Incubating Quail

This is my very first hatch! Ever! I don't just mean first quail hatch, either. I have never hatched anything. It's super scary, but exciting, too.

The process has felt very "hurry up and wait", but that's just kinda how it goes. I purchased fertilized eggs from a reputable seller in Michigan, so they arrived neatly packed in a well insulated box. I was so excited, I just couldn't wait to get them incubating. I did the wrong, I repeat, WRONG, thing and they went into the incubator after sitting out for an hour to come to room temperature.

I was sure that was correct until I read that I should have waited 24 hours for the inside of the egg to settle after being jostled in transit. LEARN FROM ME!

So they went into the incubator after an hour of arriving. I had had the machine on since 2 days before to make sure I completely understood how it worked, that the turner worked, and that it was holding the correct temperature. The shelled babies went into a lovely 37.7 degree Celsius, 45% humid environment.

Then I stared at them. For 17 days I stared at them. Apart from making sure the humidity and temperature stayed the same, there isn't much to do. It's boring. Sorry, I wish I could tell you something different, but I hated it.

On day 17, finally, some action! They came out of the turner to lay flat, I bumped up the sleeping beauties' humidity to 65%, and....waited.

Finally on day 18, we started to see some pips! (A pip is a small hole in the shell they babies make from the inside.) And then something amazing happened, absolutely NOTHING!

Again we waited for what seemed like ever. I was getting so nervous. I was sure I had killed them. I was going through every possible scenario to figure out how I ruined this hatch. In case you haven't picked up on it, I'm not the most patient person in the world.

On day 20, it happened.

The tiniest little piece of shell fell off one of the pipped eggs and within 15 minutes, we had our first chick. Once that first one hatched, we had 2 more within the hour! They came out all gooey and wobbly. I freaked out. No, like I audibly squeed through the entire hatching process. My husband hugged me every time one hatched like it was us who had accomplished this tiny feat of strength.

We didn't get the next one until the following morning. When we woke up, we found a baby stuck under the flooring. It was a scary experience and I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that we got the little one out. It took some creative thinking on our part to save the other pipped eggs while we freed him from his predicament.

For those who may want to try incubation at home, it's very important that you don't lift the lid of the incubator once pipping starts unless you absolutely have to or to take out dried off chicks. Once the shell is pipped, the sudden blast of cooler, less humid air can shrink wrap the babies inside and they don't make it.

Knowing this, we took a heating pad covered in a towel and placed it in a cardboard box with a cup of warm water in it. We waiting until the thermometer read 100F degrees and quickly (very quickly) moved each unhatched egg into the box and laid them on the folded up towel. We removed the flooring and saved the baby. It went directly into the brooder box to get warm. We closed up the incubator and got it back up to temperature with the correct humidity and returned the unhatched eggs. It was scary, but all of the pipped eggs did end up hatching.

The last baby to hatch did have some issues getting out of the shell. It was still attached to the yoke sac and the others were pecking at him. We removed the sac and it was all good except that he walked funny for the next week.

Out of 14 eggs, we got 7 healthy, happy babies. Not too shabby for a first time quail mom using shipped eggs.


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