Broody Quail

I seem to be having a strain of coturnix quail that broods. This is unusual. So unusual in fact, that people sometimes don’t believe me if I tell them about it in online groups or forums. I posted photos and videos, and some people still won’t believe the eggs will actually hatch, or that the chicks will survive if they do.
But it happened to me repeatedly over the course of two years. I suspect it was the same female who kept going broody, with some help of another hen, hatching and raising her own chicks (yes, most of them did survive just fine!).

That particular little hen (I called her Mummy Quail) died last week. She was old for a quail – more than 2 years. To the end, she tried to hatch eggs! I didn’t let her any more, because she hatched two broods this year and I thought she needed a break… Now she got her big break in the sky 😦

Mummy Quail with her babies this summer

I was dying to find out if Mummy’s daughters would also have the inclination to brood. I thought I’d have to wait until next spring, because although the young quail are already laying eggs, it is very late in the year by now. But look at this:

This little hen has been sitting like this for two days now. She made a hollow in the straw and waited until enough eggs had accumulated, then she started brooding. It’s so adorable!! I was in two minds whether to let her continue – it will start raining and being cold soon – but a broody quail is just too precious! So she gets to keep her eggs.

I’m not sure if it is nature or nurture that makes this little quail hen do this, but I suspect the latter. Mummy quail was in a cage together with other females and most probably, she hatched many eggs that were not her own. My theory is that having been hatched and raised naturally themselves, these young hens will be more likely to copy the behaviour of their mum. 

Over time, I found out that to maximise the chances of a succesful hatch, I need to walk a fine line between interfering and letting them get on with it. The first time ever my quail went broody, I was so afraid of upsetting them that I didn’t even dare to clean the cage. So the babies all hatched in a dirty cage… fortunately I don’t think it did them any harm 🙂 The second time though, that didn’t work out so well. The hen simply had too many eggs and didn’t manage to cover them all. There were also too many males in the cage and they kept bothering her and chasing her off the eggs. So that hatch was a lot less successful. The third time, I took precautions, made sure she didn’t have too many eggs and put a small cage over hen and nest so nobody would bother her. That worked and she hatched 5 babies.

This time, there are only 3 males in the cage, to 9 females. Anything more and the males fight and overmate the females to the point of everyone having bare backs and necks. So the other males are now spread out over other cages. They can see and hear each other but not fight or mate. I also took away some of the eggs and marked the remaining ones, so if new eggs are laid in the nest I can take them out.
My original quail are all related by now, so this summer I brought in a few new quail. Those are the white ones. I do hope there are a few eggs from the white hen in the nest, or a few that have been fertilised by the white male. Can’t wait to see what will hatch!! Counting down 18 days from the 17th of October! Will keep you up to date!🙏🐣💚


About tarnegolita

Dutch expatriate, mother of 3 boys, freelance translator and pet zoo keeper in a kibbutz in Israel.
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4 Responses to Broody Quail

  1. Oh they are all so precious! And what a good original Mummy! Fingers crossed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Shepherd says:

    Amazing! Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Our quail never go broody, but maybe giving the opportunity too, and the right nesting materials is key! Our quail are on woodchips…. maybe not so appealing!

    Liked by 2 people

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