My baby Quail Keep dying! :(

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Alfie_Nicky
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My baby Quail Keep dying! :(

Post by Alfie_Nicky » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:07 pm

I wonder if anyone can help, I really need some advice.

I have been breeding various birds for many years using incubators/brooders etc and I don't normally have any problems. Over the last year I have been attempting Coturnix Quail and I am finding the first couple of weeks really hard.
I am successfully managing to hatch them in batches of around 3500 at a time. From the hatcher, they go straight into brooders onto wood shavings. Each brooder has 4 x 175w Infrared Bulbs and the initial temperature at ground level is 37c. After 1 week, I turn off just 1 of the bulbs to slightly drop the temperature to around 33c/34c.
They have access to water and I don't have any problems with any drowning.

Everything normally looks fine for the first couple of days then I start to pick out dead or lethargic looking ones. Gradually these quantities get bigger and bigger until I am taking out handfuls! They are not all in a certain area (under the bulb, or in the cooler end, they are dotted everywhere). I am lucky if I end up with half the amount that I started with. I didn't seem to have as many die when I was doing this in the summer but surely it cant just be this time of the year as the temperature in the room is the same and there are no drafts.

Could it be the food? Originally I was feeding them chick crumb but this was too low in protein and i cannot buy it unmedicated. (Ideally, I don't want any medication in the feed). So I tried a small batch on Turkey Micro Pellets which are really tiny. They have a higher protein level than normal chick crumb and they seemed to be fine with it. The feed in the pots was going down so I assumed that all was ok. The more quail I produce, and the lager the batches, the more deaths I was seeing so I was wondering if the high death rate was due to the pellets being too big so I have now changed them back onto chick crumb for the first 5-7 days.

I remember reading something which made sense, that deaths which start around 3-4 days are normally food/water related but since mine have access to both and still only half are making it, can it be this?

Doe anyone know what I am doing wrong? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Marigold
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Re: My baby Quail Keep dying! :(

Post by Marigold » Wed Jan 24, 2018 7:29 pm

hi Alfie_Nicky, and welcome to the Forum. I'm sorry its at such a worrying time for you.
I don't think many people on here will have experience of the sort of numbers you're hatching - yours is evidently a commercial setup, whereas most of us on here are hobby breeders and keepers of relatively few numbers of poultry. My own quail keeping was limited to a couple of hatches in a small incubator, and obviously your experience is vastly greater than that.However, most of us have some experience with hatching and rearing, so I hope someone will come up with some ideas.
Do I gather that you have just tried two unsuccessful batches, having just moved to quail from other species of poultry? I found their needs were very different from chickens and took quite a lot of getting used to. I'm sure you've got all the usual bases covered in terms of hygiene, but you don't say if any of them have blood in their poo. Coccidiosis is one of the main killers of young chicks, as you'll know, and quail chicks seem to be particularly messy little things, difficult to keep clean, and difficult to stop them pecking around in their own infected droppings. I imagine hygiene is even harder where you've got such large numbers, and of course, as you'll know, the cocci oocysts are particularly resistant to disinfection and can hang around in a brooder even after all the bedding etc has been removed for the next batch, unless a special disinfectant such as Bi-oo-cyst is used. I wonder if something in the wood shavings bedding could be affecting them? Have you changed supplier recently, or just got in a new lot of shavings? The pale shavings are usually OK, but of course other kinds of wood chippings can carry bacteria which cause disease if they multiply in warm damp conditions. What sort of drinkers do you use? Unless they have some kind of dropper feed drinkers, the bedding will get wet and infection of one kind or another will take hold very fast - but I'm sure you know all this.
I wonder why you think chick crumb is too low in protein for them? I think most breeders use it for small chicks, with good results. Mine grew well on chick crumb for several weeks, with no deaths. The protein content is high enough for them to grow steadily, the crumbs are the right size, and whilst I agree it's always good to avoid unnecessary medication, the benefits of medicated feed may be particularly suited to such tiny chicks whose brooder is so very hard to keep clean. I have read that it's vital to check that the chick crumb is really fresh, with a long expiry date, as stale crumb can apparently cause chicks to fade and die.
I suppose the other line of enquiry would be to ask where the eggs are coming from, and how the parent birds are being kept. Do you hatch from your own birds' eggs, or are they bought-in? At this time of year the parents are less likely to be in strong breeding condition, and most people try to avoid hatching until the weather is warmer and sunnier, though I suppose that all your birds are likely to be kept indoors under electric light, so maybe this is not such a factor for you. However, i do think they're sensitive to the seasons, even if not out of doors, and your experience last summer, when you were more successful, may have a bearing on this. I just wonder whether you're getting top quality eggs. What percentage of eggs hatched successfully, and if there were any failures, did you find out whether this was due to infertility, or to death in shell? How clean were the eggs? Could the newly-hatched chicks have picked ups bacteria or viruses from dirty eggshells whilst waiting to be transferred to the brooder? Could there possibly be some kind of virus being transmitted through the eggs, as believe can be the case with several diseases affecting young poultry, such as Mareks or I.B? I hope others on here will have more ideas about that aspect.
They're not too hot, are they? Do they have enough room to escape to cooler conditions when the ambient temperature rises during the day? I expect I'm out of touch, but 33-34c seemed a bit hot to me. I used a ceramic lamp and I think I tried to reduce the temperature by a degree or so every day, until they were on about 25C by a couple of weeks old, once feathering up. You say the room has no draughts, but does it have adequate ventilation?
You'e certainly given us something to think about - I hope others with more experience can come up with more ideas.
Alfie_Nicky
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Re: My baby Quail Keep dying! :(

