chance to get situated and get ready to hatch, but it's also important because hatch times can vary anywhere from 14-19 days and you don't want them to try and hatch while they're still turning. Time to sit on my hands and wait. :)