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The (Coutrix) common quails are birds originating from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Species and subspecies of coutrix are native to all continents except America.one of the domesticated species is Japanese quail (Coutrix japonica) (Faqi et al., 1997). The quail is a small bird that inhabits woodland and forest. The common quail is a migratory bird belong to family Phasianidae and order Galliformes like chicken. It is distributed across Eurasia during the breeding period. About 430,000 to 480,000 released quails were found in Europe during the 1983-1984 hunting season (Guymarch 2003).
The wild type natal plumage of quail is the same in both males and females. Chicks have twenty colored heads with small black patches above the beak. Buff stripes bordered by black stripes present along the top of the head and four dark brown stripes on the back. The wings and back are pale browns. The juvenile plumage is present at the age of 3 to 4 weeks of age. The adult plumage is present at the age of 6 weeks.
Female have pale-colored breast feathers which are speckled with dark spots whereas the male has dark-colored breast and checks feathers. Males develop white collar while female does not develop white collar. Female has cream-colored cheeks feathers (Cheng and Kimura 1990).
The quail is a small migratory bird with an extensive Pala erratic distribution (Sanchez et al., 2015). The population size has shown large fluctuation in the past, but since 1970s population has decreased and stayed at low level (Deregnacourt et al., 2005). There are several factors causing this decline such as habitat destruction, urbanization, forest destruction that cause habitat loss.
The quail reach sexual maturity at the age of 4-5 weeks. It starts laying eggs at the age of six weeks. The background color of shell range from white to pale brown or blue. The shell color pigments are porphyrin and biliverdin. The quail’s eggs are variably mottled. The shell color, mottling, size and shape varies among females. The egg weight varies between 8g-13g depending on the strain of birds.
This bird is domesticated in Germany as a pet animal and in southern China, in cold weather, it is carried about as a hand warmer. The quail was domesticated for the first time in China when a particular subspecies were migrated between Europe and Asia were raised as pets and singing birds. The domesticated Coturnix was brought to japan from china across the Korean bridge at about 11th century BC (Baraga et al., 1995). Japanese quails were introduced in Nigeria by the national veterinary research institute (NVRI) 1992 (Musa et al., 2013). From 1910 to 1941 the quail was selected for egg production at the domestic level and in 1940 a small industry was established but all lines of egg-producing quails and singing lines were destroyed during World War 2. After this war, the industry was rebuilt from a few remaining domestic quails from Korea, China, Taiwan (Wakasugi 1984).
The wild quails live in small social groups and spend much of their time in scratching and foraging for seed and invertebrates on the ground. The Japanese quail is native to South East Asia where it preferred to live in dense vegetation, grasslands, bushes alongside the river, and cereal fields. Wild quails live in pairs during winter and breeding season (Taka Tsukasa 1967). They form large groups during the migratory season (Raethel 1988). They also inhabit cropland, alpine meadows, and grass steppes (Long 1981).
In the wild, this quail inhabits agricultural field and upland grassland. It feeds on the ground and along the periphery of dense vegetation. It eats fallen seeds and ground-dwelling insects. It fulfills its water requirements from insects and dew drops. In captivity it is given dry food and drink a large amount of water (Ellen 1962). The quail may prefer a wide variety of crops to live.
The quail are not expressive in behavior except the dust bath. They do not perch. The settle separately even during cold weather. The male is aggressive toward competitors and its mate but the female is very passive. In captivity, the male is so insistent for copulating that females cannot incubate her eggs (Ellen 1962).
Quail reach sexual maturity at about 4 to 5 weeks of age. Females lay eggs at 6 weeks of age. Quails eggs are variably mottled. The background color of eggshell varies from to pale brown or blue. The shell color pigments are porphyrin to biliverdin (Pool 1965). Eggs weight ranges from 8 to 13g depending on the strain of the bird. The shape, size, color, and mottling pattern of eggs varies among females (Jones 1964). The breeding of quail is very easy. The female quail is very active because it starts laying eggs at an average age of six weeks and lay 250-300 eggs each year. Their egg incubation period is only 17 days (Lucotte 1974).
The quails are also a source of income in those areas where people are very poor and cannot earn enough money to fulfill their needs such as health care, education, and especially food supply. Many families in tropics use different methods for the production of their own foodstuff (Martin et al., 2012). Raising birds like ducks, poultry and quails are one of the most important methods to earn money and to produce food. Quail keeping does not require a large space. They can be kept in backyards, in small cages, and on the floor.
There is no need for a large number of investments for quail keeping. Quails keeping provide many benefits as compared to other birds and animals with little or no investment.
Due to the continuous rise of the human population in developing countries, there is a need for an additional source of animal protein (El katcha 2015). In order to fulfill the needs of protein various birds industries have been developed among these birds one of the most important is Japanese quail because of its meat and eggs (Owen and Dike 2013). These birds are produced to obtain eggs and meat and are also used as laboratory animals (Fitzgerlad 1969).
The quail is preferred because of its well-adopted laboratory conditions. It also has several other good characters like rapid growth, early sexual maturity, high rate of egg production, easy handling of adult, and a short generation interval (Lchilcik and Austin 1978).
Quails are susceptible to many diseases that occur in gallinaceous birds. They are susceptible to bacterial infections that occur by organisms including salmonella, Clostridium, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus spp. sometimes secondary infections may also occur after the attack of fungal diseases e.g. aspergillosis or microplasma infections. Common parasitic diseases of quail include coccidiosis, blackhead, and enteric nematodes (Hodgetts 1999); coccidiosis can occur in floor-housed quail, so coccidiosis are often included in the diet (Mills e t a l. 1999, Ottinger & Rattner 1999).
The eggs of quails range in weight from 11 to 13g (Chepkomi et al., 2016) although the eggs are smaller in size but packed with nutrients. The nutritional value of quail’s egg is 3 to 4 times greater than chicken eggs (Abdujaleel et al., 2011). Quails eggs are therapeutically very important because they are full of bioactive compounds such as lysozymes, ovomucoid and cystatin. Because of this reason the quail’s eggs are consumed more than the poultry eggs. The quail eggs are poorer in cholesterol but rich in protiens and vitamins.
But the quality of quails eggs is affected by many factors such as feed composition, layers age, stocking density, storage time, traits and environment. The quail meat is very important because it is full of essential proteins, fatty acids and minerals such as sodium-potassium and iron. Because of good metabolic activity high levels of glycogen stored in mussels and produce good quality meat (Gecgel et al., 2015). The quail having carcasses made up of 76% of meat, 14% of skin and 10% of bone ratio among the other poultry products.
As the quails are wild so it is difficult to observe their mating behavior. Some describe the quail as monogamous (Nichols 1991) and others describe them as polygamous (Domjan and Hall 1986). A male quail attempting matting chases and pecks at the female, seizes the feathers of the back head of female in his beak and often drag her around by her head feathers before pinning her down, jumping on to her back and pulling her head back while attempting to achieve cloacal contact (Mill et al., 1997). Selection of mate is done by both males and females but most commonly by male and there is competition for mate selection mostly in males (Clutton-borck and Parker 1995).
However, the sexually strong males can force copulation without winning competition with other males and being selected by females. The strong female avoids mating but if she selects mate than because of matting may be physically harmed (Clutton-borck and Parker 1995).
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