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Keeping quail is one of my favorite parts of running a homestead, and whether you hope to breed quail for eggs or for meat, the process is relatively simple.
Quail are easy to breed, cheap to feed and they do not take up a great deal of space. Providing you give them somewhere clean to live, plenty of freshwater, and good quality food, your quail should produce a regular supply of eggs.
Sometimes, however, despite everything appearing to be correct, the quail eggs do not seem to be fertile. In this article, I look at some of the reasons why, and what we can do to rectify the problem.
It can be incredibly frustrating when you gather a batch of eggs, put them in the incubator, and leave them to develop, only to discover the eggs were not fertile in the first place.
Below I have listed the 5 reasons that in my experience of keeping and breeding quails the eggs are infertile.
How can you tell if quail eggs are fertile?
Fortunately, it is pretty easy to determine if quail eggs are fertile. Unlike chicken eggs that have to start incubating before we can determine their fertility, we can tell with quail eggs the day they are laid.
If you take a freshly laid quail egg and shine a bright light through it, you will be able to tell instantly if it is fertile or not.
If the egg appears clear and the light shines through it brightly, then it IS a fertile egg. If however the egg appears dark and does not allow as much light to shine through, then it IS NOT a fertile egg.
This trick can be performed on individual eggs, or whole trays of eggs at once if you have a suitable light.
By checking the quail eggs before adding them to the incubator you can save vital space and only incubate those eggs that were actually fertilized.
5 Reasons quail eggs might not be fertile
1. The male is too young
Quails are usually sexually mature at around 8 to 12 weeks of age. Females should be laying by this point and in theory, males will be capable of fertilizing the females.
However, every bird is different and just because a male quail is 8 weeks old, doesn’t mean he is ready to father his own brood. Even if you see the male servicing the females, it does not 100% mean he is physically capable of breeding.
If you have a young male, and the eggs the females are producing do not appear to be fertile, give him a couple more weeks to mature. In my experience, it sometimes pays off to house him separately for a week or two whilst he matures a little. Absence will make the heart grow fonder!
2. The females are too old
As mentioned above, quail are usually mature at between 8 and 12 weeks old and the females start laying regularly by 12 weeks old.
Although under the right conditions female quail can lay over 200 eggs a year, the fertility rate of those eggs drops considerably after 24 weeks. Female quails that are over 24 weeks will continue to lay eggs and the male will continue to service them, but the fertility rate will drop off.
In my experience, females under 24 weeks are great for breeding, and once over that age, they should be considered egg-laying birds only.
3. The male has too many females to service
In the wild, quail are monogamous birds, meaning they pair off and only breed together. Their natural instinct is to double up and create the next generation.
In captivity, we tend to keep 1 male to 4 or 5 females. This system does work well and generally speaking, the male can service 4 or 5 females a day. However, fertility rates can drop off considerably if the male has more than 5 females to service.
If we tried keeping 1 male to 10 females, there is a good chance only half the eggs would be fertile each day. If your fertility rate is low and you have more than 5 females with your male, consider reducing the number of female birds.
4. Quail are eating a poor quality diet
Quail are small birds, and producing eggs is strenuous on their bodies. To make sure the eggs they produce are good quality and likely to be fertile, we have to feed our quail a good quality diet.
I have always had good success feeding my quail Wild Delight Dove & Quail Food which I usually just order from Amazon.
To get the best fertility rate out of both our male and female quails, we need to make sure they have access to a balanced, nutritional diet. If quail are fed only on scraps, there is a good chance the females will not produce available eggs.
5. The quail are stressed
The fifth reason I have put on my list why quail eggs are not fertile is that the quail are stressed. Stress in birds should not be underestimated.
Quail can be stressed due to external factors like the presence of predators, which can include snakes, skunks, bobcats, and even domestic cats and dogs. Quail can also become stressed if they are kept in less than favorable conditions.
I appreciate welfare standards suggest each quail should have 1 SqFt of space, but that puts 6 birds in a 3′ x 2′ (90cm x 60cm) cage, which is just too small. When quail are kept too confined, squabbling can occur and the birds’ tempers can fray, leading to bullying and stress.
Generally speaking, the more space you give your quail, the happier, and more productive they will be.
Quails really are an easy bird to breed, but it can be frustrating when your eggs are infertile. If you find after candling your eggs that the females are only laying infertile eggs, have a look through the list above and see if any of the reasons I have provided could be causing your quails to lay infertile eggs.
If you are interested in reading more about quails, why not have a look at my article titled Why Does My Quail Call Out At Night?