Blue Scale Quail
Blue Scale Quail, Callipepla squamata, inhabits northern and central Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, and the southwestern portion of Kansas. At maturity, Blue Scale measure about ten to eleven inches in length. The overall plumage color for both sexes is the same - light blue-gray. Their name refers to the black scale-like markings in the feathers on the neck, back and under-parts. Both sexes have a white-tipped or cotton-top crest. To sex Blue Scale, look at their chin feathers. Males will have plain light brown feathers and females will have faint brown pin-stripe in the chin area. The head of the male will be more massive in appearance. Females will also be smaller in size and usually, the crest will be sparse looking compared to the male's crest. The Chestnut-bellied Blue Scale, Callipepla castanogastris, is a popular subspecies found in captivity. Their coloration is similar to that of the Blue Scale, but there is a large conspicuous chestnut-brown patch on the lower breast. Sometimes, in older Chestnut-bellied cocks, the blue-gray is a little darker than the color of the Blue Scale.
Blue Scale are usually non-aggressive and can be run with other quail species during the non-breeding season. Unless the area in which the birds are kept is dry and the soil is sandy and dry, the best way to raise Blue Scale is to put them on wire with one pair or a trio to a pen. Because they are more nervous or flighty than Bobwhite Quail, they require a larger pen that is longer than it is wide. This allows the birds to exercise and to be out of your way when you feed and water them. The pen should have an area where they can hide or feel secure. One end of the pen can be boxed in with an opening for the birds to enter this area and a lift-up lid so eggs can be gathered. A nest box can also be placed in this area. In our area depending on how cold and damp spring has been, Blue Scale hens usually start laying in mid-May.
Blue Scale hens are good layer's and it is not uncommon for a hen to lay 50-60 eggs a year. The eggs, which have irregular light to dark brown spots, are larger in size and less pointed than those laid by Bobwhite hens. Eggs are collected daily and stored small end down on quail flats until they are set. They are set once a week in a GQF 1402 incubator with an electronic thermostat. The temperature is set at 99.5 degrees F. During incubation we try to maintain the humidity at 83 degrees F. web bulb. Incubation takes 23 days.
After the chicks hatch, I start them out in plastic brooders that we make from 42 quart plastic storage boxes that have a lid. At one end of the lid, we cut out a section and replace it with wire which is hog-ringed in place. A layer of newspapers is placed in the bottom of the box, this is topped with either "Easy Liner" or rough paper towel which is changed every day. Since the chicks are started in the house, a 40 Watt light bulb provides additional warmth. Blair Super Start chick mash is sprinkled on the toweling the first day and chicks have no difficulty starting to eat. Later their feed is placed in small feeders. Chicks are kept on Super Start until they are moved to large floor pens in the barn. For the first 5 days, I add LS-50 to the drinking water. After the medication cycle in completed, I add GQF Vitamins Plus which contains a live bacteria to the drinking water for several days. Then about two times a week throughout their growing period, I add Chick Pak to their drinking water. To keep the chicks from getting wet, I use drown-proof water bases. The chicks are given fresh water daily in clean, sanitized waterers.
When the chicks are about a week old, they are moved to the brooder house and placed in larger brooders constructed of wood and hardware cloth. From these brooders, they go to larger wire pens the brooder house. I can use a light bulb for additional warmth if needed. When the birds are almost totally feathered out, we move them to the larger floor pens without supplemental heat in the barn. They remain there until they are paired up for breeding or sold. From the time the birds are taken to the brooder house, I use preventative dosage of BMD (Bacitracin) in the drinking water about every two or three weeks to prevent Quail Enteritis.
Despite the fact that we are around our Blue Scale Quail everyday, they have not tamed down and remain very active. Unlike some chicks and adult game-birds that will eat grain or treats from a person's hand, I have not found this to be true for our quail. In spite of this, I still enjoy having Blue Scale Quail and hearing their call through out the day.
This article was written by Terry Smith,
editor of Heartland News - the monthly newsletter
of Heart of America Game Breeders Association.