Post by Alfie_Nicky » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:36 pm

Thank you so much for your very detailed reply. It is all very helpful and even though we are doing 99% of everything which you have suggested, it is so nice (and a relief) to have someone else confirm that it is correct.
We have been hatching some every couple of weeks for the last 12 months but it has only been recently that we have been having these problems. This coincides with the colder whether, the bigger hatch numbers and the issues with the food. We really liked them being on the turkey micro pellets with the higher protein as they were looking really healthy, they do grow a bit quicker, and since their end use is as food, the higher protein levels and no medication are beneficial. When we were breeding smaller quantities, I think maybe they were picking through the micro pellets in the first few days to eat the smaller 'dust' pieces before moving onto the proper pellets. Now there are bigger quantities, maybe there aren't enough smaller pieces for them all? I changed them onto standard chick crumb for the first 5ish days then start to mix in the micro pellets which is when they start to die. I know it isn't the micro pellets themselves as we have very successfully reared many smaller batches on just these, so the only thing that we can think of is that maybe they get a kind of 'withdrawal' from the medication which makes them ill?
Another thought is that our water is mains-fed and at the cooler end of the brooder. Therefore the water can be quite cold. I wondered whether they are coming away from the heat to get the water, they get too cold from drinking the cold water and struggle to get back, but then surely I would have a lot of dead ones near the water, but instead they are dotted everywhere?? Does anyone put their water close to the heat, or only at the cooler end?
There are so many things which we have had to learn by trial and error and I don't think you ever stop learning new or different methods when it comes to rearing livestock. We really appreciate the advice. Thank you for taking the time.
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Marigold
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Re: My baby Quail Keep dying! :(

Post by Marigold » Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:10 pm

If they're OK on chick crumb for the first 5 days and then start to die at the changeover, had you considered carrying on with chick crumb for another week or so, and then perhaps changing them very gradually, a small proportion of turkey pellets at first, increasing every day? I'm also a bit puzzled that you say you can't buy unmedicated chick crumb. Obviously, if they're going to be culled at a few weeks old, you do want to avoid medication, especially as you're producing for quite a specialist and discriminating market. How many weeks do you rear them to?
If smaller batches were successful on the current regime, could it perhaps be related to space issues, with batches of 3,500? It would be interesting to know what your setup is like, as most of us on here have little or no experience of commercial units. How many sq.metres is the unit used for rearing each batch? I wondered about the actual distance they need to travel to get to the drinkers, especially as you say they may be getting cold when doing this. In the small brooders most of us are used to, the chicks can just have a sip whenever they want it, without having to go any distance to find it. Maybe you could consider a bit of extra heat at the drinker end, so their activity was more evenly distributed all over the unit? this might possibly warm the water up a bit as well. I'm sure all this has been considered, but I'm interested in how you go about the task of rearing them.
Alfie_Nicky
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Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2018 3:09 pm

Re: My baby Quail Keep dying! :(

Post by Alfie_Nicky » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:21 pm

Thank you again for all of your help. I will try out some new ideas and once we work out where things have been going wrong, I will be back!!
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